First take: Apple's new MacBook offers sleek style, solid performance

It's still encased in white plastic, but it gets new 'unibody' look

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A new battery

Apple has continued the trend toward sealed, non-swappable batteries that debuted early last year in the MacBook Air by adding that kind of battery to the MacBook. While the battery can be accessed -- after removing eight screws -- it is definitely not swappable on the fly.

Although Apple estimates the battery is good for seven hours, I found I could stretch that time out over the course of a nine-hour work day -- as long as I put the machine to sleep when it wasn't in use. If you're using it continuously, the 60-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery lasts closer to four hours, depending on how hard you tax the CPU and hard drive. As always with battery use, your mileage will vary.

How long will the MacBook's battery last? Apple says it's good for up to a thousand recharge cycles, or about five years under normal use. The built-in battery is part of Apple's green technology efforts -- its logic being that a non-removable battery can be larger, thus increasing overall battery life. Apple charges $129 for battery replacement and "responsible disposal" of the older battery if it wears out. Given that the built-in batteries are fairly new, it's too soon to say whether Apple's longevity estimates are optimistic.

Apple has been touting its environmental friendliness for the last few years, and company officials note that the MacBook is free of brominated flame retardants (BFRs), polyvinyl chloride (PVCs) and mercury; uses an arsenic-free display; is made of recyclable polycarbonate and comes in packaging that's 20% smaller than before. The MacBook meets Energy Star 5.0 requirements and has been rated EPEAT Gold. In other words, you can buy a MacBook with a good green-technology conscience.

The rubber material Apple uses on the bottom provides just enough resistance so that the MacBook doesn't slide off desks -- or laps. And unlike some of Apple's earlier laptops, the MacBook can be used on laps without making your legs too hot.

How does it all stack up? Programs on this MacBook, whether you're running iMovie, iPhoto, Mail, or Apple's Safari Web browser, zip along quickly. A MacBook will never be a performance machine, but it's not supposed to be. What matters is that it delivers enough performance for mainstream users. Applications launch quickly; QuickTime movies play without a hitch, even at high resolutions; and the sealed-in battery holds up admirably in daily use.

MacBook's ports are all on left side
The MacBook's ports are all on the left side. Note the reflective screen.
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