Journal: News & Comment

Monday, June 05, 2006
# 12:15:00 PM:

First week with the new MacBook

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Podcasting at Age SixI've given my MacBook geeking out enough of a break now. Here are my first impressions after having the "BlacBook" for a week and a half:

  • Yes, it's hot. CoreDuoTemp regularly reports CPU temperatures in the 55 to 72°C range, with peaks of as high as 82°C under heavy CPU load. The underside of the housing gets noticeably warm in the high 60s, and the fan tends to kick in at the low to mid 70s. By comparison, my Core Duo iMac at work (which is essentially the same computer under the hood) routinely runs around 37 to 45°C—25 or 30 degrees cooler, on average. There have been no performance problems, but I'd advise against rendering videos with your MacBook while it's sinking into a big soft feather duvet.

  • XT-StandOne very slick way to lower the temperature a bit and place the keyboard in a comfortable typing position is the XT-Stand (pictured). It's folding, adjustable, and comes with a carrying box that fits in a laptop bag and also holds a swath of digicam memory cards, if you need a place for those.

  • Replacing memory really is super dead easy—all you need is a teeny Phillips-head screwdriver. Replacing the hard drive is almost as simple, but requires a #8 Torx screwdriver to get the drive on and off its carrying sled. Oh, and just so you know, external 2.5" FireWire hard disk enclosures usually use pin-style IDE connectors, but the MacBook's SATA disk drives have blade-style SATA connectors, which means that almost every external case made right now won't work if you take out the stock drive and want a way to hook it up via FireWire or USB.

  • Glare from the glossy screen is rarely a problem, because the screen is crazy bright—if I use it in bed or another dark room, I have to turn the MacBook's screen brightness down to its lowest setting or my eyes hurt. A benefit of the glossy screen is that it has a hugely wide viewing angle—you can still see the screen quite clearly without colour shifts even from nearly 90° to the side of the laptop, which is good when a group of people wants to look at what you're doing.

  • Performance is generally very good—GarageBand flies, most applications launch quickly, and so on, as long as you get more than the stock 512 MB of RAM, which is not adequate. But you must know that, as with all Intel Macs, old PowerPC plugins (for web browsers, audio software, etc.) won't work inside new Intel-native applications, and old PowerPC applications that haven't yet been ported to Intel will run more slowly, at something like G4 speeds.

  • Apple's purported six-hour battery life, as with all of its battery-life claims in recorded history, is a total lie. The most I've gotten is around four and a half hours with light use.

  • The black case is pretty, but it does show fingerprints and other smudges easily. I don't mind that much, but keeping it pristine would require wearing gloves. The smudges wipe off easily with a damp cloth.

Oh, and I like the new keyboard a lot.


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