Personally, I’m so glad I held out. The computer I owned before this one was a January 2007 white plastic MacBook, and the difference is more than incredible.
The Obvious vs. the Subtle
This new notebook is obviously an improvement, you don’t need anybody to tell you that. The specification speaks for itself: 2.4GHz (up from 2.26), a solid state drive providing blisteringly fast boot times and application launches, and an NVIDIA GeForce 320M instead of the very tired Intel X3100.
It’s got an SD card slot, Firewire 800, a multitouch buttonless trackpad. The battery life lasts for a whole day of light use now, where it would have buckled by lunch before. I’ve had five hours of train journeys today where I’ve been watching movies and listening to music (brightness ~50%, no Wi-Fi, no Bluetooth), and it’s still 40% remaining. The build-quality and how solid the machine feels is second-to-none.
This is all great. But where Apple really shines is taking the smallest things they could possibly change, and improving them to provide the best user experience they can. Here’s a few examples:
- This model has a backlit keyboard, and with it an ambient light sensor. Which means they dim the screen and activate the keyboard backlight whenever, for example, this train goes into a tunnel, and brighten it again when the clouds reappear.
- Speaking of the screen brightness, it now fades between different brightness levels instead of obvious, staccato changes. And the LED backlight allows for great flexibility; it can go even brighter than previously when needed, but also dimmer for stealthy night-time web browsing.
- The speakers sound significantly better. They’re still tinny, laptop speakers, but a vast improvement.
- The headphone/line-in jacks have been replaced with one for both audio in and out. This change brings with it support for iPhone microphones and in-line remote controls when using iTunes.
- The MagSafe connector has been changed to be more like the MacBook Air, so it’s now much harder to knock out accidentally.
Take the screen brightness fading up and down. It might seem like a trivial point, but together with everything else, it adds up to what I believe to be the best laptop experience you can buy today. Don’t get me wrong, they’re expensive. You can get something for £400 from Acer, or £600 from Dell. And while they might look the same when you’re comparing gigahertz and revolutions-per-minute, I can assure you that they’re vastly different.