It defies Apple convention. MacBook Pros, MacBook Airs and PowerBooks—those systems don the silver finish of aircraft-grade aluminum. iBooks and MacBooks? They can settle for plain old white.
That was, until today when Apple presented their redesigned MacBooks featuring the new "unibody enclosure" manufacturing process. So is a new finish and more rugged build enough to make the budget laptop feel like its premium counterparts? In one word, yes.
The new MacBook feels exactly like the new MacBook Pro, just smaller. Literally, if there was not a "MacBook" label on the front, you could not tell the difference without closely examining the ports. The same buttonless trackpad, the same glossy black frame, the same beveled edges, the same keyboard with back-lit keys, the same conveniently side-mounted battery display and the same optical-drive placement make this look a lot like the fabled 12-inch MacBook Pro we've been waiting for...even though it technically isn't—especially since the firewire port is gone. (The ports left include two USB, mini Display Port, ethernet, mic and headphone jack).
Let's talk about that buttonless glass trackpad for a moment. It's really fantastic. The finish is just right, providing that perfect balance of tactile resistance generally reserved for the MacBook Pro trackpad.
The feeling of physically clicking the trackpad (like a mouse button), while it sounds awkward for sure, is something I unconsciously adjusted to in seconds. The only oddity was when I used a two finger press for right clicking. On my current MacBook Pro, right clicking is a simple two finger tap and I caught myself tapping as opposed to pressing frequently when I right clicked. (If you can't adjust to the clicking pad, you can simply turn the click feature off and default to touch settings alone).
The 4-finger awareness is better than I thought. A simple swipe of four fingers pops up Expose. So could I fool it? Maybe if I only used 3 fingers. Maybe if I slipped in a thumb. Nope. It was too smart for me.
A quick tour of Spore outputted on the new 30-inch Cinema Display showed that while the MacBook's new NVIDIA GeForce 9400M is decent, it doesn't make for a flawless, unbelievable gaming machine. The system achieved passable framerates while running at 1280x800 resolution at mostly medium settings (like shadows and textures). Not horrible, but not great either.
It'll be interesting to hear the final verdict on the new metal MacBook when we have time to sit down and test it fully. But for now, as a premium computer for the average Apple user, I'm digging it.