Apple’s New iBook – sorry, MacBook. One Word Description: Contrasty.

Yesterday, Apple released new consumer laptops. Like a lazy description of a holiday destination, these MacBooks are a land of contrasts (just like Namibia; the Middle East; Jamaica; Kansas; Chile; Guinea; New Zealand; Mozambique; and Idaho) Let's look:

Glossy, widescreen display

  • Contrast 1: the new name: MacBook. Awkward and hard to say. On the other hand, I think we can all agree that the fad of putting "i" in front of everything is well and truly dead. Or should be.
  • Contrast 2: They're up to 5 times faster than the old iBooks. Even taking into account the lies of the marketing boys, 2 or 3 times the speed of the last iBooks is incredibly fast. It's a huge jump in speed. Those Intel Core Duo chips are snappy.
  • Contrast 3: Intel Integrated Graphics. This means that there is no dedicated graphics card, and instead, graphics are powered by normal RAM. So although 512MB of normal RAM seems adequate, you're losing a chunk to just produce a picture on screen. I have for years sneered at crappy Windows-based laptops that have had integrated graphcs, and for good reason: they have always been shit. Just because Apple's doing it now doesn't mean this will change. I've been in the market for a new iBook for a couple of years, waiting for decent speed, decent price, and decent features. I never thought that  something that wasn't on my shopping list (iBooks have shipped with decent 32MB graphics cards for ages) would come back. This one thing alone stops me and probably many others at my computer knowledge level ("partially-knowledged"?) from even considering this laptop. I'll look forward to see the first benchmarks come out and see whether I'm justified in thinking like this or not.
  • Contrast 4: Lots of cool little features: built in iSight camera, no latch needed to open and close the lid, remote control, wide-screen screen (13.3 inch), built in Airport, built in Bluetooth, the usual iLife software, Front Row software, long battery life (6 hours), scrolling trackpad (senses if you touch it with more than one finger and will scroll or other-click or lots of other things depending on what you want), Sudden Motion Sensor so that if you drop it (as you will, eventually), the hard drive parks itself quickly while in the air so you don't inconveniently lose all your data as the read head of the hard drive ploughs into the platters and does the equivalent of jamming a stick into the spokes of your brother's bike as he rides past showing how he can ride with his arms folded across his chest.
  • Contrast 5: various crappy little features: a price increase of $100 US dollars, which will no doubt turn into 3 or 4 hundred by the time the NZ rip-off effect has occurred, the battery life is only 6 hours if you have wireless turned off and are not watching DVDs – then it's only 2.5 – 3.5 hours, the modem is gone (on a consumer laptop? That's just crazy), adaptors to connect your Macbook to another monitor are no longer included.
  •  Contrast 6: they come in black. Or white. Nice. The black one has a slight increase in hard drive size, and a massive increase in price. Apple's back to pointless price increases for no benefit. I was starting to miss that. Reasonable prices and features were just so boring.
  • Contrast 6: Contrast. The MacBooks now have a "glossy" screen, which is again what those crappy PC laptops have had: they look nice and shiny and bright in the shop, especially compared to the matte finish of current iBook screens. They have great contrast and bright rich colours. However, it's also like attaching a sheet of reflective plastic to the front of your computer. In practical use, these things will be better mirrors than screen. John Siracusa over at Ars Technica has some good photos and thoughts .

I want a new laptop. But at the moment, these MacBooks don't do it for me. I'm still happy that I got that 800 Mhz G3 iBook off TradeMe for $650.

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