Ode To The Unibody MacBook

The MacBook range first introduced in 2006 were a superb line of portable Macs. Keen LowEndMac reader Matt Risi recalls his experience and love of his Unibody 2008 MacBook and how it is still his daily driver.

I purchased my beloved base model 2008 13″ ‘Unibody’ MacBook in 2009, and it remains my daily machine today. I still remember a very much less patient version of myself nearly climbing the walls waiting for the FedEx truck to show up and deliver my new machine. This was to be a major upgrade from my previous (but equally loved) notebook, a 12″ PowerBook G4 that was my first serious Mac (a brief tryst with a lime green iMac G3 was my introduction to OS X).

It finally arrived and I was smitten. The quality of the build, the then-revolutionary LED backlit display, the MagSafe adaptor, the sheer speed at which this thing operated, never mind the fact that I was no longer stuck trying to hobble along with Tiger. I had found a true digital Swiss-Army Knife, and it took me faithfully through the remainder of my undergrad, as well as through moving across provinces, never giving a whisper of complaint.

After about 5 years, the stock battery began to swell, causing the mechanical trackpad to be permanently displaced in the ‘up’ position. I brought it in to the Apple Store and it was repaired, free of charge. I decided not to replace the battery and have since been using it more or less as a ‘portable desktop’, plugging in and keeping it out of the way when not in use.

It’s now 2017 and the thing is still going strong. Granted, I have upgraded the memory from it’s stock 2GB to 5GB, and installed a 256GB SSD drive to replace the factory drive (this was a game-changer, and if you are still using a ‘spinny drive’ you are cheating yourself). Topped out at Mac OS 10.11, I have never had an issue of a piece of software not being able to run on the faithful beast. Graphic-intensive applications and games are nearly a lost cause, but I didn’t buy this system for that. I use it for writing, coding, music production, internet use, media playback (at times attached via a dongle and HDMI cable to my television). The fact that a nearly 9-year old machine can accomplish these things without issue and still maintain it’s structural integrity is a true testament to what I see as a golden age in Apple design.

Obviously it is much heavier than current machines, and the 1280×900 resolution is piddling compared to the modern Retina displays. But it’s got 2 USB ports, an ethernet port, an optical drive (though I cannot remember the last time that was used) and I can upgrade the RAM and storage as I please. I can even add a battery one day if I so choose. The best part? Previous to purchasing this machine I was buying new computers every 2-3 years because of build quality issues. In this way, my beloved MacBook has paid for itself multiple times over, and I see no reason to upgrade at this point.

If your machine works for you, and does what you need it to do, why should you upgrade? This is, I feel, the true essence of what ‘Low End’ means. It means ‘good enough’, and that description fits my MacBook to a T.

Submitted by Matt Risi.

The Unibody MacBook was released just before my polycarbonate early 2009 MacBook which I owned for many years. Like Matt I loved my MacBook, it served me for many years, never letting me down with only a RAM upgrade to keep it going. I only replaced because I had the opportunity to by an 11″ MacBook Air. My white MacBook was sold to a friend and is still going strong today. A true testament to their build quality and longevity.

Added by Simon Royal.


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