First look: Apple's redesigned 13-inch unibody MacBook

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited January 2014
Apple's revamped new MacBook takes everything the company learned from last year's aluminum unibody MacBook Pro redesign and applies it to make a solid, curvy, entry level notebook that carries the same $999 price tag.



With the release of its new aluminum unibody MacBooks last fall, Apple appeared to be taking its entire notebook line upscale. That was in dramatic contrast to the course being pursued by the rest of the industry, where generic PC makers were all scrambling to roll out netbooks and achieve record new lows in pricing in order to entice users to buy something, anything during the recession.



Apple replaced its 5-pound, white plastic MacBook with Intel GMA X3100 graphics with a 4.5-pound, thinner, precision-engineered new 13.3-inch aluminum model sporting NVIDIA's new 9400M graphics for slightly more (but missing FireWire). Apple continued to sell its old "white plastic MacBook" as a low end placeholder for users who wanted to spend less than a grand (or for users who wanted a small notebook with FireWire).



This year, Apple twice souped up the plastic MacBook model with 9400 graphics and a speed bump, first in January and again in May. Shortly afterward, Apple clarified things at WWDC when it rereleased its aluminum notebooks as "MacBook Pros" across the line (with FireWire), offering some significant differentiation between the 13.3" MacBook Pro and the its cheaper plastic little brother.



This month, that reshuffling began to make more sense as Apple debuted a redesigned new unibody MacBook that incorporates many of the design advancements premiered a year ago on the company's higher end models:



the thinner, lighter, more rigid construction



a new built-in battery that lasts much longer



the removal of all flaps and levers and covers (it now takes a screwdriver to open the back panel)



a new multitouch glass trackpad



new Mini DisplayPort video output (rather than mini-DVI)



combined audio input and output ports (rather than separate audio in and out jacks)

Missing from the new $999 unibody MacBook is a backlit keyboard (which all MacBook Pros now have); FireWire (new MacBook Pros all offer FireWire 800); and the SD Card reader that replaced the ExpressCard/34 slot on the 15-inch MacBook Pro and appeared on the 13-inch MacBook Pro.



Unpacking the new MacBook



The new model comes in the same familiar box. Inside, there's a MacBook Air-style MagSafe adapter with extension cord and the little packet with an introductory manual, stickers, and restoration DVDs.



The new machine doesn't look remarkably different at first glance: It still sports the super-glossy screen and recessed white keyboard that the original MacBook debuted with in 2006. The hinge design, rounded corners, lighter and thinner body, and huge new multitouch trackpad are new, as is the degree of gloss you'll notice on all sides of the new notebook. It's shiny.







A handsome backside



Viewed from the side, the new body's rounded edges are more prominent, as is its hinge design. The back is covered in a rubberized matte finish over a single cover held in place by eight Phillips screws. There's no panel for the battery or hard drive, so it's just a smooth expanse of minimalism







Round and rigid



With a closer look, the new body is revealed to be similar to the aluminum MacBook Pros, but rather than being a rounded-off rectangle of solid metal, the new MacBook has the glossy polycarbonate curves of the iPhone. The fit and finish is nearly as solid and precise as the aluminum models, but the shiny white plastic is a fingerprint and scratch magnet, more closely related to the iPhone 3GS.







It seems to be well crafted as a compromise between cost effectiveness and clean, strong lines of minimalism. It looks $200 cheaper than the similarly sized MacBook Pro, and it is.







Oh shiny



Apple's plastic notebooks have always been shiny, but the new model looks to be about as glossy from every angle as could be possible. That means after a few weeks, it will likely begin looking like a broken-in pair of comfortable jeans unless it is handled like the Hope Diamond.



No, that's no Photoshop, it's just MacBook shininess held up to the light in such a way as to allow inconspicuous spying on the neighbors' houses.







The difference of a half decade



To see the progress Apple has made on a design level over the last half decade, here's a 2005 iBook G4 up close to the new model. No clunky port framing, no huge intake gills, no exposed screws on the side, and nearly half as thick.







There's also considerably better fit and finish overall. The old iBook isn't worn out, it shipped with that warped frame around its hinge. The lid didn't come within a millimeter of the body when closed, but hovered with a big gap, held down by a clumsy mechanical catch that necessitated a big button to release it.







Our full review is coming up, so don't hesitate to post questions in the forum thread about the new MacBook that we can try to answer.



Exclusive Savings



Meanwhile, those interested in the new 13-inch unibody MacBook can pick one up from OnSale.com at a $100 savings when combining the reseller's mail-in-rebates with an additional 3% discount offered exclusively to AppleInsider readers. To take advantage of the offer, use this link to access OnSale's MacBook product page. To see the 3% discount and achieve the final price of $899.18, you must first add the MacBook to your shopping cart. The 3% discount is reflected as "Instant Discount(s)" during checkout, after the items have been placed in your shopping cart.



For similar offers on the remainder of Apple's Mac product line, please see our full-fledged Mac Price Guide.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 95
    irelandireland Posts: 17,584member
    Quote:

    Unpacking. A handsome backside. Round and rigid. Oh shiny. The difference of a half decade. Exclusive Savings.



    We are talking about a laptop right?
  • Reply 2 of 95
    That is one tacky laptop.
  • Reply 3 of 95
    cmf2cmf2 Posts: 1,427member
    Just to give Teckstud some fuel, there is no IR receiver or firewire on this thing. Which reminds me, I haven't seen my Apple remote in a while....
  • Reply 4 of 95
    i love it
  • Reply 5 of 95
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,946member
    Exactly what part of the new one is nearly half as thick as the same part of the G4 counterpart? The article isn't seriously suggesting that the old iBook was 2" thick, is it? Too bad the wording was clunky. Running the numbers, the new model is 20% thinner than the old, but the previous MacBook is the same thickness as the new one.
  • Reply 6 of 95
    sheffsheff Posts: 1,407member
    But will it run Crysis?



    I dunno about this one. I have a late 07 whitebook, 2.16 with 3.3GB Ram limit. I had my MacBook chip away slowly, but that was fixed by apple for free no problem. Now I think I like mine better then the new one, and here is why:

    1. Firewire (400) still have it

    2. Sound in

    3. About as thick

    4. Not as shiny/ finger print magnet.

    5. Still No Backlit keyboard



    Why I consider buying it:

    1. 9400m

    2. $999

    3. Long ass battery life.
  • Reply 7 of 95
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by manfrommars View Post


    That is one tacky laptop.



    That's what I thought. Apart from losing the cracking wrist pad, this seems like a step backwards aesthetically from the previous model.
  • Reply 8 of 95
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    For the extra $200 I?d go for the aluminium MBP which is lighter, thinner, has the IR sensor, FW800, SD card slot, battery indicator, backlit keyboard and much better display.
  • Reply 9 of 95
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by manfrommars View Post


    That is one tacky laptop.



    I've never bought an entry level not matter how gorgeous and shiny it looks. It underperforms in the advertising world. Pro all the way for me.

    This part of the world, the MB is around the 4K mark - taking into consideration that I earn the same dollar to dollar when working with US and local companies.
  • Reply 10 of 95
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,946member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by cmf2 View Post


    Just to give Teckstud some fuel, there is no IR receiver or firewire on this thing. Which reminds me, I haven't seen my Apple remote in a while....



    I can't imagine the remote sensor being too expensive or complicated, so I wonder if it's an admission that most people don't use the thing? I'm surprised they didn't axe the little iSight thing. It always seemed like a gimmick anyways.
  • Reply 11 of 95
    The Engadget staff has had one for less than 20 hours I think before they reviewed it, and it looks like its been through WW3 already.



    Also you can get much better prices from many university bookstore websites, than what your advertising. And no you dont need a student id to order them.
  • Reply 12 of 95
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post


    Exactly what part of the new one is nearly half as thick as the same part of the G4 counterpart? The article isn't seriously suggesting that the old iBook was 2" thick, is it? Too bad the wording was clunky. Running the numbers, the new model is 20% thinner than the iBook, but the previous MacBook is the same thickness as the new one.



    It didn’t look half as thick in the images.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Daniel001 View Post


    That's what I thought. Apart from losing the cracking wrist pad, this seems like a step backwards aesthetically from the previous model.



    This one does look dumpier to me, and that rubber bottom looks problematic.
  • Reply 13 of 95
    cmf2cmf2 Posts: 1,427member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post


    I can't imagine the remote sensor being too expensive or complicated, so I wonder if it's an admission that most people don't use the thing? I'm surprised they didn't axe the little iSight thing. It always seemed like a gimmick anyways.



    I have no idea why they axed the remote sensor. I did feel it was worth mentioning in the odd chance that someone was planning on buying this with the intention of using the remote. I have used my remote on many occasions when travelling and watching a movie on my MBP screen or hooked up to a TV (if the hotel room TV was modern enough to support something other than a coaxial plug). Although I don't think many MB users would have the same intentions, nonetheless, it is disappointing if you want it.



    As for the iSight, I know some people use it and most PC manufacturers have followed suite and included a webcam with their laptops, but it does seem like a gimmick to me as well.
  • Reply 14 of 95
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by manfrommars View Post


    That is one tacky laptop.



    and this sums it all from the write-up:



    It looks $200 cheaper than the similarly sized MacBook Pro, and it is.





    well, looks like I've $1000 to spend on something else for xmas!
  • Reply 15 of 95
    msnlymsnly Posts: 378member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by cmf2 View Post


    As for the iSight, I know some people use it and most PC manufacturers have followed suite and included a webcam with their laptops, but it does seem like a gimmick to me as well.



    I don't know about that. I've seen lots of people that use and I use mine some. It's a nice feature.
  • Reply 16 of 95
    Out of interest, how do those who have one of the current generation Macbooks find the built-in battery?



    I remember when they came out there was a lot of discussion about:



    1. Would the battery claims by Apple be believable (I suspected in the real world, not)?

    2. Would not being able to change the battery be a problem?



    Now people have been living with them in the real world for a period of time, how do you feel about the new battery technology?
  • Reply 17 of 95
    elrothelroth Posts: 1,201member
    To AI:



    I really don't mind you having ads on your site (you do what you have to do), but you could at least pretend to be journalists, and separate the sales pitch from the story of the object you're "reviewing."



    Are you actually going to give a fair review, if at the end you direct readers to a seller of the product, who just happens to give discounts to AI readers? And if your "review" is sponsored by a seller of the product you're "reviewing"?



    If your review convinces me to buy the product (if I were that gullible), then you make money by directing me to the seller. You should just say in the headline it's an advertisement, not a review.
  • Reply 18 of 95
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by elroth View Post


    To AI:



    I really don't mind you having ads on your site (you do what you have to do), but you could at least pretend to be journalists, and separate the sales pitch from the story of the object you're "reviewing."



    Are you actually going to give a fair review, if at the end you direct readers to a seller of the product, who just happens to give discounts to AI readers? And if your "review" is sponsored by a seller of the product you're "reviewing"?



    If your review convinces me to buy the product (if I were that gullible), then you make money by directing me to the seller. You should just say in the headline it's an advertisement, not a review.



    There is a huge ad at the beginning of the review: "MacMall Official Sponsor of AI's Mac Review Series".



    Maybe it just showed up.
  • Reply 19 of 95
    hattighattig Posts: 830member
    I think paying extra for the 13" Mac Book Pro is a no brainer.



    If you can't stretch to the extra money, then you shouldn't be spending your last pennies on the MacBook either.
  • Reply 20 of 95
    rayboraybo Posts: 32member
    I think that the major upgrade to specs here is that the display is now the same as in the MBP.
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