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Apple Quietly Improves Low-End MacBook

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The low-end MacBook, the white 13-inch polycarbonate model that remained in Apple's laptop lineup at $999 when the company introduced a new unibody aluminum model in October 2008 (see "Updated MacBook Design Gets Metal and Glass", 2008-10-14), is now an even better deal. Without any fanfare, the company has quietly begun shipping a revised MacBook that features more memory, more-advanced Nvidia graphics, and a faster frontside bus, without giving up the low price or the FireWire 400 port that keeps many users interested in the model.

Likely of most interest to prospective buyers will be the performance boost the low-end MacBook now gets from the combination of the Nvidia GeForce 9400M graphics processor (replacing the Intel GMA X3100 GPU of earlier 13-inch MacBooks) that also appears in the newer aluminum MacBooks, and a boost in the logic board's frontside bus speed from 866 MHz to 1066 MHz. Oddly, the upgraded model also loses a little processor speed, dropping from a 2.1 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor to a 2.0 GHz Core 2 Duo. We suspect the net result will still be a faster machine.

At the same time, Apple has increased the $999 model's base memory to 2 GB (upgradable to 4 GB), and now offers not only the previously available 120 GB, 160 GB, and 250 GB hard drives, but also a 320 GB hard drive for $225 more than the base model. The white MacBook retains its Mini-DVI port, which supports adapters to DVI or VGA, but can't drive Apple's 30-inch Cinema Display, which requires dual-link DVI. By comparison, the aluminum MacBook model features the newer Mini DisplayPort, supporting DVI, VGA, and dual-link DVI with appropriate adapters.

The FireWire 400 port remains the biggest technical difference between the white MacBook (which has one) and the unibody aluminum MacBook model (which has none). The absence of a FireWire port from the aluminum MacBook model (though the MacBook Pro features a backward-compatible FireWire 800 port) was the subject of much consternation among users who felt they'd miss FireWire Target Disk Mode and compatibility with FireWire-based digital video camcorders, FireWire external hard drives, and other devices (see "On the Way Out: FireWire and Matte Screens?", 2008-10-18).

 

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