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Ready to Give the MacBook a Second Chance?

- 2007.05.14 - Tip Jar

As anyone who's read my articles knows, I had a rather bad experience with Apple's Core Duo MacBook computer about a year ago. Actually, I had three bad experiences (see MacBook pleases, but two weeks for repair is excessive, MacBook repair saga: Botched and botched again, but third time's the charm, and Reliability can't wait: Reflections of a MacBook guinea pig), and while my fourth machine appeared all right, my lack of trust by that point was enough that I quickly sold it on eBay and never looked back.

That has just changed.

I currently use a Toshiba Portegé M400 Tablet PC as my primary computer, and while I have a few complaints, I'm largely satisfied with its performance and quality. As Apple released its second generation MacBook with new Core 2 Duo processors, however, I've again started looking at the MacBook as a possible choice for my next portable, moving the tablet to straight courtroom duty.

Going back to last year, I really like the MacBook form-factor. As a longtime fan and three year user of the 12" G4 PowerBooks (both 1.0 and 1.5 GHz models), the MacBook comes close to replacing what was and remains my favorite laptop computer ever sold. The little PowerBook was smaller and lighter than the MacBook, a valid complaint about the new model, but at least the MacBook only gains size in its width, allowing it to still be used on many coach-class airplane seats.

At 5.2 lb., the MacBook is a bit heavy, and in initial Core Duo form, its 3 hour real world battery life was a bit underwhelming.

Where the MacBook excelled, however, it really excelled. The keyboard is one of the best ever, even thought it looks and feels a bit strange at first. Likewise the case is a revelation, with a magnetic latch that requires no awkward buttons or sliders to open, and a magnetic power cord that prevents the laptop from being pulled across the room should you trip over the cord. The screen is bright and crisp, with few of the drawbacks that other glossy screens possess.

Oh yeah, it's blazingly fast and runs both OS X and Windows (natively or through virtualization). In short, other than lacking a high-end graphics card and weighing under 5 lb., the MacBook was just about the perfect laptop.

Then the problems started. Random shutdowns, blistering heat, washed-out screens, warped case plastics - I've seen all of those problems on my first three MacBooks, and while the fourth was free of obvious defects, I was out of patience with the model.

The MacBook is a Worthy 12" PowerBook Successor in More Ways than One

That was then; this is now.

I have two friends who own Core 2 Duo MacBooks, one white and the other black (the computers, not the friends). The newer MacBooks run much cooler than I remember. Neither of these machines has ever shut down on its own, and both have what appears to be perfect build-quality. They are also very, very fast. I'm not sure if the differences are merely the Core 2 Duo processor compared to the Core Duo (doubtful) or further optimization of OS X for the Intel processors in its current 10.4.9 version, but the current MacBooks feel a lot more responsive than the blazingly fast first-generation models that I had - or any G4 or G5 Mac I've ever used.

Prices are still the same, and I've got no idea if battery life has improved or not. What I do know is that the Internet just isn't filled with articles and blogs about MacBook problems like it was last year.

While any mass-produced device will have a few defective units in the stream of commerce, the original MacBooks clearly had some real design issues, which by all accounts appear to have been fixed with the introduction of the second generation MacBooks.

This brings back memories. I remember wanting the 12" PowerBook when it first came out, but seeing all of the reports about excruciating heat to the point that even the cases were warping on the original 867 MHz version, I stuck with my IBM ThinkPad for another year until Apple released its much cooler-running second generation 12" PowerBook at 1.0 GHz.

That second generation 12" PowerBook and all of its descendants were among Apple's most reliable computers and still have an intensely loyal following today. Apple's MacBook appears to be a repeat of the 12" PowerBook. LEM

Andrew J Fishkin, Esq, is a laptop using attorney in Los Angeles, CA.

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