MacBook 2.0GHz [ALUMINIUM] 2008 full review - Page 8

Ports and the lack of FireWire on the MacBook
The left side of the MacBook has a MagSafe power port, a Gigabit Ethernet port, two USB 2.0 ports, a Mini DisplayPort, an analog and digital audio input port, an analog and digital audio output port (you can plug your iPhone headphones into it and control iTunes playback the same as you can on an iPhone), and a Kensington lock slot (which, when used, also locks the battery access latch on the bottom).

One thing you won’t find, however, is a FireWire port. The MacBook joins the MacBook Air as the only Mac models without a FireWire port, which has been a common source of concern for some users.

Apple markets the MacBook as a consumer product, and says that USB 2.0 is now being used on most consumer devices. And it is true that most hard drives and camcorders now have USB connections (not to mention the fact that iPhones and iPods now charge and sync using only USB). But for anyone with lots of legacy devices (FireWire-only hard drives, tape camcorders, and audio interfaces, for example), the lack of FireWire on the MacBook will definitely figure into your buying decision. If you need to use FireWire devices with your laptop, the MacBook isn’t for you. It’s sad that Apple is starting to abandon a technology—one it invented—that has many benefits over USB (drive power and higher actual speeds, to name a few), but like SCSI and ADB before it, nothing lasts forever. In the long run, as people replace FireWire-based devices with USB-based ones, the change will be less important. For now, the MacBook Pro is your only portable option from Apple if you need a FireWire port.

The loss of FireWire also means you can’t access a feature I frequently use for transferring data between two Macs-FireWire Target Disk Mode. With it, you connect two Macs via a FireWire cable and mount one as an external hard drive on the other. This mode was particularly useful for copying large files without relying on a network, as well as cloning one system to another or migrating data with Apple’s built-in software.

What to do? One solution is to run Apple’s Migration Assistant software over a wired or wireless network, or with two Macs connected directly via Ethernet. To test how well it worked, I connected my first-generation MacBook to a new MacBook using a Cat-5 Ethernet cable and transferred my user to the new system. The process worked pretty smoothly, although it failed (twice, with two different Ethernet cables) to move my 9.34GB Parallels Windows XP drive image, saying it couldn’t be copied because it was too large (at the end, it suggested that I copy the file manually in the Finder). Apple told me there was no size limit using Migration Assistant, but didn’t have an immediate explanation for why I was having that problem. When I connected my original MacBook to the 2.4GHz model of the previous generation via FireWire, however, I was able to migrate all my data without a hitch. Another solution: You can create a Time Machine backup of the old Mac, and perform a data restore on the new MacBook using a USB drive.

Next: Performance and the environmental impact

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