capsule review

Apple MacBook A1181 Laptop

At a Glance
  • Apple MacBook A1181

With Apple's MacBook and MacBook Pro laptops have been reengineered to include an all-aluminum unibody design, one polycarbonate model remains: the $999 white MacBook 2GHz. The essential news is that it's a better all-around system than the white MacBook it replaces.

The new 2GHz model is identical to its predecessor externally, with the same number of peripheral connections (a pair of USB 2.0 ports and a single FireWire 400 port) and the same mini-DVI port as before. Similarly it retains the same glossy, 1280-by-800-pixel display and the same 120GB Serial ATA hard drive. Like the previous version, it weighs in at 5 pounds.

MacBook

Under the hood, however, the new model provides a few significant improvements. Most notable is the nVidia GeForce 9400M graphics subsystem, a major upgrade over the Intel GMA X3100 used previously. Like the X3100, the 9400M is an integrated graphics chip that shares its memory with main memory; but the 9400M uses 256MB of memory, versus the X3100's 144MB. The second big change is a doubling of system RAM: The entry-level MacBook now ships with 2GB of 667MHz DDR2 RAM. The latest white MacBook has a much faster front-side bus, too, at 1066MHz instead of the old 800MHz. Bucking the general trend, though, the new processor runs at 2GHz, whereas the previous version's processor came in at 2.1GHz.

In overall performance, the differences between the new MacBook and its predecessor were subtle, as you'd expect: The new white MacBook earned a score nearly 4 percent higher than the previous white MacBook on Macworld's system performance benchmark, Speedmark 5. On most of the benchmark's processor-intensive tests, the new white MacBook is slightly slower than its predecessor, reflecting the switch in processors from 2.1GHz to 2GHz.

But the new white MacBook showed improvement in 3D games benchmarks, turning in a frame rate in Quake that was nearly four times than its predecessor's--even though the older white MacBook was configured with 2GB of RAM instead of its standard 1GB in order to meet the required spec for Speedmark 5 benchmarking. The new white MacBook's Quake frame rate was also 21 percent better than that of the high-end, 1.86GHz MacBook Air but 22 percent below that of the 2GHz aluminum MacBook (which packs 1066MHz DDR3 RAM).

The new white MacBook was about 5 percent slower on our Speedmark 5 tests than the 2GHz aluminum MacBook, but the results were very close on many of the tests, and the white MacBook slightly outperformed its aluminum sibling on a few measures. Against the high-end 1.86GHz MacBook Air, the white MacBook proved faster on most tests, though the Air's speedy solid-state drive gave it the edge in hard disk-intensive tasks.

We don't yet have final results from our battery drain tests. Apple asserts that the new MacBook's battery life is about 4.5 hours on a charge, but in Macworld's worse-case scenario testing--which involves watching a movie from the hard drive at full screen size and at full brightness--the battery conked out after 2 hours, 42 minutes. That's about 10 minutes better than the battery on the previous-generation white MacBook did, and about 6 minutes better than the battery on the 2GHz aluminum MacBook.

So is this sub-$1000 machine worth the money? Though its slightly slower processor didn't help its performance, this new white MacBook is a solid entry-level product. And if you need a Mac portable with FireWire, it's your most affordable choice, since the cheapest MacBook Pro costs twice as much.

This story, "Apple MacBook A1181 Laptop" was originally published by Macworld.

To comment on this article and other PCWorld content, visit our Facebook page or our Twitter feed.
At a Glance
  • Apple MacBook A1181

Shop Tech Products at Amazon
Notice to our Readers
We're now using social media to take your comments and feedback. Learn more about this here.