MacBook 2.16GHz Review

The latest update to Apple’s MacBook line provides an impressive, if not earth-shaking, boost to Apple’s consumer laptop line. Credit the jump in performance over the previous edition of the MacBook to Core 2 Duo processors with slightly faster clock speeds as well as new hard drives.

Unveiled on 15 May 2007, the refreshed MacBooks offer only modest changes from their predecessors. For example, the MacBook continues to run on a Core 2 Duo chip instead of a processor from Intel’s newly released Santa Rosa chipset.

macbook Review

The updated MacBooks come with the same 13.3-inch screens as before. The price tags on all three configurations are also unchanged. So what’s new? The high-end models now sport a 2.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, up from 2GHz. The 2GHz processor now finds itself in the entry-level MacBook, which used to run on a 1.83GHz processor. Hard drive capacities also increased – the entry-level MacBook now has an 80GB drive (up from 60GB), while capacities on the faster white and black models are now 120GB and 160GB respectively (up from 80GB and 120GB).

These changes translate to faster machines. In our Speedmark test, the 2.16GHz black MacBook posted a score of 202 – about 12 per cent faster than the older white 2GHz MacBook Core 2 Duo. The black model takes top honours, with a Speedmark score just shy of 4 per cent higher than the updated white 2.16GHz MacBook’s score of 195.

The entry level MacBook got the most out of this update – not only does it see increases to its processor speed and storage capacity, it also features 4MB of L2 cache and 1GB of installed RAM (just like the other two configurations).

Graphic observations
Of the many specifications to remain unchanged in this round of updates, the most frustrating is the continued reliance upon the built-in Intel GMA 950 graphics chipset. That integrated graphics set-up doesn’t have any discrete VRAM. Instead it shares with the system’s main memory, which can lead to some pokey performance on graphics-intensive games. Indeed, as you can see in the Unreal Tournament numbers, the MacBooks average about 18fps (frames per second) in our tests. That compares to more than 77fps in the 2.33GHz MacBook Pro, which uses ATI Mobility graphics. The end result: Apple’s pro laptop scores nearly 77 per cent higher than even the best-performing MacBook on this one test.

Even though the MacBook is still not a gamer’s machine, it’s no pushover when it comes to getting work done. The MacBooks held their own impressively against the fastest 15-inch MacBook Pro model at all non-gaming tasks, including our Photoshop CS3 test suite, Cinema 4D scene renders, Zip Archives and iMovie tests.

OUR VERDICT

The MacBook always was a superb choice for the average Mac user, and this speed update makes it even better value. The £699 model is particularly good now that it comes with 1GB of memory and a 4MB cache. However, we’re saddened to see Apple’s ‘black tax’ on the high-end model is even worse than before. You can now pick the white model and upgrade it to the exact same specification as the black model for just £878.99 –?a saving of £70 (or purchase a larger 200GB hard drive for the same amount of money). That grumble aside, the MacBook remains an excellent choice of laptop.

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