Apple MacBook (Mid-2010) full review

Apple has gently revised its white MacBook, now with better graphics and even longer battery life

The virginal white Apple MacBook has been going strong since Apple launched its Intel-powered iBook replacement in 2006. Suddenly, dual-core Mac notebooks were available with a huge speed-bump over even the top professional PowerBook G4 models of the day.

As the entry-level Mac portable, the 13in Apple MacBook has aways been cast as the more affordable consumer version of the metal-bodied MacBook Pro – yet with plenty enough performance for most users.

A subtle redesign was made to the Apple MacBook in October last year, with the processor clock speed bumped from 2.13GHz to 2.26GHz, and various other behind-the-scenes upgrades, including a new LED-backlit display.

Externally, that last revision also saw the body edges and corners get a little more rounded, alongside a more stain-resistant gloss finish on the wrist-rest area. And the trackpad expanded in size and received the full glass multi-touch treatment, able to take advantage of various natural finger gestures for racing around the Mac OS X operating system.

Now we have another subtle upgrade in the Apple MacBook (Mid-2010) model. The processor gets another boost, this time to an Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 running at 2.4GHz. The glass trackpad is much the same but gains an extra inertia-scrolling action, as found on iPhones and iPads, which makes navigating through documents and images feel even more intuitive.

Other small incremental changes to the Apple MacBook (Mid-2010) include a slightly enhanced integral battery capacity, bolstered a little from 60Wh to 63.5Wh, and a revision to the Mini DisplayPort video output that means it should be able to pass digital audio too. We didn’t try this, but an HDMI adaptor on this port ought to allow digital sound to be piped to suitably equipped monitors and AV receivers.

But Apple saved the biggest single upgrade for the graphics processor. Out goes the surprisingly powerful but efficient nVidia GeForce 9400M controller (as used to bolster Atom netbooks to make the more game- and HD-friendly Ion platform). In comes a newer nVidia GeForce 320M graphics processor, again using 256MB of system DDR3 RAM.

Apple cites a selection of games that receive a boost of between 1.3x and 1.8x compared to the performance of the previous MacBook model. We tested graphics using FEAR running in Windows 7, using Apple’s Boot Camp to make a dual-boot computer.

Here, we saw the framerate rise from 14fps in the previous model, to 26fps in the same test with Max detail settings. And at High settings, framerates rose from 33fps to 55fps. This represents an upgrade of between 1.5x and 1.67x, well within Apple’s claims.

Battery life of the Apple MacBook (Mid-2010) is extended too, we’re told, to 10 hours. We used MobileMark 2007 Productivity, again in Windows 7, which is a greater challenge than when the MacBook is running with its optimised Snow Leopard OS.

Nevertheless, we saw a runtime here of nearly nine hours (535 mins) - a superb result.

In real-world performance, this year’s MacBook scored 94 points in our WorldBench 6 test. That’s a minor lift on the 92-point score of the model of late last year, an already quick result.

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Apple MacBook (Mid-2010): Specs

  • 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8600
  • 1066MHz FSB
  • 3MB L2 cache
  • 13.3in (1280 x 800) glossy LCD display
  • Mac OS X 10.6.3
  • 250GB 5400rpm SATA HDD
  • 2GB (2 x 1GB) DDR3 RAM
  • nVidia 9400M with 256MB shared RAM
  • Mini DisplayPort
  • slot-load DVD±RW DL optical drive
  • 2 x USB 2.0
  • gigabit ethernet
  • 802.11a/b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
  • combo audio in/digital out jack
  • stereo speakers
  • built-in mic
  • webcam
  • Multi-touch trackpad with inertial scrolling
  • MagSafe power port
  • integrated 63.5Wh lithium-polymer battery
  • 330 x 232 x 27mm
  • 2121g