Apple's smug 'Mac versus PC' adverts give the impression that using a MacBook means dealing with the computing equivalent of an obnoxious, self-satisfied slacker. Happily the reality is very different: it comes pre-loaded with Leopard, which is indisputably easier to use than Vista, and the ability to dual boot with Gates' OS gives it a real leg-up compared to Windows-only laptops.

MacBooks were also recently given a tweak under the bonnet, with 2.2Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo processors for a speed boost and Intel's X3100 graphics processor for increased gaming power. We tested the black MacBook which, while an extortionate £140 more than its virginal white counterpart, is more alluring than a keg full of Wine Gums.

Not for road warriors

New MacBooks lack the newer Centrino Duo chips and LED backlight found in the older Macbook Pros, but otherwise the spec is impressive. The standard 1GB of memory and 160GB hard drive (80GB or 120GB in the lower specced white MacBooks) is more than enough to handle web surfing and document creation with ease.

If you want to make podcasts or edit video, you'll probably want to plump for the optional 250GB hard drive and add extra RAM. It's cheaper to buy those components separately, but only if you're confident enough to fit them yourself.

This isn't a laptop for road warriors – we got about 3.5 hours out of the battery. Some might say it's a little heavy compared to competitors but it's hardly going to wrench your shoulder from its socket – slinging it in your laptop bag won't give you backache.

Raucous fans

The one-button trackpad is both a negative and a positive. Having to press the command key when you want to right click is irritating, but being able to use two fingers to scroll feels very intuitive.

After prolonged use the internal fan tends to run pretty loud, particularly compared to two other laptops littering Stuff's test room – a Dell XPS M1330 and Asus W5fe.

The top of the range Macbook's black case is stylish but prone to attracting fingerprints and smudges. If you're the obsessive-compulsive type, you might need to carry a cloth with you to stave off your demons.

The MagSafe power cord – which detaches neatly if jerked – can also be both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand your laptop won't go careening onto the floor if you're clumsy but, on the other, it does tend to detach a little too easily.

But these criticisms are minor. The spec boost is small but means the MacBook compares very favourably with similarly priced Windows laptops, and it's one of the most attractive and user-friendly machines we've ever used. Just don't expect to play cutting-edge games or attract as many fawning onlookers as you would with a MacBook Air.


Stuff says... 

Apple MacBook 2008 review

The spec tweaks might be minor, but the MacBook remains a highly desirable and excellent value laptop for everything except hardcore gaming

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