Slick Apple MacBook Does Windows Too

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At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Apple MacBook Notebook

Apple MacBook
With its new MacBook, Apple has filled out its Intel-based portable line with an entry-level model. But this mobile Macintosh packs so many clever, practical features into its compact case that using it never feels like a compromise. In fact, the $1499 matte-black version I tried out is one of the best-looking, best-designed laptops I've ever used, regardless of cost. (An otherwise identical shiny-white configuration goes for $1349; prices start at $1099.)

The MacBook's unusual in-between size turns out to make a lot of sense: At 12.8 inches wide by 8.9 inches deep by 1.1 inches tall, the 5.2-pound system is trim enough to be travel-friendly, yet it packs a 13.3-inch wide-screen display with plenty of real estate for everything from letterboxed movies to expansive spreadsheets. The screen is Apple's first with a glossy surface. It's a definite plus for movie watching, and I wasn't overly distracted by the reflections I occasionally saw.

A startlingly high percentage of the pricier MacBook Pro line's features have trickled down here. Even the basic $1099 MacBook sports an Intel Core Duo CPU, an integrated iSight Webcam, Front Row media software and a tiny remote to control it, optical audio input and output, and 802.11g and gigabit ethernet networking. In addition, like all Apple computers, MacBook laptops run the slick and functional OS X 10.4 operating system and include the powerful iLife digital media suite.

What's missing? Not much, but the MacBook does come with integrated graphics rather than the faster discrete adapter that gamers and graphics pros will want. And it has no ExpressCard, PC Card, or memory-card slots, nor a dial-up modem.

Designwise, the MacBook shines. The sunken keyboard looks weird, but it feels solid, and the keys can't brush up against the display and scratch it when the case is shut. Magnetism keeps the MacBook closed without a physical latch and connects the power brick to the notebook in a way that makes it almost impossible to damage either the MacBook or the plug if the cord gets accidentally yanked. As I used this computer, I kept asking myself, "Why don't Windows notebooks do that?"

Wait a minute--the MacBook, like all Intel-based Macs, can be a Windows PC, once you've installed Apple's Boot Camp utility and a full copy of Windows XP SP2. I did, and the 2-GHz Core Duo MacBook achieved a respectable score of 88 in our WorldBench 5 speed test. Boot Camp is still betaware, and it shows: The Webcam doesn't work in XP, and Windows forgets what time it is when you power down. But all in all, the MacBook is a terrific piece of hardware that's a good value, too.

Apple Computer MacBook

Apple's entry-level laptop is a well-designed winner.
Street: $1499
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At a Glance
  • Pros

    • Affordable
    • Built-in iSight camera
    • Fast Core Duo processor yields great performance
    • Attractive case design


    • Rough case edge
    • Poor 3-D game performance
    • Weak speakers
    • No video cables included
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