SAN FRANCISCO, 27 MAY 2010 - Earlier this month, Apple quietly updated its entry-level laptop, the MacBook. Available in just one standard configuration, the new MacBook now sports a faster running processor and improved graphics that provide a modest speed improvement over its predecessor.
New to the MacBook is a 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, which takes the place of the 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo used in the previous model ( Macworld rated 4 out of 5 mice ). An Nvidia GeForce 320m integrated graphics subsystem replaces the Nvidia GeForce 4200m integrated graphics.
The only other differences of note are the addition of inertial scrolling and the Mini DisplayPort now supports both audio and video out when using a compatible third-party adapter. These new features were added to the MacBook Pro models released in April.
The new MacBook's appearance is identical to the mid-2009 model it replaces, using the same 13-inch glossy screen and white plastic unibody design. Also unchanged are the ports, with a Mini DisplayPort, two USB 2.0 ports, and a Gigabit Ethernet port--FireWire continues to be missing (by me, at least).
Like the older system, the new MacBook ships standard with 2GB of RAM, and Apple says that 4GB is the recommended maximum RAM configuration. In case you are wondering, the entire MacBook Pro line ships with 4GB of RAM standard, with a maximum configuration of 8GB. It's possible to install 8GB of RAM in a MacBook and it would probably work just fine, but if something goes wrong, you'd be on your own. The included warranty and AppleCare won't cover a MacBook with 8GB of RAM.
To find out how much these enhancements affect performance, we ran the new MacBook through our Speedmark 6 suite of overall system tests. We found that the new MacBook, with a Speedmark 6 score of 118, was seven percent faster than the 2.26GHz MacBook it replaces.
By far, the biggest gain was in our 3D game tests, in which the new MacBook, with its Nvidia GeForce 320M graphics, was able to display 66 percent more frames per second than the older model with its Nvidia GeForce 4200M graphics. The new MacBook's faster processor also helped it post a 10 percent faster Cinebench CPU score.
The new system was also faster in our Photoshop and iTunes tests, but only by a few seconds. 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 $999 MacBook to the entry-level $1199 13-inch 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro ( Macworld rated 4 out of 5 mice ), we see identical Speedmark scores. With the same hard drives, processors, and integrated graphics, this should come as little surprise. And though the $1199 MacBook Pro, with 4GB of RAM, includes twice the memory of the MacBook, our Speedmark tests (run one at a time) show very little benefit from the additional RAM. I ran Speedmark on the 2.26GHz MacBook with 4GB of RAM for our recent review of the 13-inch MacBook Pros and found only a 2-point increase in Speedmark scores with the additional memory. So why go Pro? There are a couple of advantages to the MacBook Pro, namely FireWire 800 and an SD card slot.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.