Stepping back from the ins and outs of the feature-set for a moment, one thing that’s easily overlooked is the chassis itself. Even though it’s getting on in years, it does still retain a look and feel that is entirely Apple. However, whereas its all-white finish was a novelty in the early days, it doesn’t have quite the same impact now. It’s just not that exciting anymore.
It’s still a very tidy looking system, though, particularly thanks to its seamless integration of ports and smooth underbelly. These are the facets that really set Apple laptops apart from the rest of the flock, though the likes of HP, Samsung and Dell have closed the gap a fair amount these days.
They also come out on top where build quality is concerned, which has always been a weakness for the MacBook. Apple has addressed many of its problems over the years, but there’s still that pervading feeling that it won’t take kindly to a little rough and tumble. This is particularly evident in the display, whose hinge still feels rather flimsy, while the back is poorly protected from any external pressure – distorting quite badly when flexed.
It’s a fact Apple more or less admitted when releasing the unibody MacBooks, which were designed to eliminate many of the issues created by the composite manufacturing process of the MacBook. Their aluminium chassis also seem much better suited to dissipating heat. For instance, the 13in MacBook Pro rarely spins its fans or gets discernibly hot, even when playing a DVD, whereas the MacBook spins up its fan and gets noticeably warm. It’s not a whole lot worse than most Windows-based laptops of the same size, but it’s definitely less efficient than the MacBook Pro.
It also has less flexible connectivity. There’s no SD card reader, which we regard as a pretty essential addition to the new system, while the FireWire port is only a 400Mbps one, not the 800Mbps of the MacBook Pro. A mini-DVI port is another legacy port, though arguably those with existing adapters will welcome the saving of not buying new mini-DisplayPort adapters. Things are rounded-off by two USB ports, line-in and line-out audio jacks and an Ethernet port.
Another area where the MacBook suffers in comparison to the MacBook Pro is with its audio, which is far tinnier and lacking in volume. Again, it’s no worse than many competing laptops, particularly the Samsung Q320, but the HP Pavilion dv3 has both machines soundly beaten here and there’s no denying it offers the more complete multimedia experience.