Last week, Apple released their new 'consumer-grade' laptop - the MacBook. So like any good Apple nut, I made a trip down to the Apple store to take a look. Here are my thoughts after a brief encounter with it.
Visually, the laptop looks pretty good. It's nice and thin. It has an Intel Core Duo processor. This means, this little 'cheap' laptop essentially has two processors. A very nice feature for a low end model. At 2Ghz per processor, it is sure to be a quite capable machine. It also has a feature that I really like, and I'm sure other will too. This is the user upgradable hard drive! This is the first laptop I've seen where you can easily swap out the hard drive. This means that you are not forced to play expensive Apple prices if you want to upgrade the hard drive at a later time. Plus, you can throw in any laptop hard drive you can find in the thing, so you could potentially upgrade it beyond the 'officially sanctioned' Apple standards. A very nice feature.
Another nice feature is the 'Mag-save' power plug. I like this design. It's a very small, lightweight plug that plugs into the side of the computer. It plugs into the computer by way of a magnet holding it in place. It's a nice feature because if you can get that plug pretty close to the laptop, it practically 'plugs itself in' because the magnet sucks the plug in the rest of the way. Plus, it easily pops out so you can't yank the laptop off the desk by way of the power cable.
I have to say that the color of the cases, both the white and the black are quite nice. I was rather expecting the black case to look like a typical, boring black laptop, but it actually looks quite nice. The Apple logo on the top of the case is a nice touch too. When the laptop is closed the Apple logo is not lit up. As soon as you open the case, it lights up. A neat little touch. Now for the things I didn't like...
I'm not sure I like the keyboard. It has an odd 'chicklet' style keyboard. The keyboard buttons remind me more of the buttons on a cheap handheld calculator, then on a good laptop. Also, the keyboard seemed a little off-center. It almost seemed like what should be the center of the keyboard was more off to the right. It feels a bit weird to someone like me who is a fast typist.
The screen is a bit odd too. From what I understand there are two types of screens on the MacBook - the glossy screen and the standard screen. I suspect the one I was trying had the glossy screen. This means that the screen has a very shiny, reflective coating on the front. This strikes me as a bad thing because it was constantly reflecting the overhead lights. It was distracting. If I were to buy one of these, I would have to go for the non-glossy screen.
Another thing I didn't like was the video chip they choose to put into it. It uses an onboard, low-end Intel video chip, rather than the much more capable ATI video chip in the MacBook Pros. This video also shares memory with the main RAM on the laptop. This means that you potentially have a lot less RAM on it than you think you do. I'm sure this lesser video chip was put into here to lower the cost. I'd much rather have the higher end chip though, or at least a way to upgrade it...
One last thing I noticed was the integrity of the casing itself. Maybe it was just the heavily handled and abused demo model I was looking at, but it didn't seem like things fit together quite right at the back of the laptop case, near the joint where the top part connects to the bottom part of the laptop. The seams seemed uneven and a bit sloppy looking. Maybe this one had just been abused and that's why things were out of kilter, but it looked a bit odd.
All in all, I'd say this would make a good first computer or a good computer for your kids to take to school, but this is definately not a power-user laptop.
Now that 17" widescreen MacBook Pro was beautiful though! I'd love to have one of those puppies!