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MacBook Gains Performance Improvements, Longer Battery Life

Eschewing a press release, Apple has quietly updated its low-end laptop, the 13-inch white MacBook, with a faster CPU, longer battery life, and a faster graphics processor. The processor remains an Intel Core 2 Duo, but its clock speed jumps from 2.26 GHz to 2.4 GHz, which should increase performance slightly. Also helping performance will be the switch to the Nvidia GeForce 320M graphics processor, which Apple claims performs up to 1.8 times faster than the previous Nvidia GeForce 9400M.

Almost more interesting is the improvement in battery life. Previously, Apple claimed “up to 7 hours wireless productivity” for the MacBook’s 60-watt-hour battery, but the new MacBook features a 63.5-watt-hour battery that promises up to 10 hours of battery life. With Apple’s theoretically more-accurate battery life tests (see “Apple Brings Intel Core i5/i7 to MacBook Pro,” 13 April 2010), perhaps the new MacBook could last through an entire international flight.

All other specs remain the same from the late-2009 release that gave the MacBook a polycarbonate unibody and non-swappable battery (see “MacBook Gains Plastic Unibody with Updated Specs,” 20 October 2009). Its only build-to-order options are increasing the RAM from 2 GB to 4 GB for $100, or increasing the hard disk size from the included 250 GB drive to either 320 GB ($50) or 500 GB ($150). The base configuration of the MacBook retains its $999 price tag, and is available immediately.

The only real question with the MacBook is if it’s worth spending another $200 to get the 13-inch MacBook Pro, which also features a 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor. The main differences between the machines are the latter’s aluminum unibody enclosure, 4 GB RAM, FireWire port, and SD card slot. Plus, if you move to the 13-inch MacBook Pro, you have the option of paying more for a faster 2.66 GHz CPU, 8 GB of RAM, and a solid-state drive. Personally, I’d go for the MacBook Pro, but for many less-demanding users, the cheaper MacBook will be entirely sufficient.

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