I have owned the MacBook for approximately 2 weeks now. It may not be perfect but it does come pretty close. The MacBook Impressions looks very slender, yet feels strong to the touch. Apple listed it as being 2.13kg, but it feels much lighter than that. My old 2.4kg Dell Inspiron feels much heavier by comparison. There’s a lot of curves, which gives it a nice contour to look at. At one glance, you can tell that the build quality of the machine is about as good as the Thinkpads, or maybe even better.
This is one of the two notebooks that I have encountered where lifting the screen does not require you to hold down the base. (The other is a Dell Latitude D630 if you’re curious.) The hinge does not feel too sticky nor too loose, but care must be taken not to exert too much force of course, since hinges are mechanical and prone to wear-and-tear.
The use of magnets on a computer may be an anathema to some, but it really does its job well. Instead of mechanical clutches, the screen is kept in place when it’s closed by a magnet, strong enough to hold it in place but weak enough that it is easy to open and shut the lid. The other part is the patented MagSafe power connector. I am absolutely in love with this. The power cord is held in place to the MacBook using a magnet.
MagSafe power connector
This achieves two things: it is very simple to mount it (just hold it near and it will latch), and if someone were to trip on it, the cord comes off safely without causing the notebook to experience death (or near-death) by falling off the table. One thing I did by accident was to affix the cord backward. And it started charging! Of course, by doing so, you block a whole range of ports, unless you’re willing to bend the wire at an extreme angle that would lessen the lifespan quickly.
Since I just mentioned it, all the available ports are on the left (with respect to you). There’s the power port, an ethernet port, a mini-DisplayPort out, 2 USB ports, a 3.5mm headphone jack an oval-ish hole that I have yet to figure out what it’s for. Ventilation maybe? This plethora of ports is quite disappointing. Only 2 USB ports? A mouse and an external HDD and there’s no spare. And shipping a laptop with a niche display out port without the necessary adapters to convert to VGA, DVI or HDMI is an act only Apple can get away with.
So I would recommend getting a powered USB hub and 3rd-party display adapters if you want to output to a monitor, which is totally an unnecessary expenditure. The right is the slot-loading disc drive, which I discovered requires you to push the disc all the way in. I was a bit hesitant at first and expected the drive to detect it when the disc is at most halfway in. I don’t want to push it all the way in and damage the receiver mechanism.
Chiclet keyboards are always a pleasure to type on. The MacBook has a nice clicky feel to it and is fully featured, minus the Numpad. However, while typing, I sometimes feel as though the sharp edge of the notebook is digging into my wrists. Good thing it’s not that sharp though. I could die by blood loss just by typing this post alone! The only major difference between Mac keyboards and other PC keyboards is the use of Command, Alt, and Control. Another major difference is that in order to use the function keys, F1, F2, etc, one needs to hold the fn key on the keyboard.
Else, the keys are for media, adjusting volume and brightness, etc. Somehow I feel that this makes more sense. I don’t really use function keys that often, and on a laptop, I usually turn the volume up and down, and adjust brightness settings a lot, because of the change in natural lighting since you go places with the laptop. I also use iTunes a lot on OSX, so the play/pause, back, and next keys get hammered as well. All these differences take some time to get used to of course, and once you do, you’ll appreciate the changes for the function keys a lot.
But of course, the piece of hardware I’m most pleased with is the oversized multi-touch trackpad. I’m a huge advocate of a mouse since most trackpads suck ass big time. I didn’t believe it when a friend touted the virtues of the trackpad. How can one NOT use a mouse? It’s much more accurate and precise! However, Apple solves this by making the trackpad extremely huge, so you wouldn’t require too many swipes of your finger to reach your intended target. A huge trackpad also means that it can accommodate all 4 fingers. (I’m a huge fat guy, so if my 4 fingers can fit, so can yours!).
With multi-touch, this means that there are supports for 2, 3, or 4 finger gestures. I was a bit disappointed to find that 3-finger clicking is not official. I am too used to the middle click to open links in new tabs or close tabs in firefox. Luckily, this is easily solved as there are many applications that extend the gestures of the trackpad. If you just want to middle-click, the aptly named Middle Click app will suffice. No, I will not Cmd-click. Why use two hands when you can use one since this seems to be the underlying philosophy behind this awesome trackpad.
Apple reported that the battery life on a full charge can supposedly last for 7 hours, a fact that is confirmed by Anandtech. I have not really tried to last that long without charging, but it does give me peace of mind to take the power cord off and just run on battery power. One catch is that it is not user-replaceable though and requires you to send it back to Apple to be replaced for them to perform some voodoo.
I am also impressed by the Nvidia 9400m integrated graphics solution. I can run WoW perfectly in 1280×800 resolution at medium settings. All my other games, mostly indie, aren’t too bling-bling. I have yet to install games on my Windows partition in the MacBook, though I suspect it won’t suck as bad as Intel’s integrated graphics solutions.
The use of the rubberized base is another huge disappointment. The whole base is a giant rubber plate which means (1) it picks up the slightest hint of gunk easily, and (2) you can’t clean it off. After just two weeks of use, there are well-developed black marks at the four corners where the MacBook makes contact with whatever it’s placed on. I have resorted to placing it on my cloth mousepad on my desk, like that will do much good.
Since I got this MacBook from a promotion, I just got the base configuration. So I spent an additional $270 to upgrade the ram, from 2GB to 4GB, and the hard drive, from 250GB to 500GB. The ram upgrade is very worthwhile in my opinion as there is a noticeable boost in its operations.
Having owned/used the Dell Inspiron 640m, Dell Mini 9, Dell Latitude D630 (OMG! So many Dells!) and the Lenovo T400, and a whole host of various notebooks of friends and family, the MacBook has impressed me with its attention to the little-est detail that other manufacturers usually take for granted that its users will forgive them for not improving them. However, it’s yet to be the ultimate consumer portable computer, since issues like the rubber base and available ports are not as good as others. Despite its flaws, it’s becoming my main machine now for surfing, coding, and a bit of light gaming. OSX is another impressive OS, which I’ll probably chronicle soon if my in-built laziness hasn’t been activated.