By Cisco Cheng  |  Posted 2006-12-19 Print this article Print

Until now, I was convinced that a new Core 2 Duo-equipped Apple MacBook couldnt possibly come out this year. After all, the Apple MacBook Pro (Core 2 Duo) had already been announced, in what I believed was an effort to create more separation from the MacBooks. So much for that theory. One week after the MacBook Pro announcement, Apple launched the MacBook 13-inch (Core 2 Duo) ($1,174 direct as tested), thereby eliminating any differentiation between the two models. Sometimes you just have to scratch your head and move on, I guess. Despite back-to-back announcements, the move is considered perfectly timed for the holiday shopping season, and with Apples best-selling laptop by its side, a strong fourth quarter is sure to come.

Though I normally ask for the best model available when requesting test units, Im not crazy about the MacBook Black, which is the most expensive system in the MacBook line. Youre basically paying a premium for the color, and since the best and most affordable model is the base configuration, I asked for the MacBook 13-inch White ($1,099 direct).

The MacBooks signature white chassis is as much a part of a Mac laptop as the Apple logo. If you want to go with something other than white, well, you might as well get a PC. The glossy finish is sleek and doesnt attract as many fingerprints or smudges as would something in black; the system is easily one of the best-looking laptops in the industry. The MacBook 13-inchs 5-pound frame and 1-inch thickness means its also one of the most easily luggable. Whether youre trekking across campus or fighting your way through rush hour, its a huge advantage to have a MacBook in your briefcase or backpack.

The 13.3-inch screen, though its bright, may not be large enough for media professionals. But its smaller size helps keep the laptop lightweight, and its great for watching a DVD movie or editing your holiday photos. If youre looking for something bigger, the Dell Inspiron E1505 (Core 2 Duo) offers a 15.4-inch widescreen that gives you enough room to watch a movie and view a photo side by side.

At first glance, the MacBooks keyboard doesnt appear full-size, with individual keys that are a bit smaller than those of both the MacBook Pro and the Inspiron E1505 (Core 2 Duo). That said, the MacBooks keys are appropriately spaced, essentially giving you the same key pitch as a full-size keyboard. Basically, your typing experience will improve drastically within a short period of time.

The MacBooks new features arent as dramatically upgraded as its processor, but you do get some enhancements. As I said before, I think its best to start with the base configuration and add what you need. If youre a typical user, the standard 60GB hard drive should be plenty, but if youre an iTunes fanatic or download a lot of videos, you can upgrade to a 160GB hard drive for $300. A 200GB ($400) hard drive is also available, but Id advise against it because of its slower (4,200 rpm) rotation. The base configuration comes with only 512MB RAM, which is not enough. Upgrading to 1GB for $75 is really the only feature that you should definitely tack on. (If youre trying to make the most of your money, keep in mind that the Inspiron E1505 (Core 2 Duo) comes standard with a 120GB hard drive and 1GB RAM for $999.)

Another configuration option to consider is an optical-drive upgrade. The base model MacBook comes only with a CD-RW/DVD drive—it can read DVDs, but it cant burn them. I really think Apple shouldve included a DVD burner—or made it an upgrade option within the base configuration, at the very least—but it didnt. If you intend to burn video projects to DVD, youll have to start with the midrange MacBook model ($1,299 direct).

Read the full story on PCMag.com: Apple MacBook 13-inch White (Core 2 Duo) Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news in desktop and notebook computing.

Cisco Cheng is PC MagazineÔÇÖs lead analyst for laptops and tablet PCs. He is responsible for benchmarking, reviewing, and evaluating all laptops and tablet PCs. Cisco started with PC Magazine in 1999 as a support technician, testing printers, PC components, networking equipment, and software. He became the lead analyst for the laptop team in 2003 and since has written numerous reviews, buyer guides, and feature stories for both PCMag.com and the print magazine.

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