Apple MacBook CoreDuo


Feet that don't fall off

Glossy screen

Magnetic superpowers

The iBook wasn’t a bad computer but its small screen – smaller than that of the Titanium Powerbook G4 I had for years – started driving me nuts. And hence I was tempted by the MacBook once it came out. Not only does it have pretty much the same size as my old PowerBook had, it also came with a higher resolution screen and official support for screen spanning when an external monitor is attached. Eventually I did the math, gave in, and got the smallest one which I immediately upgraded to 2GB of RAM. [first, second and third impressions; sound, more sound]

There are a number of good things about the MacBook: With its dual core processor it feels rather snappy; the case is nice and slim and the machine even has a camera; its speakers could be a bit louder but they don't sound tinny; the trackpad not only supports two finger scrolling but it’s also so huge that I find it almost too large; its USB ports are well-powered and can run bus-powered hard-drives (not all, though); it comes with analogue and optical audio in- and outputs. And I really like the way the MacBook doesn’t have a latch at all but it just held shut by magnets which may be a bit too strong.

Other things aren’t that great about the MacBook. Most notably it is running rather hot – most of the time I’d definitely prefer it to run at half the speed, which I probably wouldn’t even notice and not burn my laps. Well, to be honest, I mostly use the MacBook on tables but what is really annoying is that the fan comes on rather easily and since a ‘firmware update’ in Summer 2006 it is pretty much running all the time at a low level and is frequently switched to a higher and louder level which is rather annoying.

Another general problem is that the plastic of the handrests, keyboard and trackpad stops being matte after just a few weeks and the machine starts looking shiny and used. If the plastic isn’t good enough to stand regular useage, I’d use different plastic if I made such a machine.

Apart from these general problems, I unfortunately had several real defects in the machine so far.

The first was the battery: I noticed two things. The first being that the lamp on the charger would switch from green to red and back when charging was supposed to be finished. The other problem was that the computer sometimes just switched itself off when the battery was running low. A little analysis with the local dealer gave that this was a problem with the battery and I got a new one in January 2007. 

The second problem which I already noticed shortly after getting the computer but which was very rare then was that the screen's backlight flickered occasionally. This flickering became more frequent and more of a real problem over time. And I could demonstrate it to the local Mac dealer then who figured out that the problem was caused by the invertor board. He ordered a replacement and it was exchanged, solving that problem. 

The third problem was that the top case broke in April: A crack appeared in the handrest just where the little rim in the upper bezel of the screen touches it. This seems to be a somewhat common problem. But luckily the local dealer helped me out really quickly and replaced the top case within minutes. A bonus of that was that it gave an all-new keyboard and trackpad again and it resolved the sloppy clicking problem I had with the trackpad as well. 

The fourth problem may have been around for a while: When DJing in late April I noticed that the balance of the line-out jack was off-center and that the right channel occasionally had crackling noises in it. Back home I double checked this to make sure the problem wasn't a cable or mixer and indeed the right channel is quite a bit weaker. As the audio hardware is part of the mainboard, the whole mainboard had to be replaced which happened after a few weeks as mainboards weren't available in Europe for a while apparently. 

While the machine was as good as new after all these fixes and replacement, I had become quite weary of those defects and its frequent need for attention. Besides being scared of what'd happen once it had run out of warranty, I also noticed the rather good price of the latest generation of MacBooks together with the nice education discount and decided to sell this machine on eBay and replace it with a new one.