The 'Book Review

Apple Nailed It: All You Need to Know about the MacBook

This Week's Mac Notebook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2006.05.26

Special MacBook Edition

There's so much 'Book news this week that we've split it down the middle. Our normal 'Book Review looks at everything except for the new MacBook, and this nearly as large 'Book Review looks especially at Apple's newest notebook computer.

In addition to lots of reviews and hands-on reports, there are also a couple of looks at one of the MacBook's best and most unexpected features - easy access to and swapping of the hard drive through the battery bay. Kudos to Apple for this one!

Overall, the MacBook is receiving very positive reviews. The unusual keyboard has acquitted itself nicely, and the glossy display is less objectionable than originally anticipated (there's an online petition for a matte screen option).

On the Boot Camp front, several reviewers are buying the MacBook specifically for Windows. We hope they'll try OS X and discover how sweet it is. dk

All prices are in US dollars unless otherwise noted.

General Apple and Mac desktop news is covered in The Mac News Review. News about Apple's transition to Intel CPUs and other Intel developments is covered in The Macintel Report.

News & Opinion


Products and Services

News & Opinion

In Black and White

The Sydney Morning Herald's Garry Barker looks at the case for Apple changing its stripe.

"Black is the colour of my true love's computer - or maybe it's going to be white. Being a woman, she is keeping her options open and I am avoiding any utterance that might be construed as gratuitous advice on the basis that whatever a man says, and however remote and solitary the place in which he says it, he will be wrong.

"But the choice is there. Just as iPods are available in black or white so, now, are Apple notebook computers.

"With the announcement last week of the MacBook line - what I still think of as an iBook but which now is called a MacBook because its big brother, formerly the PowerBook, is now the MacBook Pro - the transition to Intel is all but complete. They should be here well before the end of the year."

Link: In Black and White

MacBook: What You Need To Know

Macworld's Jonathan Seff and Jason Snell reports:

"The release of the MacBook Pro was big news: It was Apple's first laptop with two processing cores, the first to use Intel chips, and had the feature set and price tag professional users are accustomed to. The new MacBook, on the other hand, replaces both the iBook and the 12-inch PowerBook G4 in Apple's product line. As you might expect from a product that replaces both a consumer and professional system, the MacBook is a fascinating hybrid of high-end features and cost-conscious engineering. Now that we've spent several days with these new laptops, here are some answers to several burning MacBook questions."

Link: MacBook: What You Need To Know

MacBook Hard Drive Access Door

PowerPage's Chuck Freedman has posted some interesting photos of the new black MacBook, specifically of the bottom battery access panel where the RAM and hard drive access are located.

Easy access to the hard drive is, IMHO, one of the big stories about the MacBook. cm

Link: MacBook HDD Access Door

Beneath the MacBook Battery Bay

Macworld's Jason Snell says:

"Following up on my MacBook First Look and Cyrus Farivar's own MacBook notes, I've discovered two hot topics of discussion that I didn't address in detail yesterday.

"They both take place in the MacBook's battery bay. One of them is the installation of RAM, which is a new procedure that involves two little lever arms. The other is the MacBook's hard drive, which actually resides in the far left corner of the battery bay! As a result, the MacBook is probably the most easily upgradeable Mac laptop ever.

"But perhaps it would be easier to show you what I'm talking about. So I made a video taking you beneath the battery bay!"

Link: Beneath the MacBook Battery Bay

Matte Display for MacBook Petition

A matte display for MacBook petition to Apple Computer was created by and written by Anthony Hunt reads:

"To: Apple Computer

"We pledge to purchase a new MacBook if you, Apple Computer, would be so kind as to provide the option of a matte display.

The Undersigned"

Editor's note: With a matte display, I'd probably retire my five-year-old PowerBook G4/400. dk

Link: Matte Display for MacBook Petition Posted

MacBook Fixit Guide Available

iFixit, publisher of the do-it-yourself Fixit Guide series, has released free MacBook disassembly instructions and photos. The MacBook disassembly is available immediately, online at

The MacBook disassembly guide contains hi-res photos of the MacBook's internals, including the Intel Core Duo processor. "I'm really excited about this new guide. The release of the MacBook Fixit Guide just days after Apple's MacBook release signals our continued commitment to making Mac repair accessible to everyone. With our simple, step-by-step online instructions, tools, and parts, we're bringing Mac repair to the masses," said Kyle Wiens, iFixit's CEO.

Fixit Guides are available for these computers:

  • MacBook
  • MacBook Pro
  • Mac Mini
  • PowerBook G4 Aluminum (867 MHz - 1.67 GHz)
  • PowerBook G4 Titanium (400 MHz - 1 GHz)
  • PowerBook G3 (233 - 500 MHz)
  • iBook G4 (800 MHz - 1.42 GHz)
  • iBook G3 (300 - 900 MHz)
Link: Fixit Guides

Final Cut Studio Not Supported on MacBook

A new Apple Knowledge Base article says:

"If you have a MacBook, the Final Cut Studio (Universal) crossgrade Installer does not prohibit you from installing the pro applications, but this configuration does not meet the minimum system requirements for Final Cut Studio.

"See the Final Cut Studio system requirements for complete requirements.

"Note: The integrated graphics processor in the MacBook does not permit float processing in Motion and will result in degraded performance and other issues in Motion and other Final Cut Studio applications."

Link: Final Cut Studio Is Not Supported on MacBook


Ars Technica's In-depth MacBook Review

Ars Technica's Clint Ecker has posted the most thoroughgoing and comprehensive MacBook review I've seen yet.

"On May 16, the MacBook replaced the nearly seven-year-old iBook and brought with it a new era of consumer-grade portables from Apple. For the first time since the clam-shell style iBooks were discontinued at the beginning of 2001 is an Apple portable available in more than one color. Apple has been toying with the idea of offering both black and white devices since the iPod nano and subsequently the video-capable iPod, and now they've begun offering their consumer-grade portable laptop, the predictably named MacBook, in similar glossy black and white models....

"As our astute readers have probably already realized, there is scant difference between the low- and high-end models of MacBook. Actually, the only differences are very slight variations in CPU, optical drive, and hard disk space. This has caused several questions to be raised about the pricing of the models, which are US$1,099, US$1,299, and $1,499 in respect to the figure above. An oft-bandied-about factoid is that if you were to configure the midlevel model to ship with an 80 GB hard disk to match the high-end model, you'd still notice that it's approximately US$150 cheaper. The only difference is the color and finish of the shell, of course (white is glossy and the black has a matte finish).

"Obviously the demand for black Apple products is much higher than the white products, and Apple is simply responding as most companies would when faced by high demand for a product. People who are set on getting that black MacBook are going to have to wrestle with the US$150 mark-up. Apple is banking that most people will willingly hand over even more cash to get a unique item. It sucks for people without the extra moolah to blow, but it doesn't take long to come to the realization that it's just a different color and that you're going to be saving a nice chunk of change by going with white.

"It's up to you to decide whether black is worth US$150.

"...My previous laptop before my new MacBook was a 1 GHz G4 iBook. While a trusty and dependable machine, it was slowly getting left in the dust - feature-, and performance-wise - as Apple charged on with its transition. The leap from an iBook to the new MacBook is quite dramatic and I'll do my best to summarize the new features you'll find if you plan on making the same upgrade as I did.

"Probably the most striking, and divisive new 'feature' of the new MacBooks is the glossy finish of the LCD....

"...In the new MacBook, installing memory is as simple as removing the battery and unscrewing two screws. You're presented with two dead-simple slots where you can remove and insert the chips....

"What's cooler than easier RAM installations? Apple has made it just as easy to remove and replace your hard drive!"

"Also new to the portable line is the use of Intel integrated graphics subsystem. The GMA 950 chipset, first used by Apple in the Intel Mac mini, doesn't have any dedicated memory, instead siphoning off a fixed amount of the main memory before its available to the operating system....

"Probably the second most striking feature of the new MacBook is the keyboard. In doing research for this review (asking smart people what they'd like to know about the machine), I kept getting requests to describe how the keyboard felt, whether there were dividers between the keys, and if your fingers got all confused when typing on this obviously alien device.

"I'm sure everyone up till this point has been wondering about two specific issues: is the machine still ludicrously hot and does the machine whine like its big brother?"

Link: Apple MacBook

MacBook 'Finally Nailed It'

CNET's Justin Jaffe says:

"Yesterday afternoon, our executive editor ran down to the Apple store on Market Street in San Francisco and nabbed one of the first MacBooks to be sold. (He also witnessed an alleged thief get gang-tackled by Apple's beefy security detail.)"

"I've been playing with the MacBook since then and have come to a preliminary verdict: Apple may have finally nailed it. The company has corrected a handful of the iBook's shortcomings, hit a totally reasonable price point (at least for the $1,099 baseline white model), and finally delivered a laptop with a 13.3-inch display, which I believe offers a better compromise between size and portability than any other screen size on the market. Although plenty of laptops out there start for many hundreds of dollars less than the MacBook, I believe that with the MacBook, the value gap between Apple laptops and the PC competition has narrowed significantly....

  • Keyboard: This is perhaps the MacBook's most notable feature. It looks markedly different from what we're accustomed to with an Apple laptop. The keys have a flat top surface and are more rounded and less jammed together than the MacBook Pro's and PowerBook's. And with about half as much travel as other Apple keyboards, the MacBook's keyboard offers a considerably firmer typing experience. So far, I really like it, though I'm hesitant to make a final pronouncement until I spend more time using it.
  • Display: The MacBook's glossy display is a bit schizophrenic. It looks really nice from straight on: bright, crisp, and clear, and the 1,280x800 native resolution makes text readable and still gives you enough screen real estate to have a few windows open at once. From the side, however, the level of brightness drops off considerably, and like all glossy displays, the MacBook's picks up some serious glare from ambient light sources...."
Link: Apple MacBook (13-inch, 2.0 GHz Intel Core Duo)

MacBook 'Practically Pro'

iBookPowerPage's Bob Snow says:

"The iBook started life as a schoolBook with a very K thru 12 look. The large durable color toilet seat enclosure and small screen made this machine unappealing even for higher education, let alone business users. The second rectangular form factor for iBooks had a much more universal appeal. The size of the 12 inch model seemed just right and there was not nearly as much of a weight and size penalty vs. a PowerBook. The upgrade to G4 boosted performance without changing the packaging very much. The new MacBook broadens the appeal considerably in terms of performance and features....

"Apple misses the boat for business and higher education users in the dongle department. All of their laptops lack a built in modem and VGA port. Go to a cheap motel without your dongle modem and you may be out of luck. Better have your VGA dongle with you if you need to make an impromptu presentation. Yet another dongle is required for full size DVI hook up. And, do not forget your Apple remote either."

Link: MacBook - Practically Pro

PC Makers, My Next Notebook Is a MacBook

IT Wire's Stan Beer says:

"Whatever else you may think of Apple, it is a company that makes top quality hardware. Now along comes MacBook, an Intel notebook made by Apple, capable of running Windows in dual boot mode, packed with power, with all these plug and play features built-in, and very reasonably priced. I'm in the market for a notebook so what am I going to do?

"I have been a long time campaigner for mandatory three-year warranties on all PC notebooks. My last two notebooks, an HP and a Toshiba, clapped out on me within two years. I figured I deserved better for $2000. Judging by the mounds of Apple faithful who assure me, I'm fairly certain that a MacBook isn't going to give up on me within three years. Anyway, at a starting price of $1099 plus the cost of Windows, I'm prepared to take the gamble....

"Given that I have been a DOS and Windows user for 20 years, the fact that I am seriously considering buying a MacBook should be ringing alarm bells and sending shivers down the collective spines of Dell, Acer, Lenovo, HP, Toshiba and all the other PC notebook makers....

"So the chances are that Apple is going to become a serious player - who knows maybe in time the dominant player - in the notebook market...."

Link: PC Makers, My Next Notebook Is a MacBook

PC Notebook User's First Thoughts on MacBook

Notebook Review's A Baxter reports:

"This is a first thoughts review of the newly released 13.3" Apple MacBook Core Duo notebook. I've only had the MacBook for 24 hours, but that's enough to offer some insight on the design and some thoughts from a Mac OS neophyte. There's some fantastic things about this notebook, but a major problem with heat has marred what has been otherwise been a great experience....

"After playing around with the 2.0 GHz Core Duo black colored MacBook on display and the 1.83 GHz white colored MacBook on display I decided to go with the $1,099 1.83 GHz, 60 GB, 512 MB white colored MacBook (the black is only available with the 2.0 GHz processor and costs $1,499).

"It's going on six years now that I last used a Mac. So yes, it's been a while....

"For the past six years I've used nothing but various Windows OS platforms and almost exclusively used PC notebooks as my main tool for work. I review and use a ton of PC notebooks. I also program, mainly web and database development, all using Microsoft tools. In other words, I'm as polar opposite Mac user as you can get, but like many other PC users always kind of curious what I may be missing....

"How can you argue with the look and styling of this notebook? It's simply pleasing to the eye. The clean look, the quality construction, the Apple logo that illuminates, the little green lights on the Caps Lock and Num Lock key (thank you Apple), the stylish lettering of the keys - it all adds up....

"For $1,099 I was half expecting some shortcuts in terms of overall build quality. But there are none. This MacBook feels like a rock, no joke....

"I was really taken aback by the keyboard, it's not at all what I expected. The keys are actually raised and each key is completely individual. At first look it seemed like there would be no travel to the key, they looked short and stubby, but in fact the travel is really good and the keyboard could rate as one of the best out there...."

Link: Apple MacBook First Thoughts Review

Apple's New MacBook with Windows

PC World's Harry McCracken reports:

"Apple has released the MacBook, an Intel-based 13.3-inch widescreen notebook which replaces both its iBook and the 12-inch PowerBook. Tonight, I'm using one - and thanks to Boot Camp, it's running Windows XP as well as Mac OS X. (I'm using the US$1499 black version.)

"I haven't had enough time with the machine to give any definitive verdict on it, but so far I'm having a really good time. The black MacBook isn't the most feature-rich model in Apple's new Intel-based laptop line, but it's probably the coolest . . . which makes it one of the coolest laptops on the market, period....

"Some of the nicest things about the MacBook don't relate to specs per se. This black version's matte case is extremely good-looking; it's plastic, unlike the aluminum housing on my PowerBook, but if anything, it's classier and more professional looking . . . I don't think businessfolks who trade in a 12-inch PowerBook for a black MacBook will feel like they're slumming, even if the MacBook is a mere 'consumer model.'

"At first blush, the keyboard looks weird - I had flashbacks to the one on Texas Instruments' ancient 99/4. The keys aren't sculpted, and there's what looks like a lot of space between them, but so far, the keyboard doesn't feel weird in the least."

"Oh, and a random side note on the Mac vs. Windows wars. One of the nice things about the Windows install on this MacBook is that it's unadorned by the irritating applets, marketing pitches, and icon clutter that dog most big-name Windows PCs (and which Apple doesn't burden you with when you buy a Mac)...."

Link: Hands on with Apple's New MacBook with Windows

MacBook 'a Fantastic Deal'

CreativeMac's Dave Nagel says:

"On only two occasions have I rushed out and purchased a Mac on the day of its debut. The first was my dual 2.0 GHz G5. That was a few years back, and that machine is still going strong as a viable creative workstation. The second occasion was yesterday when Apple introduced the new 13-inch MacBooks. This time around, I bought two.


"Apple's brand new MacBook appears to be not only a great deal for a Mac, but a great deal even when compared with somewhat comparable, cheap PC hardware....

"That said, I don't want to confuse you into thinking the MacBook is a half-price MacBook Pro. It does share many of the great features of the MacBook Pro, but it's also limited in some important ways for people considering using a laptop for professional production - the most notable limitation being, of course, graphics performance. The MacBook Pro has an ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 with 256 MB RAM, whereas the new, lower-end MacBook non-pro just has some Intel junk with shared memory. There's a big difference in performance there, especially on the 3D side.

"But all told, the new MacBook is a fantastic deal with plenty of processor performance, even if the graphics are a bit unimpressive. And it has plenty of other goodies to draw you in as well."

Link: CreativeMac MacBook First Impressions

'Apple May Have Finally Nailed It'

ZD Net UK's Justin Jaffe reports:

"With the MacBook, Apple has corrected a handful of the iBook's shortcomings, hit a very reasonable price point and delivered a notebook that makes a great compromise between size and portability.

"We've been playing with the MacBook for a week or so and have come to a preliminary verdict: Apple may have finally nailed it. The company has corrected a handful of the iBook's shortcomings, hit a totally reasonable price point - at least for the £749 (inc. VAT) baseline white model - and finally delivered a notebook with a 13.3in. display, which we believe offers a better compromise between size and portability than any other screen size on the market. Although plenty of notebooks out there start for considerably less than the MacBook, the value gap between Apple notebooks and the PC competition has narrowed significantly. Here are some early impressions...."

Link: Apple MacBook (13in., 2 GHz Core Duo): a First Look

MacBook 'a Very Nice Laptop''s Raoul Pop reports:

"I visited the Apple Store over the weekend and took a look at the new MacBook (the iBook replacement). Apple has outsourced the production of this laptop to Asus, but it's definitely still an Apple. It was supposed to arrive in June, so it has arrived ahead of schedule.

"The overall impression is that it's a very nice laptop, and a welcome successor to the iBook, whose design I thought was in need of improvement. The MacBook is thin, glossy, and beautiful. The design is very similar to the MacBook Pro, except that the case is plastic, not aluminum....

"The white MacBook's inside finish is a little grainier than that of the black MacBook. Having never owned a white iBook before, I wondered what grime from everyday use would do to the keyboard and the white finish. I can say that my white iMac keyboard has stood the test of time well so far (since last September, at any rate.) I can also say that I could see grease from people's hands on the black MacBook in the store. The grease didn't show on the white MacBook, but there was a bit of grime. I guess you can take your pick: grease or grime....

"The wide screen is beautiful. I know people are used to the matte screens, but either finish is fine with me. What I look for in a screen is brightness, high resolution, a wide aspect ratio, and wide reading angles, and the MacBook has all those."

Link: Review: The New Apple MacBook

Products and Services

Booq Mamba S Vertical Messenger Bag

PR: Booq, a fast-growing, premium brand of performance-driven laptop carrying cases for creative professionals on the move, announces the introduction of its Mamba S, a refined, vertical messenger bag ideally suited for the 13" MacBook.

Booq Mamba SThe compact and lightweight Mamba S protects the 13" MacBook, accessories and additional personal items, in style. With its convenient flap with magnetic closure, a variety of intelligently designed and fully lined padded Velcro pockets, Mamba S is a refined, stylish bag that looks sharp in every environment. The MacBook is kept in an entirely separate compartment, protected by 0.5" of high-density foam padding lined with non-scratch lining on all six sides.

The Mamba S takes the company's line of laptop bags into elegant territory, being designed for creative professionals who value solid, durable, dependable protection for their laptop, comfort and convenience, while not compromising on design and style.

With the addition of the Mamba S, Booq brings another premium laptop bag of the highest performance and design quality to the next generation of creative professionals. Its stylish yet professional look, its impeccable finish and convenient layout makes Mamba the perfect bag. Priced at $109.95, creative pros who prefer a sleek, well-designed and understated bag for their 13" laptop will find the Mamba S irresistible.

The Mamba S ships May 29th.

Link: Booq Mamba S Vertical Messenger Bag

Tom Bihn Archetype Laptop Cases

PR: A blend of engineering and art, the Archetype provides superior protection for your laptop and is certain to inspire more than a second glance.

Archetype Laptop CaseIt's a sleek, minimalist, and protective laptop sleeve with comfortable handles. But such simplicity is not attained with ease: Tom Bihn has spent countless hours over the course of more than a decade refining the design elements that you see today as the Archetype.

Designed initially in four sizes to fit the 13" MacBook, 17" MacBook Pro, 15.4" MacBook Pro, and 12" PowerBook, the Archetype is made to order by highly skilled seamstresses in the Tom Bihn Seattle, Washington production factory, where all Tom Bihn bags are made.

The Archetype is available in three unique and rich fabrics that are evocative of the elements: Genuine Cork, Galvanized Majilite, and Snow Leopard Ultrasuede.

The Archetype in its various fabrics may represent the elements, but it also keeps them out; the case features splash-proof YKK Uretek zippers, tried and tested in the weather of the Pacific Northwest.

Archetype Laptop CasesFeaturing 0.25" (8mm) thick closed cell foam, the Archetype entirely encases your laptop, padding it on all sides and protecting it from bumps and scrapes; this unique construction also completely protects your laptop from the zipper closure. The interior is lined a soft tricot knit that protects your laptop from scratches.

It closes with a #8YKK Uretech® "splash-proof" zipper - while not "waterproof", the Archetype is our most weather-resistant case. It unzips completely to allow you to work on your laptop without removing it from the Archetype (Are you wondering about heat buildup? See our F.A.Q.) The Archetype carries with comfortable soft plastic handles molded over strong webbing.

The Archetype is lined with a soft brushed tricot knit, cradling your laptop and protecting it from being scratched.

Inside, the Archetype is practical and protective. It's outside that things get interesting: the Archetype is available in three unique exterior fabrics evocative of nature and the material world: Genuine Cork fabric (made of real cork), Galvanized Majilite® (a durable synthetic leather made to look like galvanized steel), and Snow Leopard Ultrasuede® (contains no leopards, we promise.)

Archetype Laptop CasesIf black ballistic nylon is more your style, then you'll have to look elsewhere: this case talks style as much as function.

  • Available in these exterior fabrics: Genuine Cork Fabric, Galvanized Majilite®, and Snow Leopard Ultrasuede®
  • #8YKK Uretech® "splash-proof" zipper; comfortable molded plastic handles
  • Cradles your PowerBook or MacBook in .25" (8mm) dense, closed-cell foam and a super-soft interior
  • Available in sizes for the 17" and 15.4" MacBook Pro and 12" PowerBook.
  • Weight: 10 oz.
  • Holds only your laptop: sleek; minimal; clean
  • Made in Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.


  • The 12" PowerBook Archetype is available for order now and will ship within two weeks of receipt of your order.
  • The 15.4" MacBook Pro Archetype is available for preorder with a shipping date of late May.
  • The 17" MacBook Pro Archetype is also available for preorder with a shipping date of late June.
  • The 13" MacBook Archetype is available for preorder with a shipping date of late July.

Colors/Patterns: Cork - Snow Leopard - Galvanized


Link: Tom Bihn Archetype Laptop Cases

Trans Intl 1 GB & 512 MB RAM for MacBook

PR: Trans International Has announced the worldwide availability of 1 GB and 512 MB 667 MHz DDR2 (PC2-5300) SO-DIMM for the Apple MacBook (1.83 GHz and 2 GHz). 667 MHz DDR2 SO-DIMM provide MacBook users with desktop-like power by offering 1 GB of memory density for each memory expansion socket. The Apple MacBook 13" 1.83 GHz and 2 GHz model has two memory expansion sockets for main memory expansion. memory modules conform to Apple's stringent electrical and mechanical design guide lines.

Link: Trans Intl

OWC MacBook and MacBook Pro Memory Upgrades

PR: All Mac Book and MacBook Pro models have two memory user accessible memory slots with support for up to 2 GB (2048 MB) maximum. Apple recommends that memory be installed in matched size pairs for maximum performance. With a matched pair installed, Apple notes that both memory banks can be accessed at the same time for a maximum memory throughput of up to 10.7 GBps.

OWC 2 GB and 1 GB upgrade kits!

  • 2 GB Upgrade Kit, $225.00
  • 1 GB Upgrade Kit, $99.00

Compatible with:

  • MacBook 1.83 GHz 'White'
  • MacBook 2.0 GHz 'White'
  • MacBook 2.0 GHz 'Black'
  • MacBook Pro 15" 1.83 GHz
  • MacBook Pro 15" 2.0 GHz
  • MacBook Pro 15" 2.16 GHz MacBook Pro 17" 2.16 GHz

OWC will give you a trade in rebate when you send them the Apple Memory or Apple Hard Drive you have replaced with upgrades from Other World Computing. Trade in rebates available within 60 days of purchase.

Link: MacBook and MacBook Pro Memory Upgrades

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