Unlike the new MacBook Pro, or the Q320 and dv3 for that matter, the white MacBook doesn’t use an LED backlit display, so relies on traditional and increasingly rare CCFL backlighting. This adds weight and thickness to the machine, with the overall weight reaching a fairly hefty 2.2kg.
On the whole it’s a reasonable display, but it’s not without its issues. Like the MacBook Pro, there’s noticeable banding in gradients, though here it’s slightly more severe. Its colour production is also more neutral, which for many may be preferable to the slightly over-saturated look of the Pro. But most important of all it’s not as bright as its LED backlit counterparts, which means it doesn’t cope as well in bright lighting – a fact not helped by the reflective display.
One area where the white MacBook has a slight edge, however, is in its keyboard. While it may not be backlit, its keys have a firmer and more traditional action to them compared to the softer ones of the MacBook Pro. It’s a key action many Apple users seem to prefer and though the MacBook Pro keyboard remains very good, it’s easy to see why people miss this keyboard.
However, if you’ve used the multi-touch touchpad on the new MacBooks, going back to the old one will be a challenge. It’s still a perfectly decent effort and we much prefer its two-finger scrolling to the scroll zones of most Windows laptops, but there’s no denying that the lack of a second button is just plain irritating.
While the MacBook does have a few weaknesses where design and features are concerned, it’s still a very capable performer. As noted earlier, its CPU is actually faster than the one in last year’s unibody MacBook and though in X-Bench it is edged out by the latter, this is largely due to the slower DDR2 RAM. Where CPU intensive tasks are concerned, it’s definitely the faster machine. It should also be quicker than the likes of the Samsung Q320 or the HP Pavilion dv3, both of which use slower 2.0GHz CPUs with only an 800MHz front-side bus and less L2 Cache. Combined with the native efficiency of Apple’s operating system and you’ve got a very perky performer.
This extends to pretty good battery life, too. In the DVD Playback test, which is identical to that used for Windows machines, it lasted two hours and 44 minutes – longer than the Samsung Q320 and only slightly less than the HP Pavilion dv3-2055ea. Unfortunately this is the only like-for-like test we have, so for other metrics we must rely on subjective testing. Here the MacBook also performs pretty well; we got 4 hours and 28 minutes out of the machine while using the system for a combination of word processing, web browsing and video viewing. Unlike the MacBook Pro, of course, the battery capacity will degrade at a normal rate but then it’s removable, so a new battery is never far away.
Overall, though, the MacBook remains an odd beast. If you absolutely must have a Mac and can’t stretch to a MacBook Pro, this is still a perfectly serviceable and competent option. However, if you’re really that skint, buying a refurb or second-hand aluminium version (Pro or otherwise) is worth considering given the improved experience it offers. And, if you’re not that fussed, there are any number of Windows alternatives that offer more features, a more rounded package and a cheaper price.
Aside from a rather stingy hard drive, this is a decent laptop. However, it’s hamstrung by its need to not be ‘too cheap’ and a chassis that’s known to be less than sturdy. If it was retailing around the £650 to £700 mark it would be a very serious contender, but as things stand there are lots of avenues we’d investigate before opting for the MacBook.
Unlike other sites, we thoroughly test every product we review. We use industry standard tests in order to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever accept money to review a product. Tell us what you think - send your emails to the Editor.