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Back in black: MacBook world's best laptop?

Macs now are able to run Windows XP as well as OS X. That means you could be very happy using the new MacBook.
The white ones are terrific - but the top-of-the-line black model  'feels' special.
The white ones are terrific - but the top-of-the-line black model  'feels' special.Apple

Before I came to work at MSNBC, all the computers in my house were Macs. 

But at MSNBC, I was forced to work on a PC and have been doing so ever since. Had to. All the software needed to run our site is PC-based.

But now, Macs are able to run Windows XP as well as OS X. And Macs run both very well. That means I could be very happy using the new MacBook that I’ve been testing as my only computer.

Quite frankly, this notebook computer is the best I’ve ever used.

All the little annoying features that were built in to previous Apple laptops have been addressed. The hardware is now as slick as the software that comes inside. 

Hardware improvements abound
The nice people at Apple sent me their new, top-of-the-line MacBook to test, which comes in black. The other new MacBooks are the usual Apple white plastic. Nice, but not special. The black one has a warm and fuzzy black finish. Wonderful to touch and hold. 

The keyboard is new too. It feels nice on the fingers and definitely is up there as far as great Mac keyboards go.

Apple actually reinvented the AC power adapter for the laptop. On older models, if you looked at the connector the wrong way it snapped. I know this from experience ($80 to replace). The new one snaps onto the MacBook magnetically, and if you tug hard it just gently disconnects. Nothing breaks.

Even opening the MacBook is nice: The latch is magnetic, which means no more little metal pieces sticking out, getting loose or breaking.

All the new MacBooks have 13.3 inch screens — great looking glossy widescreens. They also have Intel Core Duo processors (1.83 or 2.0 GHz), 512 MB of memory, 60 or 80 GHz hard drives and either a Combo drive (DVD-ROM, CD-RW) or a SuperDrive (DVD+-RW, CD-RW). Prices range from $1.099 to $1,299 for the white ones up to $1,499 for the black model.


All the connectors are on one side: the MagSafe port, Gigabit Ethernet, Mini-DVI, Firewire 400, two USB 2.0 ports, audio 'in' and 'out' plus a security lock slot. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are built in. So are an iSight video camera and microphone

It comes with Version 10.4 Tiger — which includes very cool software including the Safari browser, Mail 2, iChat, iLife, iWork — just about everything you need on a laptop to work and play in style.

...and it does Windows
The new MacBook also can run Windows XP (Service Pack 2 only). You need to download the Boot Camp software from the Apple Web site and follow the instructions carefully. You’ll also need a full copy of XP-SP2. It takes about an hour to create a Windows partition on the hard drive and install the OS.

The new Intel-based Macs run Windows really well — as well or better than any laptop I’ve ever tested.

I have no problem recommending a MacBook to any OS X or Windows user. My only caution is that Macs use a one-button mouse and PC users are used to two-button devices. Windows fans will have to learn a keyboard shortcut or two to simulate a right-click. Or, you could always plug in an external USB mouse.

The issue with the Windows mouse really is my only complaint, which is pretty amazing when you come to think of it. The MacBook is a jewel of a notebook computer that acts like two separate computers, has lots of terrific built-in features — both software and hardware — and is only one inch thick.

I like the new MacBook and can heartily recommend it to anyone who needs a modern, new portable. I'm going to miss the test computer when it goes back to Apple.