With the new MacBook in your hands it's difficult to tell at first glance what the differences are over the last version. But look a little closer and you'll realise: "hey, the trackpad's a little bigger, and it's got that unibody thingy". Like the MacBook Pro, the new Macbook features a unibody construction — only this time it's polycarbonate and not aluminium. Apple also cheats a little by including a detachable rubberised base, but this serves its own purpose by ensuring the MacBook doesn't slide away while typing.
The trackpad is a muti-touch glass sandwich and feels good to the touch. The pad is hinged in such a way that any point on its surface can act as a mouse click.
The notebook features a 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 2GB RAM, a 250GB hard drive, and the Nvidia GeForce 9400M integrated graphic chipset. The MacBook features a 13.3-inch screen which is LED-backlit for better colours and power consumption, and comes in a 1280x800 resolution.
As a unibody the MacBook features a built-in battery, which Apple claims is good for seven hours of life. The new body means it's now a little lighter at 2.1kg. Other additions include a non-slip bottom and a 90-degree MagSafe power cable that should make it harder to knock out. To borrow from the D-Generation it now comes in a huge range of white.
On the left-hand side you have the power adapter, a LAN port, a mini DisplayPort, two USB ports, a combination headphone/microphone input compatible with the newer iPod headphones, and a Kensington slot. On the right-hand side you simply have the slot-loading 8x SuperDrive. If you don't want to try using the combination in/out headphone thingy there is also an on-board microphone next to the integrated iSight camera.
Networking includes a built-in AirPort Extreme 802.11n wireless networking adapter, the aforementioned gigabit Ethernet and Bluetooth.
In use, the new Apple MacBook is a lot like the old one — no surprises there. Of course, having multi-touch does speed up productivity somewhat, and the new 13.3-inch screen is simply exquisite. The panel is bright, detailed and clear, but it can be reflective due to the glossy, "high-contrast" coating.
The laptop proved itself to be quite capable as a gaming machine, and while this isn't that useful under OS X it really comes into its own once you fire Boot Camp up. Despite the cries of "Dear God! What abomination have you unleashed?!", we loaded and benchmarked a copy of Windows 7 Ultimate onto the machine. Running the venerable 3DMark05 we were able to extract a very usable 2119 marks — most modern games will run on this system without a hitch.
Despite being a new operating system, Windows 7 behaved on the Mac quite well due to the bundled Windows drivers on the OS X disc. Only occasionally did the trackpad have a brain-fart and misinterpret left-clicks as right-clicks. Again, not an issue if you use a mouse.
The keyboard is the "pebble" style we've seen from the company previously, and the action is as good as you'd expect with decent tactile feedback. There's no backlighting, though, so if you often type in the dark it may be better to try its bigger brother, the MacBook Pro.
While we didn't get anywhere near the claimed seven hours, we did manage to get a very decent four hours and 50 minutes using our video playback test. At almost five hours it can outplay most netbooks — which is an excellent result for a "budget" laptop. This is because unlike light internet browsing and word processing, movie files tax both the processor and the video adapter which makes it a "worst-case scenario" of battery life.
Sound quality via the on-board speaker is very good, and while lacking in any bass whatsoever it has a detailed sound that highlights vocals well.
If you have an Apple MacBook already there is no compelling reason to upgrade to this one. While multi-touch is a nice addition, serious productivity hounds will be using a dedicated mouse anyway. But, if you're looking to buy a new laptop and like the flexibility of a dual-boot system then this MacBook and a copy of Windows could very well be the ticket.