MacBook review - comprehensive

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Legacy, Jun 5, 2006.

  1. Legacy macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2005
    Location:
    London
    #1
    Well, I guess many have already written an extensive review on the MacBook but I will be focusing mainly on the BootCamp element and Windows XP on the MacBook.

    My Model acquired, Thursday:

    MacBook 13.3" White/1.83GHz/1.25GB/80GB/Combo

    MacBook vs iBook - Mac OS X Tiger


    Performance and Power

    Speed

    Compared to the iBook this machine is, at least twice as fast in real life. Even when set to 'Better Battery Life', the machine smokes both my own 1.33 iBook and my friends 1.5GHz Powerbook at everything except Rosetta apps. Effects are rendered faster, the system feels much more responsive.
    The hard disk also feels much more snappy, and is MUCH more quiet compared to the iBook's churring slow 4200rpm drive. Great work here!

    Memory

    Users with 512RAM will expect a performance hit with multiple applications open (ie more than 5), but until you really open too many apps the performance hit is managable. I should urge nobody to upgrade to 1GB+ unless they feel that they would like a better machine. Not everyone in real life requires the ultimate power of the Core Duo and 512MB is just fine for modest and controlled use of the MAC OS system with a few apps, including maybe Word and Entourage. I have 1.25GB configured at the moment in Single Channel - there is very little to no difference between Single/Dual configuration except if you are desperate for your GMA to muster a few more FPS in a game.

    Graphics

    Which brings me on to the mainly criticized addition - the GMA950. What do I think? Compared to the 9550 it replaces, it is NOT faster. Regardless of what benchmarks tell you, the bottleneck for the 9550 was NOT itself, but the mediocre memory (32MB) and processor (1.33-1.42 PowerPC G4). If this system had anything like a 9550 equivalent, it would perform much better in games. That said, the effects in Mac OS X are excellent and fast. Sometimes, one may notice a 'blur' when dragging widgets into the dashboard during the 'ripple' effect. I for one have noticed this personally.

    Features

    Airport and Bluetooth

    Airport is much more sensitive at picking up weaker signals, Bluetooth is kinda the same as the iBook. Both seem to be sound configurations. Some users may need to uncheck the 'ignore sensitive movements' option in System Preferences for the trackpad which is causing it to be unresponsive from time to time - this fixes that problem. That said, SMS is fine, and scrolling works great.

    iSight

    Very welcome addition, works like a breeze, quality IS GOOD!! It captures video beautifully and vividly.


    Screen

    Very very very bright and crisp! It smokes the iBook in every way. The reflections are of very little notice. I wouldn't urge anyone to look down on the glossyness at all.

    Battery


    Reasonable, but not excellent. Under full energy saving (better battery life, lowest screen) and moderate use (gaming, internet, movie rendering, chatting with airport and bluetooth) the MacBook was able to muster around 3hours and 40 minutes. I should suspect this would improve to around 4hours with no gaming or rendering video, but do not expect much more than that really. To compare, the iBook got 4.5hours. That said, I am more than happy to trade 20minutes of battery for a more responsive system, where a 667MHz G4 felt dog slow.

    Mooing and Whining - Heat Issues

    The is a sound similar to the cow mooing although I would label this more of a 'grrrrrr' now and then. Yes it is the fans spinning up and down and yes I suspect this may be an issue with the Firmware, the mooing also happens in Windows XP but more so in gaming than during normal use, so I suspect it is more down to the heat generated by the GPU rather than the CPU - pretty disappointing when one considers its performance is worse than the 9550 which was almost silent.

    The MacBook gets VERY hot - as hot as my iBook under full load for an hour and this is in normal use. Even under 'better battery life' it does get hot. How can one avoid this? You can't - the best thing to do is use it on a flat surface which will dissapate the heat much better. That way, the generated heat will not remain there and there will be less need for 'moos' and heat over the keyboard.

    MacBook in Windows XP Professional SP2

    This machine runs Windows XP like a rocket. I did a detailed battery life examination on the system to deduce whether Apple's claim that XP power management is poor:

    20GB dedicated to Windows
    Screen: On all the time – lowest setting
    Intel GMA950 ‘max battery’ setting
    Power Management: ‘max battery’ setting
    WiFi and Bluetooth: ‘ON’

    From boot:

    Office Productivity/Internet/Music/Chat 1hour15mins
    Gaming:
    - Fifa World Cup 02 (30mins)
    - Command and Conquer Generals (45mins)
    - Pinball/Hyperbowl/Labyrinth MS Games (30mins)

    Movie Clips: 15mins

    System maintenance while browsing net/music:
    - Disk Defragmenter: 10mins
    - Final activity 5mins

    END: 3 hours 15 mins

    It’s good, I think one can get around 4hours+ without WiFi/BT Running. Apple’s claim about XP’s power management doesn’t quite explain the truth. Tips on making the most of your Windows XP battery life:

    1. Make sure your Power Management is set to ‘max battery’. You can check that this is the case by checking your clockspeed which should show 988MHz, as well as making sure your system goes on standby/turns off displays etc.
    2. Set the GMA950 to ‘max battery’ in the GMA Control Panel Energy saving.
    3. Use your computer on a flat surface to allow better dissipation of heat and hence less fan usage (which I didn’t do, so may well earn you 5-10mins more).
    4. Use the lowest possible volume output from the speakers that you have to – saves your ears pain and your computer strain.

    Issues with XP

    Sound

    The sound card drivers suck. You get underbuffering when any sound is emitted except if you are using the machine on full power. I suspect the power management settings need to be optimized to make sure they don't cripple the output of sound.

    Also of concern is the absence of headphone cancelling. When you plug in headphones, the output from the speakers is not muted - you get both. Annoying to put it simply.

    Trackpad

    Feels different to OS X, scrolling doesn't work. You can't right click unless you download a program to program the use of the 'ctrl' key as you do in Mac OS X.

    iSight Doesn't work - no drivers
    Airport and Bluetooth - work very well like they do under Mac OS X!
    Screen as bright, but function keys to control it don't work. Users will have to drag a slider up and down like to control sound. If you accidentally move the mouse away from the slider and the screen goes dark - RESTART!! Cos your in trouble!

    Graphics While under OS X 64MB is utilized, Windows XP makes use of the GMA DVMT 3.0 which varies memory use from 16MB-128MB, so you can get upto 128MB of VRAM when needed.

    Gaming is decent. The old titles like Quake 3, Fifa World Cup, Age of Empires 2 and CC Generals run well. So does Flight Simulator 2002. All of these games the GMA950 can muster 25+ FPS for (and mostly 30+ except at time in CC Generals), running on MEDIUM setting, and 1024/1280 resolution. I have not attempted to use other games, like Halo 2 but I should suspect one can expect between 15-20fps at least on these games - whether that is your piece of cake is up to you.

    Any other queries, please do not hesisate to PM me.

    Regards
     
  2. bobber205 macrumors 68020

    bobber205

    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2005
    Location:
    Oregon
  3. Legacy thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2005
    Location:
    London
    #3
    MAC OS X
    Battery - 35 seconds
    Power - 23 seconds

    Windows XP
    Battery - 50 seconds
    Power - 42 seconds
     
  4. afornander macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2006
    #4
    how WELL (laging, graphic gliches, fps) would hl2 run at lowest settings. if you dont have it could you give me an example. thats the only game i realy want to play on it if i get it.:D
     
  5. balamw Moderator

    balamw

    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2005
    Location:
    New England
    #5
    Have you tried using the arrow keys when the slider has the focus? Most XP sliders will respond to the arrow keys.

    B
     
  6. chairguru22 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    May 31, 2006
    Location:
    PA
    #6
    very nice review. i was considering getting a gig of memory to jump up to 1.25GB but after some thinking realized that the system is fast as it is for me and i dont need it yet.

    i also agree with you on the 'mooing' in thats its more like a 'grrrring'. (at least for me) it only occurs when i run a lot of graphic intense stuff like an iphoto slideslow or a dvd and its only audible when im in a completely silent room. any music playing, tv, or even the fan from my PC will drown it out easily.

    as for bootcamp i had a couple questions. i will prob need it in the future (and want to wait until its improved) and how much HD space would you recommend using? i only have a 60GB HD so should i think about freeing up some space or get a bigger one?

    thanks.
     
  7. Legacy thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2005
    Location:
    London
    #7
    What do you want to use XP for?
     
  8. shadowmoses macrumors 68000

    shadowmoses

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2005
    #8
    Very good review should be read by all the newbies considering buying a MacBook

    ShadoW
     
  9. Demon Hunter macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2004
    #9
    You consider "moderate use" gaming while you render video? Or did you run these separately? Otherwise a very good review.
     
  10. Legacy thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2005
    Location:
    London
    #10
    No I played games seperate to rendering. Regards
     

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