Ars Technica reviews Apple MacBook

“On May 16, the MacBook replaced the nearly seven-year-old iBook and brought with it a new era of consumer-grade portables from Apple. For the first time since the clam-shell style iBooks were discontinued at the beginning of 2001 is an Apple portable available in more than one color. Apple has been toying with the idea of offering both black and white devices since the iPod nano and subsequently the video-capable iPod, and now they’ve begun offering their consumer-grade portable laptop, the predictably named MacBook, in similar glossy black and white models,” Clint Ecker writes for Ars Technica. “An oft-bandied-about factoid is that if you were to configure the midlevel model to ship with an 80GB hard disk to match the high-end model, you’d still notice that it’s approximately US$150 cheaper. The only difference is the color of the shell, of course. This is undoubtedly done on purpose and is the direct result of Apple’s experience selling iPod and iPod nanos in two color options. It didn’t take long for Apple, and casual observers of Apple’s operations to notice that the black models were selling out faster. A lot faster. Obviously the demand for black Apple products is much higher than the white products, and Apple is simply responding as most companies would when faced by high demand for a product. People who are set on getting that black MacBook are going to have to wrestle with the US$150 artificial mark-up. Apple is banking that most people will willingly hand over even more cash to get a unique item.”

Lets go over what is in every MacBook Pro that you won’t be getting on the MacBook:
• Aluminum shell
• Lighted keyboard
• Ambient light sensor
• Auto-dimming display
• ExpressCard Port
• PCIe graphics system
• Higher-resolution display
• Matte display option
• Larger hard drive

The 17-inch version of the MacBook Pro goes a step further and adds a third USB 2.0 port and a FireWire 800 port. The price difference between a similarly configured MacBook and MacBook Pro (2.0GHz, 512MB, 80GB HD) comes to about US$650. Personally, I feel that the upgraded graphics, display resolution, expansion port, and lighting features are probably worth US$650 to people who need them, but since I do not, I’m very content to stick with my MacBook.

Ecker notes, “The MacBook comes standard with options to use two-finger scrolling (both vertically and horizontally) as well as a new option to use the presence of two fingers on the pad as a modifier for the mouse button. When holding two fingers on the track pad, the click can be interpreted as a right-click instead of a left-click. This feature is strangely absent from the 15″ MacBook Pros but is intact on the 17″ MacBook Pro and the MacBook.”

“Apple’s new consumer level laptop is full of new features (iSight, widescreen display, MagSafe power connector, optical audio connections, etc.) and the prices are reasonable. The machine’s value is increased exponentially by Apple’s foresight to sanction the installation of Windows XP alongside the venerable OS X. Being able to boot into Windows to check out a new Windows app or to play a fun Windows-only game makes me that much happier I made this purchase,” Ecker writes. “For me, the MacBook is more than enough computer, but I’ll get used to it. Apple has thrust themselves back into a state of competitiveness when it comes to the consumer laptop space, and even offers prospective users features that other computer manufacturers cannot. Someone who buys a Dell or HP laptop cannot legally or easily boot OS X and Windows, and other laptops just don’t look as good.”

Full review, in Ars’ typical comprehensive fashion, here.

MacDailyNews Take: If you think the $150 extra for the black model is unreasonable, buy the white one. Apple probably has reason to believe that the pricing makes sense. If not, expect the black model’s price to be adjusted someday. Anecdotally – we hear that the black MacBooks are selling quite well right now.

[UPDATE: 2:47pm EDT: Added right-click info to Ecker’s quotes.]

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Related MacDailyNews articles:
iTWire’s Beer: My next notebook is an Apple MacBook – May 18, 2006
Analyst: MacBooks are best consumer notebooks Apple has created, sure to be big winners – May 18, 2006
Analysts expect Apple’s new MacBook to drive market share gains in near future – May 17, 2006
Apple’s new MacBooks are mobile HDTV media centers – May 17, 2006
Apple MacBook dissection photos – May 17, 2006
PC World: Hands on with Apple’s new black MacBook running Mac OS X and Windows – May 17, 2006
Analyst: Apple’s new MacBook costs a bit more than iBook, but will sell strongly – May 16, 2006
Close-up Apple MacBook photos (keyboard, glossy screen, and more) – May 16, 2006
Apple debuts new 13.3-inch widescreen MacBook; replaces both iBook and 12-inch PowerBook – May 16, 2006
Analyst: Apple Macs cost less than most people think – May 16, 2006
Apple quietly boosts MacBook Pro speeds – May 16, 2006
Dude, you got a Dell? What are you, stupid? Only Apple Macs run both Mac OS X and Windows! – April 05, 2006

68 Comments

  1. ” People who are set on getting that black MacBook are going to have to wrestle with the US$150 artificial mark-up.”

    What is artificial about the price of a product in demand? It’s called supply and demand. It’s called capitalism. Why should Apple be any different than any other company and not profit from a product that is in demand.

    If someone wants to complain about artificial markups, why don’t we start with something that really impacts people’s lives, like the artificial markup of oil and gas.

  2. $150 for a color change is quite unreasonable.

    $99 for a leather iPod case when better one’s online can be had for $25 is unreasonable.

    $30 for six iPod nano covers?

    Don’t get me started on that overpriced, over marketed iPod HiFi.

    I’m very rich and can buy any Apple device I want, but I’m not a fool to ignore value.

    If I start buying too high then it makes it harder for others who are struggling to buy. So I buy cheap with value or else the basterds will charge whatever they can get.

    The rich have a obligation to keep prices down for everyone else.

    a rich company is a lazy company

  3. Well, it’s sort of artificial because the supply of white plastic and the supply of black plastic are both very large. If Apple so chose, they could make 90% of the Macbooks black for the same production price.

    One could argue though that it’s difficult to predict demand for the black version of the Macbook, but that as purchasing patterns become more clear Apple will adjust production and bring the prices closer together.

  4. Yeah – More oil means more use, which means higher prices, and higher and higher and higher.

    Even with capitalism in full tow, shouldn’t it cost less when there’s more of something and more people are buying more of it? Why? Because you’ll make more money, ’cause more people will buy ’cause the price keeps dropping on a product that is more and more in demand.

    With oil, I think its the most ridiculous practice, that we raise prices when we want to, or need to, make more income for oil. Come on we’re in America – If you lower gas prices, make no mistake, Americans will drive A LOT more, and you can go to the bank on that. As it is, I think Americans should stop driving for just one week, see how the oil market likes that; but no…

    I still believe that, if Apple can get its market share up above 10% or 15%, or more, we will begin to see an across the board price shift – downward. Any smart business person who wants to make a lot of money, and significantly shift market share in their favor, knows the game is knowing when to start lowering prices to snowball the momentum your product has.

  5. Just picked up a black one for my wife yesterday to replace her 3 year old 12″ PowerBook. If we follow the same replacement cycle, the extra $150 works out to $50 per year. Plus most of mine and my wife’s clothes are mostly black, so the MacBook matches most of our wardrobe. Yeah, yeah, any justification I can come up with. Just call me a fashion slave, fan boy and lemming. Make my kool-aid a triple shot venti with extra foam. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”wink” style=”border:0;” />

    She does NOT want to install boot camp on her MacBook, so I’ve still got to keep my lone Windows laptop. Now we have 4 Macs and 1 Windows PC, a big turnaround from 4 Windows PCs, 1 Linux machine and no Macs.

  6. The Black mark-up just gives Apple a bad reputation and fuels the Windows belief that Mac’s are more expensive for no good reason.

    If you want to make the top of the line laptops black only so people will pay extra just to have the black one? Cool!
    But don’t make people feel stupid because they want a black one.

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