Review: Apple takes the MacBook upscale

Apple's new Macbook inherits some high-end perks from the Pro line

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In fact, the additions to the MacBook's more expensive model could make it a rival for the more expensive Air. More about that in a moment.

Like the Air, the keyboard on both aluminum MacBooks is black, nicely matching the new black bezel that surrounds the 13.3-in. LED screen. The bezel contrasts smartly with the 1280-by-800-pixel screen, which is amazingly bright and sharp. Even sitting outside in full sunlight, with the sun behind me shining directly on the screen, I could easily see what I was writing. The screen is easily as bright as the MacBook Air I bought last March.

Under the hood

There's little doubt the $999 MacBook is the poor stepchild of the new family. Just take a look at Apple's MacBook Web page and see if you can find it. Although this MacBook comes with a marginally faster processor than the $1,299 model -- 2.1 GHz compared with 2 GHz -- other changes make the midline MacBook slightly faster. The $1,299 version has twice the RAM (2GB) than its all-white cousin, a faster 1066-MHz front-side bus and the new Nvidia GeForce 9400M integrated video processor, which can use up to 256MB of system RAM and drive an external monitor at 2,560 by 1,600 pixels. It also has a bigger hard drive: 160GB instead of 120GB.

But Apple went all out on the $1,599 model. Even though it's $100 more than the previous model in this slot, it's well worth the higher price. The most expensive MacBook -- which is the one Apple sent to us for review -- now has a 2.4-GHz Core 2 Duo chip, a 250GB hard drive and the lighted keyboard. Both unibody models also feature a new MiniDisplay port for connecting to external displays and, more importantly, Apple's slick new glass-covered multi-touch track pad.

Gone is the clicker button. It's now incorporated into the track pad, which is larger than the previous version and offers more room for Apple's multifinger screen-navigation swipes. Pressing down on the track pad near the front of the laptop yields a definitive click, and the glass surface offers just the right amount of resistance. It's not mirror-smooth, but it offers less friction than the old metal track pad. The only hitch is that if you use your thumb to click and your thumb touches the track pad at the wrong time, you'll find yourself selecting items, moving windows or changing font sizes inadvertently. It will likely take most users a few days to get used to the new technology, which builds on the multi-touch gestures that debuted in the iPhone last year.

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