MacBook first impressions

I'm about to start a new job, and my employer is willing to buy me the Mac setup of my choice (within reason). Instead of getting a 15" MacBook Pro (the direct upgrade from my awesome but slow 15" G4 Powerbook) or a new Intel iMac, for the same price, I can get:

When you price out computers in the new Mac lineup, and you intend to use an external monitor on a desk most of the time like me, a few interesting things become apparent:
  • The Mac Mini is a very bad deal unless you get the absolute cheapest base model and never need any upgrades. Once you start tossing a few upgrades in there, the MacBook and iMac start to look very appealing.
  • The MacBook is almost a "free" upgrade from the base-model iMac.
  • The MacBook and MacBook Pro perform almost identically in almost everything, except 3D-intensive tasks (which I don't do).
I went to the Apple store tonight to see if I liked the low-end white MacBook, because it's an incredible deal: $1099 (or $999 from Amazon after a rebate) for almost all of the practical performance and features of the $1999 MacBook Pro with a few advantages (smaller, lighter, more durable, better battery life).


  • It's insanely fast. Safari was usable even with tons of tabs open from Newegg, and I recorded and edited a quick iMovie with the iSight and iEncoded it to iH.264 in less than two iMinutes.
  • I couldn't tell a speed difference between the 1.83 and 2.0 GHz models.
  • The reflective ("glossy") screen didn't seem bad at all.
  • The keyboard was excellent - I like it better than the Powerbook and Pro keyboards. It provided stronger tactile feedback.
  • It's noticeably lighter than the 15" MacBook Pro. (I even went and picked up a 17" for a humorous comparison.)
  • The battery meter claimed 3:45 when I unplugged it and continued to browse web pages at full brightness. When it was new, my Powerbook started at about 2:45. (Now it starts closer to 2:00, but I can't really blame a 2-year-old lithium ion battery for losing some capacity.)
  • The magnetic non-latch closure is very nice.
  • A salesperson told a nearby customer that the MacBook would "explode" under the heavy load of video editing, and he "needs" a MacBook Pro instead because "only the Pro line can handle anything beyond basic edits." I realized that I'm growing up, because instead of calling him out on it, I just laughed it off. (Too bad I wasn't recording that conversation with the iSight.)


  • The white ones look really cheap and bare, like the previous iBooks. I'm not a fan of the off-white keyboard-area surface at all.
  • The black ones look nice, but the outer casing seems to collect fingerprints and smudges very easily. And the $400 price premium for the black model is hardly worthwhile.
  • They run a little hot (but not as hot as the 15" MacBook Pros). The hottest spot on top was the upper-left (above the CPU), and the hottest spot on the bottom was the lower-left (below the hard drive). (Update on May 30, 2006: The lower-left area is the battery. The hard drive is in the lower-right. It was indeed the battery getting so warm.)


I'm not a big fan of the way the white MacBooks look, but everything else about them was excellent. They're incredibly fast and portable, and they're a great value, especially compared to the MacBook Pros. I'd be very happy to use one.