Ever since Apple unleashed the stunning aluminium unibody MacBooks in 2008, its original MacBook looked a forlorn, awkward proposition - an impression confirmed when we reviewed it back in July. Thankfully Apple finally rectified the situation in releasing the now unibodied, polycarbonate MacBook. We're not given to agreeing with marketing spiel too often, but Apple's description of it being 'completely redesigned' and 'better-in-every-way' rings true. Still, at just £100 less than the identically proportioned MacBook Pro 13in, is this enough?
Save for the price difference and the materials used, the MacBook is the spitting image of its 13in MacBook Pro counterpart. In actuality the MacBook is slightly wider, deeper and thicker than the Pro, but we're talking a matter of millimetres here. Likewise, at 2.13kg, the MacBook is a shade heavier, but it remains very portable nonetheless. Vitally, while the plastic chassis doesn't feel as luxurious as aluminium, none of the minimalist style is lost in translation and it's a massive improvement on the old model.
Another key factor for potential buyers is the display, which is now the same LED backlit, 13.3in effort as found in the Pro line. Not only does this have the potential to improve battery life, it also means a brighter, more colourful image. Indeed this new display is one of the best things about the MacBook. Its outstanding viewing angles would put most laptops to shame, while the vibrant colours and inky blacks give videos and photos plenty of punch. No similarly priced Windows laptop can boast a screen half as good as this.
Other features that have made the trip across the divide include the outstanding glass multi-touch touchpad. HP's Envy 15 showed imitating this clickable pad isn't easy, only reinforcing exactly how good Apple's effort really is. Be it manipulating photos, scrolling web pages or simply navigating the OS, its smooth finish and massive surface area make it joy to use. At the risk of sounding repetitive, no similarly priced Windows laptop can boast anything half as good as this.
As ever with Apple you pay the price for these luxurious features in other departments. That said, the base spec of the MacBook (there's only one) is pretty decent. An Intel Core 2 Duo clocked at 2.26GHz and 2GB DDR3 RAM matches that of the entry-level MacBook Pro, as does the presence of nVidia's 9400M integrated graphics. Wireless-N Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Gigabit Ethernet are all standard, too, while you actually get a larger 250GB hard drive versus the 160GB one on the Pro.
That's a nice upgrade, but predictably it's there to compensate for the features you miss. Most notably this includes the backlit keyboard, but also FireWire and, worst of all, the SD card reader. We'll quite happily live without a backlit keyboard and FireWire (the latter of which has long been a niche connection outside Macs anyway), but in a world where digital camera ownership is more or less universal, the absence of an SD card reader is very hard to forgive.