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Review Apple MacBook Aluminum Notebook

Aluminum Starter Brick.

The currently smallest aluminum MacBook with 2.0 GHz Core 2 Duo, 160 GB HDD and without keyboard lighting in review. Does the economical configuration suffice or should you dig considerably deeper in your pocket for the 2.4 GHz version?

Apple MacBook Aluminium 2008

The aluminum MacBook from the beginning of 2009 is available in two configurations. One version with a 2.0 GHz Core 2 processor, 160 GB hard disk and a faster one with a 2.4 GHz CPU, 250 GB HDD, and a background lit keyboard. Apple charges a dear price of 300.00 Euros for this update. After the review of the 2.4 GHz Macbook, we want to present Apple's small aluminum starter brick in the following check.

Case

The Macbook's aluminum case labeled "Unibody" still sets standards on design and workmanship. Furthermore, haptic and stability are also on the highest state-of-the-art level. Compared to the other MacBook Pro Unibody laptops, the design of the 13" MacBook appears to be more adapted to the proportions and is therefore the most optically pleasing Apple notebook today.

Only the somewhat hard front edge and the glass trackpad placed far front could become unpleasantly noticeable at longer use.

The MacBook is a smaller copy of the bigger MBP notebooks.
The MacBook is a smaller copy of the bigger MBP notebooks.

Connectivity

The connectivity is barely just acceptable for a 13" notebook. The built in mini display port forces the purchase of various expensive adapters in order to connect external monitors. The two USB ports also often proved to be insufficient in the practical test.

Front: MacRemote Irda, Status LED
Front: MacRemote Irda, Status LED
Left: MagSafe (Power), Gigabit LAN, 2x USB 2.0, Mini Display Port, Line-In (analog / optical), Headphones or Line-out (analog / optical), Kensington Lock, LED battery status
Left: MagSafe (Power), Gigabit LAN, 2x USB 2.0, Mini Display Port, Line-In (analog / optical), Headphones or Line-out (analog / optical), Kensington Lock, LED battery status
Right: Superdrive (DVD RW drive)
Right: Superdrive (DVD RW drive)

Apple includes the newest Mac OS 10.5.6 "Leopard" operating system and the application suite iLife 2009 as software. Thus, the starter is actually equipped for all common tasks.

Apple offers a 12 month guarantee as standard. This can be extended directly at Apple to 36 months for about 249.00 Euros (support included). Even if this is still a proud price, it is about 50.00 Euros less than for the older MacBook models. Apple obviously trusts the new manufacturing method somewhat more than the one prior, or they reacted to the critique on the high warranty prices. 

Input Devices

Single-Keyed Keyboard

The new MacBook keyboard is also based on the pre-work of the MacBook Air and is identical to the keyboards of the new MacBook Pro (15" & 17"). The single keys are, like in the predecessor, let into the case directly and have a soft stroke with a palpable pressure point. Thanks to the multiple screwing of the keyboard unit to the full-body, the keys sit tightly in the case and don't clatter. A bending isn't possible due to the aluminium cover, either.

The Apple keyboard's layout is well-executed for the Mac OS X. An immediate touch typing was possible without further ado in the practical test. The small arrow keys (rather disagreeable mainly for gamers) and the thin enter key have remained untouched.

Apple builds the practical background key-light only into the top model and is unfortunately omitted in the small MacBook.

As always, Windows PC switchers have to be warned. The layout is optimized for Mac OS X and due to the sparse lettering (i.e. the lettering for the "[]{} symbols are missing) you won't come about trial & error attempts in the beginning.

The new Glass Trackpad

The new trackpad is made of glass and also identical to the bigger MacBook (Pro) Unibody notebooks. The excellent gliding traits and the fabulous drivers for Mac OS X (including multitouch gestures) are also pleasing. The missing touchpad keys are bearable under Mac OS X; under Windows you always again meet its limits (i.e. with drag & drop) because of the more moderate driver support. Hence, Windows-users should additionally include an external mouse.

Single-keyed keyboard
Single-keyed keyboard
Glass trackpad
Glass trackpad

Display

Mirror, mirror… - This is the best way to describe a display surface covered with a glass facade. The maximum brightness of 265 cd/m2 of our test device was once more considerably lower than that of the 2.4 GHz test devices in our first tests (318 cd/m2 and 300 cd/m2). The brightness is still sufficient for interiors. But, the pre-set stable glass panel reflects very strongly in bright surroundings and especially outdoors, though.

The maximum contrast of 166:1 is similarly weak as in other MacBook models and the illumination isn't very homogeneous, either. Generally, it's therefore not an outstanding display, but in comparison to the older white MacBook demonstrably better, though.

MBP 17 versus MB 2.0 Display
230
cd/m²
254
cd/m²
222
cd/m²
208
cd/m²
246
cd/m²
183
cd/m²
211
cd/m²
240
cd/m²
180
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
Information
Maximum: 254 cd/m²
Average: 219.3 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 71 %
Black: 1.53 cd/m²
Contrast: 161:1

The color space of the little 13" wide screen is, as it is common for standard notebook TN displays, more modest and stays considerably below the standard RGB color space (see diagram).

With Spyder3Elite calibrated MacBook display
With Spyder3Elite calibrated MacBook display
Doesn't cover the standard RGB (transparent) by far
Doesn't cover the standard RGB (transparent) by far
Visibly smaller than the MBP 17 color space (transparent)
Visibly smaller than the MBP 17 color space (transparent)

The viewing angles are a bit worse than in the MacBook Pro, but still can't be called restrictive, as long as you sit alone before the device. The reaction times were subjectively sufficient, because the observed streaks were kept in limits.

Viewing angle compilation
Viewing angle compilation

Performance

The MCP79 chipset with integrated GeForce 9400M graphic also comes to use in the smaller 2 GHz MacBook Aluminum, as in the bigger and in the new plastic MacBook. 256 MB of the fast DDR3 RAM are assigned to the graphic unit in Mac OS X. Hence, the graphic performance is comparable to starter graphic cards with a dedicated graphic memory (ATI Radeon HD 3450 or Geforce 9300M GS).

The white polycarbonate MacBook is equipped with the same processor/graphic combination from Apple and differs itself only through the applied DDR2 main memory. This should especially brake the graphic performance somewhat.

Crysis was just still playable with an average of 30 fps at "low" detail settings and a resolution of 1024x786 in the practical gaming test. With a lower resolution you should also "get through" in the challenging game's progress, but the graphical delight is very limited with theses settings.

Older and less demanding games, like Sims 2 or Spore should run well on the MacBook (as well as on the stronger one).

On the whole, you can say that the performance of the 9400M suffices for undemanding, occasional gamers.

Cinebench R10 comparision MB & MB Pro Pro
Cinebench R10 comparison MB & MB Pro Pro
3D Mark
3DMark 053908 points
3DMark 06
 1280x800
2079 points
Help
3DMark 06 in comparison
Asus N10E (min)
 N270, Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 950
91
   ...
Dell Latitude E6400 XFR
 P9600, Quadro NVS 160M
1841
Apple MacBook White 2009-05
 P7450, GeForce 9400M (G) / ION (LE)
1916
Samsung Q210
 P7350, GeForce 9200M GS
2068
Apple MacBook Aluminium
 P7350, GeForce 9400M (G) / ION (LE)
2079
Lenovo Miix 2 8
 Z3740, HD Graphics (Bay Trail)
2087
Apple MacBook 2009-10
 P7550, GeForce 9400M (G) / ION (LE)
2148
Apple MacBook Aluminium
 P8600, GeForce 9400M (G) / ION (LE)
2148
   ...
Samsung Serie 7 700Z3C-S01 (max)
 3210M, GeForce GT 630M
9346

The application performance, with its slow clock-rated Core 2 Duo P7350 of 2 GHz, is to be allocated in the lower center span of all tested laptops. Similarly priced Window notebooks can usually come up with considerably stronger hardware. However, the CPU/GPU combination is completely sufficient for daily tasks.

As a comparison, in the PC Vantage benchmark test the faster 2.4 GHz version was approx. 10% quicker.

PC Mark
PCMark 054704 points
PCMark Vantage3038 points
Help
PCMark Vantage in comparison
Sony SV-S1311G4E (min)
 2350M, HD Graphics 3000
811
   ...
HP Pavilion dv6-1211sg
 T4200, Mobility Radeon HD 4650
3004
Lenovo IdeaPad S215 59372287
 A4-5000, Radeon HD 8330
3014
Dell Inspiron M301z
 K625, Radeon HD 4225
3017
Apple MacBook Aluminium
 P7350, GeForce 9400M (G) / ION (LE)
3038
Acer Aspire V5-551-64454G50Makk
 A6-4455M, Radeon HD 7500G
3053
HawkForce Mobile.ForceM13.S1
 T6400, Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 4500MHD
3053
Dell Adamo
 SU9400, Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 4500MHD
3061
   ...
One K56-3F (max)
 4700MQ, GeForce GT 750M
23558
Cinebench R10
 SettingsValue
 Rendering Single 32Bit2139 Points
 Rendering Multiple CPUs 32Bit4028 Points
 Shading 32Bit3022 Points

The integrated 160 GB hard disk in the small Unibody Macbook rotates, like the 250 GB hard disk in the superior configuration, with 5400 rotations per minute. The disk places itself in all HDTune tests short over the 250 GB disk and is therefore also found in a good center span.

Fujitsu MHZ2160BH FFS G1
Transfer Rate Minimum: 16.9 MB/s
Transfer Rate Maximum: 62.3 MB/s
Transfer Rate Average: 48.6 MB/s
Access Time: 17.4 ms
Burst Rate: 86.3 MB/s
CPU Usage: 1.9 %

Emissions

The measured surface temperatures of the small MacBook almost correlate to the same experiences of the stronger notebook. The whole notebook stayed very cool without load. The device's upper left part heated up to a max. of 40°C after longer full load periods. The wrist rests remained with a max. of 34°C rather cool.

Stress Test

The internal temperatures stayed with a maximum of 86°C within a limit after 8h full load (extremely high stress with Furmark and Prime95). Specifically, the graphic card core swayed between 76 and 85°C. The processor reached 67°C, the single cores 86°C.

Max. Load
 40.9 °C39.9 °C31.8 °C 
 32.2 °C36.8 °C29.8 °C 
 31.7 °C29.8 °C29.9 °C 
Maximum: 40.9 °C
Average: 33.6 °C
32.6 °C43.6 °C41.4 °C
31.4 °C38.2 °C39.3 °C
29.8 °C30.3 °C31.3 °C
Maximum: 43.6 °C
Average: 35.3 °C
Room Temperature 24 °C

System Noise

We could establish a maximum of 35 dB in our noise measurements of the 2.0 GHz MacBook. The measured 44.8 dB of the 2.4 GB model didn't come to a halt even after a longer full load period. But it could possibly come to these loud fan levels at warmer surroundings.

Our test device was even quieter than the 2.4 GHz model without load. Our measuring instrument noted values of under 30 dB (minimum evaluation) at 15 cm in front of the device. Hence, the small MacBook is as quiet as a whisper and very pleasant at daily use. Merely a quiet rattling was conceivable at hard disk access.

The built in loudspeakers also play clear and (in a few English videos almost) adequately loud at maximum volume. In comparison to the bigger MacBook Pro, the speakers are considerably quieter, though.

The sound is somewhat restrained because the loudspeakers emit through the vents.
Except for the lacking basses they sound remarkably good for their position and size. You can describe the sound system as very satisfactory for undemanding music listening.

Noise Level

Idle 29 / 29 / 29 dB(A)
HDD 29.5 dB(A)
DVD 32.8 / dB(A)
Load 34.8 / 34.8 dB(A)
 
    30 dB
silent
40 dB
audible
50 dB
loud
 
min: , med: , max:     (15 cm distance)

Battery Life

Due to the low display brightness of our test device (in comparison to the stronger MB at hand) and the weaker processor, the battery also survived slightly longer in the test. Maybe Apple tweaked something in Window's drivers, in any case the runtimes of about 6 (load) – 30 (idle) minutes are longer than for the 2.4 GHz model.

The battery achieved a sensational 7 h and 24 min under Mac OS X in idle (min. brightness, BT and WLAN off, PDF open and every now and then scrolled).

To completely charge the 45 Wh battery, the little aluminum notebook needs about four hours (at simultaneous use).

The runtimes are very well suitable for the small battery and don't restrict the mobility.

Power Consumption

Off / Standby 0.2 / 0.4 Watt
Idle 8.5 / 12.0 / 13.2 Watt
Load 37.0 / 46.4 Watt
 
Key: min: , med: , max:         
Battery Runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
4h 00min
WiFi Surfing
3h 13min
DVD
2h 21min
Load (maximum brightness)
1h 36min

MAC OS X Lateral Entrants

As for all Apple products, Window switchers have to be warned that Mac OS X follows a few different usability concepts. It may be possible for PC newbies to learn the Macintosh concept more easily. You can find more detailed information in our previous MacBook Pro long-term test report. One thing first: Window programs only run on Mac OS X with an installed Windows (per emulation) or on a parallel-installed Windows partition.

Source: Case, Test MacBook Alu

Verdict

After we've had the 2.4 GHz Unibody Apple MacBook in review, the small 2.0 GHz starter version introduced itself. The buyer receives a 2.0 GHz Core 2 Duo T7350, a smaller hard disk, and unfortunately an unlit keyboard for 300.00 Euros less.

The superb Unibody case, which sets standards on design, workmanship and stability, stays the same. The outstanding input devices please the small MacBook's user.

The performance is for all "normal users" sufficient and only users with an "increased computing requirement" (i.e. video coding, frequent video editing, recompiling demanding software…) might need the higher efficiency of the 2.4 GHz model.

On the contra side of the MacBook series are the meager interface equipment, the reflective display (which does spoil outdoor operations considerably), the high purchase price and the still weak Window drivers.

Apple MacBook Aluminum
Apple MacBook Aluminum
In Review: Apple MacBook 13.3“ Aluminum
In Review: Apple MacBook 13.3“ Aluminum
Rating Apple MacBook

Specifications

Apple MacBook Aluminium

:: Processor
:: Mainboard
Nvidia MCP79MX (9400M G)
:: Memory
2048 MB, DDR3 1066 MHz
:: Graphics adapter
NVIDIA GeForce 9400M (G) / ION (LE), Core: 450 MHz, 256MB shared Memory, 176.44
:: Display
13.3 inch 16:10, 1280x800 pixel, glossy, glossy: yes
:: Harddisk
Fujitsu MHZ2160BH FFS G1, 160 GB 5400 rpm S-ATA
:: Soundcard
Realtek ALC885/889A
:: Connections
2 USB 2.0, 1 DisplayPort, 1 Kensington Lock, Audio Connections: optical/analog audio in and out, Unidirectional Irda for MacRemote, Webcam
:: Networking
nVidia nForce 10/100/1000 (10/100/1000MBit), Broadcom 802.11a/b/g/n (a b g n ), 2.1+EDR Bluetooth
:: Optical drive
HL-DT-ST DVDRW GS21N
:: Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 24.1 x 325 x 227
:: Weight
2.06 kg Power Supply: 0.26 kg
:: Battery
45 Wh Lithium-Polymer, 10.8V
:: Price
1200 Euro
:: Operating System
Apple Mac Os X 10.5
:: Additional features
Cleaning cloth, printed manual, iLife 08, 12 Months Warranty

 

[+] compare
The new 13.3" MacBook is,…
The new 13.3" MacBook is,…
The single keys sit tight in the case and offer a short stroke length and a quiet typing.
The single keys sit tight in the case and offer a short stroke length and a quiet typing.
The new glass trackpad has excellent friction traits, but is only insufficient under Windows without driver support.
The new glass trackpad has excellent friction traits, but is only insufficient under Windows without driver support.
The LED illuminated 13.3" display was slightly darker than the 2.4 GHz model in the test.
The LED illuminated 13.3" display was slightly darker than the 2.4 GHz model in the test.
It reflects obviously and stays measuring-technically behind the 15.4" MacBook Pro.
It reflects obviously and stays measuring-technically behind the 15.4" MacBook Pro.
The performance of the smaller 2 GHz MacBook is somewhat lower than that of the 2.4 GHz model. Still sufficient for standard applications, though.
The performance of the smaller 2 GHz MacBook is somewhat lower than that of the 2.4 GHz model. Still sufficient for standard applications, though.
Like all Apple notebooks, the new MacBook stays very quiet at normal load…
Like all Apple notebooks, the new MacBook stays very quiet at normal load…
…and blows the warm air out of the case back.
…and blows the warm air out of the case back.
The surface temperatures also stay within a frame and first increase after a longer full load period.
The surface temperatures also stay within a frame and first increase after a longer full load period.
The MacBook reaches a good battery life with over 3 h WLAN surfing (max. brightness) under MacOS X.
The MacBook reaches a good battery life with over 3 h WLAN surfing (max. brightness) under MacOS X.
The LED battery status has now a better accessibility on the left side.
The LED battery status has now a better accessibility on the left side.
The aluminum MacBook makes a better impression in comparison to many other subnotebooks…
The aluminum MacBook makes a better impression in comparison to many other subnotebooks…
The connectivity is rather meager; Firewire and the mini DVI port have been omitted in comparison to the predecessor model and have been replaced by a mini display port.
The connectivity is rather meager; Firewire and the mini DVI port have been omitted in comparison to the predecessor model and have been replaced by a mini display port.
…and reach the memory bar.
…and reach the memory bar.
…like the whole MacBook aluminum family,…
…like the whole MacBook aluminum family,…
…milled from one single chunk of aluminum.
…milled from one single chunk of aluminium.
The new case convinces with excellent stability, optic and haptic.
The new case convinces with excellent stability, optic and haptic.
The closure is implemented with a magnet…
The closure is implemented with a magnet…
…and the display closes perfectly, thanks to a small rubber strip.
…and the display closes perfectly, thanks to a small rubber strip.
The microphone is found on the left side of the case,…
The microphone is found on the left side of the case,…
…because the brightness sensor and operation LED sit beside the webcam in the display lid.
…because the brightness sensor and operation LED sit beside the webcam in the display lid.
The new aluminium case easily lets itself be disassembled.
The new aluminum case easily lets itself be disassembled.
A flap lever makes a simple removal of the cover possible…
A flap lever makes a simple removal of the cover possible…
…under which the battery and the hard disk are found.
…under which the battery and the hard disk are found.
8 screws later you can simply remove the bottom cover…
8 screws later you can simply remove the bottom cover…
…but the glossy display makes outdoor use difficult.
…but the glossy display makes outdoor use difficult.

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Pro

+Design
+Workmanship
+Stability
+Touchpad (under Mac OS X)
 

Cons

-Glossy display
-Minimalistic keyboard lettering
-Expensive
-Few ports
-Poorer Window drivers

Rating

Apple MacBook Aluminium
04/12/2009
Klaus Hinum

Chassis
98%
Keyboard
90%
Pointing Device
98%
Connectivity
80%
Weight
88%
Battery
87%
Display
78%
Games Performance
77%
Application Performance
84%
Temperature
87%
Noise
96%
Add Points
90%
Average
88%
89%
Subnotebook *
Weighted Average

Note: The above rating refers to the Mac OS X 10.5, since this is the designated main application purpose. If the MacBook would have to be evaluated under Windows, the assessment of the trackpad and the battery performance would be considerably lower!

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Review Apple MacBook Aluminum 2.0 GHz (Unibody, 13", 9400M, P7350)
Author: Klaus Hinum, 2009-04-27 (Update: 2012-05-26)