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Mac FAQ

 

Macintosh Computers FAQ

 
 

How fast is the original MacBook compared to the iBook that it replaced?

Please note that all systems mentioned in this Q&A have been discontinued. The original MacBook was replaced by the "Late 2006" MacBook Core 2 Duo series.

As is mentioned elsewhere in the MacBook Q&A, the original MacBook actually is the replacement for three models -- the PowerBook G4/1.5 12", iBook G4/1.33 12", and iBook G4/1.42 14".

Apple advertised that the MacBook is "up to five times faster than the iBook and up to four times faster than the 12-inch PowerBook". However, this claim is based on "SPECint and SPECfp rate tests" rather than "real-world" application tests.

In a fantastic review that should be read in its entirety, ArsTechnica compared the performance of the MacBook to the iBook it replaced using both benchmarks and real-world application tests.

Using the Cinebench benchmark, the author reported that "a comparison with the iBook's ATI Mobility Radeon 9200 is embarrassing, to say the least. The scores were clearly not even in the same league." A QuickTime encoding test, likewise, was more than twice as fast on the MacBook than it was on the iBook. However, apparently limited by the speed of the drive itself, an iTunes CD ripping test provided basically identical results, with the iBook "only slower by four seconds".

The always excellent MacWorld also put the MacBook through its paces in an in-depth review. The whole piece should be read for complete perspective, but in particular regarding performance the author reported that:

The new MacBooks performed well overall, and especially in our processor-intensive native application tests, where they even outperformed the 1.5GHz 12-inch PowerBook.

The MacBooks were three times as fast in our Cinema 4D render test, nearly twice as fast in our Compressor MPEG2 encoding test, and about 1.5 times as fast in our iTunes MP3 encoding test. . .

As with all Intel-based Macs, however, applications that have not yet been updated to run natively on Intel chips must use Apple’s Rosetta dynamic translation technology, and those apps perform much more slowly than they do on older PowerPC-based Macs.

In our Photoshop CS2 tests, for example, the 1.83GHz MacBook took almost 68 percent longer to complete our suite of tests than the 12-inch PowerBook, while the 2.0GHz MacBook took 53 percent longer.

Ultimately, when running native applications written for Intel-based Macs, the original MacBook generally is substantially faster than both the iBook and PowerBook systems it replaced. The "real-world" difference is less than the four or five times faster claim, but still huge nevertheless. When running applications written for PowerPC-based Macs, on the other hand, the MacBook often is slower.

 
 
 

Can you upgrade the processor in the MacBook?

Based on a series of photographs of the internals of the MacBook housing from Kodawarisan, whom you increasingly can expect to tear apart any new Mac within days of its release, the processor is soldered to the logic board.

This may come as a disappointment to some, but the MacBook Pro has its processor soldered to the logic board as well, so it should not be unexpected. Given the design of both the MacBook and MacBook Pro, it is clear that Apple does not intend for the processor to be upgraded in either system.

The hard drive, on the other hand, is a different story. It is just about as easy as upgrading the RAM.

The always excellent iFixIt covers replacing the hard drive, installing RAM and other internal upgrades for the MacBook models. Apple provides instructions on how to replace the hard drive yourself as well.

iFixIt provides nice color photographs of the process, but it is so simple, photos barely are needed. In a nutshell, the the quick instructions are:

1. Shut down the MacBook, unplug it, and disconnect any cords or cables.

2. Remove the battery.

3. Unscrew the now visible "L bracket".

4. Discharge static electricity by touching a metal surface (or better yet, use a grounding wrist strap).

5. Grasp the internal hard drive by the white tab and gently slide it out.

6. Slide in the new hard drive.

7. Reconnect the L bracket and install the battery.

The MacBook is an excellent design for anyone who wants to upgrade the RAM or hard drive themselves.

 
 
 

Does the MacBook have a ROM or BIOS?

The MacBook systems use Intel's Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI) rather than the traditional Macintosh ROM or PC BIOS.

What is the "Sudden Motion Sensor" in the MacBook? How does it work?

The Apple "Sudden Motion Sensor", first introduced with the discontinued PowerBook G4/1.5 15" (SMS/BT2), PowerBook G4/1.67 15", and PowerBook G4/1.67 17" and included with the MacBook models, is a tri-axis accelerometer that detects sudden changes in "position and accelerated movement".

In the event that one of these systems are dropped or fall off a desk, the Sudden Motion Sensor reacts by stopping the movement of the hard drive heads so that the disk platters won't be scratched when the notebook impacts the floor. This makes it less likely that the hard drive will be damaged.

For more information on the Sudden Motion Sensor, please refer to "About the Sudden Motion Sensor" and "Sudden Motion Sensor: Advanced Tips" from the Apple Support Site.

 
 
 

How do you upgrade the RAM in the MacBook?

Users interested in upgrading the RAM will be pleasantly surprised to discover that the MacBook is quite a bit easier to upgrade than some previous Apple notebooks.

The Apple Support Site has posted a detailed article on "How to Install Memory" in the MacBook that likely will provide everything you need to upgrade the stock memory.

The Apple Support Document states that the MacBook:

Has two memory slots that you access by removing the memory door in the battery bay. Your MacBook comes with at least 512 MB of 667 MHz Double Data Rate (DDR2) Synchronous Dynamic Random-Access Memory (SDRAM) installed.

Both memory slots can accept an SDRAM module that meets the following specifications:

* Double Data Rate Small Outline Dual Inline Memory Module (DDR SO-DIMM) format
* 1.25 inch or smaller
* 512 MB or 1 gigabyte (GB)
* 200-pin
* PC2-5300 DDR2 667 MHz Type RAM

Apple supports a maximum of 2 GB of RAM in the "Core Duo" and "pre-Santa Rosa Core 2 Duo" models (ones released prior to November 1, 2007) and 4 GB of RAM starting with the "Late 2007/Santa Rosa" line (introduced on November 1, 2007).

For all models, Apple reports that "for best performance, fill both memory slots, installing an equal memory module in each slot." Given the "integrated graphics" the MacBook is heavily dependent on system RAM, and consequently, Apple reports that installing equal RAM in each slot is important for maximum graphics performance.

However, third-parties have discovered that "pre-Santa Rosa" MacBook models equipped with a "Core 2 Duo" processor will work with 3 GB of RAM (those with a Core 2 Duo processor released prior to November 1, 2007) -- which requires a 2 GB module and a 1 GB module. This "mismatched" configuration will modestly compromise performance of video-related tasks but likely will be of interest for users who primarily use the system for CPU and memory-intensive tasks.

Site sponsor Other World Computing has posted detailed test results comparing the performance of the MacBook configured with matched and mismatched memory.

The Apple document goes on to provide installation instructions complete with drawings, which absolutely should be read in their entirety before one installs memory, but in a nutshell, the quick instructions are:

1. Shut down the MacBook, unplug it, and disconnect any cords or cables.

2. Remove the battery.

3. Unscrew the now visible "L bracket".

4. Discharge static electricity by touching a metal surface (or better yet, use a grounding wrist strap).

5. Slide out the existing memory modules.

6. Slide in the new memory modules.

7. Reconnect the L bracket and install the battery.

That's it! You're good to go. For alternate installation instructions, you also may wish to refer to the always excellent iFixIt which covers RAM installation along with other internal MacBook upgrades.

Site sponsor Other World Computing sells memory and hard drive upgrades for all MacBook systems. Users interested in upgrading the RAM will be pleasantly surprised to discover that the MacBook is quite a bit easier to upgrade than some previous Apple notebooks.

The Apple Support Site has posted a detailed article on "How to Install Memory" in the MacBook that likely will provide everything you need to upgrade the stock memory.

The Apple Support Document states that the MacBook:

Has two memory slots that you access by removing the memory door in the battery bay. Your MacBook comes with at least 512 MB of 667 MHz Double Data Rate (DDR2) Synchronous Dynamic Random-Access Memory (SDRAM) installed.

Both memory slots can accept an SDRAM module that meets the following specifications:

* Double Data Rate Small Outline Dual Inline Memory Module (DDR SO-DIMM) format
* 1.25 inch or smaller
* 512 MB or 1 gigabyte (GB)
* 200-pin
* PC2-5300 DDR2 667 MHz Type RAM

Apple supports a maximum of 2 GB of RAM in the "Core Duo" and "pre-Santa Rosa Core 2 Duo" models (ones released prior to November 1, 2007) and 4 GB of RAM starting with the "Late 2007/Santa Rosa" line (introduced on November 1, 2007).

For all models, Apple reports that "for best performance, fill both memory slots, installing an equal memory module in each slot." Given the "integrated graphics" the MacBook is heavily dependent on system RAM, and consequently, Apple reports that installing equal RAM in each slot is important for maximum graphics performance.

However, third-parties have discovered that "pre-Santa Rosa" MacBook models equipped with a "Core 2 Duo" processor will work with 3 GB of RAM (those with a Core 2 Duo processor released prior to November 1, 2007) -- which requires a 2 GB module and a 1 GB module. This "mismatched" configuration will modestly compromise performance of video-related tasks but likely will be of interest for users who primarily use the system for CPU and memory-intensive tasks.

Site sponsor Other World Computing has posted detailed test results comparing the performance of the MacBook configured with matched and mismatched memory.

The Apple document goes on to provide installation instructions complete with drawings, which absolutely should be read in their entirety before one installs memory, but in a nutshell, the quick instructions are:

1. Shut down the MacBook, unplug it, and disconnect any cords or cables.

2. Remove the battery.

3. Unscrew the now visible "L bracket".

4. Discharge static electricity by touching a metal surface (or better yet, use a grounding wrist strap).

5. Slide out the existing memory modules.

6. Slide in the new memory modules.

7. Reconnect the L bracket and install the battery.

That's it! You're good to go. For alternate installation instructions, you also may wish to refer to the always excellent iFixIt which covers RAM installation along with other internal MacBook upgrades.

Site sponsor Other World Computing sells memory and hard drive upgrades for all MacBook systems.

 
 
 

What is the overall gaming performance of the MacBook?

Please note that this answer refers to discontinued MacBook models released prior to November 1, 2007. For information about the graphics and gaming performance of subsequent models -- those equipped with GMA X3100 integrated graphics -- please refer to "How much faster is the Intel GMA X3100 graphics processor in later MacBook models compared to the Intel GMA 950 in earlier models? Is gaming performance improved?"

Although it may not be immediately apparent without knowledge of the underlying system architecture, the answer to this question is rather similar to the ones provided by "Is World of Warcraft (WoW) playable on the Intel-based Mac mini 'Core'?", "Why are 'integrated graphics' in the Mac mini 'Core' considered to be inferior?", and "Will games that say an ATI Radeon or NVIDIA GeForce graphics card is required run on the Intel-based Mac mini 'Core' systems?". All MacBook models "suffer" from the same integrated "Intel GMA950 graphics processor with 64 MB of DDR2 SDRAM shared with main memory" as the Intel-based Mac mini.

As mentioned previously, referring to this integrated graphics system, Apple says:

The Intel GMA950 graphics supports Tiger Core Graphics and the latest 3D games. It shares fast 667 MHz memory with the Intel Core processor, for an incredible value proposition.

As also mentioned previously, various reviewers have attacked the "latest 3D games" marketing copy as being a tad optimistic. Much like the Mac mini "Core", Apple's "Gaming Hardware" website more conservatively claims that the MacBook "can be a casual gamer’s mobile entertainment hub, providing speed and durability". The company then lists a number of games with modest hardware requirements like "Zoo Tycoon 2" and "Jewel Quest".

Knowing that both the Mac mini "Core" and MacBook share the same integrated graphics system, a more focused question perhaps would be "Given the faster processors used in the MacBook, is gaming performance better than that provided by the Mac mini 'Core'?"

Referring directly to its gaming performance in an in-depth review of the original MacBook that should be read in its entirety, ArsTechnica notes that:

One last observation I really wanted to make were my impressions concerning running a popular game in Windows XP on the MacBook's hardware. Many people are critical of this machine's apparent lack of ability to run state-of-the-art games. While these people are technically correct (see benchmarks later on), there's a whole class of games out there that can be fully enjoyed. . .

I think that casual gamers will find that the MacBook will be able to adequately run somewhat new and enjoyable 3D Windows-only games. From discussions with people more knowledgeable than I, I'm also confident you should be able to play games like Second Life, The Sims 2, and World of Warcraft with tweaks to the graphics options. If you were hoping to be able to play taxing games like Oblivion and Half-Life 2, you're going to be out of luck.

In a "shootout", the always reliable BareFeats provides a variety of benchmarks, and bluntly states that "the 13 inch MacBook is NOT optimized for 3D gaming" and taking a jab at the marketing copy, says "sorry Apple, but the 13" MacBook *IS* a 'slouch' when it comes to 3D gaming and Tiger Core Image graphics."

In a MacWorld editorial entitled "Steering away from the MacBook", the author mentions that the recently released Mac versions of Call of Duty 2 and Quake 4 exclude the Mac mini "Core" and MacBook due to the integrated graphics system. He likewise concurs with BareFeats, but does so far more diplomatically, stating that the:

Graphics hardware really makes the system ill-equipped at dealing with OpenGL-intensive 3-D games--which make up the majority of the high-profile games on the market today, even games with mainstream appeal like The Sims 2, for example. It'll also hurt the MacBook's game-playing performance if you plan on running Windows games using Boot Camp. Intel integrated graphics don't work much better on Windows than they do on Mac OS X. That doesn't mean the MacBook isn't a good casual gamer's rig. In fact, it should play less-demanding games just fine and may even be able to play some older, PowerPC-optimized games using Rosetta.

In a follow up article, MacWorld tested the MacBook's gaming performance and after upgrading the RAM from the stock 512 MB to a maxed out 2 GB noted that "having more RAM available for the graphics chipset made a huge difference in performance -- nearly double the frame rate."

Nevertheless, even with 2 GB of RAM, the author has much the same conclusion as the earlier editorial:

If you were thinking of buying a MacBook to run Quake 4 or Doom 3, you’d best keep shopping. You might be able to get an “OK” frame rate from these games by reducing the screen resolution and dropping image quality and details to their absolute lowest settings. But by doing this, you’re giving up much of the reason for wanting to run these games anyway -- their amazing visual environments.

The faster processors provide an enormous enhancement for a variety of computing tasks like video editing and others that do not rely on the 3D graphics, but explicitly for a "portable gaming Mac", the "integrated graphics" subsystem is the bottleneck. Consequently, you would be wise to heed the advice of MacWorld and consider the MacBook Pro, whether it is for playing Mac games or Windows games via Boot Camp. If you need an inexpensive notebook for productivity, and would like to play an occasional "casual game" as noted by the Apple Gaming Hardware page, or World of Warcraft (WoW) with the settings cranked down, the MacBook likely would serve you well.

 
 
 

What exactly is a glossy display?

In a few words, a "glossy display" is one that has a "glossy" or "reflective" finish instead of the "matte" finish traditionally used by Mac notebooks.

In the marketing copy for the MacBook, Apple heralds that the 13.3-inch "glossy widescreen display" is:

79% brighter with 30% more viewing area than the iBook before it, MacBook provides the perfect combination of pixels and portability. Photos feel crisper. Movies play vividly. Even daily tasks like surfing the Web and checking email take on a whole new sheen.

In an interview with MacWorld UK, Apple's Director of Portables Worldwide Product Marketing, Todd Benjamin says "we say glossy because when you look at the screens you'll see a glossy appearance. It means colors are much richer, they look great. . . users watching DVDs on a new portable MacBook should appreciate the extra luster."

In a MacWorld US "First Look" of the new MacBook, Jason Snell comments:

If you've ever walked past a PC laptop and noticed that its screen was incredibly reflective, you've seen the same type of screen that's been incorporated in the MacBook. While it's too early for me to have reached a judgment about whether this new screen style is an improvement to Apple's older, anti-glare screens, I am sure of this: some people will love it, and others will hate it. In the right conditions the glossy screen looks absolutely gorgeous; however, it's also remarkably reflective, and it can be quite distracting to continually see yourself reflected back by your laptop's screen.

One well-written and humorous opinion against the glossy display used in the MacBook, and glossy displays in notebooks in general, comes from John Siracusa's "FatBits" on ArsTechnica.

The full piece is well worth reading in its entirety, but the author laments that:

Glossy displays have effectively taken over the entire laptop market. Why are they so popular? Here are three possible reasons.

1. They are better than matte-finish displays.
2. They are cheaper than matte-finish displays.
3. People are idiots.

The author then concludes:

In "shopping mode," . . . all people see [is] shiny, saturated, sharp. Customers aren't trying to read the screens or move the laptops to different locations in different kinds of lighting. Shopping is almost always an emotional experience, not a rational one. The fallout is predictable, particularly in the world of retail electronics. . .

It seems pretty obvious to me that shiny "looks better," and that's why it's taken over the laptop market. This makes me sad, and not a little bitter. Thus, reason number three. People are idiots.

A quick review of the comments posted on Slashdot reflect the variety of opinion. Some think it's great, others think it is a "step backwards" compared to the display used in the now discontinued iBook models, and still others think it isn't a big deal one way or another.

Ultimately, whether the glossy display used in the MacBook is better or worse depends on your personal needs and preferences. You may wish to evaluate a system in person to determine whether or not it is the right display for you. The MacBook Pro is available with your choice of "matte" and "glossy" displays, each for the same price.

Site-sponsor PowerMax has new and used MacBook and MacBook Pro models available free of sales tax.

 
 
 

How do you upgrade the hard drive in the MacBook?

Based on a series of photographs of the internals of the MacBook housing from Kodawarisan, whom you increasingly can expect to tear apart any new Mac within days of its release, the processor is soldered to the logic board.

This may come as a disappointment to some, but the MacBook Pro has its processor soldered to the logic board as well, so it should not be unexpected. Given the design of both the MacBook and MacBook Pro, it is clear that Apple does not intend for the processor to be upgraded in either system.

The hard drive, on the other hand, is a different story. It is just about as easy as upgrading the RAM.

The always excellent iFixIt covers replacing the hard drive, installing RAM and other internal upgrades for the MacBook models. Apple provides instructions on how to replace the hard drive yourself as well.

iFixIt provides nice color photographs of the process, but it is so simple, photos are barely needed. In a nutshell, the quick instructions are:

1. Shut down the MacBook, unplug it, and disconnect any cords or cables.

2. Remove the battery.

3. Unscrew the now visible "L bracket".

4. Discharge static electricity by touching a metal surface (or better yet, use a grounding wrist strap).

5. Grasp the internal hard drive by the white tab and gently slide it out.

6. Slide in the new hard drive.

7. Reconnect the L bracket and install the battery.

The MacBook is an excellent design for anyone who wants to upgrade the RAM or hard drive themselves.

Site sponsor PowerMax has all configurations of the MacBook available for sale free of sales tax. 7

 
 
 

What are the capabilities of the optical drive provided by the MacBook models? Which can read and write dual-layer DVDs?

All MacBook models are capable of reading and writing to CD media, but some can only read DVD or write to single-layer DVD. The specific capabilities of each system are included on the specifications page of each model, but also are included below for your convenience.

MacBook

Optical Drive

MacBook "Core Duo" 1.83 13"

8X "Combo" Drive

MacBook "Core Duo" 2.0 13" (White)

4X "SuperDrive"

MacBook "Core Duo" 2.0 13" (Black)

4X "SuperDrive"

MacBook "Core 2 Duo" 1.83 13"

8X "Combo" Drive

MacBook "Core 2 Duo" 2.0 13" (White/06)

6X DL "SuperDrive"

MacBook "Core 2 Duo" 2.0 13" (Black)

6X DL "SuperDrive"

MacBook "Core 2 Duo" 2.0 13" (White/07)

8X "Combo" Drive

MacBook "Core 2 Duo" 2.16 13" (White)

8X DL "SuperDrive"

MacBook "Core 2 Duo" 2.16 13" (Black)

8X DL "SuperDrive"

MacBook "Core 2 Duo" 2.0 13" (White-SR)

8X "Combo" Drive

MacBook "Core 2 Duo" 2.2 13" (White-SR)

8X DL "SuperDrive"

MacBook "Core 2 Duo" 2.2 13" (Black-SR)

8X DL "SuperDrive"

MacBook "Core 2 Duo" 2.1 13" (White-08)

8X "Combo" Drive

MacBook "Core 2 Duo" 2.4 13" (White-08)

8X DL "SuperDrive"

MacBook "Core 2 Duo" 2.4 13" (Black-08)

8X DL "SuperDrive"

Systems with a "Combo" drive can read single-layer DVD but not write to DVD. Systems with a 4X "SuperDrive" are capable of reading dual-layer DVD, but only can write to single-layer DVD. Systems with a "dual-layer" SuperDrive can read and write dual-layer DVD.

 
 
 

How does the MacBook keyboard "feel"?

The MacBook keyboard looks different than usual. How does the MacBook keyboard "feel"?

Upon seeing the MacBook keyboard for the first time, some with good memories, or knowledge of computer history, may have been vaguely reminded of the oft panned "chicklet" keyboard that shipped with IBM's ill-fated PC jr.
Apple MacBook Keyboard

Photo Credit: Flickr user cdevroe

Upon first glance, the MacBook keyboard is noticeable as it appears to have large "gaps" between the keys. However, the "striking surface" of each key is effectively identical to previous PowerBook and iBook models, but the MacBook keys go straight down instead of having a beveled edge. The MacBook keys also are slightly "sunken" so that they will not leave marks on the display.

As first pointed out by reader Andrew of Gulf Coast, Australia, referencing the internal-only Apple "Service Source" repair manual, the MacBook keyboard is quite different in design compared to earlier Apple notebook keyboards. It is built into the top of the case without the "top/bottom shields" of previous models. Apple's repair guide notes that "the top case includes heatstaked keyboard, webbing, EMI shield, a small rectangular foam pad, and attached trackpad cable." Effectively, the entire "top" of the keyboard "half" of the notebook lifts off.

A quick review of a MacInTouch Reader Report provides a full gamut of opinions regarding the MacBook keyboard, ranging from liking "it more than any PowerBook keyboard" to being "the worst laptop keyboard in the last ten years". As one would expect, the majority seem to think that the keyboard looks different, and some think it takes some getting used to, but it's certainly acceptable.

Addressing the "issue" directly in a phenomenally in-depth review, ArsTechnica notes that the keyboard doesn't feel:

That much different from the keyboard on any other Apple portable I've used. It certainly looks much more "integrated" with the machine (mostly because it's no longer a removable part) but I'd be hard pressed to describe the "action," "response," and "travel" of the keys to be very different from those on the MacBook Pro, PowerBook, or iBook G4.

When using the keys, they're pushed flush with the casing beneath them. There are no "dividers" other than open space between the keys, so there should be no worries of fingers getting bruises from bumping into hard objects all day long.

NotebookReview says that:

At first look it seemed like there would be no travel to the key, they looked short and stubby, but in fact the travel is really good and the keyboard could rate as one of the best out there. There's no flex (as in zero, none, zilch) to this keyboard, it is completely firm due to the way it is designed.

Much like the glossy display, you may wish to try out the MacBook keyboard in person and determine whether or not you like the way it feels. After all, your opinion ultimately should be the only one that matters to you. Site sponsor PowerMax has new and used MacBook models available free of sales tax.

 
 
 

What is the MacBook battery life in "real-world" tests?

Apple's official estimate of the battery life of all "non-Pro" MacBook models prior to the "Early 2008/Penryn" systems was an impressive six hours. However, the company estimated 3.5 hours while using wi-fi and 2.5 hours of DVD playback.

For the "Early 2008/Penryn" models -- the MacBook "Core 2 Duo" 2.1 13" (White), "Core 2 Duo" 2.4 13" (White), and "Core 2 Duo" 2.4 13" (Black) -- Apple changed how it reported battery life and replaced the three sets of numbers with one -- "4.5 hours of wireless productivity". The company further clarifies that the "wireless productivity test measures battery life by wirelessly browsing various websites and editing text in a word processing document with display brightness set to 50%."

However, regardless of the numbers provided by the manufacturer, it is important to see how the systems perform in impartial "real-world" battery life tests.

In a fantastic ArsTechnica review for the original MacBook that should be read in its entirety, the author reported that while using the "best performance" setting, he managed three hours and thirteen minutes while playing a DVD with brightness set to half. He got four hours and five minutes while playing an iTunes stream, wi-fi and bluetooth enabled, and brightness set to half. Finally, with no applications running, wi-fi and bluetooth disabled and the screen set to very dim, he was able to squeeze out five hours and forty minutes.

Regarding these results, he concluded that:

I'm quite pleased with these battery testing results. While it's painfully obvious where Apple gets its six hours of battery life claim, a running time of approximately 3 hours while watching a DVD is a good one, especially for jetsetting Mac users. Four hours of usage under what I consider to be "normal" conditions is also acceptable to me.

The "Late 2006" and "Mid-2007" MacBook systems use the same motherboard and have effectively identical battery life as the original models.

With the introduction of the "Late 2007/Santa Rosa" models on November 1, 2007 -- which use a more advanced motherboard -- one might have thought that battery life would have changed, despite Apple maintaining the same official battery life estimate. However, in a MacWorld review, the author found that:

Battery life was excellent and almost identical to the previous model. I watched a complete movie running off a DVD and it took 3 hours and 23 minutes for a fully charged battery to die (you can watch Doctor Zhivago in its entirety on your cross-country flight without having to recharge the MacBook’s battery).

For the "Early 2008/Penryn" models, introduced February 26, 2008, the usually comprehensive MacWorld did not run battery life tests. However, in an excellent review from Electronista (from the same publisher as the long-running MacNN), the author found that:

Using Apple's recommended settings of normal power usage, wireless turned on, and half screen brightness, I netted better than expected battery life in the exact same conditions. The test system lasted for 4 hours and 54 minutes, or about 4.9 hours, of average web browsing.

This is not only longer than Apple's official claims but leaps ahead of the previous model; most users of the 2 GHz and 2.2 GHz MacBooks from the fall [the "Late 2007/Santa Rosa" systems] often net between 4 and 4.5 hours of similar use, sometimes netting less.

Ultimately, it appears that Apple's latest battery life numbers for the MacBook are quite realistic. However, as Apple notes as well, battery life may vary depending on "configuration and use".

Apple also has posted a Knowledge Base article entitled "Calibrating Your Computer's Battery for Best Performance" that you may wish to read.

Site sponsor PowerMax has new and used MacBook and MacBook Pro systems available free of sales tax.

 
 
 

Are there any third-party programs to run Mac OS 9 / Classic applications on Intel Macs?s?

When Apple made the decision to no longer support MacOS 9/Classic applications, EveryMac.com was hopeful that an easy to install and use commercial application would become available and allow use of legacy applications and documents on the Intel-based Macs.

As the market for MacOS 9/Classic compatibility solutions is not growing, and as it has been quite some time since the switch to Intel processors was announced, it seems doubtful that a commercial solution will become available. Software like Parallels Desktop for Mac makes it easy to run Windows on Intel-based Macs, but no such equivalent for MacOS 9 exists.

Where the commercial market has failed, the open-source community has made an effort to respond with the oddly titled "SheepShaver". SheepShaver began life as a MacOS "run-time environment" that made it possible to run MacOS applications within the BeOS. The name itself is a play on "ShapeShifter", a 68k Mac emulator for the AmigaOS.

The hardworking open-source programmers behind the SheepShaver project explain that:

It enables you to run PowerPC Classic MacOS software on your computer, even if you are using a different operating system [like MacOS X for Intel]. However, you still need a copy of MacOS and a Power Macintosh ROM image to use this program. . . SheepShaver provides the first PowerPC G4 emulator, though without MMU, to enable the execution of MacOS Classic. Performance with the current CPU emulator using basic just-in-time (JIT) translation techniques is roughly 1/8-th of native speeds.

Compared to average MacOS X applications, which generally are installed with "drag and drop" simplicity, installing SheepShaver is complicated, as it requires one to know basic UNIX commands as well as extract a software ROM.

The Apple Blog has provided a nice walkthrough of the process of extracting MacOS ROM 1.6 with TeamViewer and installing and configuring SheepShaver with MacOS 9.0.4 (the last version supported by SheepShaver). This blogger reported that on an unspecified Intel-based Mac, SheepShaver was slow but stable, and MacOS 9 thought that it was running on a vintage Power Macintosh 9500/120. MacMegaSite also has posted installation instructions that you may find helpful.

From reading a number of forums, websites, blogs, and comments, the general consensus is that after overcoming the installation hurdles, SheepShaver allows one to run MacOS 9 slowly, but some also have had trouble with compatibility and stability as well. This is not to denigrate the hard work of the open source community in the slightest as this type of program is extremely complex and the fact it works as well as it does is quite remarkable.

On the home page for the SheepShaver project, the developers post this plea to Apple:

Hello, it is well known that you dropped support for MacOS Classic applications in MacOS X for Intel. Should you care of your users, people that made you a living for years, please consider the following: either (i) bring back a Classic environment, or (ii) help SheepShaver development. The latter can be realized by releasing code and/or documentation about MacOS Classic internals. Thanks.

With help from Apple, SheepShaver probably could work as well as the Classic Environment on PowerPC-based Macs running MacOS X 10.4 "Tiger". It is no doubt a disappointment to the developers to not have Apple's assistance.

Should you have non-critical needs for running MacOS 9/Classic applications on an Intel-based Mac, such as really old games or potentially even archived document access, SheepShaver might meet your needs. However, those who remain dependent on MacOS 9/Classic software would be best served by continuing to use an existing PowerPC-based Mac or upgrading to a newer one.

Site sponsor Operator Headgap Systems specializes in heavily upgraded Macs capable of running both MacOS X and MacOS 9 applications. Site sponsor PowerMax also sells a variety of used systems capable of running both operating systems.

 
 

 

 

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