Hardware Stability

MacBook

## IMPORTANT NOTICE ##

Do not purchase the Duo Core MacBooks until Apple has upgraded them to the new Intel Duo 2 Core microprocessor (and have solved the problems associated with poor quality plastics and the high heat generated by the microprocessor). The current Duo Core microprocessor is still too hot. The new chip should be cooler and faster (unless Apple adds something extra to OSX to make the processor work hard, such as running numerous widgets under Dashboard in Panther and Tiger).

In fact, you are also wise to avoid running too many dashboard widgets in the background as they will hog a significant amount of your computer's CPU making it get hotter. Widgets can be removed from the /Library/Widgets folders and restarting the computer (OSX "Leopard" should be more friendly in this regard).

And make sure the computer is properly asleep or shutdown when not in use or else your computer may accidentally stay awake while being carried inside a bag. Reports of laptops getting extremely hot and frying the logic board are not uncommon.

About the MacBook...

As of 24 May 2006, Apple released the Intel-based MacBook as the sequel to the cheap and cheerful G4 iBook PowerPC. Assuming the outer plastic casing is not subject to easy scratching or damage using a common solvent such as methylated spirits as was the case with the early model G3 iBooks, the four main advantages one can see in this model are:

  1. The price: A 13-inch widescreen glossy display with up to 2GHz Core Duo started at US$1,099 (unusually expensive in Australia for A$1,749 for the base white 13-inch model running at 1.83GHz CPU with 512MB, 60GB hard disk and with Combo drive and wireless features, up to A$2,300 for the 2.0GHz CPU black model).
  2. The looks: you had a choice of black or white casing in a reasonably attractive design (this is about the only thing you can depend Apple on doing right).
  3. Easy access to the internal hard disk: In the 12-inch PowerBook G4, you had to almost fully disassemble the computer to replace the hard drive (which is why Apple wants people to send their laptop and hard disk to an Apple authorised service technician for inspection). Such a design strategy would scare the pants off less technically-minded customers forcing many to bring in their computers to an Apple service technician much to the delight of Apple and software manufacturers. Now the new MacBook does it much more simply by removing the battery and the metal plate behind it and the hard drive literally slips out by pulling on a plastic ribbon.
  4. You also had reasonably easy access to the RAM although we felt the lifting of the keyboard and the underlying metal plate as in the titanium G4 PowerBook was easier. The new design in the MacBook suggests Apple is trying to avoid the RAM being too close to the hot microprocessor.

Daring ourselves to work harder in finding some more good points, we can see how Apple has made a reasonable attempt at not skimping on the features for the MacBook compared to the previous G3 and G4 iBooks when put side by side with the professional PowerBook G4 models (and when they are free of defects, of course). It would have been easier for Apple to have provided a single Intel processor and made BlueTooth and other features optional extras you must pay. But instead, the only features you will lose out compared to the MacBook Pro are the lack of a dedicated graphic accelerator hardware card (you will be using Intel's own version in the CPU as in the Mac Mini product), a slightly smaller screen (although the screen you do get is quite respectable), a little less RAM and smaller hard disk, and no PC card expansion port. Yet the loss isn't as great as you think. The lack of a dedicated accelerator card has not detracted from its high performance. And the screen itself is of the high quality version seen in more expensive PC laptops with its glossy front. This is something you don't get on the MacBook Pro sold in May 2006. And the laptop is surprisingly more lightweight than the pro version.

One would almost have to describe the new "consumer edition" laptop as Apple's attempt to improve the sale of Intel laptops as many people still favour the PowerPC G4 version. Perhaps this strategy is critical for Apple's success to get enough people to accept the Intel version. Well, for the price (although still a little dear for customers outside the US), one has to say it is a reasonable attempt.

Now if only the laptop is free of defects. Unfortunately nothing is perfect in this world as they say.

The MacBook has been out for only two weeks and already the first signs of possible design faults or defects are emerging, including a noisy fan, excessive heat and some cracks in the casing. And, we learn on 16 February 2010, Apple has issued a MacBook Repair Extension Program to fix hard drive issues; further details are available from CNET.

Fan noise problem

This is the first major observation of an annoying feature. Not enough to be seen as a manufacturing fault. But enough to kep consumers wondering what's the deal from Apple?

Well, apparently we have a cheap temperature sensor and fan system incorporated into the laptop where the fan kicks in at precisely 67 degrees celsius. Sounds okay, you reckon? Well yes, until you realise that as soon as the fan turns on for a few seconds, it can suddenly turn off as the temperature drops a fraction of a degree below 67 degrees celsius. Then all it takes (depending on the processor intensive work you might be doing) is a few seconds to up to a minute for the fan to start up again. The sudden starting and stopping of the fan generates excessive noise (will the laptop take off like a helicopter?)

A higher quality temperature/fan system for a laptop would have allowed at least a 5 to 10 degree celsius reduction below the cut-off point before the fan turns off and it should start up or stop in a gentle manner using a variable-speed fan, rather than the cheaper single-speed Apple is offering. Also the speed of the fan suggests it is small and working very hard or this is the what happens when consumers buy the cheaper laptop in order to enjoy whatever performance you can get from a hot 1.83 to 2GHz Duo Core Intel processor.

NOTE: It is believed the high levels of heat causing the fans to turn on are the result of the graphics processor where the MacBooks are forced to rely on Intel's built in graphics processing unit included with the microprocessor. Future models would get away from this idea and introduce a separate dedicated Nvidia graphics processing chip which is thought to be much cooler and faster than the Intel version.

Users are asking Apple to provide a firmware update to help reduce the temperature for activation and give extra cooling before turning off the fan so as to give extra time until the next fan startup. It is likely Apple may have complied by the time you read this.

Excessive heat problems

This is probably the biggest criticism of the early MacBooks. The MacBook Pros do have a similar problem. But the MacBook has come in for special criticism by users in the US, more so than the predecessors: the aluminium PowerPC G4 PowerBooks or the iBooks.

Users are complaining of such high heat emissions during normal operations that it is quite uncomfortable to place a MacBook on the lap.

The consequences of excessive heat have resulted in swelling of the lithium ion battery causing it to press against the keyboard and trackpad, thereby stopping their normal function (especially on the MacBook Pro), noisy and regular fan startups, and plastics on the MacBook starting to deteriorate (i.e. discolouration). It is also possible the hard drive issue mentioned above where users have noticed a question mark appearing on the display (i.e. a sign that the computer cannot detect a hard drive) could be the result of excess heat warping and damaging the hard disk connector internally. However Apple has kindly kept the exact details a mystery.

And given enough time, the high heat would change the chemistry of the plastic casing (or enclosure) in certain areas causing it to become brittle and eventually develop hairline cracks. These cracks are predominantly found in the bottom casing and palm rest areas where contact between the user and laptop is like to take place and heat is able to build up more significantly. Tony Smith of Register Hardware also reported other areas according to his article Apple reportedly coughs to plastic MacBook crack conundrum published on 9 April 2009:

"Cracks have been spotted at the front of the wristrest area, in front of the trackpad, around the old Macbook's various ports, and around the rear-facing speaker grilles."

AppleInsider.com stated on 8 April 2009:

"Apple is privately acknowledging an issue with the enclosure on some of its white 13-inch MacBooks, which in some cases have seen the formation of hairline cracks during normal usage patterns.

The Cupertino-based Mac maker is said to have issued a bulletin to its authorized service providers in March that essentially reverses its stance on replacing the bottom casing of notebooks that may be experiencing these symptoms.

It was reported in November that Apple was refusing to cover repairs for the bottom casing of the notebooks despite its willingness on occasion to address identical problems with the top portion of the casings containing the keyboard and palmrests.

The bulletin to providers reportedly identified four key areas of the case prone to hairline cracking, including the front portion of the case below the palmrests and trackpad, the areas around the I/O ports, the back rear corners, and the back rear ventilation area.

Apple added, however, that other portions of the case could be affected by the cracking issue. For all instances, providers were reportedly asked to inspect the MacBook carefully to determine whether the cracks could be the result of the notebook haven't been dropped or other accidental damage caused by the owner. In the event that providers are unable to identify signs that the user is at fault for the cracks, thhaven been dropped or other accidental damage caused by the owner.

In the event that providers are unable to identify signs that the user is at fault for the cracks, they're advise to escalate the notebook for coverage by Apple, regardless of whether its 1-year limited warranty has expired."

The solution for Apple was to eventually move the entire MacBook range to a new family of laptops containing aluminium as the preferred material for its casing/enclosure. But not without a number of consumers already purchasing this earlier plastic model. And unsuspecting consumers were still purchasing the plastic MacBook version as Apple tries to get rid of them at the price of US$999 while the aluminium MacBooks were on the market.

For those users affected by the problem you should be able to get a prompt repair service from Apple for any MacBook (within or outside the warranty period) showing signs of cracking in the plastic casing through no fault of your own.

UPDATE
12 June 2006

Not a moment too soon! Apple has thought it would be a good idea to let MacBook users know how important it is for the thin piece of clear plastic covering the MacBook's rear vent (initially placed there to prevent dust getting in) to be removed after purchasing the laptop. It might help to improve air flow through the fan and eventually through the computer thereby reducing the excessive heat.

Makes you wonder why Apple is mentioning this now? Didn't users get clear instructions in the box on what to do after purchasing the laptop?

UPDATE
15 June 2006

The heat generated by MacBooks has seen customers seek technical advice from Apple. Now Apple is saying the laptop should not be used as a "laptop". In other words, don't place it on your lap. Apple recommends it should be used as a portable computer for placing on a cool desk or other hard surface.

Should we call MacBook a "desktop" computer? Might be better called a "heater" for all intensive purposes.

Interestingly Apple says one thing, but does not support it in writing. Apple's online marketing material at this time clearly indicates:

"On your lap. In your dorm room: Organize your class notes and your music. Select models now feature a superfast dual-core Intel engine, a built-in iSight camera, and Front Row software."

Apple really has to stop making excuses and start making quality laptops for the consumer.None of this getting a product out as quickly as possible with enough features to attract a range of naive new customers to it but without putting in the quality controls to ensure the product is of the highest quality possible and is designed to last for as long as the consumers need it (which could be 10 years or more if they so choose, not for Apple to decide on your behalf).

Now users are asking Apple again to provide a firmware update to lower the temperature range the fans would activate to help cool the portable "desktop" computer.

How about it, Stevie boy?

Plastic discoloration problem

The plastic casing of the MacBook has also come in for criticism as of 12 June 2006. As you may recall from early G3 iBook models, the polycarbonate plastic casing had reacted badly to simple cleaning solvents found around the home such as methylated spirits. Now the MacBook has its own plastic problem for users to contend with.

The latest news is that if you leave your hands on the palm-rests, a discoloration develops in the plastic after a few weeks. So instead of the white casing, you are likely to see orange, brown and/or yellow spots. This is not good.

It doesn't appear to be a burning plastic problem with the underlying circuitry (well, we hope not!). We are made to believe that it could be a chemical reaction taking place between the plastic and the sweat in your hands and perhaps accelerated by excess heat. Unfortunately no cleaning product can remove the discolouration. You are better off finding a product to repel and protect the plastic from skin oils to prevent further discoloration. Either that, or be forced to pay extra for the black model (we hope this isn't the latest of a long string of new marketing strategies from Apple to tempt consumers to pay extra for the black model?).

One user has been reminded of a similar problem in a Toshiba laptop using the same type of polycarbonate plastics:

"For what it's worth, I'm just logging in to tell you guys I have the exact same palm-rest discoloration on my Toshiba Satellite P30. It's made of basically the same polycarbonate that the MacBook is made out of, and has gone from silver (Roughly #C4C4C4) to greenish dark grey (Roughly #899A87) in the 2 spots where my hands sit while typing. I'm planning on buying a MacBook Pro at some point, and the wife is planning on picking up a white MacBook, so this issue is pretty concerning." (MacFixIt.com: MacBook (#5): Discoloration on case; Reminder: Check your MacBook's rear vent. 12 June 2006.)

The problem is not quite unique to the MacBook. Some users are reporting a similar, yet less noticeable problem on the G4 iBooks. As Adam Wunn said:

"I read this article with great interest. I have seen this issue with iBooks for some time now. Specifically with iBook G4's. Some of my customers have reported the green/brown/yellowish stains that don't seem to go away with cleaning. I was finally able to remove them using a lot of elbow grease coupled with the iCleaner polish that purports to fix scratches on iPods and iBooks. I found the product to be mostly disappointing on that front, but it works great with the discoloration issue. So far, the issue has not reappeared for all but one customer. It is pretty embarrassing to open your machine and it looks like you are a mechanic with greasy hands and you never clean your computer." (MacFixIt.com: MacBook Special Report: Case discoloration: Brown/yellow stains appearing at palm rests; cleaning and protecting. 16 June 2006.)

Unless Apple is prepared to replace the plastics with better quality stuff free-of-charge, it looks like readers may have to wait for the next generation of Apple laptops to see if there are no more defects. And even then it would be considered a bloody miracle if Apple can come up with a defect-free product that lasts the distance.

Well, how many years has it taken for Apple to realise they have a problem with the plastics?

UPDATE
24 July 2006

Apple has officially acknowledged the discoloration problem through this document. The most Apple is prepared to say is:

"If your MacBook is exhibiting discoloration on the top case after some use, please contact AppleCare for service."

Perhaps it would also be useful to know whether Apple intends to use better plastics in the next MacBook revision? In fact, let's face it. You might as well be honest and explain what is really causing the problem. It is the only way to show Apple is learning and therefore able to get back the confidence of its customers.

NOTE: Or better not to say anything to avoid a class action appears to be the standard policy at Apple's head office.

Inbuilt speakers/amplifier problem

One report from MacFixIt.com arriving on 15 June 2006 suggests the inbuilt speakers on the MacBook are quite literally crap, to put it mildly. Either that, or the amplifier is incredibly piss-weak. Exactly what are consumers getting for their expensive paper weight?

Incredible. For a machine that is boasted by Apple in its advertisements ad nauseum to have an inbuilt iSight camera presumably for use in videoconferencing, the speakers in the MacBook are so much back to the dark ages that users are complaining about not being able to hear other people speaking. The titanium G4 laptops have better speakers and amplifier. And the speakers on the old "you beaut" PowerBook G3 Series computers are remarkably good for their size and output power. So why the crappy speakers in the MacBook?

One reader writes:

"I have a brand-new black MacBook I jacked up to 2 GB RAM. Other than looking cool, one of the reasons I bought this was the built-in video camera for iChat.

The problem is the speakers in the MacBook are so bad, it's just about impossible to hear the other person talking when in an audio or video chat.

I thought this was some issue that could be fixed - I mean, why have a video camera built in to a laptop if it's impossible to hear what is being said during the conversation - so I took it into an Apple Store hoping there was some simple explanation. There wasn't. After poking around on my laptop for 2 minutes, the Century City (CA) Genius Bar worker said 'Yep. It's just like the rest of them.' Apparently every MacBook has speakers so weak that dialogue is impossible.

I'm hoping this gets addressed in the next software update somehow. I actually really miss my 12" PowerBook. The camera was the only reason I upgraded, but the execution of the MacBook makes the camera absolutely pointless." (MacFixIt.com: MacBook (#7): Heat issues is it a laptop?; More on case discoloration removing the stains; more. 15 June 2006.)

For an improvement, try raising the volume to the max at the expense of more power from your battery (and plug the AC adapter to solve the low battery charge problem). The Audio MIDI Setup application in Applications/Utilities may help in this regard. Or maybe it is time to consider yourself as suffering from deafness and in serious need of Apple's Universal Access feature to help improve your hearing problem!

Keyboard and trackpad problems

According to this MacFixIt report of 31 May 2006, a number of readers have noticed the MacBook keyboard and trackpad suddenly stopping all input, but not so with an attached USB keyboard and mouse. How serious is the problem? We don't know. Currently the best solution is to restart the laptop. It might be common when opening the lid on waking, but it can occur at any time. The speed of the laptop doesn't seem to make a difference. It can occur on the 1.83GHz version as well as the 2GHz version. It is not clear whether this is something new being introduced by the latest OSX 10.4.6 update.

Could it be a static electricity problem with insufficient earthing inside? Or is it a swelling battery problem as in the MacBook Pro?

Of course you should never rely on one of these machines to get you out of a tricky situation such as in the event of a nuclear meltdown! However this time you can't rely on them to do your personal work either. No wonder Apple has a message supplied with every laptop sold stating it should not be used for critical emergency situations. It should be expanded to include any type of work you do.

Sounds like back to the drawing board for Apple.

UPDATE
22 June 2006

Some users are suggesting you can press at a specific spot on the MacBook's battery bay where the circular indentation lining up with the trackpad button is located and you can make trackpad clicking work again. Even if you paid slightly more for the black-coloured MacBook just to get away from the plastic discoloration problem of the white MacBook model, it will not get you a better machine. All MacBook models appear affected by the same trackpad problem. Another classic quality control problem from Apple?

One MacFixIt reader has described it in reasonable detail (something you may wish to use as a reference in case you might experience something similar in your own MacBook):

"I purchased a Black MacBook (week 20 build) a couple weeks ago. When I got it home I quickly discovered the trackpad button didn't register clicks unless I was very specific about where I clicked. It had to be dead centre, or on either side, anything between or close to the top or bottom

I tried to adapt to it thinking it was normal with these new MacBooks. Unfortunately even holding the button down to drag and drop something rarely worked unless I concentrated on keeping the button pushed.

A few days later I went to the Genius bar so they could have a look. After a quick demo the technician said "this is the worst one I have seen" indicating to me that he had seen a few with the problem. He explained to me that the problem was the top part of the bottom casing that was causing it and it would have to be replaced or re-seated. He also said that it probably wasn't worth the effort and just to ask for a new one as it was only a few days old.

The store happily exchanged it (even offered to transfer my files) and I opened it up on the spot to make sure it had no problems. It passed my tests with flying colors and I am glad I took it in." (MacFixIt.com: MacBook (13"): More on trackpad button clicks not registering — Apple fixing some; more. 23 June 2006.)

For everyone else not quite in the really "worse case example" basket, you may need a little bit of luck or perhaps pretend you are a manager of a major company and need the machine to be working properly just to get Apple to see the value of fixing the problem.

UPDATE
23 June 2006

It's official. Apple has acknowledged (unusually quickly one might add) the cause for this trackpad problem is due to a malformed piece of top casing. Apple is looking at users' MacBooks on a case-by-case basis deciding which ones need repairs or whether the whole unit should be replaced. Of course, be prepared to supply your hard disk as Apple is particularly keen to have it inside your MacBook!

We wonder whether a malformed piece of plastic presumed to be from a poor batch in the manufacturing process is just another way of saying the plastic discoloration and the warping under high heat needs to be replaced? Maybe trying to hit a few birds with a single stone with this solution?

NOTE: If you can't afford an external hard drive as a backup unit, make sure the minimum you do is encrypt your personal and commercial-in-confidence files and folders using a high quality third-party software encryption utility (not recommended these days as Apple claims the work it will do on your laptop may destroy the data on your hard disk). However we strongly recommend you purchase a separate high quality portable external hard drive of your own and make a backup of all your files and folders (should be an exact copy of your MacBook's hard disk, with extra room if you can afford it). Then you can securely delete the original files and folders on the computer (i.e. reinitialise it and do a security wipe). When the computer is returned, re-establish your files and folders as usual.

Remember, stories abound in the newspapers and online of users discovering how technicians have inspected their files and folders and in some cases quietly taken copies for their own secret purposes. It may also be standard policy for some computer manufacturers to help assess the level of software piracy that may exist on some machines.

It should be realised that some technicians who look at your personal computer for any basic repair, especially if it is to do with the hard disk, will almost certainly browse through your hard disk. Anything the technician considers to be illegal will be notified to the authorities or software manufacturers and should the case reach the newspapers will describe the browsing by the technician as "noticing a file by random chance". But you should know it isn't "random". And anything legal (no matter what it is) is there for the taking unless you explicitly encrypt your files and folders and make a backup.

Also securely delete all logs, caches and the works created by OSX as it learns more than just your habits, choice of applications, and types of files you've opened (e.g. OnyX is a good start).

If you want to really be sure, purchase an old second-hand hard disk and have it ready with a freshly installed version of OSX. Then swap the hard disk inside your MacBook with the second-hand version. So when the day comes you have to repair the computer with the help of a technician, make a backup of your hard disk to an external drive and swap the hard disk in your computer for the old hard disk while you keep the new hard disk. Finally, in case something happens to the backup, use an external drive with the world's best built-in encryption technology to render the information useless to unauthorised users (short of the CIA decrypting and inspecting it). This is currently your best protection from prying eyes.

UPDATE
30 June 2006

MacFixIt.com is suggesting some users are having difficulties getting Apple to replace the units because of the mouse button problem. Remember, if you feel Apple is not delivering a product as promised in the official advertisements and is not fulfilling the purpose you have bought it, get a refund or a replacement. It's consumers' law (not Apple's law!). Or try this idea from Arsenne Lupin on 30 June 2006:

"That's why it is smarter to always pay expensive hardware purchases with your credit card. If the vendor gets silly, just let your credit card provider fight on your behalf." (Slashdot.org)

As a temporary solution, you may wish to place a folded piece of paper to prop up the mouse button (reminiscent of the PowerBook 5300cs losing its trackpad mouse button after 8 months of normal use in 1996-97). But as one user said on 30 June 2006:

"Looks like the solution is to fold up a piece of paper, and put it under the actual mouse button. This might work for a little while, but it is a laptop. I can see this paper falling in some other part of the laptop, like say a fan or a hot battery - and you will have a more interesting problem of fire, or CPU death." (Slashdot.org)

Try some sticky tape to keep the paper in position!

Or better still, try this awesome idea from a user:

"You see problems like this all the time with first generation models, especially from Apple. Almost half of the Apple first-gen hardware that my friends and I have purchased over the years have been completely replaced by Apple within a year of purchase. Don't get me wrong, I swear by my PowerBook, but I'll never buy a new product before the kinks can be worked out." (Slashdot.org)

And even better, what about this one by another user:

"For what it's worth, I just spent a few hours reading MacBook reviews, researching whether I should buy one or go with a regular Wintel laptop.

Here are the MacBook problems people wrote about:

1. The bottom gets very hot (one person compared it to a volcano), not suitable for laptop work

2. Plastic around the screen likes to come off

3. The white MacBooks get "stained" where people rest their hands. These stains cannot be cleaned with any kind of a cleaning agent.

4. Trackpad problems like this one.

Guess which type of a laptop I'm now leaning towards? :(" (Slashdot.org)

NOTE: Apple users shouldn't come to expect other users to accept this silly situation of not buying the first-generation machines. Every machine sold by Apple, whether the first generation or not, should work every time. If it doesn't, it should be immediately replaced or refunded (certainly within the first 12 months of purchase). Apple has been doing it, and continues to do so based on current information, ever since the PowerBook 5300cs came out. Before then, the quality control was much better and rarely would a first-generation Apple computer require replacing. Now users are thinking it is normal for first-generation machines to be replaced during the warranty period. This is silly. Why should people buy Apple computers if Apple hasn't got a database of information containing the do's and don't of manufacturing computers by now? Already we are seeing the return of the trackpad problem of the PowerBook 5300cs in the latest MacBook Pro. Clearly there is no tracking system for all hardware problems at Apple.

Is it necessary for web pages such as this one to spring up to provide a service for customers and help Apple remember its mistakes?

AirPort problems

As of 22 June 2006, MacFixIt claims there is increased wireless signal strength followed by a sudden dropout in the connection when using AirPort software, a MacBook and OSX Tiger. However the problem does not appear in Windows XP under Boot Camp. Clearly something in OSX or the AirPort software is not right. Get it fixed permanently Apple.

Here is a classic quote from a user who has an AirPort problem:

"At least with my router the MacBook will not keep a connection for more than 2 minutes.

I have a trusty Linksys WRT54G 802.11g wireless router and booster with the latest rev of the Satori firmware that I use throughout my house as a WAP-secured access point. I have absolutely no problem with my router on my 12" PowerBook, Dual G5, Roku music server, ThinkPad laptop, and a friend's Dell laptop. I was able to enter my WAP key to connect to my router from the MacBook without issue, and it showed much stronger signal strength than my PowerBook. But after two minutes or so it disconnected without warning. The interesting thing is that my network still shows available in the menubar list, and I can reconnect to it immediately if I manually select it from the menubar. But over time (generally 2 minutes or less) it will just spontaneously disconnect and not reconnect, even though it sees the access point.

I have tried numerous settings to no avail, including enabling/disabling the Airport interface, rebooting, enabling/disabling Interface Robustness, changing Airport settings to 'Keep Looking for Recent Networks', 'Automatically connect to Preferred Networks', deleting then re-establishing my network settings, recycling the power on the router, and even changing the router broadcast channel (funny that I'm the only router in my area that has changed from the default." (MacFixIt.com: MacBook (13"): More on trackpad button clicks not registering — Apple fixing some; more. 23 June 2006.)

Vertical multicoloured lines at startup

It is claimed the MacBook for some users have started to show a set of multicoloured lines running across the entire length or width of the screen and, not long after, OSX fails to boot. Pressing the power button again may not work. Try taking out the battery and pushing it back in to see if this works. Do a SMC reset.

The problem has been but noticed regularly enough on other Apple laptop models including the older generations of Intel MacBook Pros and the last generation of aluminium PowerBook 1.67GHz machines. A graphic processing chip failing? Or a bent aluminium case touching the video circuitry? Whatever the cause, this is probably the first signs that you laptop will permanently collapse and the logic board destroyed. If you see this, get it immediately fixed.

Or be prepared to look for another laptop (or, better still, get a desktop machine).

Solution to the problems?

Most of the problems above comes down to plain old common sense by way of good manufacturing, appropriate choice of quality materials and just putting in the quality control checks needed to avoid these problems in the first place.

However, there may be one immediate improvement Apple can make regarding the heat issue. How about providing a switch in the control panel to drastically reduce the microprocessor speed to a comfortable level consumers are happy to work with? In that way, it can stop the annoying fan noise and make the computers more comfortable to use and lasts longer. Let the so-called professional users belt the heck out of their machines to the max by setting it to the maximum speed they like to see the microprocessors working at. Professional users usually have the money to replace their laptops on a regular basis.

Already such a switch exists in the Energy Saver control panel where you have the option to reduce processor speed slightly for longer battery life. How about letting users decide whether 500MHz, 1GHz, 1.5GHz or 2GHz is the kind of speed they want? Or how about intelligent software in the OS to select the correct speed for the type of software users may be running. For example, if the only application people are using is Microsoft Word, why does the computer have to run at 2GHz? A 250MHz speed is more than fast enough to run a word processor. If people suddenly decide they want to render a complex 3D animation scene quickly for their professional work or for the enjoyment of a good 3D adventure game, the OS should automatically detect this and set the microprocessor speed to the maximum (or the maximum the user is prepared to sacrifice from his/her computer). It makes common sense.

As one MacFixIt reader named Peter said:

"It is now common knowledge that Apple has severely reduced the GPU (and GPU memory) clock speed, and that the processors rarely run at their 'maximum" (or advertised) clock speed, all this to pander to those people who expect a 'Pro'-level computer to be completely silent.

I consider myself a 'pro'-user who likes to relax by playing X-Plane; if it were up to me, there would at least be a control panel giving you the option to run your top-level hardware at its true native speed rather than have it so drastically impeded by concerns over 'fan noise'.

Note to all developers out there, I'm certain there are many people who feel the same way, and we'd all be willing to pay good money for software that lets you mess with what the system considers to be its 'ceiling' operating temperature." (MacFixIt.com: MacBook (#2): Irritating fan noises reminiscent of MacBook Pro ("mooing"); Fitting a 7200 RPM drive; more. 24 May 2006.)

Yes, that's right. Let the pro-users reduce the lifespan of their own computers for the sake of enjoying their 3D adventure "shoot-'em-up" games or make their money from their careers using the machines. For everyone else, let them choose how they wish to use their computers in a sensible way.

So here is the challenge for Apple: how about selling something that really lasts by giving customers the latest but coolest 1GHz Intel microprocessor? Or better still, use software to automatically adjust the CPU speeds from 200MHz to 2GHz depending on the application being used so that the microprocessor doesn't have to emit so much heat in such a short period of time.

How many people need 2GHz speed at the cost of a shorter, hotter and noisy lifespan of the computer?

We say let the universities, businesses and governments use the fastest processors they want. They can afford to waste money. But let the customers enjoy a modest machine built as tough as a tank, as compact as a thin book, and cool enough to be used for a lifetime.

We bet Apple wouldn't have the guts to do it. NOTE: The MacBook Air has come out in January 2008 suggesting we may have to eat our words on this. Well, never mind. At least Apple is listening and trying to do the right thing (see below for further details).

UPDATE
8 June 2006

You can download a freeware utility called Min-o-Max 2.2 to control the CPU speed. Doesn't work on titanium G4 laptops. But it may work on other PowerPC and Intel machines. Has an automatic feature as well. Good luck!

UPDATE
16 June 2006

MacFixIt is suggesting the cause of the excessive heat lies in the constantly spinning hard disk. It is claimed adding more RAM and reducing virtual memory usage may reduce constant access to the hard disk for information and this is presumed to decrease the temperature.

Apple is taking the view the constantly spinning hard disk issue is not a hard disk problem. Rather it believes it is a logic board problem. And now Apple is replacing, in some cases, the logic board (is it a new, revised version?) because of the excessively high temperatures. A nice way to cover the microprocessor heat problem as well too. Then again, a logic board can control a hard disk.

But why the constant access to the hard disk, assuming this is true? How much memory does the latest OSX need and all its applications that they must suddenly see the need to use a portion of the hard disk as additional memory? Maybe the real issue is the size of our bloated operating system? Replacing a logic board (except to solve the Intel processor heat problems) may do nothing to solve the heat issue so long as the electronically obese OSX continues to ask for so much memory to run.

Anyway, if it is a RAM issue, it is also a nice way to get users to purchase more RAM or a new computer to handle the heat better. Oops! The MacBook is a new computer. Sounds like we have to live with OSX in its current form and buy extra RAM at any rate!

NOTE: This brings us back to the previous observation of OSX10.3 "Panther" and the sudden extra heat emitted and power usage required by PowerBooks when running this OSX version. Is it really a logic board problem, or the fact that OSX is using up too much RAM and we don't get enough RAM installed as standard to benefit from a cooler machine?

We also have another possible source for the heat problem according to MacFixIt reader Rick. He reckons the battery charging process is what actually gets too hot. Remove the power supply and run it on the battery and the computer is much cooler. Perhaps this would explain the battery swelling and bursting problem in the MacBook Pros?

As Rick said:

"My MacBook 2.0ghz 1gb RAM was hitting 170 F just doing graphics in graphic converter and a web page in Dreamweaver. I called Apple care, we ran the diagnostic and it showed no problems, but the Apple Tech advised me to take it to a local Apple repair facility. The guy at the shop said that what they'd been doing was replacing logic boards. [...] However, and I think this is important. There's a direct correlation I've noticed in temp when the power supply is attached and when it is not. When it is not, it's much cooler running. When the PS is hooked up it gets much hotter. I think there is a problem there, but I can't put my finger on it. Maybe the charging process overheats the battery." (MacFixIt.com: MacBook Special Report: Excessive heat: Usage notes, cooling pads and more. 16 June 2006.)

UPDATE
5 July 2006

The situation for the MacBook is best summed up by a quote from a MacFixIt reader:

"Updated to 10.4.7 on June 28th (before the "improved" Intel release). Video died with vertical lines almost immediately thereafter. Reset PRAM numerous times; booted once or twice then died. Took MacBook back to Apple and was given a new one in box even though 33 days since purchase. Asked if it had to do with 10.4.7 and was told "don't think so." Machine would still boot into target mode, but ticket afixed to dead machine read "motherboard failure." MacBook is by far fastest and nicest laptop Apple have made, though quality appears to be down - third one since May 23rd." (MacFixIt.com: MacBook (13"): More on vertical multi-colored lines at startup; caused by Mac OS X 10.4.7?. 5 July 2006.)

UPDATE
19 July 2006

Excessive heat may be causing sudden shutdowns of the MacBook in the middle of normal operation. Alternative explanations such as bad RAM, improperly seated RAM (the same problem that appeared in the PowerBook G3 Series "Wall Street" computer when the wrong hard disk causing overheating was installed), or a corrupted PMU. Apple Hardware Test CD will not show evidence of hardware failure.

Or could the calibration for activating the fans be faulty? As MacFixIt reader Simon said:

"I experienced a similar thing in the past as from the first day I bought my MacBook but I didn't get to the problem until I installed Core Duo Temp and found that the fan was not working and when the temperature got to 78-80¡C the machine unexpectedly shut down. The first move was to change the motherboard but but nothing had changed. The fan was working a little just if the machine was waked up from some hours of rest. When the machine was hot the fan stopped working. The solution was changing the fan. I also noted that the sound of the factory mounted fan was similar to a 'mooing' and the sound of the new fan is like all other computers' fans." (MacFixIt.com: MacBook (13"): More on sudden shutdowns. 20 July 2006.)

For example, a MacBook user named R. Newton said:

"My MacBook has just been sent back a second time to address the sudden shutdown issue. The logic board was replaced during the first repair, and it seemed to fix the problem. Two weeks later, the sudden shutdown problem began to occur again. The current suspect is that the heat sensors were not calibrated, or are just bad." (MacFixIt.com: MacBook (13"): More on sudden shutdowns. 20 July 2006.)

Apple is replacing logic boards on a case-by-case basis.

UPDATE
25 July 2006

Another example of the sudden shutdown and sleep problems of the MacBook. MacFixIt reader Travis writes:

I purchased a new MacBook for my wife from Apple.ca the day they were announced. It was a 2Ghz model with 1GB Ram and an 80GB HD.

'A week or two into ownership my wife began complaining that it would shut down. Upon investigation we determined it would shutdown immediately when awoken from sleep. It sometimes would not start back up, and if it was on battery power, would die also. Basically, it did not like to run.

'I called Apple, got a case number and took it into the local authorized Mac repair center. They immediately claimed bad ram as 'the MacBook Pro had the same problem'. Replaced the ram and a week later (had to wait for RMA ram from Apple) we have the Macbook back. The following morning it crashed.

'I immediately returned it and they proceeded to order a new logic board for the MacBook. A week and a half to two weeks later (who's counting?) we get the MacBook back. It all seems well for a week, when I notice the MacBook will not go to sleep on its own. It has to be forced to sleep. You can set it to sleep in the System Preferences, but it will not sleep. If you hit the power button and the option comes up and you select sleep, it will sleep, but no other time. When it finally wakes from this sleep, it promptly crashes immediately.

I am going to call Apple again and see what they can do this time. This is my wife's first Mac (I've been using for a while) and she is enjoying it, but the random crashing has her asking for a PC back at times." (MacFixIt.com: MacBook (13"): Some repaired units exhibiting wake-from-sleep issues. 25 July 2006.)

UPDATE
21 August 2006

A MacBook user named Richard Chi Fai Li has finally cracked it! The cause for the sudden shutdown problem is definitely due to overheating. The extra heat expands the materials to such an extent that the metal chassis/shielding directly underneath the keyboard (it sits on the inside of the top case when the laptop case is opened) touches something inside causing a shortcircuiting at a crucial point where sudden shutdowns occur. The user has used an insulating spacer to permanently stop it from happening as shown in the picture below:

As Richard explained to MacFixIt.com:

"I found that if I take off the top case, the problem never happens. So I tried to see if it's related to the top case by loosen the screws to see if that fix the problem. At first it seems so random that I was unable to be certain which screw is causing the issue. Later I found out if I tighten the bottom, it sure to happen. So now I put a spacer (usually found in those stand-offs of those no name brand PCs, red in color, round, hard paper type) around the center post of the top case, tape it so it won't come loose.

After placing the Kapton Tape, I pushed the CPU to 100%. When the temperature reaches 85 degree, the fan will turn on at high speed and the temperature will lower back to about 77 degree. Tried many times, the computer did not cut off at all. Please note the red spacer on the Centre Post of the top case, the Kapton Tape on the edge of the top case where it touches the heat sink. I also taped the Trackpad/Keyboard cable just in case." (MacFixIt.com: MacBook (13"): Possible hardware fix for sudden shutdowns. 21 August 2006.)

NOTE: Kapton tape is essentially sticky tape. We recommend electrical tape used by electricians as it is stronger, sticks more permanently and is an excellent electrical insulator.

On reading this solution, another MacFixIt reader wrote:

"Let's hope Apple gets on the stick about this issue — there is no way an ASP can get paid from them for doing this — and the customer ain't gonna want to fork over $100 labor charge, that's for damn sure!" (MacFixIt.com: MacBook (13"): Possible hardware fix for sudden shutdowns. 21 August 2006.)

Another MacFixIt reader wrote:

"I am sure it is a design flaw." (MacFixIt.com: MacBook (13"): Possible hardware fix for sudden shutdowns. 21 August 2006.)

UPDATE
14 August 2006

Intel announced the release of the next generation Duo Core chips known simply as Core 2 Duo. The microprocessor is said to be a significant improvement on the original dual microprocessor including a reduction in heat emissions because the chip has been rebuilt from the ground up. Experts claim this is the best chip Intel has ever produced in its entire 38-year history. Let's hope they are right.

UPDATE
17 August 2006

Apple released the SMC Firmware Update to adjust fan behaviour in the MacBook 13-inch laptops. This one allegedly reduces heat by between 12 and 24 °C according to one MacFixIt user. We await confirmation on this from other users.

UPDATE
5 September 2006

The above firmware appears to not only have adjusted fan behaviour, but it seems the MacBook will shutdown suddenly whether or not it is hot. Now the finger is being pointed at faulty temperature sensors. Whatever the cause for this hardware fault, it is good to see Apple service technicians in the US being quick and friendly to resolve the problem as MacFixIt reader Pete Rock has noticed:

"The idea of faulty temp sensors rather than the machine actually running "hot" is appealing for several reasons. In my case, there was no real evidence that the problem occurred because of a truly hot MacBook as the problem would occur randomly and without the MacBook feeling hot, or the fans running. Sometimes the shutdowns would occur when the machine was clearly not hot. Also, the sudden shutdowns sometimes occurred during the boot process which probably excludes software problems, corrupted preferences etc.

(I suggest) people with this issue should take their machines in for repair and use the words 'sudden shutdown.' My experience suggests Apple is aware of this symptom. The tech that examined my machine didn't even bother with asking about software etc. He went right to stressing the machine by loading applications to get processor usage as high as possible. Apple does seem to have as part of its diagnostic toolkit for this problem resetting PRAM and the PMU, neither of which helped in my case.

Finally, I experienced excellent service and turn-around time from Apple for this issue after taking it to a local Apple Store. I couldn't be more pleased with how it was handled." (MacFixIt.com: MacBook (13"): More sudden shutdown commentary; faulty temperature sensors . 5 September 2006.)

UPDATE
6 September 2006

It seems the sudden shutdown problem has suddenly overwhelmed Apple to the point where MacFixIt claims there is an official acknowledgement for the problem in a Knowledge Base article. Interestingly Apple is not making the article easily accessible to the public. Must be a big secret!

UPDATE
15 September 2006

The mysterious Apple article is located here. Notice how there is an absolute poverty of information about the problem. It sounds like another glitch in the manufacturing and quality control process courtesy of good old Apple but would not like to admit it online.

UPDATE
25 September 2006

Apple releases MacBook SMC Firmware Update 1.1 to solve the unexpected shutdowns. But you will require OSX 10.4.7 or higher to run this update. Or you could try the freeware Fan Control 1.1 from Lobotomo Software which doesn't have the OSX restriction. Fan Control is open source and distributed under the GNU General Public License (GPL) system. Or smcFanControl 1.21 from Hendrik Holtmann is acceptable so long as you are able to accept a MacBook that doesn't go to sleep when the fans are turned on.

The Apple version would come only after the freeware versions appeared. It might also be the safest option.

Please note that this Apple update does not fix all sudden shutdown problems for MacBook users. For the worse cases, send your MacBook to your local Apple service agent for a proper repair. We understand Apple may be replacing heat sinks and logic boards to help handle the heat better and stop it from shutting down under excessive heat.

NOTE: Apple has introduced a built-in safety feature to protect your computer when it overheats, except the temperature sensors have to be calibrated right and for the heat sinks to dissipate the heat better. Or would the new Duo 2 Core be better in this regard?

UPDATE
20 November 2006

Sudden shutdown could be a temperature sensor problem. You can test it by removing from /System/Libraries/Extensions the following files and restarting the MacBook (also works for the latest PowerBook 1.67MHz machines):


IO12CCControllerPMU.kext

IO12CLM7x.kext

AppleLM7x.kext

Extensions.kextcache

Extensions.mkext
 

This will disable the temperature sensors. But remember to return the files to the proper location and restart. Otherwise if your MacBook overheats and doesn't shutdown, you could cause irreparable damage and possibly void your Apple warranty.

Only use this technique if you have a MacBook with a chronic sudden shutdown problem and Apple refuses to replace or repair it properly.

Magsafe cable breaking from plug

Having problems with your magsafe power adapter especially around the point the cable enters the plug head? You are not alone. Join the club of disappointed MacBook Pro users.

Apple releases new MacBook models for mid-2007

The new MacBooks have their official RAM and processor speed specs tweaked to a slightly higher level. The base model at US$1,099 moves up from 1.83GHz to the 2.0GHz in speed and doubles the RAM (now 1GB). To make the black MacBook look more worth the extra price, Apple has thrown in a 160GB hard disk into the works for US$1,499. Otherwise 120GB hard disk is the standard for the mid-range white MacBook at US$1,299.

We hope other internal issues have been resolved by these latest models (considered more important than extra RAM and a slight speed increase).

NOTE: The extra RAM will not provide significant increases in OSX performance. Apple has provided extra RAM partly to entice customers to buy the products, but also to offset overheating problems caused by the hard disk acting as a virtual RAM disk when the physical RAM is limited and OSX is a large application to run.

UPDATE
16 May 2007

A minor irritation for owners of the new MacBooks is an external display quirk. This is best explained by Apple as revealed in their Knowledge Base article #305507:

"MacBook (Mid 2007): Using an external display while in clamshell mode

Issue or symptom

If using a MacBook (Mid 2007) with an external display (such as an Apple Cinema Display), you may notice that if the menu bar is set to the external display, waking the computer from clamshell mode may temporarily prevent the internal display from displaying video.
 

Products affected

MacBook (Mid 2007)
 

Solution

1. Press F7 on the MacBook keyboard to temporarily restore video on the internal display.

2. Save any unsaved data and restart the computer.
 

This document will be updated as more information becomes available."

It is too early to tell if other problems might be lurking in the new models. Waiting time: at least 6-12 months before considering purchasing one of these laptops.

UPDATE
16 May 2007

A class action lawsuit has been filed against Apple. It concerns the displays of the MacBook and MacBook Pro laptops released in early May 2006. According to an article written by Charles Jade and published on arstechnica.com and a digital copy of the official lawsuit available freely to the public online in the PDF format, it is claimed by plaintiffs Fred Greaves and Dave Gatley that Apple has advertised the LCD display of the laptops as far superior to that of other portable laptops including the ability to show "millions of colors" (which would effectively require 8-bit LCDs) when in fact the plaintiffs have discovered an inferior screen. On receiving instructions on how to check the specs for the display used by Apple, the plaintiffs visited the manufacturer's web site showing the colours are no greater than 262 thousand colours (ie a cheaper 6-bit LCD from Samsung). Apple has been using a dithering effect to create the illusion of millions of colours.

The official Apple advertisement subject to the lawsuit can be found today on the Apple web site for the MacBook Pro. The advertisement states:

"Everything is illuminated

"MacBook Pro makes your ideas more enlightening, with a sharp, high-resolution screen. See blacker blacks, whiter whites, and many more colors in between on a brilliant 15.4-inch, 1440-by-900-pixel or 17-inch, 1680-by-1050-pixel digital display. Enjoy a nuanced view simply unavailable on other portables."

Enlightening indeed, especially the part that says "see...many more colors..."

See many more colours compared to what? Laptops built 20 years ago? Or are we comparing MacBook Pro laptops to say the previous model PowerBook G4 1.67GHz laptops with their millions of colours and some of the high-quality PC laptops being sold today?

Just with this statement alone, one can observe a slightly exaggerated claim assuming the plaintiffs can observe a banding effect — an unwanted feature that occurs when using colour gradients in professional illustration and photographic images for which Apple computers are meant to be designed to handle. One is led to believe this might be the case with the plaintiffs attempting to argue in the Superior Court of the State of California an inferior display and therefore a misrepresentation of the products being sold by Apple to customers.

Now it would be interesting to see if professional graphic designers can tell the difference.

For example, it is possible to reveal this banding effect on other laptops having millions of colours by reducing the colour range to thousands of colours. The banding effect becomes visible in a gradient fill from one colour to another within say a photograph or illustration image. But are there enough colours on the MacBook Pro to hide this effect? If it turns out to be true the MacBook Pro laptops does show a banding effect and any other oddities which isn't being repaired or replaced by Apple, then there would be a case to answer for. But even if this wasn't the case, the point has been made well to show that for MacBook Pro owners who have spent A$3,500 to $4,500 for the laptop, you would think Apple would have provided a decent "Pro" LCD display as in previous top-of-the-range Apple laptop models with genuine millions of colours. But no, Apple allegedly wants to save money so it can make a bigger profit without telling the public (especially the professionals who need the extra colours for their graphic work).

One would understand if the cheaper MacBook came with this inferior screen if only Apple would be nice to let customers know of this fact. However in the case of MacBook Pro owners, if the display is found to be inferior (i.e. a banding effect in the gradient colours and any other dubious screen anomalies) and were not told about it before making the decision to purchase the laptops, it would be another classic example of a shareholder company driven solely by profit and will use any method available to it to help minimise the costs in return for higher profits and force customers to keep purchasing new Apple computers every few years.

To make matters worse for Apple, the plaintiffs will also argue that within weeks of customers purchasing their MacBooks, users have observed what appears to be a "grainy" display, others complained of the display being "sparkly", and others would notice "distracting lines at different points on the display screen". When the users complained, many dissatisfied customers "were chastised by Apple agents and employees for being too picky about their assessments of the quality of the display". These quotes can be found in the original lawsuit document.

With no other avenue to turn to, it would appear that users have allegedly been forced to vent their complaints on the Apple discussion forum online (not exactly a new situation for dissatisfied owners of older Macs) only to be substantially edited by Apple to reduce the severity and nature of the complaints. Again this is another interesting claim to be contested in a court of law.

One wonders whether Apple is finding it difficult to leave behind obvious manufacturing flaws inside computers as a way of getting customers to continually pay for the repairs and have now opted to fool customers into thinking they are getting a quality product? Either that or Apple is living in la-la land thinking there isn't a quality control problem in the manufacturing of Apple products. Well, this is the implication of the class action lawsuit if it is found to be true.

This is the problem with Apple computers. You don't always know where the parts are coming from until you do some investigation. And when you do, are you getting your money's worth?

And, most importantly, can you achieve the type of work you need to perform on an Apple product?

UPDATE
21 May 2007

MacFixIt has acknowledged noisy slot load optical CD/DVD drives in MacBooks an MacBook Pro. The problem appear to have been worse in early 2006 when the first models came out. One user commented that his noisy drive had collapsed within three months of use and had to be replaced. Some users suspect a different brand was used for the drive by Apple and later swapped back to the original drive manufactured by Matsushita. Still, even after 18 months, some users are noticing an increase in the noise level in the current crop of drives after a period of use although considered within acceptable range according to Apple.

With a bit of luck, current optical drives in the latest MacBook and MacBook Pro should not collapse too easily. Hopefully they will get past the 12 month warranty period.

Again one cannot stress the importance of considering other laptops from PC makers, or purchase a 3-year extended warranty deal for any new Apple laptop or desktop machine. This is especially true of any new model of computer coming out of Apple.

UPDATE
25 September 2007

Have you noticed how MacBooks and MacBook Pros (15-inch and 2.2 or 2.4GHz in processor speed) shipped in mid-2007 came with journaling switched off. This mistake from Apple has been rectified by the Apple MacBook/Pro Software Update 1.0. Users have noticed a considerable increase in speed after applying the update.

UPDATE
7 October 2007

Have you installed Apple 's recent EFI Firmware updates for your particular Intel Mac (MacBook Pro, MacBooks, iMac etc) and discovered sluggish system performance? You may also discover the speed improves when disconnecting USB devices. This undocumented problem from Apple and discovered by users almost immediately may be resolved by creating a new user account and logging into it. Apparently some system files are corrupted or not compatible with the new firmware conditions. Unfortunately the updates cannot fix the offending system files for total stability. OSX has become a little too complex for Apple to do the quality control work.

That's a job for Apple users to do!

Apple Inc. to introduce a new 12-inch MacBook laptop with flash memory

In January 2008, Apple will introduce a more robust and lightweight 12-inch aluminium laptop containing flash memory chips to replace or complement the hard disk. As the internal parts of other products with flash memory seem to survive better in consumer hands compared to those with moving parts and there is a lower cost associated with producing these simpler non-moving products, Apple is likely to do the same for laptops starting with the 12-inch model.

The new laptop will be priced the same as, if not more than, the black 13.3-inch MacBook, or roughly US$1,500. It will be 50 per cent thinner and lighter than the current MacBook Pro.

It will be known as the MacBook Air.

MacBooks introduced in October 2008

The new and improved late-2008 MacBooks have been released by Apple Inc starting from AUD$2095 inc GST.

The top of the range version priced at AUD$2,495 has a casing made of a single piece of solid aluminium known as a unibody, meaning there are fewer screws to hold the case together (a major problem for Apple technicians losing the tiny screws) and will ultimately mean a stronger and more durable casing. And if it is a little thicker, it should hopefully solve the bending of the metal issue around the CD/DVD drive area. Just to be absolutely sure, Apple has wisely moved the CD/DVD drive to the right side of the laptop where the casing is more difficult to bend. It is likely this new design casing will become a standard feature of the new MacBook Pro Air when it finally gets released sometime in 2009.

Overall thickness of the laptop has diminished slightly to 1.08 inches compared to previous MacBook models.

The laptop comes with the latest 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo processor. There are indications the microprocessor could have variable speed meaning the heat generated by the processor might be more manageable and kept cool at times when processor power is not needed. This has yet to be confirmed.

A dedicated NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics processor ensures the Core 2 Duo processor remains relatively cool by performing all the discrete-level graphics at up to five times faster (than the built-in version in the Core 2 Duo processor, or the fastest of the previous MacBook models?). A separate graphics processor gives users the impression this laptop is more responsive than previous MacBook models.

A welcome improvement is combining the button with the trackpad to create a bigger trackpad. Just click the trackpad down anywhere you like and it acts like a button. Just so long as we don't experience the "two double clicks" effect where pressing the button once can sometimes produce two clicks (a problem caused by a weak spring not lifting up the button quickly enough and with adequate firmness).

This new model has a 250GB hard drive, a 13.3-inch diagonal LED-backlit glossy widescreen display of 1280 x 800 pixel resolution with a protective glass surface (as opposed to the cheaper and more easily scratchable see-through plastic), two USB 2.0 ports, an ethernet port, built-in iSight camera, mini DisplayPort output port with support for DVI, VGA and dual-link DVI, 8 x SuperDrive, built-in AirPort Extreme Wi-Fi based on the IEEE 802.11n draft specifications, built in Bluetooth 2.1 plus enhanced Data Rate (EDR) module and 2GB RAM (expandable to 4GB). Built-in stereo speakers and microphone with combined optical digital input/analog line in and an analog line out.

Another improvement is the removal of a movable metal latch to hold the display to the laptop when closed. Now a magnet is used to keep the MacBook closed. A good decision if the hard drive is positioned far enough away from the magnet. And it should solve metal latches breaking off in previous Apple laptop models.

We can also happily report the decision by Apple to use a durable plastic keyboard keys instead of aluminium. This should avoid some aluminium getting onto the fingertips of users where it could get accidentally injested.

The mid-range (AUD$2,075 inc GST) and lower-end (AUD$1,625 inc GST) models have essentially the same features as the top-of-the-range model except the hard drive capacity is reduced to 160GB and 120GB respectively having 1GB standard RAM built-in, whereas the cheapest version comes in a polycarbonate shell instead of the aluminium variety.

Now we wait for the reviews from users...

UPDATE
21 October 2008

The heaviness of the display lid containing the protective glass has resulted in observations by users of the lid falling down under its own weight. It is most common when users tilt the laptop to a sufficient angle to allow gravity to pull the lid down. Fortunately the lid doesn't slam shut which might break the glass due to a sensible lid closing feature.

As one person noted on the Apple Discussions board:

"Last night I was laying down on my back, with my MBP on my knees, angled. I noticed that if I angled it a little more, the display couldn't keep open and would swing down, not quite closing but to the point where I can't see the screen, as if the display hinge is a little loose."

It reveals a minor oversight from Apple in reusing display hinges from the previous MacBook models without adequate testing. The hinges definitely need to grip more strongly to hold the lid in position. But grip it too hard and it could mean greater risks of the hinges breaking as seen in the PowerBook G3 Series "Wall Street". Apple has to find a delicate balance by coming up with a radical new hinge system.

Another minor quirk is when connecting a Mini-DisplayPort adaptor to an external video or display system (it doesn't matter if it is VGA or DVI specific). One user named Ocell on the Apple Discussions board claims to have confirmed it isn't to do with the adaptor when he said:

"I have the exact same problem with my Viewsonic VG2030wm 20" LCD. I've ruled out bad DVI cables. The Macbook Pro works with my 12" Cintiq's display, and the Viewsonic works with my Intel iMac, so the video out/mini displayport adaptor/dvi cable/viewsonic display are all operational. It's just the specific combination of the Macbook Pro and Viewsonic that doesn't work."

And MacFixIt.com claims the problem occurs even when Windows XP is run via Boot Camp suggesting this might not be a software issue. It has even suggested the hardware problem could be related to the type of connection built into the new MacBook:

"The DisplayPort connections used on the new MacBooks have slight differences in their protocols than other connection types, which allows for expanded functions in smaller connectors, but also can run users into difficulties, especially when older connetion types are used."

In other words, it may not be a problem for Apple, but rather the choice of connection provided by Apple to users. Purchasing a new type of connector may make a difference. But as a user you will have to figure it out and at your additional cost.

If all else fails, try resetting the laptop's PRAM or reset your monitor to default settings.

Also some criticism has come in as of 25 October 2008 of software within OSX wanting to adjust the screen brightness to a level it wants but not necessarily what you want (sounds like a computer company we all know about). Adjusting the screen brightness to a lower level (i.e. making it dimmer) to, say, around 75 per cent — because of how relatively bright is the new LED backlighting technology — causes the light sensor (thought to be embedded inside or near the iSight camera) to send constantly changing lighting conditions data to a piece of software designed to automatically adjust screen brightness. However the software is considered too sensitive to these changes to the point where the software wants to constantly change the screen brightness to where it thinks it should be and not where you want it to be. An update to the software will be required soon to prevent users from getting annoyed by the constantly changing screen brightness. Otherwise, users may want to try turning off automatic brightness option in the Displays preference pane.

And just in case you are not busy enough with what you have to do on your laptop, the Migration Assistant software looks a little old or outdated for the new MacBook with claims that the software fails to properly transfer data from one computer to the new laptop.

A user wrote on the Apple Discussions board:

"I just bought the new aluminum MacBook and I am trying to move my files and settings across from my IMac. I set up the DVD / CD share software on both machines. I tried connecting both via direct Ethernet cable and wireless. Both machines are stuck on 'Preparing Information' for a long time, then i get a "Network Connection Failed" error message on the MacBook."

If you are not aware of it, Apple has released an updated Migration Assistant version within a couple of weeks of releasing the laptop to the market.

This might also be a good time to download and install a MacBook Software update released at the same time to address hardware-related problems.

Better having some quality assurance testing after the MacBook has been released than none at all from Apple these days.

UPDATE
22 October 2008

Users are generally happy with the new dual trackpad/button system on the new MacBook just so long as you don't accidentally drop your thumb while touching or pressing the trackpad with another finger. Just one tiny annoyance worth mentioning is how the button has a spring positioned towards the bottom end of the trackpad, meaning the button works best at the bottom. If you press the trackpad at the very top end, the button doesn't click, or clicks very poorly.

According to MacFixIt.com, this is not a true "click anywhere" trackpad as claimed in Apple's official advertisements.

As of 18 November 2008, Apple has released the Trackpad Firmware Update for late-2008 (Unibody) MacBooks to address the issue of trackpad clicks not being recognised. Users are reporting the update has done its job.

UPDATE
29 October 2008

Only two days before Halloween night and users are discovering another bug in the new MacBook. Although this latest quirk in the laptop has potentially more significant nightmarish qualities about it. According to MacFixIt and an Apple Discussions poster from madroberts, we are informed that the new MacBooks chew up more power in sleep mode than in any previous laptop model produced by Apple.

It seems people are talking about a situation where in previous models, putting a laptop to sleep for days will use up a few per cent of the available battery charge per day. Now the new MacBooks has managed to achieve a record few per cent of available battery charge per hour if MacFixIt is correct in their calculations based on the user who reported the problem. As madroberts stated:

"I have the 2.53Ghz, 4MB RAM, 320-7200RPM HD. The other night I unplugged it from the AC adapter and left it closed and supposedly in sleep mode for almost 24 hours. When I came back to use it the next night, the battery had drained all the way down and I couldn't restart it. This just"I have the 2.53Ghz, 4MB RAM, 320-7200RPM HD. The other night I unplugged it from the AC adapter and left it closed and supposedly in sleep mode for almost 24 hours. When I came back to use it the next night, the battery had drained all the way down and I couldn't restart it. This just doesn't seem normal." (MacFixIt.com: Late-2008 MacBooks: Battery issues. 29 October 2008)

And it doesn't appear to be an isolated incident either, with other users acknowledging a major battery drain in sleep (or transport) mode needing closer attention by Apple. For example Discussion Board poster user Shain confirmed the observation:

"My MacBook Pro exhibited this behavior as well. Closed the lid without the power cord plugged in, and woke up to an empty battery in hibernate mode."

More attention to detail is required by Apple with this latest laptop.

UPDATE
3 November 2008

Either users are really cranking it up on their new late-2008 MacBooks by running the latest Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Office 2008 and 3D adventure games but it seems the fans on the new laptop are running full blast to the point where reports have come in of noisy fans. This includes the 2.53GHz unibody MacBook Pro having the single piece aluminium casing.

It usually takes about a day for the laptop to reach a level of heat where the fan must turn on and stay on and making a lot of noise in the process before the user decides to do something about it.

Again the recommendations for solving this type of heat/fan problem include quitting applications (especially those found to be spiking the processor usage times), reducing screen brightness, turning off keyboard backlighting, putting the laptop to sleep, and checking with your local Apple technician to see if the laptop is working properly.

Sounds like Apple is putting in too many features requiring too much power to make them all work.

Or the other option is to ask Apple to make a better laptop (how about several 1GHz or 1.6GHz Dual-Core Intel processors that can run simultaneously at no greater than the maximum speed of the processors - and therefore much less heat and fan noise - and can switch off unnecessary processors leaving just one when usage is low?)

One MacFixIt user has commented it is due to the new compact unibody design with no built in grills and the way the battery and hard drive is making it difficult for the heat to dissipate in the new laptops. The grills are now on either side of the keyboard and is essentially the only area where the heat can escape.

As the MacFixIt reader said:

"OK, some of us are discovering another dimension to what it means to be a Mac "FAN-atic"... In some respects, thermal management seems to have taken a back-seat to appearance in these new pro models; the battery~hard drive compartment imposes new barriers to dissipating heat & the internal fans now appear to be exhausting thru the grilles on either side of the keyboard, making fan operation more noticeable. Activating the high-performance graphics mode, keyboard backlighting, &/or following Apple's official suggestion to crank the screen brightness in order to punch-thru distracting reflections, can also significantly boost power used & heat generated - with resultant increased fan operation. Users may find that old advice will take on new importance with these models; place your notebook on a hard surface whenever it will be used for more than a couple of minutes, & always operate with the cover fully-open, even when using an external display." (MacFixIt.com: Late-2008 MacBooks: Fan noise. 3 November 2008.)

As for the suggestion people shouldn't be using laptops for high performance work, why not ensure that is the case by reducing microprocessor speeds to say 1.6GHz? How many people really need the grunt in a MacBook? Isn't this meant to be handled by a MacBook Pro or a desktop machine? Why does Apple have to put the latest processor into a consumer laptop whose casing is not well-designed for easy ventilation?

When the opportunity presents itself, users will always use the laptops to the max in order to achieve the most they can with it.

We hope this isn't Apple's continuing policy of getting users to break down their laptops and/or batteries sooner through excessive heat and more power consumption so that more new laptops and/or batteries can be sold over time.

UPDATE
6 November 2008

Users are reporting a freeze (i.e. cursor not moving) while the screen shows the desktop or sometimes the screen is black as soon as the unibody MacBook wakes from sleep. It allegedly occurs when the laptop is run in battery mode and seems to be related to the amount of charge available (the lower the charge, the more likely the problem will occur). Disconnecting external peripherals to the laptop (especially the USB variety) appears to be the best solution as if the power needed for these devices is drawing too much current and the laptop is struggling to have enough power to wake up properly. It is alleged the problem has been seen on older laptop models including the PowerPC machines, but this is rare.

It is the first time this latest laptop model has shown the problem to a much more significant degree with a large number of users coming forth to verify the issue according to this MacFixIt article.

Apple will be providing a firmware update to solve this problem soon (hopefully before Christmas 2008 if it wants the sales of these new laptops to be maintained or increased).

UPDATE
10 November 2008

The latest unibody MacBooks appear to have a hidden restriction put into them courtesy of good old Apple. Apparently users are having great difficulties applying a jailbreaking technique to unlock their iPhones. And if they do manage to unlock the iPhone, Apple has prevented users from syncing their data with their unlocked iPhones through iTunes. Apple has recognised there is flag information that tells the company if the disk inside the iPhone is unlocked and then tells the iTunes software to misbehave. Some users are feeling deterred by the latest move. Others are resorting to Windows XP on a PC to bypass the restrictions.

UPDATE
13 November 2008

Could there be more hidden restrictions incorporated into this latest MacBook model? We don't know. But one user claimed the latest MacBook Pro for late 2008 will not burn a disk image of OSX Leopard and, if you succeed in doing so by other means, the so-called professional laptop will not boot up from a burned OSX disk. If anything happens to your original disks, bad luck. You will have to purchase a brand new OSX disk from Apple.

Apple may wish to consider dropping "Pro" from MacBook Pro. Or call it the Clayton MacBook Pro machine? There isn't a great deal of "pro" in this latest machine.

Further details from this MacFixIt article.

UPDATE
10 December 2008

The late-2008 unibody MacBook requires EFI Firmware v1.3 and SMC Firmware v1.2 updates to fix a range of problems summarised in one Apple statement:

"These updates address system stability issues, as well as problems with the computers properly sensing the presence of magsafe power adaptor attachment and battery indicator lights."

The firmware updates have been released simultaneously and Apple recommends installing both of them.

These follow from a previous firmware update addressing "an issue where trackpad clicks may not be recognized". You will be forced to update OSX to version 10.5.5 to implement this trackpad firmware update.

UPDATE
10 March 2009

It is alleged the unibody 13-inch MacBook and 15-inch MacBook Pro has a minor hardware design issue where the stereo headphone jack will not hold onto the stereo plug strongly enough. Apparently it will slip out of the jack with just a little tug of the headphone cable. The 17-inch MacBook Pro appears not to be affected. If this gets annoying, try a stereo USB or Bluetooth headphone for a more reliable connection to the machine. NOTE: Perhaps Apple Inc is encouraging users to buy alternative headsets so that one day the stereo headphone jack can be permanently removed from future Apple laptop designs?

UPDATE
1 July 2009

Apple has released an updated hardware version of the MacBook. It is not immediate apparent if the abovementioned hardware issues have been addressed, but superficially we see the usual improvements such as a faster processor and higher hard disk capacity. It is not clear whether these machines are OSX "Snow Leopard" compatible (i.e. have the latest GPUs).

UPDATE
16 February 2010

Now that hopefully enough users have moved onto the latest MacBook or have purchased a PC, the cost to implement the MacBook Repair Extension Program for machines purchased between May 2006 and December 2007 shouldn't be too expensive for Apple.

If you have one of those models, mainly the 13-inch black or white MacBook model with processor speeds ranging from 1.83GHz to 2.16GHz and an original hard drive capacity of 60GB to 160GB, it is time to get the hard drive and/or its connector fixed by Apple.

Already paid for your repair? Apple has kindly provided an option to have your costs reimbursed. As Apple stated in the knowledge base article:

"Some customers may have paid for out-of-warranty repairs that qualify under this program. Apple will contact affected customers (where contact information is available) with details on the reimbursement process. If you believe that you paid for a repair covered by this program and you have not been contacted, you may contact Apple Technical Support.

This worldwide Apple program does not extend the standard warranty coverage of the MacBook.

This program covers affected MacBook models for 3 years from their original date of purchase or until August 15, 2010, whichever provides longer coverage. Apple will continue to evaluate the repair data and will provide further repair extensions if needed."

We can only guess the long-awaited quality control measures have finally caught up with this laptop, or roughly a bit under 4 years if the above dates are correct.

UPDATE
May 2010

MacBook and MacBook Pro users claim to experience an intermittent 30-second system freeze followed by clicking sounds in the hard drive. It seems to be most common for users having the 7,200rpm 500GB hard drive from Seagate or potentially other brands. Apple has released a hard drive firmware update. You should also update to the latest OSX 10.6.3 and repair the disk and file permissions using Disk Utility.

Privacy issue with the webcam built into the MacBook

Australian 7 News and AAP has published an article titled US school 'spied on students via laptops' on 19 February 2010. It is alleged in a US federal lawsuit that an Assistant Vice Principal at Rosemont's Harriton High School in Philadelphia, had heard and told a 15-year-old student named Blake J. Robbins that "school officials thought he had engaged in improper behaviour at home". It is alleged a photograph was shown as evidence.

If this is true, how did the school official obtain this information? It would seem a little far-fetched until we learn 2,300 students of Harriton High School and Lower Merion High School were issued with an Apple laptop (i.e. a MacBook with a built-in webcam). This means OSX was probably not wiped clean and reinstalled by the students and/or their parents with the original commercial version. Instead the version of OSX installed may have come with a tool or school script designed for monitoring student activities so long as the laptops are connected to the internet.

Are there scripts or tools to monitor student activities? Certainly there is a freeware and open source tool available called VUWER 1.4 (an AppleScript application). The tool can be run in the background to allow a user to locate his/her stolen laptop by specifying the IP address of the laptop or other identifiying means where it can take a picture at a specified interval and have the images sent "either by email or by secure file copy to another computer account" where the thief can be caught in the act of using the laptop.

The question is, have these schools been using the same or similar tool on students' MacBooks?

At first a school spokesman did not confirm the existence of a tool for monitoring students. However, the school district spokesman Doug Young later thought it was unacceptable for the documentation signed by students for receiving the MacBooks to be vague in how the webcams could be activated remotely. As he said:

"It's clear what was in place was insufficient, and that's unacceptable." (Matyszczyk, Chris. School district: Spy Webcams activated 42 times: CNET.com. 20 February 2010.)

Then in later media reports we learn the schools do have a webcam monitoring tool called LANrev. Although interestingly the company that sold the software to the school just happens to have been acquired in 2009 by Absolute Software who in turn are looking at a new software version which requires a police report to be issued before the company can remotely activate and view the webcams. Whether this will improve the privacy issue is anyone's guess (and still no guarantee whatsoever that your privacy will be protected). But at least it would avoid all the legal headaches for the school administrator in this case.

Also a Washington Post article has reported, the Lower Merion High School has admitted accessing remotely the webcams of the laptops on 42 occasions over a 14-month period on the grounds of locating a stolen or missing laptop. Yet no such claim can be made with Blake Robbins' case. A stolen laptop might be considered "improper behaviour", but neither the parents in this case nor the student himself have notified the school administrator of a stolen or missing laptop. Rather, someone thought is was okay to spy on the student outside the school grounds on the assumption that some kind of improper behaviour would be observed.

This is a serious allegation.

So who authorized the monitoring outside school premises? A rumour had floated around at this time that, as a concerned parent with two children of her own, it could have been the assistant principal that authorized the spying. It has been alleged that Blake may have been involved in some form of drug-related activity and either the assistant principal or someone else at the school had wanted to find out.

The assistant principal has since publicly denied the rumour.

Even if the school is found not to be using a remote-activating webcam software tool or, if so, to look at students outside school premises, just raising the privacy concerns has already seen vast numbers of angry students at the two schools (and probably elsewhere in the US and abroad) to put a piece of black plastic electrical tape over the laptop's camera, and for some the microphone as well.

In the case of Apple computers and how they are manufactured, it reveals to us yet another major design fault with the products: how can you be sure your privacy is not being compromised when OSX has access to the webcam and any company such as Apple, or the US Government through the Department of Defence or an intelligence agency, can activate the camera without your awareness? OSX is definitely not an open-source software product. It is owned by Apple. So you can never be absolutely sure the OS is not being used to spy on you. In fact, there is no option on the iMac, MacBook, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro laptops to physically cover the camera. And there is nothing in the System preference panes or Finder to give you guarantees that the camera is not being turned on without your awareness. Not even a red light next to the camera to show it is turned on and watching.

It is a serious flaw, irrespective of the potential benefits in terms of finding stolen or missing laptops. Once you have the laptops, can you be sure you are still not being spied on?

NOTE: Software such as flexiSPY is available to the public for a few hundred dollars to install on someone's 3G mobile phone where another person spying can determine your location through GPS and receive an SMS message notifying the person a call is being made. Then by dialling the mobile phone number, the person can listen in on the conversation. Even if the phone is not being used but left on standby, the software can turn on the microphone and the built-in camera, allowing the person to listen and watch.

MacBook (mid-2010) Firmware Update 2.0

The Apple MacBook EFI Firmware 2.0 update will fix a purple coloration on external displays plugged to the MacBook mid-2010 model has been released as of 18 November 2010. Also fixes the same issue for 13-inch MacBook Pro manufactured in mid-2010.

MacBook (mid-2010) EFI Firmware Update 2.1

Apple is in a good mood as of 25 January 2012 (probably after seeing how healthy their financial sheet for the last quarter has been) to the point where MacBook mid-2010 models have received a nice, easy to install and without hiccups, firmware update. The MacBook EFI Firmware Update 2.1 is designed to enable Lion recovery from an internet connection. But you don't need OSX "Lion" to install. OSX "Snow Leopard" users can happily install the update in readiness to upgrade to the next OSX version.

For users of 2011 models that also cannot enable the Lion recovery feature, check this KnowledgeBase article for similar EFI firmware updates.

Having trouble getting your stubborn Apple Magic Mouse to work for you?

This seems to be a relatively common problem reported by numerous users, especially around the time you need to replace the batteries. For example, in this Apple discussion thread, one user said:

"I've had it a couple of months only. Today it said the batteries were low and I should change them but when i put new batteries in and made sure it was on there is now no little green light and the system Bluetooth is unable to find the mouse.

What should I do now?'"

All sorts of possible reasons are given ranging from the batteries are not the right ones and should try non-rechargeable types, checking the batteries are installed correctly, to trying the mouse on another computer (but usually will still not work).

In 99 per cent of cases where the mouse refuses to show the green light with your new batteries inside and in the right orientation within the battery compartment, try the following method:

  1. Turn the switch on the mouse off.
  2. Power down the computer.
  3. Press SHIFT CTRL OPTION and the Power Button all at once and keep them pressed down for 10 seconds. The computer will automatically turn on after the 10 seconds.
  4. Turn Bluetooth on.
  5. Select "Set Up Bluetooth Device".
  6. As Bluetooth searches for a device, turn on the mouse.

In a few seconds the green light on the mouse should turn on and the device will be re-paired correctly with the computer.

It seems the computer needs a bit of a wake up call in order to see your mouse again.

Finally, if the above method doesn't work, it is likely the mouse connectors inside for touching the terminals of the batteries are losing their mechanical spring strength to push against the battery terminals resulting in the batteries moving about slightly to the point where you can cause the tiniest loss in power. Once this happens, the mouse will lose the wireless connection with your computer. Since this can happen to some users within 6 months of purchasing a magic mouse (at least for the 2011 model), we can confidently state that this is a manufacturing design fault and will need to be replaced with a better model or get your money back. While the mouse may look attractive on the outside (a testament to the brilliant industrial designs from Apple), the quality of the components internally in relation to the battery connectors are not of the highest quality.

Need to continue using the mouse until a replacement arrives? The temporary solution would be to get some paper and insert inside such that the batteries are prevented from physically moving about when you put the lid back on and use the mouse normally. The mouse should then be able to maintain wireless connection to the computer for longer.

MacBook battery update

A class action against Apple by users of the MacBook Pro models has succeeded in getting Apple to supply a MacBook SMC Update 1.5.

You can download the MacBook SMC Firmware Updater 1.6 and see if it works for your model. When you do, make sure your laptop is fully charged and the AC adapter is plugged in and providing charge. There must be no interruption in the power supply during the update.

Thunderbolt Port Firmware Stability Update 1.2

A reign of sensibility has arrived with Apple choosing wisely to come up with a single update to fix all known instability issues for all Mac models (except the Retina models; well it was a good try considering this latest super-thin model is quite unique) that have the Thunderbolt port feature. This one specifically addresses problems found when sharing the hard disk of one computer with another through Target Disk Mode.

MacBook 12-inch early 2015 model

Apple has decided to merge together the MacBook and the MacBook Air, but go upmarket with the iPad by adding the physical keyboard to compete with Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 with this latest new compact 12-inch Retina (2,304 x 1,440 pixels) 13.1mm thin design. Weighing in at just 920 grams, it is also the lightest laptop ever made by Apple.

Intel processor is of the Core-M-5Yxx variety (as used in the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro), meaning it is designed for mobile (M) devices to run as cool as possible with the least amount of power while providing processor speeds of between 1.1GHz (xx=31), 1.2GHz (xx=51) and 1.3GHz (xx=71). Basically it means that the processor will run close to maximum speed when the laptop is virtually cold (it will turbo boost speed temporarily to 2.4GHz, or 2.66GHz for the 1.3GHz processor model), but will get slower and slower as the laptop gets warmer and warmer. Watching videos will be slightly taxing on the processor. However, if you run Adobe Photoshop or render a sophisticated 3D model, it will make the laptop fairly warm. Not quite hot enough to need a built-in cooling fan. In fact, without a cooling fan, the computer will never reach the high temperatures to burn your skin. All that will happens is the speed of the processor will simply drop to ensure the machine remains just warm, making it longer to complete your tasks. For serious processor intensive work, you would be better off sticking to the MacBook Pro. For reading and writing emails, word processing, Excel spreadsheet work, internet access, and watching videos (and nothing else), or watching screensavers all day, this laptop should be fine.

Because of the lack of upgradeability in RAM, solid state drive and processor speeds, you are also better off getting this laptop maxed out with a 1.2GHz (for a slightly cooler) or 1.3GHz (a little warmer but should be designed to remain cool enough for many years of use) with a 512 GB storage unit. All models come with 8GB of RAM, which is the absolute minimum for running OS X "Yosemite", but because the solid state flash memory storage unit is very fast, it can virtually be seen as a RAM extender.

All other features such as Wi-Fi 802.11ac/a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, and a FaceTime camera are included, but no stereo microphone or sound output port to be found anywhere.

Due to its incredibly thin dimension, only one port is provided. But wow what a multifunctional port. Not only is the port a power charging connection, but also a single USB-C version 3.1 Generation 1 port churning out 5Gbps of data throughput, a VGA and DisplayPort version 1.2 (a new USB-C to DisplayPort cable is needed to permit full 60Hz UHD operation, which is not available from Apple, but can be obtained from Google), and an HDMI version 1.4 video output port (maximum of 3840 x 2160 pixels at 30Hz refresh rate, which is a bit less than the 60Hz for ideal and highest quality video, but should be fine enough for most other videos). Individual adaptors can be purchased for each function, or you can purchase a single adaptor that has everything ready and available. But you do have to remember to carry the adapter with you all the time.

Apple has dropped the HD 720p or 1080p FaceTime camera in favour of an energy-efficient 848x480 pixel (or 0.4MP) camera. Still adequate for Skype use.

Perhaps the big new improvement has to be the battery life. Thanks to a more power efficient processor and a more compact logic board design, the amount of power needed to run the laptop is less than any previous laptop model. Apple is learning to be modest by stating 9 hours of continuous web surfing or 10 hours of watching videos. Independent tests suggest it can potentially last as long as 11 hours and 12 minutes using a looped-video test. However, you should bear in mind that battery life always reduces with each charge so that after 2 to 3 years of regular use, the laptop should last a solid 5 to 6 hours on a single charge. Compared to older Apple laptop models, it was only 5 years ago when 6 hours of continuous use on a single battery charge was considered exceptional for a brand new machine.

And the new trackpad allows for more reliable mechanical clicks and with adjustable sensitivity.

Apple is also introducing two new colours for the casing. The standard silver aluminium version is available, or you can have a brushed gold or dark grey metallic version for no extra cost. By providing some choice in the colours for image-conscious consumers, Apple is banking on the idea of this model selling in more significant numbers.

This model should eventually replace the MacBook Air but will require some further technological improvements to the FaceTime camera and to have a sound output and microphone port. But while the sales of the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro remains reasonable, the MacBook Air will probably continue to be available to buyers for a little while longer.

Or else Apple could be preparing for the imminent release of the new and slimmer MacBook Pro later in 2015 or certainly in 2016 with the above features added.

In the next 3 years, Apple will almost certainly introduce the detachable keyboard model to the MacBook brand to help permit a portable tablet option for users. At the moment, Apple is trying to survive as long as possible on maintaining the existing laptop design to avoid iPad users having to sell off their devices for the new Intel-based models, and for iOS developers to create new Intel-compatible apps that will probably run on OS X as well. Until then, this is the best compromise Apple can come up with in terms of something MacBook Air users are familiar with and a machine that provides a physical keyboard instead of the screen keyboard concept of iPads.

In the meantime, PC manufacturers are likely to take major leaps in new mobile device designs over the next couple of years to leave Apple further behind.