Apple Archive

MacBook Replaces Dell Laptop, Can Outperform Power Mac G5/2.7 GHz Dual

- 2006.06.30

My sister's 2-year-old Dell laptop was on it's way out. The power adapter no longer worked properly, the battery held a charge for about 20 minutes, the hard drive was full, and the computer itself was so slow that playing music in iTunes while browsing the Internet was almost impossible - and that was after reinstalling Windows.

It was clear that replacing the hard drive, the battery, the power adapter, and upgrading the RAM for a second time would end up costing in the neighborhood of $400-500 - almost what the computer cost in the first place - and she would still be stuck with a 2-year-old Celeron-based Windows PC.

It was clear that the best solution was purchasing a new machine, and the Intel-based MacBook seemed like the perfect computer for her. She'd been mentioning that she wanted to consider a Mac - mainly because of the software that ships with it (more proof that Apple's bundled software is far superior to anything on the Windows side).

She's been recording her own music and finds that it's much more difficult without the proper software - and GarageBand seems to be exactly what she needs. Not too basic, but not so advanced that it's difficult to use, either.

The model that my sister ended up getting is the high-end black MacBook with a 100 GB hard drive and 1 GB of RAM. Her friends got a kick out of the built-in camera and PhotoBooth software. I was surprised at the quality of the images, which are pretty good for a webcam, especially one built into a laptop. It's really proof that small digital cameras are advancing at a rapid rate, and are now "good enough" for mainstream use.

MacBookFront Row is a nice idea, but the only way you can access it is with the remote control (which looks like a smaller iPod shuffle). While traveling, you're probably not going to take the remote with you, and chances are that if you do, it'll get lost somewhere. It seems to me that Apple should offer an icon in the dock that lets you access Front Row and control it from the keyboard.

Performance running older non-Intel applications was actually decent. Running Microsoft Office was certainly comparable to running it on my 867 MHz 12" PowerBook G4, if not a little bit faster. Photoshop isn't spectacular, but it's useable.

I was amazed at how well the bundled Apple software runs. iPhoto, which I use at work on a dual 2.7 GHz G5 with 4 GB of RAM, runs easily twice as fast on the MacBook than it does on the G5. GarageBand launches quickly and lets you manipulate tracks with almost no delays at all.

The computer itself feels very solid - certainly more solid than the aluminum G4s, and I am a big fan of the built-in feet; the stuck on variants almost always tend to fall off within two years of buying the computer.

The screen looks nice, and photographs look good on it. The glossy finish isn't as bad as on some PC notebooks, but it's still difficult to deal with if you're outside or in a brightly lit room.

My concern though, is color accuracy. Often if you have high-end equipment, it's very difficult to get a given printer to print the same colors you see on the screen. That changes even more if you change the type of paper you print on (for instance, from glossy to matte, lightweight to heavyweight). The MacBook's screen, which tends to show colors as being richer than they actually may be, would throw that printer/monitor calibration issue off even more. Thankfully for most consumers, that's not so much a concern - most inexpensive photo printers generally do a satisfactory, if not stellar, job of printing what you see on the screen.

There's no doubt that the MacBook is a good machine - it's well built, expandable (it even has a removable hard drive), and the feature set is very competitive with PC notebooks. The base models come with 512 MB of RAM, which is enough for light use, but upgrading to 1 GB is probably a good idea. A DVD burner is standard, as is 802.11g.

This leaves the only issue for the potential MacBook buyer: going with white or spending the extra cash for black.

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