If most things about the new MacBooks are a massive improvement, connectivity is the one area where things haven’t progressed. In fact, in some ways the new MacBook has regressed in this department. Gone, for instance, is the FireWire port, replaced by…well nothing really. Now, knowing that Apple is big on abandoning what it feels to be defunct formats this isn’t a massive surprise, but that doesn’t mean it’s not rather short-sighted – not least since Apple users are more likely to have FireWire devices due to Apple’s superior support for the format in the past. That it has chosen not to replace it with, for example, e-SATA, is especially galling given that it’s widely used now and can be combined with a USB port.
Speaking of which you still get just the two USB ports, both sat right next to each other so large devices, like a USB HSDPA dongle, will block the other ports when in use. Given you can’t get a MacBook with integrated HSDPA – another mistake to our minds – there’s a good chance you’ll want to use one and though you can a USB extension cable, it’s nothing like as convenient when on the move.
Aside from this there are the usual MagSafe power input, Ethernet, headphone and microphone ports, but these are joined by a mini-DisplayPort video output to the replace the mini-DVI of old. And, though those with old adapters have reason to complain about having to purchase new adapters (£20 for a mini-DisplayPort to DVI), the use of nVidia 9400M chipset means you can output to a 30in, 2,560 x 1,600, monitor, something you couldn’t achieve before and isn’t possible through HDMI. Naturally enough, the Dual-Link DVI adapter will set you back a wallet melting £60 – you can roll out the cynicism right here.
Another rather funky addition is the battery life meter on the side. It’s a feature we always like to see on Windows machines and Apple’s implementation here, on the chassis as opposed to the battery, is particularly useful. Apple has also improved the housing for the battery which is, along with the hard drive, easily accessed via a removable panel on the bottom. Operating the sturdy latch, which doubles as a battery securing mechanism, pops open the panel and the battery can be quickly lifted out via an attached plastic tab.
As for the battery, it’s a slim and surprisingly light Lithium-Polymer affair with a 45 watt-hour capacity. Apple claims this offers five hours of wireless productivity at 50 per cent brightness, though we found this figure to be a little optimistic. Running at 80 per cent brightness we managed just short of three and a half hours, approaching four hours at 50 per cent and four and half at 25 per cent. With no Wi-Fi you should, however, approach or even exceed five hours if very frugal. So, optimistic or not, the battery life is still very good and is aided by the inclusion of an ambient light sensor, which adjusts display brightness according to ambient conditions, next to the webcam.