"Head and shoulders above the competition"4.5 starson by jongh_wei
Pros: Price, fit and finish, screen, compact size, etc
Cons: May need to buy $80 copy of XP if you want to run Windows
Summary: A review is meaningless without a proper benchmark for comparison. Here my benchmark is two other popular notebooks of similar size: the Compaq V2000T and the Dell E1405. I have access to all three brands through work. All three notebooks run Windows XP Home (yes, even the Apple, though it can also run Mac OS X 10.4). I configured all three notebooks to be just under $1000. As you will see, the Apple rates far better than the Dell and the Compaq. Overall I therefore give it a 9. If you are planning to use Mac OS X extensively, then it becomes an even better value, and I would have to give it a 10 (but this review is solely about the hardware, not about Windows vs OS X).
Summary: I find the MacBook to be an exemplary laptop, especially compared to its competition. Compared to the Dell E1405 and Compaq V2000T, it features much better construction, a nicer screen, a much more compact enclosure, better battery life, and overall much higher quality hardware (e.g., Gigabit Ethernet instead of 100Base-T, DVI instead of VGA, etc.). If you already own a copy of Windows XP, I would have to strongly recommend the MacBook over either the Dell or the Compaq - it's quite simply much more laptop for the money (which shocked me, given Apple's reputation for high prices!). Even if you don't own a copy of Win XP, I'd recommend seriously considering the MacBook plus buying a copy of XP, because the MacBook definitely seems worth an $80-90 premium (the going rate for XP Home).
Apple MacBook - $999 at Amazon.com after rebate (Core Duo 1.83, 512 MB, 60 GB, DVD Combo Drive, wireless)
Compaq V2000T - $985 at Compaq.com after rebate (Core Duo 1.66, 512 MB, 60 GB, DVD Combo Drive, wireless, "BrightView" screen)
Dell E1405 - $978 at Dell.com after instant rebate (Core Duo 1.83, 512 MB, 40 GB, DVD Combo Drive, wireless, "TrueLife" screen)
Build Quality: One of the most important aspects of a laptop. The MacBook feels very solid with excellent fit and finish, and Apple's laptop reliablity score is the highest. The E1405 and V2000T do not seem as solid, and the fit and finish is mediocre. More importantly, the Dell Inspiron and Compaq lineups have a reputation for reasonably poor build quality, and their laptop reliability scores are not that high (e.g., see PCWorld or Consumer Reports). Winner: MacBook. Runner-Up: E1405/V2000T
Weight & Size: Another key aspect. The Compaq and the MacBook weighed in at 5.2 lbs. The Inspiron E1405 is 5.3 lbs according to Dell. My scale said 5.4 lbs, but close enough. I considered all the weights a tie. However, I measured the MacBook at only 125 cubic inches. This compares very favorably to the chunky-feeling Dell, which is just under 190 cubic inches, and the Compaq, at about 180 cubic inches. Practically speaking, this meant that the MacBook just felt a lot easier to slip in and out of my bag than the V2000T or the E1405. Winner: MacBook. Runner-up: E1405/V2000T
Performance & Storage: Obviously all three laptops perform about the same since they are all running Windows on Intel Core Duo processors with 512 MB of RAM and Intel GMA 950 graphics. However, technically I have to give the win to the MacBook since the V2000T had a slower processor than MacBook and E1405 (1.66 Ghz vs 1.83 Ghz) and the E1405 had less storage than MacBook and V2000T (40 GB vs 60 GB). Winner: MacBook. Runner-up: E1405 (HD is cheaper to upgrade than processor)
Screen: Very important. The MacBook ties the V2000T and the beats the Dell. The MacBook easily had the brightest, sharpest screen of the three, and it also produced the least glare. The V2000T screen looked pretty dull in comparison. However, even the Compaq's screen did seem appreciably better than the E1405's screen. But, the MacBook's screen is slightly smaller than the Compaq and the E1405 (13.3" vs. 14.1"). So if you prefer bigger pixels, then you might prefer the V2000T. Otherwise the MacBook is the clear winner in my opinion. Winner: MacBook/V2000T. Runner-up: E1405.
Battery Life: This one is hard to measure consistently, but in a few tests I found that I could generally get about 2.25 hours out of the E1405, 2.5 hours from the V2000T, and 3 hours from the MacBook. This was just doing word processing, web surfing, and e-mail, so what I'd term "moderate" usage. Winner: MacBook. Runner-up: V2000T.
Extras: This is the most subjective part, so you may have to make your own judgement. Overall I felt that the MacBook came with more than the Compaq V2000T or the Dell E1405. However, not all the MacBook extras are currently supported under Win XP, so I'd call it a tie with the Dell. You will have to weigh them for yourself. The MacBook comes with: Bluetooth, IEEE 1394 ("Firewire"), DVI video out support (as opposed to lousy VGA), Gigabit Ethernet (up to 10x faster than E1405 or V2000T), iSight (webcam), "MagSafe" power cord, remote, and sudden motion sensor (to protect hard drive). The E1405 comes with: remote, IEEE 1394 ("Firewire"), modem, memory card reader, S-Video, and ExpressCard slot. The V2000T comes with: S-Video, ExpressCard slot, and modem. Most of these features are pretty self-explanatory, but a few stood out. First, Bluetooth is indespensible for syncing a mobile phone with contact info - I really love it (I have it on the E1405, but adding it to the E1405 in this comparo would push the price over $1k). Also, I found the MacBook's "MagSafe" adaptor to be really nice compared to the E1405 and V2000T power bricks. Not only was it "safe", but it was just much easier to plug/unplug than a conventional power brick. Finally, I did find the E1405's memory card somewhat useful. The ExpressCard slot I have no use for, but if you are getting EVDO then it could be useful. Winner: MacBook/E1405. Runner-up: V2000T.
Noise and Heat: All three laptops got warm to the touch. The V2000T's and E1405's fans seemed to activate sooner under a processor load than the MacBook's, but YMMV. The MacBook's fans were definitely the quietest of the three. Winner: MacBook. Runner-up: V2000T.