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Last year's arrival of the aluminium 'unibody' MacBooks (see Apple MacBook 13in) was something of a revelation where laptop design was concerned. No surprises there really, if nothing else Apple is known for its great design. However, as impressive as the new MacBooks were, there were one or two niggling issues that prevented the full TrustedReviews stamp of approval: a Recommended Award. Now that Apple has refreshed its line-up, it's time to see if any of the changes warrant an upgrade in status.
First, though, a little housekeeping, since one subtle change for the new 13in MacBook is the name: it's now a MacBook Pro. This actually makes a lot of sense; given the older white MacBook is still on sale it saves a lot of unnecessary confusion. Moreover, as the 13in aluminium MacBook (as was) shared the same design language as the MacBook Pros above it, its separation from them could be deemed a little odd.
With all this said there were some good reasons why the first edition wasn't deemed 'Pro' enough to be a MacBook Pro. Primary among those was the lack of a FireWire 800 port, which is one of the most desirable additions to this new model. Other new features include a long overdue SD card reader (quite how Apple held out for so long is beyond us) and the backlit keyboard, which is now standard even on the entry-level model.
All of which go someway to appeasing our complaints from the 2008 version. However, just when you think Apple has steered a course toward friendship and reconciliation with the real world, it finds another reason to court controversy. This time it's with the battery, which unlike last year's model isn't user replaceable. This, so says Apple, is so it can fit in a higher capacity battery without increasing the weight of machine. Consequently this new model features a 58 Watt-hour capacity unit compared to the 48 Watt-hour one from last year, but still weighs just a smidgen over 2.0kg
This move obviously throws up a few issues, but Apple has moved to alleviate fears of quickly depleting batteries by developing a system of intelligent charging to prevent eroding the capacity of the battery prematurely. This means that by Apple's reckoning the new MacBook Pro batteries will last up to five years and 1,000 charges, whereas typical lithium-ion batteries can need replacing after one and a half years and 300 charges. Of course these are Apple's own figures, so you can take them with a pinch of salt, but if Apple's figures are to be believed then batteries should last between upgrades.
Another issue, of course, is battery life itself, but Apple reckons it has you covered here, too. It's claiming up to seven hours of use from its new battery, which if true would be very impressive. We'll get into whether this claim is realistic a little later on in the review.