Following my ‘strategy’ that it’s cheaper to buy a new MacBook every year for a more capable model and a fresh warranty than to stick to the old machine, I had a good excuse to do so. And while the new aluminium MacBooks look pretty I still chose a white plastic MacBook this autumn.
That mainly comes down to money. Since all the trouble with my TiBook, I started to be a ‘reasonable’ computer user who doesn’t want to pay extra for the sexy looks. And from that position the white MacBook looks much better than it’s aluminium sibling which essentially means you’ll pay a lot of money extra (almost €300 in price, plus double the price for RAM adding another €70, plus new adaptors for TV and VGA which add another €60) just to not get a FireWire port, have a more glossy display (with glossy bezel) and be a guinea pig using a first generation Apple product.
Significant changes compared to the old model are:
- 4GB of RAM – the old model couldn't use this amount of RAM and having them really gives a discernible performance improvement.
- Shitty screen – the screen in this model seems to be one of the shitty ‘interpolating’ ones. Some of my photos look like crap and the ubiquitous gradients in OS X can look horrible and clumsy because of this. (yay for the same company ‘crafting’ the software and the hardware!)
- Odd keyboard layout – Apple’s current keyboard layout is horrible with the Dashboard and Exposé keys moved to F4 and and F3 and these not being handled consistently (across external keyboards, say, or with the respect to where you can map the other Exposé keys) at all. Stupid!
- At least the silly Num Lock key is gone for good now.
- I am a definite non-fan of Apple removing the enter key on the right hand side of the space bar (its relocation from just to the right of the space bar to the second key to the right of the space bar to nowhere hints at the clever and consistent ‘design’ they do in Cupertino). Luckily this can be remapped with Double Command, so it’s not a practical problem.
- DVD Writer – while Apple have always tried to charge extra for the ‘powerful’ optical drives you’d get for free from other manufacturers, finally even their cheapest MacBook contains a DVD writer. Not that I actually need it, but still a good thing…
- Fan noise – the machine’s fan seems to be much noisier than the old machine’s. Even transferring vibrations to the case. I already see a point of breakage here…
While this MacBook’s screen is quite bad, and the fan isn’t exactly quiet, I was rather pleased with the machine simply because it didn’t break. … until the day it was pretty much exactly one year old, that is. Then, the screen’s backlight started turning itself off. The first time I didn’t really notice, but after a day or two I effectively couldn’t use the backlight at any brightness level higher than 50% because it would turn off. Another day later the backlight turned itself off after just a second in the lowest brightness level, rendering the screen useless. This was only a problem with the backlight as one could still see the screen’s contents when shining an external light at it.
So I took the MacBook to our local Mac store. And they couldn’t help me because, technically, Apple start counting the days of the machine’s warranty the day you place the order on. This MacBook was ordered on October 31st and, according to Apple’s invoice shipped on November 9th. The screen broke on November 7th the following year, which, being a weekend, meant I couldn’t go to the Mac store before Monday. Another call to Apple’s hotline was required to get a warranty repair authorised in that case. I loathed doing that as my previous experiences with Apple’s hotline in Germany when requiring assistance with my G4 Powerbook and a replacement for my iBook charger were extremely bad. Either I was lucky this time or Apple improved that. At least people were helpful and seemed competent this time around and I got the repair authorised.
With the authorisation I could go to the local Mac dealer again and they could order the spare part and fix the machine for me, which took over a week. It seems like they replaced at least the whole backlight as the light is much brighter now than it was before the machine broke (it seems like those backlights wear out rather quickly). I used to run it at full power to have a well-lit screen. The new one starts being too bright at about two thirds of the power when sitting inside.
So I was lucky that things broke ‘just in time’ with this one, but it also ruined my chance of having a MacBook that ‘just works’ and doesn’t require repairs once again.