Black Is Beautiful


Update: I wholeheartedly agree with John Siracusa's take on the glossy screen. GlossBook, indeed.

Someone at Apple has been listening to my prayers. Shame about the glossy screen, though - it may yet put me off the black model...

Yes, I am aiming squarely for the black MacBook, and I intend to stoke it with 2GB RAM.

After all, I fully intend to have a couple of virtual machines running XP and Linux in there, plus I'm told Rosetta eats RAM by the bucketload.

Of course, like Nuno, I expect these to take months to show up here in Portugal.

So, what do I like about these?

Well, although the Euro price is sure to be inflated beyond any logical reason, I very much like the price point - if you add all the goodies together, this is pretty good value for money, and a nice fit for the complete range.

And there are quite a few goodies I'm very interested in besides the CPU and screen:

  • First off there is Bluetooth 2.0+EDR, which is going to come in very handy to hook up to an HSDPA network (it's sure to be only a matter of time until there are handsets capable of this)
  • Then comes AirPort Extreme (which ought to work fine through the polycarbonate casing) and Gigabit Ethernet (which is a bit overkill, but hey, it's there...)
  • Extended desktop support (a first for an iBook-class laptop, and a sign that Apple has finally figured out it was annoying its customers by restricting them to display mirroring)
  • The big, broad scrolling trackpad (plus the Apple Remote, and the nice tough of finally having a readable numeric pad overlay, which is clearly visible on the black QTVR's key markings).

I'm also keen on the iSight, SuperDrive, etc., etc., but I don't see myself using those much (at least not every day).

Oh, incidentally, those of you who find it odd that the specs don't list a microphone would to well to look at the iSight more closely - it's sure to be the hole opposite the camera LED...

Another good thing is that it still has a regular Firewire 400 port. I vastly prefer Firewire to USB for external disks, and I rely on it being there for backups - plus it is the obvious way to feed in digital video.

As to the stuff I don't like, well...

Right smack at the top of the list is the glossy screen. A few of my acquaintances have VAiO laptops with that infernal gloss, and it is a royal pain when the lighting hits at an angle and you're wearing light clothing.

I have been watching as consumer laptops become more and more shiny and glossy, and this is one instance where there is clear, unmistakable consumer feedback that these screens are more attractive at the moment of purchase - proof positive the customer doesn't know what is good for him/herself all of the time...

Let me put it in simple, easy to understand terms: the screen gloss it is sure to be the design flaw of the MacBook people will complain about for years to come.

And I'm not even going to go into how it has the potential to be a scratch magnet several orders of magnitude worse than the nano...

Next up (and likely to spawn massive controversy in the weeks ahead) is the shared-memory Intel video chipset. I have used plenty of machines with the precursors of the GMA 950, and although I find the 950 itself speedy enough on a desktop machine with a single display, when you add power management (i.e., clock throttling) and external monitors to the mix, I'm not so sure it's a good idea.

Not to mention modern games are going to suck - bigtime. Not that I intend to play much (most of my gaming has moved to the unbeatable couch/PSP combo), but it's something to keep in mind.

Besides these, the MacBook shipping with 2x256MB is a bit... er... asinine. It's just a waste, especially on the top model - and if you're going to tell me to order a specific configuration, forget it (this is Portugal, guys - last time I tried that it was a nightmare...), I'm getting one off a retailer's shelf and ordering the RAM separately.

Finally, there's the overcharge for the black model (US$150 for a measly extra 20GB and despicable gloss?). There's really no reason for this other than, well... thinking different.

A lot of people have already complained to me about the lack of a PCMCIA slot. Guys, please. PCMCIA is dead, and the iBook didn't have a slot either - it's meant to be expandable via the built-in ports. On top of that, Apple isn't tuned in to the recent European mobile broadband explosion, so they probably never considered adding an ExpressCard slot for the sake of mobility - and, as far as I'm concerned, they did right: I vastly prefer using USB or Bluetooth for 3G/HSDPA connectivity.

Despite these issues, and even if there is another MacBook Pro refresh in the meantime (which reminds me, the current ones have just been bumped up a few hundred megahertz and an optional gloss coat), the MacBook is the machine I've been waiting for to replace my iBook G3/800.

Melo and myself have been wondering when Apple will be using the even-lower-power Merom (which is supposed to be ahead of schedule, for a change), but the difference between a Pro with a Merom and a "plain" MacBook is sure to be steep.

And waiting is going to be the name of the game for me, since not only do I want to make absolutely sure there are no MacBook Pro-like issues (i.e., no whining, no overheating, no screen blotches), but, as usual, we've started a little bet about whether we'll have these here in Portugal before September.

Also as usual, I am not holding my breath - although if I do have to put up with the glossy screen, I might have to get used to doing so...