* Prices may differ from that shown
When it comes to buying a laptop there's only one brand that does it for me, and that brand is Apple. Starting out as an avid PC user, it took me a while to appreciate Apple's orchard of quality computers - but once I did, there was no going back. Apple's best selling laptops are found in the 'MacBook' range, of which there are (and have been) a number of models on the market to choose from. I've actually owned a couple of MacBooks in my time, with this review focusing on the (not so imaginatively titled) MB061B/A model. I haven't written this review on a whim; I've owned the item in question for a few years, and am all too aware of its many benefits and occasional annoyances. Like so many of Apple's products, the laptop is visually impressive, clad in durable white plastic and minimal in design - but enough about the looks, how does it perform?
Let's Get Technical
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As standard, the laptop comes with 1GB of RAM made up of two 512Mb banks of DDR2 (yes, let's get the tech-speak out the way first). The 120GB (Serial ATA-150 - 5400 rpm) hard drive is plenty big enough for my needs - in layman's terms, it's not a massive amount by today's standards, but it will store A LOT of photos. The processor is of the Intel Core Duo 2 variety - a very capable model which is a solid all-round performer. In practical terms, even though it's a computer primarily designed for the amateur market, the MB061B/A handles graphic intensive applications rather well - Photoshop CS4 in particular runs smoothly, as does Adobe Illustrator and inDesign. No, the laptop won't be able to display the latest games to their full graphical potential - but then again it isn't a machine designed for gaming. As you would expect, the laptop has Bluetooth and AirPort Extreme 802.11n Wi-Fi capabilities, both of which I'm happy to report no problems with.
Price & Availability - how much should I pay for the laptop?
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As it's not one of Apple's newest models, the MB061B/A can be picked up for around £450 online - this represents a bargain considering the fact that Apple's latest entry-level MacBook is a whopping £400 more. If you're interested in buying a secondhand MB061B, then you should be looking to spend in the region of £250 - £350 from eBay depending on the item's condition.
Keyboard - the keys to the kingdom
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When it comes to typing, I'm generally very fussy about the location / feel of my keys, and luckily the MacBook's setup is spot-on. All of the keys are placed in easily accessible positions on a slightly sunken keyboard which is a pleasure to behold. Where the keyboard comes into its own is with the actual feel of the keys - I know that everyone has their own preference with regard to keyboard type, but here, Apple have really hit the spot. The low profile keys feel crisp, look good, and make a pleasing sound when pressed. I especially appreciate the separation of the individual keys, which seems to reduce errors when typing at full speed. The trackpad is large and responsive, with a generous single button located underneath. When new, the trackpad has a slightly textured feel, but this becomes smooth and glossy after a year or so of use - this doesn't really effect the performance, but I did prefer the feel of the trackpad when it was new.
Screen, Surround, & Disc Drive
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The MacBook MB061B's high quality 13.3" (1280 x 800 pixels) widescreen display is very impressive - glossy, crisp, and surprisingly glare-free in sunny conditions. Small text appears very readable due to an outstanding clarity, and colours (which are adjustable via the System Preferences 'Display' application) are vibrant and pure. I would say that the quality of MacBook screens are one of this particular range of laptop's major selling points, and since using this computer, I haven't encountered as much eye-strain as I have in the past. Above the screen is a tiny 'EyeSight' camera, which can function as a webcam - handy for those free Skype video calls to Australia. The screen closes in a smooth manner, fitting superbly onto the keyboard via a seamless and latch free system - engineering to the highest standard. The MacBook takes CDs and DVDs via a slot loading input on the right side of the device - discs are accepted by the computer in a fairly fluent (albeit quite noisy) motion, and removed similarly effectively. In use, the drive is fairly quiet, and disc read and write speeds are generally impressive.
Durability - will the computer survive if it falls off the table!?
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There's no doubting that the MB061B/A is one of the tough cookies of the laptop world - I've dropped, stood on (albeit lightly), and generally abused (accidentally) the machine, all without adverse effects. My worst crime was to accidentally spill a cup of white spirit into the keyboard (not the best place to spill, considering that a laptop's vital components are usually located behind the keys), and even then the MacBook lived to fight another day. It's no surprise then, that I've got not qualms about the computer from a tougness perspective, as it really delivers the goods.
Battery Life & Charger
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These days, the lifespan of the humble laptop battery is increasing exponentially, with some manufacturers offering a miraculous seven or eight hours continuous use. The MacBook's Lithium Polymer battery isn't quite so impressive, but when new it should give you between three and four hours to play with. As my MacBook is a couple of years old, it now only manages around two hours from a full charge before giving up the ghost - still, not bad at all. It should be noted that the battery life will improve if you decide to switch off Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or any other features that you may not be using. The battery charger comes in the form of Apple's ultra-impressive 'Magsafe' system - the cable connects to the laptop via magnetism alone, and any excess strain on the cord will break the connection and pull it free from its socket. Therefore, tripping over the cable will result in it releasing from the computer body without the computer itself being pulled with it - genius.
Additional Features - tying up the loose ends
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Located at a right angle to the keyboard, parallel to the base of the screen, are the MacBook's stereo speakers - these relatively small sound-producing units are actually *fairly* decent for their size. I would describe the quality of the sound output as 'solid', handling high-end mid to treble sounds with a certain clarity, but lacking any real depth of bass at the other end. Not a bad effort - and probably quite high ranking when compared the the other laptop speakers i've heard in the past. In terms of the input and output sockets, the laptop features two USB 2.0 ports, a Firewire input, a headphone, and a microphone slot. There's also video out in the form of a mini-DVI display port, and internet is catered for (apart from via Wi-Fi) with an Ethernet port.
Issues - any problems encountered?
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I'm not going to lie, I have encountered a few problems with my MacBook - but the majority of these issues have been software rather than hardware related, and subsequently fixed via a software update direct from Apple. The only hardware problem I have faced relates to the plastic shell around the keyboard, which started to crack slightly after a year or so of use - It was only a slight cosmetic issue, but annoying nevertheless. That said, it's an issue which Apple are generally happy to replace for free, as there's now a newer less-brittle casing available which seems to solve the problem.
Final Word - an essential purchase?
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Overall, I'm incredibly happy with the MacBook MB061B/A - it's a laptop which I have found to be reliable, good looking, and powerful enough for my needs. Like many of Apple's machines, it's a computer built with the consumer in mind - fun, accessible, and comfortable to use - the fact that it remains fairly cool when placed on the lap for extended periods is a definite bonus. In combination with Apple's OSX Snow Leopard operating system, the computer is one of the best consumer laptops that i've had the pleasure to use, and a definite bargain at today's prices. No, it's not a perfect device, and there are a few issues which serve as minor annoyances - but overall, it's a great machine which really delivers the goods.
Additional Technical Info
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Processor - Intel Core 2 Duo
Processor Clock Speed - 2100 MHz
Hard drive Capacity - 120 GB
Display Resolution - 1280 x 800 pixels, 13.3" TFT
Memory - 2 x 512 MB (maximum internal memory 4 GB) DDR2
Optical drive type - CD-RW / DVD-ROM Combo
Number of built-in speakers - 2
Bluetooth version - 2.0+EDR
Wireless technology - IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n
Battery Technology - Lithium polymer
Dimensions - 227 mm (d) x 325 mm (w) x 27.5 mm (h)
Weight - 2270g
I bought my Macbook just before going to University. I absolutely love it and would not go back to a Windows computer now. Safari, the internet explorer for Apple, works very quickly, so is good for people who can be impatient waiting for web pages to load. Whenever I use my dads windows laptop I get annoyed because it is so slow in comparison to mine. I love the way it looks, it is so easy to type on and has unique little things for example you use two fingers on the pad to scroll down. The screen is clear and makes watching anything on it easy. I would say it is quite lightweight for a laptop and the charger has a magnetic connection to it so if you happen to knock the charger lead it will come out and not bring your laptop with it. The battery life is also very good on my laptop, I have had it nearly 3 and a half years now and I can still get 5 hours battery life out of it. I love the applications especially iphoto. I have so many pictures and it is nice to be able to organise them so easily into different events. Also from iphoto you are able to make your own photo books, calendars etc and send off for them, and they are brilliant quality. Another good application which is a lot of fun is photo booth, taking pictures and using different effects to change them around. At first it did take me a little while to get used to my laptop but it really is not that hard and you become comfortable with it and where things are on it fairly quickly. I would definitely recommend this laptop.
I got this product approximately two years ago now and I haven't ever used anything so simple, sturdy and reliable as an apple macbook.
In the time that I have had this laptop the family have already gone through two Windows based laptops that have all either decided to die after a year or just become so virus riddled that they refuse to work.
The build of the laptop is rather nice although after a year or so the plastic just below the keyboard has gained a somewhat dirty tinge to it and some bit's have cracked off but nothing majorly faulty.
The laptop still runs like a dream with me almost never having to restart due to frustratingly slow programs or system faults.
If anyone is unsure about using OSX then I can tell you now that I was a windows user all my life up until I got this laptop and ever since then I have never looked back. Grasping the way of the apple os was simple and took less than a week before I was flying around it doing everything I would normally do on XP.
Definitely worth more than it's price.
The only let downs for this laptop were the cracking on the plastic, limited size of the HDD (which can be easily upgraded by anyone with minimal computing knowledge) and the lack of a DVD burning drive.
9/10 from me
I have had this little mac for some time now, and must say it has served me well. As a previous PC user, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect, yet it ticked all the boxes.
Only about 1 month ago did I have a problem with it, and having spent a long time on google trying to solve it, all I established is that I am not alone. One day out of the blue the battery stopped being recognised. Having downloaded various patches from the mac website that are designed to fix this, it remains unrecognised. This means it has to be plugged in to work. On my old PC laptop, this would have been less of a problem as the plug was fairly sturdy, but these little macs have a very clever magnetic power connector - a feature I previously thought was brilliant, it now means that if I move too quickly the cord falls out, and as the battery doesn't work I lose whatever I was working on. From the forums, some people have managed to get new batteries out of apple mac, others not. I unfortunately fall into the latter category, and a new battery is not cheap.
One of the other shortcomings is simply the screen size... I am always having to look for the zoom button on word as everything starts so tiny! But then the compact size is also one of its selling points, so it's an inevitable trade off.
Perhaps now mac are aware of the battery problem, they will have fixed it on newer models. I do hope so, as otherwise I think this is a great little machine.
This Macbook looks great and quite different and is better made than many other machines with similar specifications. In white, which is the standard/cheaper option it looks very different from your average laptop. If you prefer Mac OSX rather than a Windows operating system I would certainly recommend it. I am a fan of unix, which is the underlying operating system for all Macs (i.e. the layer of software below Mac OSX) which is very accessible through a Terminal window, but this is probably irrelevant for most users. If however you prefer Windows (e.g. Vista) it is also possible to run Windows via a program called Bootcamp although of course this would add extra expense unless a copy of Windows is already available, because Apple only supply the one operating system, and this does impact a little on the available disk-space. Personally I think this is an extravagant way of getting a Windows PC , unless you really want that Apple style.
Some free open-source software is also available, such as Gimp, the Linux photo-editing program (similar to Photoshop), because Linux and Unix are in fact virtually identical, but any software specifically for Apple from any source will generally be as expensive as the PC equivalent and probably available some time later, because there are far fewer users of Apples (unless you run Windows on your macbook)
In terms of performance it is a fast machine, with Intel dual-core processors, which can be made ever faster by doubling or quadrupling the RAM (1 GB is standard) although buying extra memory from Apple is expensive so upgrading using non-Apple memory at a later stage could be more cost-effective than buying a higher specification initially. Battery-life is very good at up to 6 hours and the clever magnetic power-cable that detaches if someone trips over it rather than pulling the macbook onto the floor has probably saved me a few quid in repair bills already.
It is however perhaps more expensive than some of its rivals and the screen is quite small for jobs such as photo-editing, but so far I have had no regrets in paying the extra for this wonderful little machine.