Last month, Apple quietly updated its entry-level laptop, the 13in MacBook. Available in just one standard configuration, the new MacBook sports a faster running processor and improved graphics that provide a modest speed improvement over its predecessor.
A 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo takes the place of the 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo used in the previous model. An Nvidia GeForce 320M integrated graphics subsystem replaces the Nvidia GeForce 9400M integrated graphics. The only other differences of note are the addition of inertial scrolling and that the Mini DisplayPort now supports both audio and video out when using a compatible third-party adaptor.
The MacBook’s appearance is identical to the model it replaces. Also unchanged are the ports – a Mini DisplayPort, two USB 2.0 ports, and a Gigabit Ethernet port – FireWire is still missing.
As before, the MacBook ships with 2GB of RAM, and Apple says 4GB is the recommended maximum RAM configuration. It’s possible to install 8GB of RAM in a MacBook, but if something goes wrong you’d be on your own.
How much of an improvement?
We ran the new MacBook through our Speedmark 6 benchmarking suite. With a Speedmark 6 score of 118, it was 7 per cent faster than the 2.26GHz MacBook it replaces.
By far, the biggest gain was in the 3D game tests; the new MacBook was able to display 66 per cent more frames per second than the older model. The new MacBook’s faster processor also helped it post a 10 per cent faster Cinebench CPU score. Interestingly, some of the hard drive tests (file duplication and unzipping a 2GB file) were a couple of seconds faster on the older model.
Comparing the new £849 MacBook to the entry-level £999 13in 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro, we see identical Speedmark scores. With the same hard drives, processors, and integrated graphics, this should come as little surprise. The £999 MacBook Pro ships with twice the memory of the MacBook, but our Speedmark tests show very little benefit from the additional RAM. But there are a couple of advantages to the MacBook Pro, namely FireWire 800 and an SD card slot.
With the new graphics and minor changes to the battery, the new MacBook can last longer between charging cycles. In our tests, where we loop a movie from the hard drive at full screen, full brightness, with AirPort connected to our local network and the volume on, the MacBook was able to run for nearly 5 hours – 58 minutes longer than the model it replaces. It lasted 35 minutes longer than the 13in MacBook Pro and 22 minutes longer than the 15in MacBook Pro.
Note that our battery tests (and therefore, the results) differ significantly from those cited in Apple’s marketing materials.
Apple offers a limited number of optional upgrades for the MacBook. Upping the RAM to 4GB will cost £81. Swapping the 250GB hard drive for a 320GB drive will cost £41; a 500GB drive adds £123 to the price.
With its faster processor, improved graphics and longer battery life, the MacBook is an attractive option for budget-conscious laptop shoppers. Performance-wise, the MacBook isn’t much different from the 13in 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro – the extra £150 for the MacBook Pro buys more RAM, a FireWire 800 port, an SD card slot and an aluminium case.