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Apple's unibody MacBook: the review

The MacBook in review

If one were to gauge some of the reactions to the redesign of the MacBook, the system would be an abject failure. Without FireWire or a truly vivid display, this notebook just isn't the compact AV editor some want it or even need it to be. And these complaints aren't without their merits. While Apple isn't obligated to please everyone all of the time, it's at least slightly unfair to push customers towards systems that may stretch their budgets or their bags when it may well have been avoidable.

And yet, this may well be Apple's best MacBook to date.

The plastic MacBook is and was less expensive, but it was also built to meet a price and has seemed it with each of its revisions. Mac OS X was always an important draw, but it risked being the only draw as a cheap-feeling case, a particularly poor display and sub-par graphics all amounted to a system that wasn't Apple's best representative in a crowded field.

By most degrees, the new MacBook solves these problems, especially in terms of build quality. Apple has often priced its entry notebooks above basic Windows equivalents; now most users can point to the design and have it speak for itself.

Moreover, it's one of the first examples of Apple returning to a distinctly innovative approach that is hard to pin down in a one-for-one specifications breakdown. No one else manufactures notebooks this way; no one else has a multi-touch trackpad this sophisticated; and as of press time, no other PC maker has this level of visual performance in a system so small and and its price.

Since it's so thin and light, we're even tempted to suggest it as a MacBook Air replacement. It may not have the dimensions or featherweight design of the Air, but it's so tangibly more portable and resilient than the plastic MacBook that some of the reasons to buy the ultraportable have disappeared.

The first-generation MacBook quickly became Apple's best-selling Mac of any type, and so much of Apple's future success hinges on how well the aluminum sequel fares. It remains to be seen whether the higher asking price and the limited expansion will tarnish that reputation, but most other aspects have been so thoroughly polished that the overhauled design has at last earned its top spot.

Rating 4 out of 5

4 out of 5

Dramatically improved build quality
Major upgrade to video performance
Noticeably better LCD
Clever multi-touch trackpad
Backlit keyboard on top-end model
Good battery life

Display still not at Air or Pro image quality; gloss may irk some
No FireWire of any type
Price for CPU speeds a partial step backwards
No bundled DisplayPort adapter
No mini-to-full DisplayPort adapter (yet)