Ars Technica reviews Apple’s new 13-inch MacBook: A leap forward in functionality and design

“The late 2008 MacBook is a fairly significant leap forward in terms of both functionality and industrial design. Shedding the white, plastic design like the iMac before it, the MacBook’s new aluminum unibody, upgraded graphics, and slightly raised price point make it clearer than ever that Apple has no intention of competing with mainstream PC notebooks. And the fact that it shares the MacBook Pro’s aesthetic design and other hardware features—like a backlit keyboard and a multi-touch, zero-button trackpad—also gives the new MacBook that “coming of age” feel,” David Chartier and Iljitsch van Beijnum report for Ars Technica.

“That said, the line between the MacBook and the MacBook Pro has become thinner or, at the least, it has shifted. While previous MacBook generations shared features with the MacBook Pro but fell behind with far more inferior displays, the new MacBook now lacks any FireWire whatsoever and has gained a much more color-rich (though still not-quite-Pro) display. Toss in a very appreciated shift to a more powerful NVIDIA graphics chipset that still lags behind its big bro, and the decision to spend the extra money may prove even more difficult now for some customers. Photoshop users on a budget, students, and photography enthusiasts can get by better than ever with a $1,299 MacBook. But people who need to work with recent, FireWire-enabled DV cameras can no longer consider a MacBook, and they will be forced to join those who aren’t willing to compromise on portable gaming in spending an extra $700,” Chartier and van Beijnum report.

“All things considered, the aluminum MacBook is a good upgrade, and the new unibody construction is a great choice that brings it in line with the professional aesthetic of the rest of Apple’s notebooks,” Chartier and van Beijnum report.

There’s much more in the full extensive review, including benchmarks, here.


  1. While the Macbook narrows the gap with the MacBook Pro, I think it actually hits harder at the MacBook Air. I have the first generation Air (which I love) but with the thinning of and the added functionality of the MacBook I just bought one. Same size footprint, just a bit thicker (at the thickest point of the Air) and a bit heavier BUT DVD, TWO USB (the worst part of the Air), ethernet, faster processor, bus and BETTER battery life. Yes a bit heavier as well but still respectable and usable on Air Canada.

    I think this could kill the Air or push the air to a more netbook approach down the road….

  2. “But people who need to work with recent, FireWire-enabled DV cameras can no longer consider a MacBook, and they will be forced to join those who aren’t willing to compromise on portable gaming in spending an extra $700,” Chartier and van Beijnum report.”

    So Apple expects people to pay $700 just for FireWire? Can’t you buy a PC laptop for $700? Sheeesh.

  3. Firewire == whatever. I’m more than certain that for the vast majority of Mac users, that port does nothing but collect dust. I use the Firewire port on my late 2007 MacBook for my external hard drive, but that’s just so I can free up both USB ports. Otherwise, I’d never use it. Face it: When the iPod went USB 2.0-only, the biggest reason for the average user to want Firewire went out the door.

    My concerns are more about the “zero button” trackpad. Of course, it’s not really zero button. It has the standard single button, but the whole trackpad is the button. I’m not sure I’m sold on the idea. I just got one of these for my wife as an early Christmas present, and I’ve played around with it. I find it’s really hard to press that trackpad-button if the MacBook isn’t sitting on a firm surface. It has a great deal more resistance to being pressed than an ordinary button, so if nothing is bracing the MacBook, you end up pushing the whole computer down.


  4. So far I’ve only had one issue with the lack of firewire on my macbook. I had to buy a new video camera. But the new flash based ones are so superior to the dv tape ones, I’m surprised I didn’t do it before.

  5. “…Christmas without turkey”

    Is there anything special about Christmas (or turkey) that us non-US folk should know? Where I come, Christmas always meant pork roast.

    Anyway, I’m guessing the point CourtJester was trying to make that laptop without FireWire just isn’t complete.

    As Alec had said, vast majority of the FireWire-using minority uses it for MiniDV transfer. For under $500 (in the US), they could get themselves a tapeless HD camcorder (internal memory, hard disk, flash cards), which uses USB2 to move data over. As soon as these folk move to HD, they’ll stop using those FW ports, reducing the numbers of those who need it even further.

    The least expensive Windows laptops with FW aren’t cheaper than the currently available white MB.

  6. USB 2 is nearly as fast as Firewire 400 on Intel based Mac’s.

    On PPC USB 2 is slower than Intel Mac’s USB 2 for some reason.

    But nothing beats Firewire 800.


    Clone 200GB of data on a drive in a hour, no sweat with Firewire 800.

    Apple is killing their “Pro” use for MacBook Pro’s by going with glossy screen only option, among other things, like no BlueRay.

    Why is this? Don’t have the foggiest idea.

  7. USB2 may be just as fast, but that’s not the issue. USB is not as reliable, it does not stream as FireWire does, but relies on the CPU, so instead of using the CPU to edit your movie, you have to use it to read the contents of the video disk. Also, you can’t use USB to connect your TV set as a monitor when editing in Final Cut Express. If you work with audio, the CPU will also be busy capturing the sound in unreliable ways, so say bye-bye to CPU-reliant on-the-fly audio editing and more than a couple of channels.

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