Apple MacBook Core2Duo

After having grown weary of the four major repairs which my first MacBook needed, I was tempted to replace it by a new one once the end of the one year warranty came near. While our local Mac shop does a great job at servicing the machines, I didn't want to end up arguing with people about whether or not whatever would break next would be the machine's fault or mine.

In addition to that with the university discount and the comfortable prices people pay for used Macs on eBay, it turned out that my loss in this would be around €300. Which for a year of computer usage is rather low – and would in fact make that first MacBook pretty much the cheapest computer I had since my Atari ST if you look at its cost per day. Besides, I somewhat doubt that the machine would have survived more than four years without falling apart which it would need to do to keep that low price stamp.

So, hooray, an all new MacBook sitting on my desk. With its slightly increased clock speed and its Core2Duo processor it is supposedly a bit faster than the one I had before and it can do 64bit stuff as well. But I couldn’t really notice any difference. I quite like that. The machine just looks the same and behaves the same.

In fact, thanks to the MacBook’s user-friendly design when it comes to replacing RAM and hard drives, my time to ‘migrate’ to the new machine was less than five minutes as I just had to pop out the battery, open three screws and swap the memory chips and hard drives of both machines.

The screen is a bit brighter than the old MacBook's. But its colours look a tiny bit colder to me. Fingers crossed that this MacBook will cause me less trouble than its predecessor…

Well that finger crossing didn’t help. Half a year later and I have a number of problems to report about this machine by now.

The first problem I had came from the battery. The computer died on me a few times rather than shutting itself down in ‘safe sleep’ mode a few times. Somehow the battery sorted itself out before I could have it replaced. But it left a bad taste in terms of reliability. Machines should never just lose power and all the data in their memory just because engineering is too weak. This problem was never really understood or resolved. But as the battery broke a few months later, I got a new one anyway. 

The second problem is an oddity with the trackpad button: Pressing my wrist on the case a few centimetres to the right of the button will cause a click to happen. Obviously that's not as intended and it's really annoying when you’re typing and all of the sudden the text appears in a totally wrong place because you unknowingly clicked there. Replacing the topcase was supposed to fix this problem and my local Mac dealer did just that after giving Apple a few weeks to come up with the spare part. Interestingly, the new topcase seems to have just the same problem in a weaker fashion. I.e. pressing the topcase strongly right of the mouse button will still cause a click. However, level of force needed for this is high enough for it not to be a problem when using the machine. The issue does make me wonder, however, whether the button’s design is all that clever. 

The third one, however, was much worse: The DVD drive had a tendency to scratch discs when ejecting them. The drive itself works just fine, but when ejecting discs it sometimes makes an unhealthy noise after which the disc is not ejected as far as it should be. After pulling the disc from the drive, there will be a straight scratch on the bottom in the direction of pulling it out. Needless to say that this is completely unacceptable as it makes inserting discs of any value into the drive a somewhat risky affair. I got my OS X.5 DVD scratched by this (which I could luckily get to work again after polishing it a bit), but this left a really bad feeling. When working on the trackpad button problem, the dealer also fixed this by straightening or widening the drive’s slot. That seems to have done the trick. 

A bit later a further problem occurred: The MacBook simply shut down while I was using it on the train. A day later, any attempt to use it without the charger attached led to the machine dying. [See a video of this.]  Yet a day later, our local Mac dealer needed a few seconds to see that there must be a problem with the machine’s battery. We replaced it and things are working fine again, battery-wise. On the upside this left me with a brand-new battery. 

Eventually I sold the machine on eBay again, because a replacement had become quite cheap – particularly with EDU pricing and back-to-school discounts giving a good excuse for getting an iPod touch along with it – as well as me starting to be keen on having 4GB of memory which this machine didn’t support yet.

Selling the machine revealed what I had already suspected: Used Mac prices are going down.