Modbook review

The Modbook is one of the most interesting developments in recent years. Developed by a company called Axiotron in the US, the Modbook is a regular Apple MacBook that has been through a conversion process. The keyboard and screen is removed, and a Wacom pen-based digitiser and an Axiotron touchscreen TFT display is attached.

This turns the Modbook into a tablet Mac. The modification is designed by Axiotron and is, in the US, performed by Other World Computing. Here, in the UK, Computer Warehouse has struck a deal with Axiotron to perform the Modbook modification on British soil.

Computer Warehouse purchases the MacBooks from Apple, then converts them to Modbooks. Because the Modbook is a modified Apple MacBook, rather than an unofficial clone, it is a legitimate product that carries the Mac OS X operating system, although clearly the modification process violates Apple's warranty. Instead, your warranty is with Computer Warehouse who provide a one-year guarantee.

So what happens when you turn this...


Into this...

The Modbook is the converted white polycarbonate MacBook from the Apple Store and, as such, the base specs are largely the same. It sports the same Intel Core 2 Duo 2.0GHz processor; 2GB DDR 2 memory, 120GB hard drive, and the new Nvidia 9400M graphics processor.

Where it differs is obviously the new additions Axiotron removes the top of the MacBook – including the display – and replaces it with a bezel made of an aircraft-grade magnesium alloy (it has a silver, MacBook Pro look to it). In place of the MacBook’s LCD screen goes a new display with the same 13.3-inch size and 1,280 x 800 pixel resolution as the original. But there are several key differences between the displays. The Axiotron ForceGlass covering the Modbook’s display is chemically strengthened and etched to improve longevity, scratch resistance, writing sensation, and reflection problems. The new screen has a 500-to-1 contrast ratio versus 400-to-1 on the MacBook, and it features a wider viewing angle than the MacBook.

Even with this rejiggering, the Modbook weighs in at 2.35kg, making it 31g heavier than the stock apple laptop. The Modbook is about also 1cm thicker. The extra weight was something universally commented on by most people who held the Modbook; it would be nice to shave some of the weight and many people mentioned that a Modbook Air might have been an attractive prospect.

Although we originally speculated how Apple would respond to the Modbook, it appears that Apple is tolerating – if not condoning – this modification process.

Since the bottom half of the Modbook is a MacBook, the ports, and its layout, are the same. The Modbook has a MagSafe power port, Gigabit Ethernet port, Mini-DVI output connector, one FireWire 400 port, two USB 2.0 ports, combined optical digital audio input/audio line in, combined optical digital audio output/headphone out, built-in speakers, and a security slot.

Even though there’s no cover for the screen, it seems sturdy and strong, but you’ll probably want to get a sleeve for it.

NEXT: What lies inside the Modbook