Aluminium vs Plastic

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by Mad Mac Maniac, Nov 19, 2007.

  1. Mad Mac Maniac macrumors 601

    Mad Mac Maniac

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    #1
    So, I'm about to jump on the bandwagon with the rest of the world and switch to a Mac! <insert applause here> But this is something I have been waiting to do for over a year.. you know waiting for when the time is right? haha. Anyways I'm tired of waiting!

    So I was hoping that the new MB updates would come with aluminium casing... we all know how that turned out. And, as already emphasised, there is no way I'm waiting another 6 months to see if they change.

    But now I guess I'm stuck with the plastic (there's no way I'm splurging for the MBP, I just don't need the capabilities at all). But now I'm wondering what the actual benefits would be with the aluminium. Like I'm really not sure how they compare.

    So now I'm asking you, the inteligent Mac population. Does it really matter? How do the 2 compare with... scratching, denting, heating, smudging, discoloration, weight, all the things that matter. I'm not looking for a comparison on which one looks better, because that is plain to the observer, not to mention subjective.

    Anyways thanks for all your help!!

    ps. in case you hadn't noticed I'm secretly hoping to find out that the aluminium benefits don't outweigh the plastic... haha.
     
  2. DMC-12 macrumors 6502

    DMC-12

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    #2
    I'm considering the same questions as you are. From what I understand, the weight difference is more or less negligible because of the size/compactness of the MB vs. the MBP. The key issue here is that the MacBook's polycarbonate plastic shell is significantly thicker than the MBP's aluminum shell.

    The result of stress on plastic is basically cracking, and this takes a lot more to accomplish than the result of stress on aluminum, which is denting. So, the plastic will likely take more punishment if you, say, drop the laptop. The plastic will also likely result in less aesthetic damage as the result of a drop.

    That said, the MacBooks seem to have more inherent design flaws, because of which, chipping/cracking can occur. Again, this is because of the chosen design, not the inherent strength/desirability of the material. So in the case of having the material in the forms of a MB or MBP, the plastic will probably be more durable in real-world terms, given the probability of an accidental drop at some point. If you want to bet on never having an accident with your laptop, then the MBP's aluminum wins only theoretically. Also, it seems that scratches are more noticeable and permanent on the finish of the MacBook Pro's aluminum.

    A good example: most PowerBooks have at least one dent and deep scratching by now because of the real-world scenario, while the iBooks which were designed to be much more durable than the MacBooks have been, having been around just as long, many are dent/cracking-free.

    I personally prefer your chances with the polycarbonate plastic, all things considered. However, I do see the appeal of a metal laptop for the general feel/immediate psychological assurance. For me, one of the biggest issues is not the the comparison of the materials but of the design of the two machines. I am pretty darn sure that the MacBook cracking at the magnetic latch is an inevitable flaw, based on how many MacBook owners I know who have identical cracking right on the right magnet.

    Oh, and the consensus is that the plastic significantly out-performs aluminum for wireless reception.
     
  3. byke macrumors 6502a

    byke

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    #3
    Alloy is able to work as an "earth" which can cause shocks.
    Alloy also able to expell heat through its case easier, however this can lead to hot laptops if using it on lap.
     
  4. TheStu macrumors 65816

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    #4
    Here are the main things that I have observed and know

    Plastic breaks, Aluminum bends: My MacBook has a few cracks on it, all on the bottom, near the vent (ok, and I had the infamous palmrest cracking) so completely un-noticeable when in use. My friend's MacBook pro is dented quite a lot, all over the place, but since we have not done scientific testing to determine if my MacBook would have cracked from the same amount of force, take taht with a grain of salt.

    Aluminum sinks heat, Plastic.... not so much: Based on using my friend's MBP, I can tell you... it gets warm, really really really warm. Mine is not exactly Nanook of the North here, but certainly I can use it without feeling that I am endangering myself. Bear in mind that we both have Core Duos, so the earliest revisions of both systems. However, I would assume that the MBP still gets/feels hotter than the MB of the same spec.

    Plastic Scratches, Anodized aluminum shrugs them off: What would leave just noticeable scratches on my MacBook (and have left them, believe me) basically does nothing to the MacBook Pro. The anodizing process that Apple uses, strengthens the metal by, if I recall correctly, a factor of 4, especially in regard to stuff like scratches and scuffs. Still dents as I mentioned before, but definitely stands up to scratches better.

    Aluminum is nice and unchanging, Plastic can stain: The very early model MacBooks had a tendency to absorb the oil from your skin and that would cause the palmrests to discolor. Apple has since switched to a different plastic for the palmrests, and so that is pretty much taken care of. However, it can still happen, and if it does, do not panic. Get Mr. Clean Magic Erasers and all will be good as new.
     
  5. Mad Mac Maniac thread starter macrumors 601

    Mad Mac Maniac

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    #5
    Hmm.... so for practical purposes the pros and cons seem to weigh each other out. That's kool. The white plastic is an iconic image associated with macs anyways. Kinda nice to keep it classic.
     
  6. Big-TDI-Guy macrumors 68030

    Big-TDI-Guy

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    #6
    Hey - here is a deal breaker. Aluminum can be destroyed violently by exposure to Mercury - plastic won't. So if you work in a poor leather processing plant in China - or a toy painting plant - think twice. (Aluminum is actually a very reactive metal - but oxidation stops it nearly instantly, Mercury breaks down that barrier)

    Aluminum will likely break down in the natural environment a little quicker than Plastic... Barring long term-UV exposure - so hide it in a shady area. (Might go to poo once microbes adapt and learn to eat it - but that should be a bit longer) So if you want a system with some real staying power after you're long gone - go for plastic.

    It'll work in China, and feed some lucky Microbes 2 thousand years from now. :D
     
  7. Jack Flash macrumors 65816

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    #7
    Let's be real about it: Notebooks have been made out of polycarbonate for a long, long time. Obviously, it has worked.
     
  8. Mad Mac Maniac thread starter macrumors 601

    Mad Mac Maniac

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    #8
    aww damn... well I guess I've always been looking for an excuse to quit my sweatshop job in china... ;) :p :D
     
  9. Big-TDI-Guy macrumors 68030

    Big-TDI-Guy

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    #9
    Know what - quit that job, grab a mercury barometer and try to catch the next flight out here. Watch how much fun the airline staff has when they see you with Mercury on an Aluminum aircraft. :D
     
  10. GfulDedFan macrumors 65816

    GfulDedFan

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    #10
    If you're looking for a way to keep your MacBook looking brand new:

    Buy it but don't open the box
    or
    Buy it, remove it from the box, and put it under glass like a museum piece

    Really though, use them but don't abuse them. Treat them like glass or Fragile - Handle With Care and you should be good to go. Let it age gracefully.

    An idea that I'd like to see is alloy then electroplating like a refrigerator. While they're at it....add the coolness dial.
     
  11. Cybergypsy macrumors 68040

    Cybergypsy

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    #11
    Just sold my MBP was nice like this keyboard much better and the screen is clearer...happy i went back
     
  12. sportsnut macrumors regular

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    #12

    Don't know if you use Wi-fi but my macbook's plastic casing beats my neighbors mbp reception. :D
     
  13. Queso macrumors G4

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    #13
    My four and a half year old Alu PowerBook has no dents, and only one scratch on the lid. What the Hell are you lot doing to your MBPs? :eek:
     
  14. sr5878 macrumors 6502a

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    #14
    i've had my MBP over twice as long as my girlfriend has had her macbook, and i can say the following:

    macbook is already riddled with scratches... macbook pro looks brand new

    matte screen is much easier to clean than glossy

    scrabble keys are (surprisingly) much easier to use than the macbook pro keys.

    macbook gets almost twice as many wireless networks from my dorm than i do... she can actually get wireless in here and i can't.

    both absolutely destroy leopard... i knew my macbook pro would run it like it should, but i was really surprised at the 10 second boot with her macbook after leopard was clean installed.

    my mbp runs wayyyyyyy hotter than her macbook... i didnt even bother installing SMC on it after i put leopard on it.
     
  15. thenewguy macrumors regular

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    Oct 25, 2006
    #15
    I'll say one thing - the aluminum of the MBP is SOFT.

    A friend dropped her MBP and bent the top case and cd drive area so that it was hard to get a CD into it. I went to fix it, thought I'd just bend the metal out of the way. And I did - but in the process put about 5 chips in the casing and a few nicks as I was trying to create some pressure on the dented metal. I was astounded at how easily the MBP nicks.

    I have a MBP as well, about a year old, and it is relatively clean minus a scratch along the bottom. So it's how you use it.

    That said - I prefer the polycarbonate of my gf's macbook.
     
  16. shoulin333 macrumors 6502a

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    California
    #16
    get your wrists guards on, the MacBook plastic egdes are prety sharp


    my old MBP wasnt like this :(

    but the comp is awesome once you build callises
     
  17. sportsnut macrumors regular

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    #17

    No need for wrist guards and worry unless you insist on resting your wrists on the edge of the macbook. If MacRumors stays around long enough we will need a carpal tunnel syndrome forum for those afflicted to rant in.;)
     
  18. CalBoy macrumors 604

    CalBoy

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    #18
    That's interesting logic. Prior to one of the early Powerbooks, notebooks didn't have trackpads; they had trackballs. I suppose notebooks should have stuck with it because it "worked" right?;)

    Aluminum offers a great weight reduction compared to plastic (think about the size difference between the macbook and macbook pro, and then compare that to the weight difference).

    Aluminum also heats and cools faster, so you can cool down your mbp slightly faster than you can your macbook.

    Aluminum is also flexible, while plastic is rigid. However, that really is a toss up, because mbps are more prone to dents, while macbooks are more prone to scratches.

    However:
    I really wonder the same thing. My mbp doesn't have a scratch or dent on it. Perhaps y'all need to be more careful?
    :mad: It's true. I really want Apple to boost mbp reception somehow. Maybe a firmware update:p
    Yeah, the macbook edge is sharp, but you really shouldn't be typing that way anyways. When you type, your wrists should be suspended above the keyboard area. Trust me, not only will you avoid that emo look :)p) you'll also be able to type faster. :)
     
  19. CRAZYBUBBA macrumors 65816

    CRAZYBUBBA

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    #19
    I personally prefer aluminum. i have sweaty hands which erode away at plastic. also, i feel that plastic is more flimsy (I know people are going to hate me for saying this). I just want to say that I'm not saying that the macbook plastic is a bad quality, not at all.. I'm just saying that aluminum is stronger in my experience.
     
  20. skyrider007 macrumors 65816

    skyrider007

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    #20
    Is it just me or did I hear that the MBP's palm rest can get eroded by sweat as well. I have a moshi wrist guard tho :p.
     
  21. TheStu macrumors 65816

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    #21
    I have seen it happen! ok, not on the macbook pro but on my other friend's old G4 PowerBook 12". He had little pits all over the palmrests from where he had eroded it. I think he got rid of it, otherwise I would take pictures.
     
  22. Sesshi macrumors G3

    Sesshi

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    #22
    The benefit with aluminium as found on the MBP is cosmetic and thermal (to an extent). As far as a weight-saving component there is a slight edge, but since the Macbook Pro has the structural integrity of tofu in comparison to other quality laptops, you could say this saving, if there is any, is coming at the cost of durability. (Yes yes I know about the bullet MBP, and I'll be happy to tell you how it was a very lucky fluke)

    Polycarbonate is definitely more durable than aluminium in the way it's used on both machines and also in the timescale you'll have these machines (say 5 years on the outside). Whether Apple's potentially second-rate polycarbonate formulation adheres to that is however an issue for debate.

    So what about cosmetic? It's not just that that MBP looks classier than the MB's. Because it's hard-anodised it withstands everyday scuffing better than polycarbonate. However long-term, plastic on a well-engineered laptop (not just a well designed one) wins because once you wear out the anodising (and it will happen after a few years) things start going downhill very quickly for the aluminium.

    In a purely material vs material comparison and if the engineering (and anodising for alu) was top notch on both machines - i.e. if it was more of a magnesium / aluminium bathtub perhaps, I'd probably go aluminium. But given Apple's engineering though I'd rather go plastic, take it apart and CNC in some vents of my own - if the Macbook was a compelling purchase for me. And from my own experience last year I'd say the testing of the plastic was extremely sub-par. It's probably been fixed, but the fact that they couldn't get a simple thing like that right on release speaks volumes about the unimportance of quality engineering over blinding everyone with style in Apple's book.
     
  23. paul.b.davis macrumors 6502

    paul.b.davis

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    #23
    just a question...can smoke stain the plastic on a MB?

    I already have a MBP (needed it for recording) but I was just curious, as I am (quite unfortunately) a chain smoker
     
  24. Sesshi macrumors G3

    Sesshi

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    #24
    A person who smokes will stain a Macbook.
     
  25. masse macrumors 6502a

    masse

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    #25
    I have those pits on my powerbook...They were there when my friend gave it to me.

    I really couldn't care less about them..
     

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