Aluminum MacBook (Late 2008)

The Aluminum MacBook uses the same unibody construction as the 15″ MacBook Pro and now has an LED-backlit display. The top-end 2.4 GHz MacBook also has a backlit keyboard. The Unibody MacBooks use new, more energy efficient versions of the Core 2 CPU: P7350 in the 2.0 GHz model and P8600 in the 2.4 GHz one. This CPU draws 25W, down from 35W in the previous generation, which means less heat and better battery life.

Aluminum Unibody MacBook

The Aluminum Unibody MacBook uses the new nVidia GeForce 9400M graphics processor, which combines 16 cores and all the support chips on a single die. Graphics uses 256 MB of system memory, which is a good reason to upgrade the 2.0 GHz model from the stock 2 GB if you’re running OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard or later. It supports resolutions to 2560 x 1600 on an external display, a big improvement over the 1920 x 1200 of earlier MacBooks.

With it aluminum unibody construction, graphics processor, and excellent display, this should be considered the finest model in the entire consumer MacBook line to date. It definitely paved the way for the 13″ MacBook Pro, which arrived in June 2009.

However, it raises two questions: Why doesn’t it have FireWire like the other consumer MacBook models, and why is the base model clocked slower (at 2.0 GHz vs 2.1 GHz) than the consumer machine introduced at the same time?

Both models include 2 GB of RAM and support up to 8 GB, although Apple says 6 GB is the maximum. An 8x dual-layer SATA SuperDrive is standard (this is the first Mac portable with a SATA optical drive); there is no longer a model with a Combo drive.

The new MacBook is available in two configurations:

  1. 2.0 GHz, dual-layer 8x SuperDrive, 160 GB hard drive, 2 GB RAM, US$1,299
  2. 2.4 GHz, 250 GB hard drive, 4 GB RAM, otherwise identical to 2.0 GHz model, US$1,599

Build-to-order options include more RAM, larger hard drives, and a 128 GB solid state drive (SSD).

Although it is not officially supported, the Aluminum MacBook can run macOS Sierra using Colin Mistr’s Sierra Patch Tool. See our macOS Sierra page for more details and a link.

Following in the steps of the MacBook Air and consumer MacBooks, there is no FireWire port. For those who need FireWire in a 13.3″ model, the MacBook White is available.

Closed Lid Mode: All Intel ‘Books support “lid closed” (or clamshell) mode, which leaves the built-in display off and dedicates all video RAM to an external display. To used closed lid mode, your ‘Book must be plugged into the AC adapter and connected to an external display and a USB or Bluetooth mouse and keyboard (you might also want to consider external speakers). Power up your ‘Book until the desktop appears on the external display and then close the lid. Your ‘Book will go to sleep, but you can wake it by moving the mouse or using the keyboard. The built-in display will remain off, and the external monitor will become your only display. Since all video RAM is now dedicated to the external monitor, you may have more colors available at higher resolutions. The MacBook is designed to run safely in closed lid mode, but if yours runs hot (perhaps due to overclocking or high ambient temperatures), you may want to open the lid when in closed lid mode: The screen will remain off and the computer will more readily vent heat from the CPU.

To resume use of the internal display, you need to disconnect the external display, put the computer to sleep, and then open the lid. This will wake up your ‘Book and restore use of the built-in display.

Intel-based Macs use a partitioning scheme known as GPT. Only Macintel models can boot from GPT hard drives. Both PowerPC and Intel Macs can boot from APM (Apple’s old partitioning scheme) hard drives, which is the format you must use to create a universal boot drive in Leopard. Power PC Macs running any version of the Mac OS prior to 10.4.2 cannot mount GPT volumes. PowerPC Macs won’t let you install OS X to a USB drive or choose it as your startup volume, although there is a work around for that.


  • introduced 2008.10.14 at US$1,299 (2.0 GHz, 160 GB hard drive), and US$1,599 (2.4 GHz, 250 GB hard drive, backlit keyboard); replaced by 13″ MacBook Pro, which adds FireWire 800 and an SD Card slot, 2009.06.08
  • Part no.: MB466 (2.0 GHz), MB467 (2.4 GHz)
  • ID: MacBook5,1

Mac OS

Core System

  • CPU: 2.0/2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo (Penryn), soldered in place, no upgrade options
  • Level 2 cache: 3 MB shared cache
  • Bus: 1066 MHz
  • RAM: 2 GB (using matched modules), expandable to 8 GB (Apple says 6) using PC3-8500 DDR3 RAM
  • Performance
    • performance, Geekbench: 3139 (2.4 GHz), 2708 (2.0 GHz)
    • Speedmark 5: 195 (2.0 GHz), 215 (2.4 GHz)
    • performance, Xbench 1.3 (2.0/2.4 GHz)
      • overall: 96.35/110.20 – 2.0 GHz 174.05 with SSD
      • CPU: 136.05/130.30 – 2.0 GHz 142.57 with SSD
      • memory: 161.23/183.12 – 2.0 GHz 161.18 with SSD, essentially unchanged
      • Quartz graphics: 130.37/165.30 – 2.0 GHz 149.97 with SSD
      • OpenGL graphics: 112.32/138.00 – 2.0 GHz 121.10 with SSD
      • Hard drive: 31.89/40.34 – 2.0 GHz: 457.79 with SSD


  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce 9400M with resolution to 2560 x 1600 on external display (Mini DisplayPort), supports extended desktop.
  • VRAM: uses 256 MB of system memory, very likely uses 16 MB more with an external display (MacBook Pro and MacBook Air with same GPU work that way)
  • Video out: Mini DisplayPort standard, VGA and S-video with optional adapter
  • display: 13.3″ glossy 1280 x 800 18-bit 113 ppi color active matrix
  • supports 1280 x 800, 1152 x 720, 1024 x 768, 1024 x 640, and 800 x 500 pixels at 16:10 aspect ratio; 1024 x 768, 800 x 600, and 640 x 480 pixels at 4:3 aspect ratio; 720 x 480 at 3:2 aspect ratio
  • allows mirroring to external display and extended desktop mode


  • Hard drive: 160 or 250 GB 5400 rpm SATA, 320 GB hard drive and 128 GB SSD optional
  • SuperDrive: writes DVD±R at up to 8x, DVD±RW and DVD+R DL at 4x, reads DVDs at 8x, writes CD-R at 24x, writes CD-RW at 10x, reads CDs at 24x


  • USB: 2 USB 2.0 ports
  • FireWire 400: none
  • FireWire 800: none
  • Ethernet: 10/100/gigabit
  • WiFi: 802.11n AirPort Extreme built in
  • Bluetooth: BT 2.1 built in
  • IR receiver: supports Apple Remote
  • Modem: optional v.92 56k external USB modem
  • ExpressCard/34 slots: 0


  • size: 8.94 x 12.78 x 0.95″ (241 x 325 x 22.7 mm)
  • Weight: 4.5 pounds (2.04 kg)
  • battery: 45 Watt-hour
  • AC adapter: 60W MagSafe

* Although Apple officially supports 4 GB of RAM, users early on discovered that 6 GB worked reliably without issues, and while 8 GB could be installed, if any single app used more than 6 GB, there were significant slowdowns. The Unibody MacBook will reliably support 8 GB only with the later version of EFI Firmware Update 1.4 (or newer) installed and Mac OS X 10.6.6 or newer. See Firmware Update Supports 8 GB in Unibody MacBook and Late 2008 15″ MacBook Pro for more information.

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