Apple MacBook Core 2 Duo 2.4GHz Black full review


NEXT: Black and white


The only difference between the £829 white MacBook and the £949 black MacBook (except for price and colour, obviously) is the black model’s larger hard drive storage capacity. All MacBooks get a boost in hard drive size to 120GB, 160GB, and 250GB, from 80GB, 120GB, and 160GB respectively. All of the drives run at 5,400rpm.

Once again we note that Apple is still, rather tiresomely, charging a premium for the black model. Customers should be aware that they can purchase the £829 white model and upgrade the hard drive to 250GB for an additional £60.01. Thus getting the exact specifications of the Black model and saving themselves £60 in the process. And because Crucial is offering the aforementioned 4GB upgrade for £65, this is what we would currently advise our readers to purchase. Having said that, plenty of people like the black model and are prepared to pay the £60 premium.

Most of the other components in the new MacBooks are the same as their older counterparts. All models have a 13.3in glossy widescreen display with a 1,280 x 800 pixel resolution, built-in iSight camera, built-in stereo speakers and microphone, analogue and digital audio input and output, one FireWire 400 and two USB 2.0 ports, 802.11n-enabled AirPort Extreme, Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR, and Gigabit Ethernet. The £699 MacBook has a 24x slot-loading combo drive, while the other two MacBooks have an 8x slot-loading double-layer SuperDrive. One thing you won’t find in the box anymore is the Apple Remote, which is now a £15 add-on. Software-wise, the MacBooks include OS X 10.5 Leopard and iLife ‘08.

Performance
Macworld lab tested the new MacBooks with version 5 of Speedmark, the latest incarnation of our standard performance benchmark test. The results showed moderate yet impressive gains – for example, the black 2.4GHz MacBook scored more than 9 per cent higher overall than its 2.2GHz predecessor. The 2.1GHz MacBook showed an almost 8 per cent improvement over the 2GHz MacBook it replaces. Perhaps most interestingly, the 2.1GHz MacBook scored one point higher overall than the older 2.2GHz black MacBook, even with a slightly slower processor speed.

In our other tests, the 2.4GHz MacBooks consistently outperformed the old 2.2GHz MacBooks (except for a one-second lag in our Photoshop test) by as much as 12 per cent, although sometimes by just a single second. Some of the better results came with processor-intensive multimedia programs. Compressor and Cinema 4D XL performed very well, and HandBrake testing showed the 2.1GHz MacBook besting the previous high-end MacBook by nearly 7 per cent. The 2.1GHz MacBook beat or tied the older 2.2GHz MacBook in five of the eight additional tests.

Unreal Tournament 2004 frame rates for all new MacBooks improved negligibly and still lingered under 30 frames per second – not ideal for gamers. In contrast, the new 2.4GHz MacBook Pro pumped out more than 2.5 times as many frames per second as the 2.4GHz MacBooks, benefiting from a much heftier graphics processor that includes 256MB of dedicated video RAM (and a heftier, £1,299 price tag, we might add).

During hands-on testing, launching programs took slightly longer on the slower, 2.1GHz MacBook than on the 2.4GHz MacBook, especially with lots of applications running. Part of this can be attributed to the 1GB RAM that ships with the £699 model.

The new MacBooks represent some progress – PowerBook and even some first-generation MacBook users will definitely see substantial improvement over their current systems. If you just bought a MacBook a few months ago, however, you won’t be kicking yourself for buying too early.

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