The 2.16GHz Core 2 Duo MacBook, no 12.1" MacBook Pro

Anyone who has followed my hardware track record, articles, and Tweets will surely know that when last Tuesday came and went without an update announcement along the lines of ‘The 12" PowerBook grown up, meet the 12.1" MacBook Pro’, I was sorely disappointed. In fact, not too long ago, I even went so far as to sell my 15" MacBook Pro in hopes of replacing the notebook with a 12" widescreen variant. To this day, I still consider the 12" PowerBook G4 one of the best computers manufactured by Apple. Despite that fact that current Intel-powered machines are valuable beyond belief – essentially serving as two computers in one (OS X or Windows) – the professional-grade equivalent to the classic PowerBook is still missing.

Rather than considering the idea of moving the Mac Pro setup to work, it was time to re-evaluate the hardware options. The IBM X-Series ThinkPad was suffering from an unexplainable [randomly] blinking screen, the Vaio VGN-TXN15P was gifted to my grandfather, and the 12" PowerBook just didn’t have the grunt I wanted to run multiple processor hungry applications at once. With WWDC around the corner, I opted to return to my roots and elected to re-introduce myself to the MacBook family.

Prior track record with the original MacBook Rev. A release

If you have followed 5thirtyone.com regularly since its inception, you are probably familiar with a number of issues that I experienced with the original MacBook Rev. A notebooks. For newer readers / visitors, these issues included the much discussed discoloration, my failed attempts to prevent discoloration, Apple’s censorship of a thread I created concerning the ordeal, a Genius Bar appointment to replace the shell, a damaged trackpad after repair followed by the reappearance of the discoloration, and finally an upgrade to a 15" MacBook Pro.

With so many problems experienced during ownership of the original Rev. A release, why go back? Because no matter the manufacturer, no matter the product, there will always be lemons in the batch. Thanks to a series of updates to the MacBook line and my problem-free ownership of a Mac Pro, my faith has been restored – that and I am a hopeful believer in the idea Apple will reincarnate the classic 12" notebook.

Decisions, meet the 2.16GHz Core 2 Duo MacBook

Black MacBook, On

I continually told myself that I could never cave into the aesthetics of a black MacBook. Although Apple may have fixed the discoloration, I was still hesitant. The hesitation alone was enough to convince me to go black this time around. The recent [lame] MacBook hardware updates that rolled through couldn’t have had come at a better time. The new decision was not so much a "should I go white, or should I go black?", it was now a question of "should I go old, or should I go new?" The Apple Refurb store offers the older Core 2 Duo’s at decent prices (when they’re in stock), and Amazon stocks a few marked down as well.

I chose to go new and added the black 2.16GHz MacBook Core 2 Duo (W8718JL5YA4) to the hardware family. There were a few immediate Pro’s & Con’s, notably the fact that this particular MacBook offered approximately the same performance as my previous 15" MacBook Pro – all the more reason why Apple needs updates to redefine the difference between the MacBook and MacBook Pro line.

Initial thoughts – 2.16GHz Core 2 Duo MacBook

Pro’s – Learning to love the MacBook again

  • Matte black finish – black through and through. No scratch-the-skin-and-find-the-white here. The matte black has really grown on me; where’s the matte white finish version? Thankfully I won’t need to see the dirty discoloration on this one.
  • Fantastic HDD capacity – 160GB hardrive; still the usual 5400 rpm though.
  • Booyah! 3.0GB RAM upgrade kit via Other World Computing. Check the benchmark tests for performance issues. Personally, I opted to go with the basic 2.0GB kit – the option exists though.
  • Size! OK, so this isn’t the 12.1" that I was waiting for, but it is the next best thing. Thinking back to the times when I would carry the 15", the 13.3" MacBook feels much more compact.

Con’s – No reason(s) to hate it, but there are some things that bug me.

  • Oily fingers leave fingerprints all over the casing like chocolate chips on mischievous little 3-yr. olds face.
  • I feel like I took Darth Vader’s personal computer.
  • The white Apple logo is too ‘bright’ now, I think I’ll crack the case and slip some dark velum paper behind the logo – or take a black Sharpie to the backside. Yay! Now I match my 8GB iPod & EVDO schtick.
  • I’ve lost that hip feeling.

Honestly, I highly doubt the .16GHz will make much of a difference for anyone. If you’re bent on picking-up a MacBook, now is the time. Just point your browser to the previously mentioned Apple Returb Store or Amazon for some rockin’ deals on the slightly older Core 2 Duo models.

Discuss - 48 Comments

  1. I recently purchased a Black Macbook and I’m thuroughly loving it, and the operating system that comes with it. Don’t envision myself really buying a “PC” again…

    Congrats Derek!

  2. Chris says:

    [quote comment=”49241″]I set up my iPod so that I can unplug it whenever, as long as it isn’t syncing while I do it. And that can happen with any device, not just iPods. However, in this big industry it is all a matter of personal choice, so go with what you like the most![/quote]

    Yeah true that. How did you set your iPod to behave like that? Thanks!

  3. Derek says:

    [quote comment=”49240″]Unlike the white MacBook and grey Alienware the paint doesn’t rub off after prolonged sweat and oil contact of the palms while typing on the keyboard. I didn’t experience this on the VAIO’s (or black MacBook’s) surface material where I’ve laid my oily palms for quite some time. The VAIO’s trackpad is also made of the type of plastic that refuses fade unlike my black MacBook’s which I already see some wearing out after only a month or two of usage. Like I said, my friend’s trackpad looks like they filmed Tokyo Drift on it…. I can say the same for the keyboard too, VAIO’s quality material is unparalleled to all the laptops I’ve owned so far.[/quote]

    Not sure about the Vaio material quality being unparallel. I know some Vaio’s are built using different plastics so I guess it depends from model to model. I owned my VGN-TXN15P for about 3 months and the metallic looking paint in areas were my palms / wrists would make contact worn down a a dull matte look. Now that you mention the viewing angle, I do agree that Vaio XBrite screen is a winner.

    I’m curious to know what size your video files are. I have about 270 feature length movies in a directory and can’t say the system staggered at all while scrolling. Have you done the usual preferences cleaning, permissions, and update?

  4. [quote comment=”49247″]

    Yeah true that. How did you set your iPod to behave like that? Thanks![/quote]

    For me it was a matter of *not* enabling disk use.

  5. Phil Bowell says:

    I have never had any issue with the Finder like you appear to have Chris. It might be worth an archive & install just to see if it solves the issue. As far as the iPod goes, how is it not plug and play? You plug it in, iTunes sorts the songs, you click eject, simple. Windows you still have to eject a device, but it takes more clicks! I can’t just drag the item to the trash and have it let go, I have to right click on an icon in the task bar, click, click on the item and click stop. That takes longer in my experience.

  6. Andre says:

    [quote comment=”49231″][quote comment=”49226″]

    I thought you planned on going the desktop route?[/quote]

    I am, Mac Pro & a 30″ display. Just waiting on display updates a little more cash. I thought this was a good opportunity to update my portable machine for a small cost due to the fall in new MacBook prices on the update.[/quote]
    You have too much money. -_-;

  7. Glenn Wolsey says:

    [quote comment=”49251″][quote comment=”49231″][quote comment=”49226″]

    I thought you planned on going the desktop route?[/quote]

    I am, Mac Pro & a 30″ display. Just waiting on display updates a little more cash. I thought this was a good opportunity to update my portable machine for a small cost due to the fall in new MacBook prices on the update.[/quote]
    You have too much money. -_-;[/quote]

    I don’t have too much money, I’m simply smart with financial choices. I choose to skip other purchases so I can purchase something worthwhile.

    The money which comes my way goes in two directions, long term savings, and setup fund. No-where else.

  8. Derek says:

    [quote comment=”49252″]The money which comes my way goes in two directions, long term savings, and setup fund. No-where else.[/quote]

    Very good idea to get what you want 😉

  9. I haven’t read many of the comments so forgive me if this has already been addressed but the rumored 12inch MacBook was never thought of to be released so early as May. If it comes it won’t be for at least 2-3 months or alongside Leopard in October. Also, it won’t be 12-inches. Apple purchased a bulk order of slim LED-backlit 13-inch LCDs last week or so for this rumored MacBook Thin/Slim/whatever. I’m still waiting and have ~2G’s set aside for it. 😉

  10. Derek says:

    [quote comment=”49254″]Apple purchased a bulk order of slim LED-backlit 13-inch LCDs last week or so for this rumored MacBook Thin/Slim/whatever. I’m still waiting and have ~2G’s set aside for it. ;-)[/quote]

    I can’t even begin to understand if and how Apple can justify a 13-inch notebook as a replacement for the aged 12" PowerBook. LED backlighting is definitely something I look forward to, but Apple needs to kick out something to compete with the ThinkPad X-series / Vaio TXN series.

  11. Joshua says:

    The key might be thin rather than small screen size. If they came out with a 13″ notebook that was 1/2 an inch thin, I think it’d be a huge hit among the 12″ pbook lovers.

  12. Ben Bleikamp says:

    [quote comment=”49260″]Apple needs to kick out something to compete with the ThinkPad X-series / Vaio TXN series.[/quote]

    I completely agree. I actually bought my MacBook instead of a MacBook Pro because 15″ is too big to carry around everywhere.

    Now I am stuck with a MacBook that doesn’t really give me the power I need, so I might be upgrading to a MacPro w/ a 30″ Dell, in which case I’d turn the MacBook into just a portable machine. Of course, if this “super slim” MacBook comes out then I’ll be ordering it a few minutes after it’s announced and selling the MacBook…being an Apple fan is rough.

    Anyone in the market for a 23″ ACD? 🙂

  13. Liz says:

    I also loved the 12″ Powerbooks, and I would sell my 15″ Macbook Pro in a second if a 13.3″ or 12.2″ Macbook Pro came out. As of now, with that last Macbook update, the Macbooks are just now hitting what my original Macbook Pro has. Looking forward to the next tuesday (tomorrow)….

  14. Cait Imburgo says:

    Hey Derek.
    So comparing your older MacBook Core Duo 2GHz White to the MacBook Core 2 Duo 2.16GHz Black, was there much of a speed increase? I am seriously considering selling my MacBook Core Duo 2GHz with 2GB RAM to get a Black MacBook just like your’s. I have had almost all the issues you had, minus the track pad problem. Thoughts/suggestions? Should I wait a little longer?

  15. Derek says:

    My honest suggestion is to wait. Although you would have to deal with a Rev. A release of whatever is announced, I think the speed difference is not that noticeable unless you’re constantly running processor intensive tasks.

  16. Cait Imburgo says:

    Yeah, that’s what I figured. I’m just quite frustrated with my Rev. A MacBook now. I’m sure whatever I wait for will be worth the wait though. 🙂

  17. mike says:

    My daughter starts college in the fall an we want to give her a laptop for graduation. Looked at the 13″ MacBooks and a Sony VAIO with the Core 2 Duo 7100 and the 15.4″ XBRITE screen (beautiful!). What are your thoughts about the 2 laptops in terms of screen size, battery life, reliability, etc.

  18. Steve says:

    I got the Black MacBook just after the release of the Core 2 Duo, and just before the holidays. I’ve found it to be a great machine, small enough to haul around and write with where I need. I still do all the heavy lifting with my aging G5 (1.8 GHz) which still is my main computer, even though the MacBook is more powerful.

    I’ll admit that I like the MacBook, but I find I have not completely warmed up to it –– I don’t like it nearly as much as I liked my 500 MHz G3 PowerBook which died a little over a year ago, despite the fact that the MacBook is infinitely more powerful and I have had absolutely no problems with it. I would swap this one for a 12″ Pro in a heartbeat as the MacBook seems just a little large and a little too wide, and it has a lot of bezel.

    I would like to see the magnetic latch on a potential 12″ MacBook, though.

  19. Erik says:

    Hi guys. I am a proud new owner of a Macbook 2.0 Ghz white. I love it but I have one problem. When I alt click (right click in windows) one in three times everything freezes for a second and then all the icons on the desktop disappears for an instant to show up again. I have not done anything to the original install (os x 10.4.9). Any suggestions what the problem could be?

  20. I totally agree Derek. I am an incredibly faithful 12″ G4 PowerBook user. Although fairly new to the Mac-world, it was my first laptop and I convinced many friends to go Apple, and even some of them to the PowerBook world.

    I wrote An Open Letter to Steve Jobs awhile back, and really want to see a smaller MacBook Pro. It seems like they’re *totally* forgetting about the crowd of 12″ PB users…

    Anyone think we’ll get a fun surprise of a 12″ or even a 13.3″ MacBook Pro….?