Monday, February 11, 2008

MacBook review: first impressions

For the really impatient folks out there (I'm one of you!): yes, MacBook and OS X rocks.

For the rest: After pondering for some time on whether buying a MacBook, a MacBook Pro or a Lenovo Thinkpad (T-Series), I decided to buy a white MacBook.

Why not a MB Pro? The added price (almost 2X) for a dedicated GPU, LED backlit display and illuminated keyboard didn't seem right to me.

Why not a Lenovo T61p? Basically because I'd get nauseated just thinking about booting it up for the first time and be greeted by the dreaded WIndows Vista, knowing that I had actually paid for that. I know there are now versions shipping with SuSE Linux, but I couldn't find any reseller nearby with such models.

So here are the specs and my impressions so far:

Model Identifier: MacBook3,1 White
Processor Name: Intel Core 2 Duo
Processor Speed: 2.2 GHz
Number Of Processors: 1
Total Number Of Cores: 2
L2 Cache: 4 MB
Memory: 4 GB
Bus Speed: 800 MHz
HDD Capacity: 111,79 GB

  • Lightning fast recovery from sleep;
  • Sub 20 seconds boot time;
  • Initially I thought that not having air vents at the bottom of the notebook (the only air vent is neatly hidden under the display hinge, together with the built-in speaker) would make it really hot but so far it hasn't been the case. It's been running surprisingly cooler than my previous and much less powerful FJ270 Sony VAIO and other Toshiba notebooks I've owned;
  • iSight, the built-in web cam has a pretty decent quality;
  • Battery life is great: when correctly calibrated and fully charged, I can get almost 4 hours out of it with heavy WiFi/bittorrent usage;
  • Bluetooth and iSync Just Works(TM) with the many devices tried;
  • Spotlight and Quicksilver rocks;
  • Price: if you compare just the hardware inside, a PC vanilla Dell/Lenovo laptop would be a bit cheaper, but factoring in the value provided by Leopard and all the little well-thought things on an Apple machine, you get a lot more value overall. And yes, of course, you won't need to be stuck with the despisable brand new Windows Vista.

  • No PageDown key (with the default keyboard mapping, you need Fn-Down);
  • In the name of design Apple placed some really sharp edges near the palm rest to the point of becoming uncomfortable;
  • Lousy built-in speakers;
  • Support for dead-keys (for entering extended characters in weird languages like Portuguese) is not that good. Does not work like a Linux or Windows user with a US Intl keyboard would expect. For example, in order to produce "ção" (pretty common in portuguese) I need option-c, option-n-a, then "o"; Update: solved with a 3rd party keybord layout file.
  • No quick option on Finder for showing/hiding Unix files starting with a dot. There's a global command line setting for that but this behavior can't be quickly enabled or disabled;
  • I wasn't expecting much from the keyboard but it is indeed worse than those from IBM/Lenovo or from some Vaios. I'm starting to get used to mine but I feel like I have to press keys harder than necessary;
  • I wanted the black model, but that costs more (even if you get an identical spec!). That doesn't make much sense business-wise.
  • The display hinge is not strong enough. If you pull the notebook upwards fast enough the display opens.

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