The 'Book Review

MacBook 'That Good', Easy Hard Drive Swap, Mooing Noise Disaster, and Vent Cover Problems

This Week's Mac Notebook News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2006.06.08

MacBook Special Report

There's so much 'Book news again this week that we've created a special MacBook only 'Book Review. Our normal 'Book Review will appear tomorrow.

MacBook reviews continue to appear all over the Net, and most of them are exceedingly positive. John Martellaro likes the glossy screen and loves the keyboard. Dave Nagel shows how easy it is to swap out the hard drive. Darryl Ponting finds it more sturdy than most Windows laptops, and says it's both cool and quiet when it runs.

Not all have the same experience. MacBooks have been running hot, and one cause has been a bit of plastic over a cooling vent inadvertently left on at the factory. Pierre Igot complains that his MacBook seems to be mooing, which has soured him on the model.

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

Tech Tips and Info

News & Opinion

MacBook: 'It's That Good'

MyMac's John Martellaro reports:

"I played with a MacBook over the weekend. I was prepared to be skeptical of the glossy screen. I ended up liking it a lot. The coating seems to direct more of the light perpendicular to the screen, so the display seems brighter and more saturated. I tested the MacBook at the Apple store in the Aspen Grove shopping Center in Littleton, CO where it was right next to the front windows filled with light. There was no noticeable washout. Then I went over and looked at a 15-in MacBook Pro without the coating, and it looked, well, washed out.

"Then I tested the keyboard. I was also prepared to be skeptical of the MacBook keyboard because it reminded me of the chiclet keyboards of the past. Well, I'm here to tell you that this is a very good keyboard. As a writer, I'm excessively picky about my keyboards - so much so that that on the basis of Charles Moore's reviews over at Applelinks, I went out and bought two Matias Tactile Pro keyboards. I was looking for the holy grail of keyboards, which some define as the IBM Selectric typewriter of long ago. Anyway, I typed for some time on the MacBook's keyboard, and I could spend all day on that keyboard. It's that good."

Swapping Hard Drives in the MacBook

Creative Mac's Dave Nagel says:

"Sixty gigabytes don't amount to much in this day and age. That's the size of the drive that comes stock in the 13-inch (white) MacBook. So it's likely you'll want to replace it for something larger and, possibly, faster. Here's a step by step guide for doing just that.

"Apple's made the process of swapping hard drives extremely simple in the 13-inch MacBook - just about as easy as replacing memory...."

MacBook 'an Extremely Sturdy Laptop'

Notebook Review's Darryl Ponting reports:

"One thing I noticed about the Apple MacBook which wasn't entirely apparent from all the photos I'd seen swarming the net was the contrast between the glossy white and the matte grey of the inside. Everything I'd seen so far suggested a difference far more subtle if at all! In reality the difference is pretty large and I'm not too sure if I'm keen on it yet. I was extremely close to going for the Blackbook but common sense prevailed, the £100 or so difference meant an extra 1 GB of RAM which was far more useful. Besides, I've seen the way my Navy Nintendo DS Lite and my Logitech Midnight Black MX1000 mouse pick up fingerprints, and I despise dust and dirt!"

"The MacBook is an extremely sturdy laptop, I compared it with a Dell at work and an Acer at home. The Dell (although it is around 2 years old) creaked all over the place, it doesn't help that there's flaps and slots all over the place. With the Dell you could also press the back of the screen and see the results on the LCD, as many of you would've done at some point. With the MacBook there wasn't a hint of shimmering...."

"Yes everyone has heard the horror stories regarding the MacBook Pro and when the MacBook came out everyone feared the worst . . . I'm just going to let you know how my MacBook is. Under normal load it's not even warm to the touch, the whole of the surface where the keyboard lies is cool to the touch all over. Under normal load the fans don't even come on, the MacBook is absolutely silent. Under normal load I hear no whine, moos or anything of the kind...."

"There are two kinds of people out there, those who like laptop style keyboards and those who don't. If you fall into the latter category then I don't think you'll like the MacBook keyboard at all. If on the other hand you do then I think you'll love it...."

The Mooing Noise Disaster

Betalogue's Pierre Igot says:

"I am afraid we are going to send our brand new MacBook laptop back to Apple. And we're not going to get a replacement either. Here is why.

"Based on my own experience with noise problems, and on all the on-line reading I had been doing about noise issues in Apple hardware in the past five years, I was a bit concerned about what the noise levels would be with this new MacBook.

"After all, the Titanium PowerBook G4 might be slow by today's standards, but at least you can't complain about the noises it produces. Simply put, in normal daily use, the fans never kick in, and all you hear is the continuous, low-level noise of the spinning hard drive. In five years of using this TiBook, I have only heard the noisier internal fans kick in on a handful of occasions, and it was always in rather extreme conditions (very warm weather, lack of air flow, intensive use, etc.).

"So when I got this new MacBook and turned it on for the first time, I was a bit apprehensive. And the initial impression did little to reassure me. The MacBook booted up as expected, and then immediately launched the setup assistant. During the setup phase . . . I heard a weird kind of noise where it sounded like the MacBook was trying to start one of its internal fans, but was failing to do so repeatedly....

"In the first couple of days with the MacBook, I also noticed another rather annoying noise, but this one coming from the power adapter of the MacBook, not from the laptop itself. It was a constant 'sizzling' type of noise coming from inside the power adapter, and I didn't feel it was normal. In fact, it sounded a bit scary, because it sounded as if the power adapter was about to catch fire or something. So I got on the phone with AppleCare, and did a little bit of experimenting while talking with the girl on the phone, during which we discovered that the noise would only occur when the power adapter was connected to the laptop and charging it. If the power adapter was only plugged in, but not connected to the laptop, there wouldn't be any abnormal noise. After consulting with product specialists, the girl said the noise was not normal, and organized a replacement shipment.

"Since I had her on the phone, I thought I'd mention, in passing, this mooing noise that I had noticed on occasion. She confirmed that it was indeed a 'normal' noise and that it would occur when using certain CPU-intensive applications, such as Photoshop, or Photo Booth, etc. She could hear it on her own machine too, she said....

"Then today disaster struck....

"And this mooing black MacBook is going back to Apple, because the noise is, quite simply, unacceptable in a laptop product used for simple computing tasks such as e-mail or word processing.

"I am afraid that, at this point in time, I have to say I have no trust left for Apple when it comes to noise issues. If they really feel that such a noise is 'normal,' is to be 'expected,' and is something that most people can easily get used to, then I am afraid that they might experience a surprisingly high percentage of product returns in addition to getting a bunch of very peeved customers...."

Apple Acknowledges MacBook Vent Cover Problem

The Apple Core's Jason D. O'Grady says:

"Two weeks ago I reported on an issue where some MacBooks were coming from the factory with a piece of clear plastic film covering the rear exit vent - which made the machine run (understandably) hot.

"Some would peg this 'problem' squarely on the end user for not noticing it in the first place, but regardless of who you blame Apple has come clean about the plastic 'cover up' with a spankin' new Knowledge Base article.

"In 'MacBook may run warm because rear vent is blocked' (Article ID: 303848) Apple explains the film issue.... "

Parallels Desktop RC2 Looks Good on a MacBook

O'Reilly Net's Todd Ogasawara says:

"I installed Parallels Desktop RC2 on my 2 GHz MacBook with 1 GB RAM this evening. After going through the simple setup procedure, I installed Microsoft Windows XP SP2 and then a couple of apps (including some beta release software). Everything looks good so far."

Tech Tips and Info

MacBook May Run Warm Because Rear Vent Is Blocked

A new Apple Knowledge Base article says:

"Some MacBook computers may appear to be running too warm, with the fan running consistently and heat emanating from the top and/or the bottom of the computer.

"If this happens with your MacBook, check the rear vent of the MacBook to make sure it's not blocked.

"Some MacBooks may have left the factory with a thin piece of clear plastic covering the rear vent. This is used in the factory to prevent dust from getting into your computer. If your MacBook has the plastic still over the vent, simply remove and discard it.

"If your MacBook does not have the thin piece of clear plastic over the vent but is running warm, see article 30612, Apple Notebooks: Operating Temperature."

Apple Notebooks: Operating Temperature

An updated Apple Knowledge Base article says:

"The bottom surface and some areas between the keyboard and LCD hinge of your Apple notebook computer can become hot after extended periods of use. This is normal operating behavior. With processor and bus speeds in portable computers often matching, if not exceeding, those of desktop systems, increased operating temperatures in portable computing products are common throughout the industry.

"For prolonged use, place your iBook, PowerBook, MacBook or MacBook Pro on a flat stable surface. Do not leave the bottom of the computer in contact with your lap or any surface of your body for extended periods. Prolonged contact with your body could cause discomfort and potentially a burn.

"Here are some suggestions for working with your portable computer to address any concerns you may have with the operating temperature:

  1. When using your portable computer, place it on a hard surface, such as a desktop or a tray. A hard surface allows air to flow under the computer to dissipate heat. Placing it on a soft surface such as a towel or pillow (or lap) is not recommended because it does not allow air to flow under the computer.
  2. Under the Energy Saver pane in System Preferences, set the optimization to Better Energy Savings.

"The computer's internal fans turn on automatically within a temperature range that is selected to ensure proper operation of the computer."

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