Looking at Apple's MacBook in Suburban Bangkok (Part One)

By Graham K. Rogers


I was at home the evening after the Bangkok press briefing for the Intel Core Duo-equipped MacBook, when the telephone rang. Mr Noppadon of Maccenter said, "Are you in? I am on my way with a MacBook." 30 minutes later he handed me the box at the garden gate. I remarked how light it felt.

Within the hour, the heavens opened. The rain was followed by a power cut of a couple of hours. The UPS helped while I shut down the ADSL modem and the eMac, but I ended up sitting in the dark.

After a while, I felt to where I had left the MacBook box and opened it up. I found the power button and the computer started up instantly. The actual start up was perhaps the fastest I have ever experienced with a Mac.

On the desktop was a folder of movie trailers, so I ran through a dozen of those. It gave me a first chance to properly experience the screen in a working environment. The clarity of the new-style glossy screens, which are hard to the touch (compared with the flexible and soft PowerBook range) was encouraging. I had been jealous of the screens on the laptops some of my students have; finally the Mac has the same crisp, clear images.

Although a replacement for the 12" PowerBook as well as the iBooks, many users of the 12" are finding this unacceptable and cite, particularly, the graphics capabilities and the finish: polycarbonate as opposed to aluminium. A few days use have shown me that it is a viable replacement for my laptop when the time comes.

With the graphics, I am finding the visual experience itself does not detract one iota. The 12" PowerBook has a nVidia GeForce FX Go5200 chipset, while the MacBook uses the Intel GMA 950 with a display resoution of 1280 x 800 as opposed to the 1024 x 768 of my PowerBook. The Intel chipset uses 64MB of shared system memory while the nVidia chip has 64MB built-in.

MacBook and PowerBook

The external finish is a personal choice: polycarbonate versus aluminium. With the treatment my PowerBook receives, the aluminium is looking decidely second hand, while the plastic look of the MacBook (and the earlier iBook) does show wear and tear less.

MacBook keyboard MacBook and PowerBook

Some of the design aspects of course sounded cool at Tony Li's presentation, but using the computer for a (too brief) few days showed me how practical some of the new features are.

As with the MacBookPro, the power cable is now connected with the MagSafe connector. Hands up anyone who has tripped over a cable before. On the lid, the latch is replaced by a magnet. It is not some silly fridge magnet but one that exerts a powerful force. The lid does not open easily and needs two hands although I bet some smart teenager will try wtih a ruler. Any claims that this opened, in a backpack for example, would not be credible.

Beneath the computer there have also been changes and the four feet fit snugly into the body. A similar design approach is taken with the keyboard. It was quick to get used to. The keys are springy and with a short travel. I like the way they fit into the facia and now sit in a well in the panel. If a key is depressed, it is level with the surround. Among any other considerations, this will mean cleaning is far more easily accomplished. A colleague wondered if it were waterproof, but I declined to check this out.

The MacBook I was loaned was the 2GHz version with the 60G hard disk, Superdrive (burns DVDs) and 512MB RAM as standard. Also in the range are a 1.83Hz machine with Combo drive, and the 2GHz, Superdrive with 80G hard disk. It is this one that has the black finish and will be easy to spot. Official prices are 45,200 baht, 53,600 baht and 61,500 baht respectively.

The black iPods showed just how desirable the alternative colour has become, particularly when PC laptop manufacturers are now moving to white. It is the black MacBook that is clearly the more desirable. Apple have beefed up the specifications slightly to arive at that higher price. While those of us on restricting budgets may have to think carefulyl before investing in this black machine, if that were the choice, others may well buy it for its more exclusive (or even elitist) nature.

As with all Apple computers, the MacBook comes with OS X (currently 10.4.6) and a host of bundled software, including iLife (iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD, GarageBand, iTunes), standard OS X applications, such as Mail, Safari, AddressBook, iCal and iChat. There are also bundled throd party applications (Big Bang Board Games, Comic Life, Omni Outliner) as well as some software with 30-day try out periods.

Note: on the first two days of Commart XGen (8 - 11 June) 600 MacBooks -- the entire stock in Thailand -- was sold out.

Part Two (next week): a closer look.

Made on Mac

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