Review: Apple's new 'unibody' MacBook Pro has both beauty and brains

Carved from a single block of aluminum, it's a solid update in more ways than one

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So how does the new trackpad work? Generally, just fine. Since I have tendency to click with my thumb, I often hold it above the trackpad button. Doing so with this trackpad can be problematic if your thumb hits the trackpad while you're using your index finger. I found myself occasionally moving windows on-screen that I hadn't planned on moving, or selecting items by accident. More than once, I accidentally changed the font size in my browser. And a colleague who tried out the machine expressed frustration that the trackpad operated differently than others had in the past.

This isn't to say that the trackpad is a bad thing -- it just means you may need to retrain your clicker thumb. As an acknowledgment of the trackpad's growing importance, Apple has given the device its own system preference (until now, it was grouped in with the preferences for the keyboard and mouse).

The one-piece, glass-covered trackpad now also acts as the clicker button.
The one-piece, glass-covered trackpad now also acts as the clicker button. Click to view larger image.

To help new users understand how the trackpad works, Apple has included videos in the system preference pane to demonstrate what each finger swipe can do. It's definitely worth reviewing if you find odd things happening while using the trackpad.

Other changes

The unibody laptop chassis, graphics cards and trackpad aren't the only new features. As noted earlier, the keyboard now uses chiclet keys, and they're black, not aluminum-colored. Personally, I liked the uniform look of having the keys and the computer the same color -- but others may like the two-tone look. And the new keyboard does at least match the shiny black border that surrounds the LED screen.

Speaking of that screen, it's the same 1440- by 900-pixel resolution as before. And it's extremely bright. Anyone who uses a MacBook Pro outdoors in full sun shouldn't have any problem seeing the screen.

The hard drive (left) and battery (right) are easily accessible.
The hard drive (left) and battery (right) are easily accessible. Click to view larger image.

With this model, Apple also made it fairly easy to access some of the internal hardware, which should please IT shops that may be eyeing the MacBook Pro. Flip a latch to take off part of the back cover, and the hard drive is staring you in the face. To the right of it is the easily-removable battery. And after removing eight screws that hold the other part of the bottom case in place, you have access to the RAM.

Given that the $2,499 MacBook Pro already has 4GB of RAM, however, you probably won't need to do anything RAM-related for the foreseeable future. If you opt for the $1,999 model, which comes with 2GB of RAM, you can upgrade to 4GB for $150, which isn't as out of line as Apple's RAM prices have been in the past.

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