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It’s not just beautiful. It breaks the mold for thin-and-light notebooks. The new MacBook’s unibody aluminum construction, one-of-a-kind touchpad, and edge-to-edge glass display draw you in, but what impresses us most about Apple’s overhaul of its most popular portable is that it offers robust productivity and graphics performance without sacrificing endurance. Yes, you can find comparably configured and attractive Windows systems for less money. But in the case of the newest MacBook (and the new MacBook Pro as well), users get impressive style and speed—and a software bundle that’s actually useful and not chock-full of crapware—with very few trade-offs.

A New Look

The newest MacBook borrows some of the design elements introduced with the first MacBook Air—namely, an aluminum chassis with rounded edges. Like the Air, it has a shallow black keyboard with isolated keys (the last-generation MacBook also had an island keyboard, but its color matched the chassis).

Although the MacBook’s aluminum surface looks as smooth as the original Air’s, it feels much sturdier. Thanks to a new manufacturing process, the MacBook (and all the other notebooks in the line, save for the entry-level plastic MacBook and the 17-inch Pro, which keeps its old design) is made from one piece of metal, called the unibody, which makes it more resistant to breakage.

Indeed, the MacBook’s 12.8 x 8.9 x 1.0-inch chassis felt solid in our hands—not to mention light: At 4.5 pounds it’s half a pound lighter than the previous MacBook (not to mention 0.13 inches thinner). And now, of course, you get the durability that was once reserved for business users.

All Touch, No Buttons

The island keyboard on our $1,599 configuration is backlit in low-light conditions, but this feature is absent from the $1,299 version. It’s whisper-quiet and comfortable to type on, but for people used to pillowy keys, it might take some getting used to. Although both the MacBook and MacBook Pro’s island keybords are quiet and comfy, the 13-inch MacBook’s keys feel a tad shallower in comparison.


The MacBook builds on the last generation’s multi-touch touchpad, which allowed users to manipulate on-screen objects as they would on an iPhone: spread your fingers to zoom in on a Web page, or peruse photos with the swipe of a finger. This glass touchpad is 39 percent larger than those of previous MacBooks, and new multi-touch gestures allow users to activate Exposé or switch between applications by using four fingers.


Aside from its size, the other notable feature of the touchpad is its lack of buttons. Rather, the entire pad doubles as a button. Once you realize that you’ll get better results by pressing down on the lower end of the pad, using it feels intuitive.

The touchpad has just the right amount of resistance. Mastering the art of multi-touch took a few minutes, but once we did, it became addictive. Unfortunately, you can still use multi-touch only in Apple applications. For instance, we were able to zoom in on a Safari page by spreading two fingers apart; we could not replicate this in Firefox 3. Mac users have always been able to “right-click” by tapping with two fingers, but now, users can designate the lower right section of the touchpad for right-clicking.

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