MacBook Core 2 Duo 2.1GHz Review
Since it first replaced the iBook in 2006, the MacBook has consistently narrowed the performance gap between Apple’s consumer and professional laptop lines with each new update. Apple last updated the MacBooks in November 2007, bringing with it an improved hardware architecture, faster system bus, and more robust graphics.
The most recent change to the MacBook range isn’t as significant as the November 2007 updates, but it still adds extra oomph to Apple’s consumer laptop.
The new MacBooks use either a 2.1GHz or 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor (up from 2GHz and 2.2GHz, respectively) with 3MB of L2 cache shared between the processor’s two cores. Previously, the MacBooks had 4MB of L2 cache, but the new Penryn processors inside the new MacBooks work efficiently with the smaller cache.
The £699 2.1GHz MacBook comes with 1GB of RAM. The 2.4GHz MacBooks (one white, the other black) come with 2GB – the models they replaced came with 1GB. All MacBooks now support up to 4GB of RAM. It is worth noting that at the time of writing, Crucial was offering a 4GB replacement kit for the MacBook for just £61.09, which is a considerable saving over the £240.01 that Apple is asking to upgrade the 2GB memory to 4GB.
As before, Apple recommends installing RAM in matched pairs into the two RAM slots for best performance with the integrated graphics system (the MacBooks come with two 512MB or two 1GB SO-DIMMs, and if you want to upgrade your RAM after purchase, you’ll have to replace both SO-DIMMs for the best results). Although the frontside bus runs at 800MHz, the MacBooks continue to use RAM rated at 667MHz.
The new MacBooks use the same graphics chip as before, the Intel GMA X3100, which doesn’t have dedicated video RAM. The MacBooks use 144MB of RAM from the main system memory, making the 2GB models even more appealing. The graphics processor can power an external display at up to 1,920 x 1,200 pixels to either mirror or extend the desktop (using an external display brings the shared memory used up to 160MB). To connect to any external display, you need to purchase one of Apple’s £15 video adaptors (mini-DVI to DVI or mini-DVI to VGA).
As with the previous-generation MacBooks, the keyboard has media control keys located along the function key row. The keyboard has a springy yet solid feel to it, and offers a bit more tactile and audible feedback than early MacBook models. Unfortunately, you won’t find the much-touted multi-touch trackpad on these models. If you really have the need to pinch, swipe, and rotate on the trackpad, you have to turn to the MacBook Pro or the MacBook Air.