Apple MacBook 2009 Review

Apple's revamped unibody MacBook which we review, gets the same 13-inch LED-backlit screen, multi-touch trackpad and unibody chassis as its...
Apple's revamped unibody MacBook which we review, gets the same 13-inch LED-backlit screen, multi-touch trackpad and unibody chassis as its...
Apple's revamped unibody MacBook which we review, gets the same 13-inch LED-backlit screen, multi-touch trackpad and unibody chassis as its...

Highs

  • Attractive and sturdy unibody design
  • Enormous multi-touch trackpad
  • Respectable five-hour real-life runtime
  • Comfortable keyboard
  • Bright, attractive LED-backlit screen
  • Superb desktop performance

Lows

  • No swappable battery
  • Bare minimum of ports
  • Significantly heavier than competitors
  • Glare from glossy screen

Introduction

All hail the unibody. After the well-received launch of its new MacBook Pros last year, which substituted many interlocking pieces for a single, one-piece chassis, Apple has carried over the unibody approach to the cheaper, $999 MacBook. The aluminum gives way to boring white plastic, but specs and design remain remarkably similar. Is it worth the $200 price drop to go for the plastic? We find out.

Build and Design

Those familiar with the 13.3-inch MacBook Pro will immediately feel at home on the MacBook version, which sports a similar rounded-edge profile, LED-backlit screen, and even the skating-rink-sized glass trackpad. The main difference, as most people will immediately spot, is the choice of materials. This baby’s all plastic.

Apple builds the MacBook from a single chunk of polycarbonate – the same rigid material you might know from Nalgene bottles, CDs, and even bulletproof windows. It’s tough, and the MacBook shows it. From the sculpted edges to the very center, which can typically feel a little soggy on cheap notebooks, the MacBook feels, well, bulletproof. The same solidification that happened on the MacBook Pro carries right over to plastic version, and we love it just the same.

Sometimes, Apple can’t quite seem to decide whether to favor style or comfort. On one hand, engineers have given the bottom a rubberized feel that keeps it from scraping around on desks and feels soft in the lap. On the other, the edges of the notebook when it’s open still feel unnecessarily sharp – a complaint carried over from the last generation.

At 1.08 inches thick and 4.7 pounds on the scale, the MacBook is both fatter than the 0.95-inch MacBook Pro, and heavier. It wears the extra fraction of an inch well, but the weight gets a little embarrassing for this size class: You can find some well-equipped 14.1-inch notebooks with similar weight, and even inexpensive 13.3 inchers like HP’s ProBook manage to land around 3.8 pounds. Tough has a price, and you’ll feel it in the extra tug on your messenger bag.

Specifications and Features

The outside of this notebook isn’t the only thing it shares with its spendier siblings: The hardware inside looks very similar, too. Both use Intel Core 2 Duo processors clocked at 2.26Ghz, 2GB of DDR3 RAM, and Nvidia’s GeForce 9400M graphics processor. When it comes to storage, the MacBook actually has a leg up on the Pro, offering 250GB to the Pro’s 160GB.

Finish

Apple may pump out iPod Nanos in every shade of the rainbow, but MacBook buyers get just one choice: gloss white. It hides fingerprints with ease, but it also tends to show off little bits of dirt and lint. And as anyone who has ever trekked along with a Nalgene bottle knows, polycarbonate loves to collect scratches.

Keyboard

We’re not typically fans of Chiclet-style keyboards, which always seem to lack the satisfying click of traditional models, but Apple’s is one of the best in the business. The soft matte-white keys feel velvety under the fingers, exhibit a clean springiness, and look pretty darn good, too. Unlike the MacBook Pro, they don’t light up at night, though, and the MacBook has no overhead LED for illumination, so you’ll be left to type by the light of the backlight.

Display

Cold-cathode backlights, be gone. Just as it did with the MacBook Pro, Apple has changed the backlight on the new MacBook over to LEDs, which use less power and reach full brightness instantly, eliminating the dim, hazy look of a just-powered-on laptop screen. The screen looks spectacular dead on, but seems to exhibit a rather limited viewing angle as you angle it up and down – you’ll want to adjust it carefully to make sure you’re viewing things as they’re meant to be seen. And like all glossy screens, be prepared for an explosion of glare outside or just seated near windows.

Ports and Connections

The barebones selection of connections on a netbook almost look generous beside the MacBook, which has been pared down to the bare essentials, and then some. Although it includes a slot-loading optical drive where a netbook has none, it offers no dedicated analog microphone input (the headphone jack has to be switched using software), no SD card slot, and a mini DisplayPort connector, which can’t actually be used for connecting anything without a $29 adapter. Two USB ports look quite lonely beside netbooks that usually offer three, and since they’re both on the same side and only millimeters apart, oversized devices like thumb drives and 3G modems will prevent them from being used at the same time. Even Apple’s beloved FireWire port has been axed, leaving this notebook neutered..

Accessories

Inside Apple’s silky white box, you’ll find the same MagSafe power adapter all MacBooks use, which disconnects easily from the notebook in the event you trip over it or walk away with it still connected. Since the power jack is on the side of the laptop, rather than the rear, the cable now terminates at a right angle, a small but clever change that helps keep it out of the way. The small power brick can either connect to the wall directly (which will block out adjacent outlets) or connect with a sturdy, meter-long cable, thanks to a clever swappable plug system.

Trackpad

Much like the MacBook Pro, the MacBook now offers a gigantic multi-touch trackpad with no buttons – the entire thing depresses like one big button. The sheer size of the pad combined with its stick-free surface makes it an absolute pleasure to use, and multi-touch gestures only sweeten the deal even further. Drag all four fingers down, for instance, and it opens Expose.

Performance

The Intel Core 2 Duo and Nvidia GeForce 9400M in the MacBook give it some definite kick, especially when coupled with a refined operating system like Snow Leopard. After pressing the power button, it reaches the desktop in only 25 seconds – a sickening display of speed beside many Windows notebooks, even those with Windows 7. And around the desktop, it’s just as snappy, even after getting loaded down with Safari tabs, IM windows, and whatever else you can throw at it. Although OS X suffers from a distinct lack of game titles, the 9400M will even handle titles from a few years back, like Quake 4, without breaking a sweat.

Battery

Unlike previous-generation MacBooks, which used swappable lithium-ion batteries, the newest MacBook uses a lithium-polymer battery sealed up inside, eliminating the ability to slap in a fresh battery when one runs down (or even servicing the notebook yourself when the battery inevitably dies). Fortunately, battery life has improved as well, with Apple promising a seven-hour run time. Like all estimates, it’s tilted toward the high end, and assumes you won’t use every feature, but we reached five hours quite easily with more realistic operating conditions, including the screen at full brightness and Wi-Fi cranking.

Conclusion

Apple’s crack team of Cupertino engineers have done it again. The new MacBook rocks. Besides the lack of a swappable battery (which can be seen as negligible for most folks), it improves upon the last generation device in every way, without adding so much as a penny to the reasonable $999 price tag. Hardcore travelers might want to look around to find a lighter notebook, but unless you’re going to have it strapped to your back for days on end, amenities like a giant multi-touch trackpad and rock-solid build quality will likely justify this fatty’s extra weight.

Computing

In the age of Alexa and Siri, Cortana’s halo has grown dim

In a sea of voice assistants, Cortana has become almost irrelevant. The nearly five-year-old voice assistant is seeing little love from consumers, and here’s why it is dead.
Computing

All signs point to a new Apple external display in 2019. Will it be 6K or 8K?

Will there be an Apple Display 2019? It looks like Apple is getting ready to announce a new monitor, after canceling its old Thunderbolt Display back in 2016. But what will this new display look like? Here's what we know.
Computing

One of these monitors will look great next to your new MacBook Pro

Apple doesn't make its beloved Cinema Display monitors anymore, which makes finding the best monitor for the MacBook Pro more difficult. In this guide, we break down some of our favorites and offer something for every size and budget.
Computing

In 2019, laptops are better than ever. Here are the best of the best

The best laptop should be one that checks all the boxes: Great battery life, beautiful design, and top-notch performance. The laptops we've chosen for our best laptops you can buy do all that — and throw in some extra features while…
Deals

From Air to Pro, here are the best MacBook deals for February 2019

If you’re in the market for a new Apple laptop, let us make your work a little easier: We hunted down the best up-to-date MacBook deals available online right now from various retailers.
Computing

Wi-Fi helps connect all of our devices at high-speed, but what exactly is it?

What is Wi-Fi? It's a technology we all use everyday to connect all of our portable devices, but understanding how it works and how far it's come from its humble beginnings is another thing entirely.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Grow veggies indoors and shower more efficiently

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Web

Are you one of the billions who have watched these super-popular YouTube videos?

Viral videos can quickly garner millions upon millions of views, but even they fall well behind the view counts on the most watched YouTube videos ever. Those have been watched billions of times.
Computing

Windows updates shouldn't cause problems, but if they do, here's how to fix them

Windows update not working? It's a more common problem than you might think. Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to troubleshoot it and in this guide we'll break them down for you step by step.
Computing

Speed up your system by tweaking the startup application in Windows and MacOS

Bothered by programs that automatically start when you boot your computer, or want to add a new one to the list? Here's how to change your startup programs in Windows 7, 8, and 10, along with Apple's MacOS.
Business

Marriott asking guests for data to see if they were victims of the Starwood hack

Marriott has created an online form to help you find out if your data was stolen in the massive Starwood hack that came to light toward the end of 2018. But take note, it requires you to submit a bunch of personal details.
Computing

Apple may go big with a redesigned 16-inch MacBook Pro, 31.6-inch 6K display

In a research note, well-respected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo writes that there are indications the company could be releasing a 16-inch MacBook Pro, as well as a 31.6-inch 6K display in 2019.
Computing

Accidental Amazon listings provides peek at cost of GTX 1660 Ti PCs

An accidental listing on Amazon provided a peek at the final cost of some of the new Windows 10 desktops with the GeForce GTX 1660 Ti on board, with prices possibly in the $1,200 range.
Deals

The best Presidents’ Day sales 2019: Amazon, Walmart, Dell, and more

Presidents' Day sales are a great chance to score electronics, clothing, home and office stuff, and other goodies at a discount. We’ve smoked out a large handful of the best of these Presidents' Day deals, from tech to bedding, to help…