a white unibody macbook review before I send it back

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by student_trap, Nov 27, 2009.

  1. student_trap macrumors 68000


    Mar 14, 2005
    'Ol Smokey, UK

    Hello all, after buying five of the mid 2009 non-unibody macbooks in the summer (and sending them all back because each had the screen lines issue), I recently bought a unibody macbook and am unfortunately returning this one also. But before I do, here is my relatively unbiased (I have been using macs for ages now) review that should hopefully help any prospective buyers.

    I have used this unit intensely for a week now, so should hopefully be able to be a little more comprehensive than other online reviews that are floating about:


    Differences between old white macbook

    1. Unibody casing
    2. 2.26 Ghz processor (up from 2.13)
    3. 250 GB Hard drive (up from 160)
    4. LED Backlit screen
    5. Integrated, longer life battery
    6. Lack of firewire 400 port
    7. integrated audio in/out (was two separate ports)
    8. mini display port (exchanged from mini DVI)
    9. Faster RAM (1066 Mhz up from 800)
    10. Lack of IR receiver and consequent incompatibility with apple remotes
    11. Multitouch trackpad

    Differences with current 13" macbook pro

    1. larger hard drive! (mbp has 160 GB)
    2. No firewire 800
    3. No SD card slot
    4. macbook pro display has 60% greater colour gamut
    5. macbook pro is aluminium

    The new casing

    The new casing is particularly different from that of the old macbook, and brings the entry-level apple laptop into the world of unibody enclosures. The result of this change is that the unit has an overall more solid feeling. Unlike its previous iteration, there is zero flex in the case when picking it up, alongside far less screen flex, although there is some give around the DVD drive slot which could become a problem in time. Gone too are all of the screws visible on the side of the machine (there are still 8 on the bottom of the laptop though) and the sharpness that some experienced with the edges of the older version.

    The shape of the unit has changed fairly significantly, although this is not really appreciable using photos. Now the four corners of the laptop carry a far more gentle curve both when open and closed, while when closed, the edges are now significantly rounded. The overall difference is similar to the change in design from the first two generations of ipod touch, and (to my eye) is far more pleasing to look at and carry around.

    One other key difference is that when opened, the palm rests and keyboard surround are now as glossy as the exterior of the laptop. At first, this was a little annoying as it provided greater friction against my wrists when typing, however over the week they have become a little more greasy and are now perfectly comfortable to use.

    Curiously, the design reminds me of a cross between a white lego brick (the case feels exactly the same) and an old G3 clamshell (because of the rubberised bottom), but for me at least the combination works very well indeed.

    Minor differences include a round isight camera, a long narrow sleep light, and complete lack of grills for air circulation. However, there is one other large difference: the rubberised bottom. Unlike the previous unit, the unibody macbook includes a rubberised bottom that over the week has presented itself as something of a mixed blessing. Firstly, it is great for providing more friction with work surfaces, and in particular, a welcome addition for using while travelling on coaches/trains etc, as it helps to keep the laptop glued to your lap, unlike the previous macbook and all aluminium macs that have a tendency to slide around. furthermore, it also remains very cool in use, and I have not noticed anything near the amount of heat from this unit as I have with macbook pro's and the older white macbook. A large negative however comes from the fact that instead of having four feet, the entire bottom of the laptop acts as a single giant foot, which presents two problems: 1) that if you plan to use the laptop on anything but a perfectly even desk, you may encounter problems with the unit rocking as you use it (as I have), and 2) the rubberised surface seems to attract quite a lot of grime despite my work surface being relatively clean (see picture below).

    One significant issue that I have come across regarding the rubberised bottom plate of the laptop is that over the week mine has begun to warp slightly, so that now even on a totally flat surface, the laptop tends to rock a little. I am not sure how this has come to be, as I have always treated the laptop with care, but guess for now is that it could be a heat-related issue. If it is a problem I am sure that it will not be long before it becomes a more common thread topic: hopefully this is isolated to my unit.

    In their review of the white MacBook, engadget mentioned that their unit became scratched very easily. I however have not found this to be a problem, and at the moment have only one phantom mark on the lid that I have no clue as to how it arrived. One cosmetic issue that I have noticed however is that the new finish seems to attract plenty of bits of anything I wear, and I have been almost constantly wiping the inside of the unit to get rid of them. Perhaps the new finish is carries a higher static charge or something? Either way it is a minor inconvenience that I’m sure wouldn’t bother many people. Another cosmetic issue that I have come across is that the new glossy finish tends to smear very very easily, again not particularly significant, but it may annoy some.

    The Keyboard and trackpad

    The keyboard on my unit it is a real upgrade from the previous iteration of macbooks. It is very responsive to use, offering a distinct satisfying ‘click’ and quick return with every press. I type thousands of words a week, and find the unibody MacBook keyboard to be superior to that of the previous version, and also the more expensive MacBook pro. However it is not a backlit keyboard, which coming from a MacBook pro is something that I do miss, although your milage may vary.

    The trackpad on the unibody MacBook is a significant upgrade, and with a small screen, having such intuitive and ergonomic access to expose for example is simply marvellous. The trackpad button offers enough resistance not to be accidentally pressed, but is still easy to use when you actually want to click or drag something.

    One problem that I have come across with the new trackpad however is that it sometimes fails to register my first attempt to ‘tap to click’ something, meaning I think I have selected something when I actually haven’t. I am not sure whether this is a widespread problem or not, and am sure that even if it was many people wouldn’t even notice.

    The Battery

    The integrated batteries of recent apple laptops have been at the brunt of both criticism and praise, and I myself was sceptical before purchase. In use however, I have been pleasantly surprised, as with display brightness set to around half and wireless on I have been easily achieving the quoted 7 hours while surfing or typing. Furthermore, with wifi off and brightness set 2 or three dots lower, I have on a couple of occasions (again while surfing and typing) achieved a usage time of an incredible 10 hours. The battery also charges very quickly (usually in just over and hour), and I have not yet found myself desperately in need of a power socket. I am now quite the fan of this technology, as I am getting nearly twice the run time that I could on the previous MacBook, and when the battery does die on me, it costs the same to replace as a new battery for the old MacBook anyway.

    The Screen

    The screens on the new unibody MacBook seem to vary quite a lot, however they are still a significant upgrade from the previous generation units. I have tested my model against two other MacBooks, and have found three display panels that are being used, of which two have a slight blue hue. The models demonstrating this are the 9CD1 and another that I cant remember the name of (sorry!), however the third type, 9CBE offers a far more neutral white colour that is both easier on the eyes and provides better colours (the 9CBE is also used in the 13” MacBook pro models). [UPDATE: 9CC0 is the third type of screen. Thanks to deraj090 for finding it, and describing it as with no noticeable blue hue]

    Despite these variances, the screens are overall a big upgrade, as they offer far greater viewing angles, no lines (as mentioned earlier), and an overall crisper image. There is however a slight visible yellow hue as the screen is tilted, and I have noticed that when watching DVD’s or streaming TV, the display seems like it could use a little more brightness, although this is not a problem for all other uses.

    However, the screen is the primary reason for why I am returning this unit. This is because I seem to be getting headaches after using it for brief periods of time, an issue that is being vocalised by what seems to be a minority of users, and is potentially caused by the LED backlighting, which is both visually intense, and can sometimes show a slight flicker.

    The Internals

    With regard to the units speed, I shall only comment that it has been as fast as you would expect for a machine of this specification, and has thus tackled basic tasks with ease, and had no problems running Age of Empires 3 (admittedly an old game!), or streaming full HD television programs. For a more in-depth analysis of the unibody MacBooks speed, have a look at the benchmarks provided my Macworld.

    The wifi reception is very good, the machine runs both surprisingly cool, runs as good as silently (there is a slight whine audible if you put your ear to the computer itself) and the built in speakers are adequate for day to day tasks. Otherwise there are no other major points regarding the internals of the machine, except that my unit had a Hitachi hard drive that made a very worrisome clunk avery time that the unit was moved, however I have been told by apple care that this is common to all of the 250GB Hitachi drives, and is the drive heads parking after the sudden motion sensor is tripped.


    The unibody MacBook is a significant upgrade to the previous generation, however it is not without its problems. On the positive side, the body is now far stronger and in my opinion better looking, while other aspects that bring the unit in line with its silver family, such as the new trackpad, are also great additions. However there are numerous small negative points, such as the warped base, potential weak spot around the DVD drive slot, clunky hard drive etc. These points are far from deal-breakers though, and if it wasn’t for the headaches because of the screen, I would without a doubt be willing to put up with them for all the benefits the redesign brings.

    As always, if you are looking to buy, try one out either at an apple store or apple reseller beforehand, especially if you think that you may be sensitive to the screen. Otherwise, I would fully recommend it to anyone looking to buy in this price range.


    + Unibody enclosure
    + Trackpad
    + Battery life
    + Keyboard
    + Cool and silent
    + Screen (if you can handle the LED’s)


    - Screen (if you can’t handle the LED’s)
    - Worrisome hard drive noise
    - Warped rubber base
    - Rubber base attracts grime
    - Loss of firewire
    - Loss of dedicated in and out audio ports

    Let me know your experience or if i have missed anything out. I tried to avoid the firewie/sd slot hubbub as it has been done over and over.:):)

    Attached Files:

  2. Wotan31 macrumors 6502

    Jun 5, 2008
    What is the "Worry"? :confused: You apparently already contacted Apple about it and received a logical explanation. Hard drives make noise. They are moving mechanical devices. They make noises. Use a utility for reading the SMART drive health counters if you have a concern, but to complain about a noise being "worrisome", after you received an explanation, is just silly.
    Loss of Firewire however is definitely a show stopper for me. I won't be buying one without this critical port.
  3. student_trap thread starter macrumors 68000


    Mar 14, 2005
    'Ol Smokey, UK
    True i shouldn't worry, but this is my 9th apple laptop with a sudden motion sensor and it is the 1st to have this issue. The noise is actually quite unsettling as it is far removed from the usual clicks and whirs that are normally heard from hard drives: it is more of a very loud clunk.
  4. flopticalcube macrumors G4


    Sep 7, 2006
    In the velcro closure of America's Hat
    Had that with a 250GB Western Digital drive that I sold along with my MacBook recently. It was worrisome to me as well. So much so that I would not have used that drive as my day-to-day drive and I purchased a 320GB 7200RPM drive instead which was much quieter.
  5. J&JPolangin macrumors 68030

    Jul 5, 2008
    Thule GL @ the TOW
    ...nice review... its rev A hardware so it should get better with time...
  6. student_trap thread starter macrumors 68000


    Mar 14, 2005
    'Ol Smokey, UK
    Thank you. Totally agree with you about the small negatives being the typical things that can go wrong on rev A machines...in fact I was going to comment on that in the review...must have forgotten! :)
  7. kain2 macrumors newbie

    Feb 8, 2010
    i have that clickking sound

    hey i just got my mac white unibody 2 moths ago and now i think i have the same worrisome problem that you, the hard drive Hitachi HTS545025B9SA02 make this loud sound its kind the like a click . well i took it to the apple store and they told me that some hard drives make more louder noises but it something happen i could use my warranty but there was nothing that they could do about the noise because apple just doesnt fix noises, but well i wanted to now if you found a solutions and if you knew anyone that has the same problem because i ve been looking around on the internet and i couldnt find people that have the same problem.i kind the worry because i dont want to be the only one with this problem ok i hope you write back....
  8. Habitus macrumors 6502a


    Feb 26, 2009
    Where ever my life takes me...
    Good review. My only complaint is the lack of FW. I do, though, love the new case!

    Habitus :apple:
  9. MovieCutter macrumors 68040


    May 3, 2005
    Washington, DC
    You had to quote the whole thing??? :rolleyes:
  10. Jesskit macrumors newbie

    Jan 20, 2010
    hey, great review, and am using the part about the warped bottom to help my partner with the same issue on his.

    I do have to say i have had a couple of issues with the hinge of my macbook, which is now in its 3rd machine (after being replaced twice). I had noticed this problem in forums on the first mbp that went unibody, where the hinge moves and the screen doesnt sit flush.

    so anyway after lots of talking with apple and them refusing to fix it, i finially got it replaced and so hopefully this version doesnt have that problem.

    so after a few issues of mine and my partners we have vowed never to get the rev A models. oh and if anyone has any information on the dvd drive occasionally failing to read dvd's, even in one case in the middle of watching movie off one, that would be great
  11. glasscity macrumors member

    Feb 11, 2010
    I have an external drive that does that, it's just the HD spinning down or starting up when it's not in use/being used after being idle.. like being read or being written to.

    It's nothing to worry about.
    [edited:] unless it's a grinding noise, apparently grinding noises and HDs are bad. But I thought the loud clunk was bad until I realized when it was happening/what was causing it. I've had the external for well over a year now, I use it as my main HD outside of windows 7 on this laptop (going to purchase my first mac this weekend) and it's just the noise it makes when it's spun down/starts up. I think it may be an energy saving feature, because I have a second external drive that never spins down at all, and the case is always hot.
  12. andylyon macrumors 6502a


    Jul 23, 2008
    Good review, i'll be recommending a couple of friends to look at this before buying.

  13. deraj090 macrumors regular

    Feb 18, 2010
    how can I tell which display panel is being used? I'm thinking of getting the MC2077LL/A.

    Also -- has anyone else had issues with the warping? That seems really strange to me. What about the hinge problem, or the HD clicking? Should I be nervous to purchase?
  14. racer1441 macrumors 68000

    Jul 3, 2009
    You went through 6 laptops in how many months?

    Are you typing with hammers?
  15. student_trap thread starter macrumors 68000


    Mar 14, 2005
    'Ol Smokey, UK
    it is a problem with a large proportion of the Hitachi 250GB drives. It was firsts mentioned on the apple support forums with regard to mbp's that use the same drive.

    Apparently it is noting to worry about (just the drive heads parking after the SMS is tripped), but hearing clicking from hard drives has never filled me with confidence!


    Revision A machines are always best to avoid, although the problems here do all seem to be minor. As I said in the review, I wouldn't let it put prospective buyers off.

    As for the DVD drive, I have experienced it myself, and while it doesn't seem that it should be right, I do know that in the past apple drives have had problems with optical media. Perhaps this is the explanation

    This noise was the drive heads parking, and it was happening more often than it should because the Hitachi 250 gig drives were more sensitive to the SMS than others

    Thankyou. I am glad to hear thsi as the review was written with perspective buyers firmly in mind (when I bought it there were no in-depth review out there)

    System preferences>Displays>Colour>Open Profile>mmod

    I wouldn't be nervous about purchasing, none of the issues are serious, they just represent the small teething problems found on all rev A products

    They all had the lines issue. Otherwise they were very decent machines.
  16. deraj090 macrumors regular

    Feb 18, 2010
    Is there any way of telling prior to purchasing?

    Sorry for beating this to death, but have you heard of anyone else with the warping issue? That seems like a pretty serious issue.

    Also, I've read that you should basically never keep the macbook on any surface that isn't completely flat -- what is the reasoning for that? It may be a dumb question, but just curious.

  17. Alonzo84 macrumors 6502a


    Dec 18, 2009
    North Carolina
  18. student_trap thread starter macrumors 68000


    Mar 14, 2005
    'Ol Smokey, UK
    I am afraid not

    See Jesskit's post above

    this is not true
  19. iWantiPhone macrumors regular

    Jul 2, 2008
    Philadelphia, PA
    is the other LCD you forgot the name of the 9CC0?
  20. deraj090 macrumors regular

    Feb 18, 2010
    that's the one I PMed to him last night. iWantiPhone -- do you have that 9CC0? Notice a blue hue or anything? Just wondering...
  21. iWantiPhone macrumors regular

    Jul 2, 2008
    Philadelphia, PA
    Yeah i have a 9CC0. i dont notice a blue hue; if anything, it's a yellow hue..more natural. The screen is good but my acer p223w's LCD still has better contrast and makes the colors "pop" more.

    edit: in OS X, that is. In windows, this screen is amazing...i think OS X is just less colorful..if that makes sense.
  22. deraj090 macrumors regular

    Feb 18, 2010
    yea I guess mine is slightly yellow too. Have you tried the professional calibrate to get a more natural white?
  23. iWantiPhone macrumors regular

    Jul 2, 2008
    Philadelphia, PA
    I have no clue as to what that is, lol.
  24. deraj090 macrumors regular

    Feb 18, 2010
    System preferences >> Display >> Color >> Calibrate (and click the checkbox before starting).

    I personally think its a pain in the ass to have to do.
  25. iWantiPhone macrumors regular

    Jul 2, 2008
    Philadelphia, PA
    Yeah i did that. It made it really blue and really bad lol. The original calibration is actually quite good.

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