2008 13" MacBook Review


MacBook (Early 2008) "Penryn"
by Charles W. Moore

Barely three months after its last previous revision in November, 2007, in which it was upgraded to Intel's "Santa Rosa" Core 2 Duo CPUs, Apple refreshed its MacBook notebook computer line again on February 26, 2008, with the latest Intel Core 2 Duo "Penryn" processors, the first using Intel's 45-nanometer chip technology, but with no change in the notebook's form-factor. The chipset and rest of the platform remain as before as well. Intel's 45nm process results in transistors so small you could fit a hundred inside a single human cell. With smaller distances for electrons to travel, and two execution cores designed to share resources and conserve power, the Intel Core 2 Duo achieves higher levels of performance without using more power. With prices starting at $1,099, the MacBook lineup includes three models: a base white 2.1 GHz unit with a Combo drive, and two 2.4 GHz models: one in white and a black 2.4 GHz MacBook model topping the line.

The revised MacBooks still come with the familiar 13-inch glossy display, still are offered in three models, and larger hard drives are standard. The new clock speeds are 2.1 GHz and 2.4 GHz with 120GB or 160GB 5400 rpm hard drives on the low-end and middle white models. The top of the line black 2.4 GHz model comes with a 250GB 5400 rpm hard drive, previously only available as an option. The 2.4 GHz MacBook models ship with 2GB of memory standard, expandable up to 4GB across the line.

Every MacBook and MacBook Pro includes a built-in iSight video camera; Apple's MagSafe Power Adapter, the latest generation of 802.11n wireless networking, built-in 10/100/1000 BASE-T Gigabit Ethernet, Bluetooth; analog and digital audio inputs and outputs; USB 2.0; FireWire and a built-in SuperDrive on all but the entry-level MacBook which still ships with a Combo drive.

This MacBook uses the Intel GMA X3100 integrated graphics processor, which annexes up to 144 MB of system memory for graphics support. The entry-level MacBook includes 1 GB of RAM, while the faster models ship with 2 GB. They all support up to 4 GB.

The MacBook has two RAM expansion slots easily accessible through the battery bay on the bottom of the computer, and incorporates easy access to the hard drive, which we hadn't seen in Apple laptops since the 2000 Pismo PowerBook. Getting access to the hard drive in Apple's previous consumer notebook, the iBook, could be fairly described as nightmarish, and G4 PowerBooks and MacBook Pros are only a slightly better prospect. By contrast, in the MacBook, the hard drive lives behind a door beside the RAM slots in the battery bay, making it the easiest to access and change in any Apple laptop ever.


13" MacBook Model Chart:

13" 2.4GHz
Black

13.3-inch glossy widescreen
1280 x 800 resolution
2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
3MB shared L2 cache
800 MHz front-side bus
2GB 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM
250GB Serial ATA HD 5400 rpm
8x DL SuperDrive
Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X3100
Mini-DVI out
built-in iSight video camera
Gigabit Ethernet port
AirPort Extreme 802.11n
Bluetooth 2.0+EDR
2 USB 2.0 ports
one FireWire 400 port
Scrolling trackpad

sku MB404LL/A

$1499

13" 2.4GHz
White

13.3-inch glossy widescreen
1280 x 800 resolution
2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
3MB shared L2 cache
800 MHz front-side bus;
2GB of 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM
160GB Serial ATA HD 5400 rpm
8x DL SuperDrive
Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X3100
Mini-DVI out
built-in iSight video camera
Gigabit Ethernet port
AirPort Extreme 802.11n
Bluetooth 2.0+EDR
2 USB 2.0 ports
one FireWire 400 port
Scrolling trackpad

sku MB403LL/A

$1299

13" 2.1GHz
White

13.3-inch glossy widescreen
1280 x 800 resolution
2.1 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
3MB shared L2 cache
800 MHz front-side bus;
1GB of 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM
120GB Serial ATA hard drive 5400 rpm
Combo optical drive
Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X3100
Mini-DVI out
built-in iSight video camera
Gigabit Ethernet port
AirPort Extreme 802.11n
Bluetooth 2.0+EDR
2 USB 2.0 ports
one FireWire 400 port
Scrolling trackpad

sku MB402LL/A

$1099



Build-to-order options for the MacBook include the ability to upgrade to up to 4GB 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM, Apple Remote, Apple MagSafe Airline Adapter, Apple USB Modem, and pre-installed copies of iWork '08, Logic Express 8, Final Cut Express 4 and Aperture 2.

The mild speed bumps and move to 45 nm "Penryn" chip architecture are welcome enhancements, but speed was not a notable deficiency of release any MacIntel laptop, all the way back to the original 1.83 GHz Core Duo models. However, early testing reports indicate that the Penryn chips run significantly cooler than do previous Core Duo and Core 2 Duo mobile Intel CPUs, which is welcome in itself, and also should result in longer battery life as well as more peace and quiet free from fan noise, so those factors definitely need to be considered in a purchase decision.

That decision will also have to determine whether a DVD-burner, 300 MHz more porcessor speed, 40 gigs more hard drive capacity, and an extra megabyte of RAM are worth the $200 price spread between the entry-level 2.1 GHz MacBook and the middle, 2.4 GHz unit. If you want the black case livery, you'll have to pop for an additional $200, which also gets you the 250 GB hard disk.

The other operative decision between buying a MacBook or opting for its professional notebook stablemate the MacBook Pro must take into account whether the latter's superior graphics support, bigger display with higher resolution and matte option, LED display backlight, ExpressCard port, larger hard drive, MultiTouch trackpad, backlit keyboard and FireWire 800 connectivity, and sleek, aluminum case represent good usable value for the extra capital outlay, or whether a smaller, less-costly MacBook is all you really need. The price spread of $900 between the entry-level MacBook and the lowest-priced MacBook Pro is quite substantial.

MacBook at a glance:

2.1 GHz or 2.4 GHz Intel "Penryn" 45 nm Core 2 Duo processor
3 MB L2 Cache
800MHz Frontside Bus
1 MB - 2 GB memory expandable up to Up to 4 GB
120 GB, 160 GB or 250 GB Serial ATA hard drive
Combo drive (DVD-ROM/CD-RW) or 8x Double-layer SuperDrive (DVD+R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)
Built-in AirPort Extreme and Bluetooth 2.0
Intel GMA X1350 graphics processor
DVI connector, VGA adapter
Built-in Gigabit Ethernet
Analog and digital audio
Expansion via USB and FireWire 400
Built-in iSight video camera;
iLife '06, Mac OS X Tiger
60W MagSafe Power Adapter, AC wall plug, and power cord
Lithium-polymer battery


For more information, visit:
http://www.apple.com/macmini/

Mac mini photos:
http://www.apple.com/macmini/gallery/