Once upon a time, there was a company that made computers. Computers that were lusted after the world over. They were sleek, they were unique and they were really expensive. Really, really expensive.
That company was Apple.
If you’ve looked around for a laptop recently, Apple’s offering you might not have noticed, have ballooned in price.
Sure they’ve got thinner and lighter. Yeah, they might even have gotten more powerful (the jury is out on the latest MacBook with Intel Core M CPU) and the screens have gone RETINA. . .no more visible pixels irritating your eyes (woohoo!) and, they’ve lost so many of the features that made Mac laptops great in the first place.
Usable port variations (without expensive dongles)
Optical Drive (they were handy when you needed one, but hey buy an external Apple one for a humungous price as an add on).
MagSafe Power Connectors
To name but a few ‘features’ that have departed the Apple Laptop line up.
What we have gained is:
Retina Display (so you can squint at really small print but see no pixels)
Awful feeling keyboard
The need to buy expensive USB-C Dongles for all these things you used to connect, without needing a Dongle.
Ah progress. . .Progress: emptying your pockets, so they can keep filling theirs.
So, here in 2017, if you want a Mac Laptop, that has ports that you can use out of the box, one that features a MagSafe power adapter, you know the one that pops off when you catch the power chord, without it dragging your expensive laptop into a potentially catastrophic end? Yeah, how many laptops were saved from serious damage thanks to the MagSafe Power Plug? Hundreds of thousands if not millions. If you want a Mac Laptop, where you don’t need to carry around an over priced DVD writer, what options have you got, without digging even further into your hard earned cash?
This quandary got me thinking. I was looking for an updated Apple laptop, but their price to feature set and overall experience in use, is frankly, nasty, compared to what the majority of people would classify as classic Apple laptops (when unibody design first started in the MacBook, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro laptops, around late 2009 into mid-2010.
Now, during that period, Apple did actually make a laptop for the masses. It was called the MacBook. . .
A beautiful crafted unibody design, in shiny white polycarbonate, with a novel rounded, clamshell edge, harking back to the iBook G3 of years past. And, the polycarbonate MacBook Unibody, was, in Apple terms, affordable for the masses (although by PC laptop comparisons, still a bit high). It was unashamedly Plastic. White plastic.
The last ‘real’ MacBook was the mid-2010 model, which featured an Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4GHz CPU, nVidia 320M 256MB GPU, 2GB RAM, 10hr battery life, a built in DVD burner, a multitude of ports (USB, Ethernet, Mini Display, Audio In/Out), the excellent MagSafe Power Port, Large Glass Multi-Touch TrackPad and a 250GB 5400 rpm Hard Drive. All for £849.00.
There were upgrade options, for example, you could up the RAM to 4Gb for £50, the hard drive to 320GB for £50 or 500GB for an extra £100.
So, for say a 4GB, 320GB Hard drive version, that would come in at £949.00 back in the day.
Today, a base model MacBook will set you back £1249.00, for which you get no DVD burner. No MagSafe Port. No Mini Display. No conventional USB ports. No ethernet. Yet, it’s £400 more than the previous generation of MacBook.
The new MacBook, does of course have all new updated hardware, like Core M or Core I processors, PCI-e based SSD Flash storage, retina display, a new backlit butterfly keyboard design which makes the keys very thin and spongy feeling when typing, a USB-C port, which charges the internal battery, but if using it while charging, means you can’t connect anything to your new sleek and metallic, overly expensive MacBook, without buying a lovely USB-C hub (check out the prices on any USB-C hubs. Eye watering).
So, what am I complaining about?
Price and usability.
The MacBook was a statement item. The choice of students around the world, the trusty and reliable companion for travellers the world over. A reasonably lightweight, but durable and powerful enough laptop, which could do everything you threw at it.
The unibody MacBook, had the exact same internals as the mid 2010 MacBook Pro. The Pro version had an aluminium unibody shell and a backlit keyboard and cost and extra £150 for the base model, but the MacBook you could get for the same price as the base model MacBook Pro, could have more storage and more RAM. Bigger bang for the buck. The MacBook also shared one other thing with the MacBook Pro: the large, glass, multi-touch TrackPad. . .Mmmmmm.
Unfortunately, the MacBook unibody got a bit of a bad rap, as complaints of hairline cracks on the top cover and around the ports started circulating/ Apple never acknowledged the issue officially, but did offer a free replacement service for anyone affected.
The MacBook unibody, officially died in mid 2011. No replacement was forthcoming.
R.I.P MacBook unibody. A great laptop and friend to those lucky enough to have got one.
‘But, it’s 2017’ I hear you cry. ‘What are you going on about a 7 year old computer for?’
Well, I have to make a confession. I never bought a MacBook. I was always enticed by the aluminium sibling and loved running MacBook Pro for years. Until last week. . .
I was browsing around eBay and saw a white unibody MacBook, 4GB RAM, 320Gb Hard Drive, for under £250.
The description was minimal, but the rather dark pictures on the listing, showed no major damage, so before I knew it, I had hit Buy It Now and paid for it. The dispatch notification followed around an hour later.
Next morning, the Postman, delivered a large parcel, which I knew was my MacBook. I took it upstairs and lowered my expectations. This was going to be a mistake, but not a costly, costly mistake, just an ‘I should have known better’ mistake, then opened my parcel.
It was well packaged and inside a custom Intel ‘Look Inside’ neoprene carry case, was the unibody MacBook. It looked surprisingly clean.
Upon close examination, there were lots of surface scratches, but nothing that noticeable, just light scuffing, no dents but more importantly, NO HAIRLINE CRACKS. I was suddenly excited.
Upon powering on, macOS Sierra start up ran. I followed the setup and a few minutes later, I was looking at a beautiful and familiar desktop. I hit the Apple log in the top left corner and then About This Mac.
A new window opened, so I chose System Report, and then Power. I needed to see how quickly the battery would need replacing.
I seriously gasped aloud. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
Original battery (I checked) with only 22 cycles. The battery was like new!
I scooted around the MacBook, making sure everything was running well and it was fine. Sierra was a bit sluggish, so I ordered 8GB RAM rom Crucial, along with a Crucial MX300 275GB SSD to replace the hard drive.
Both arrived the next day. I cloned the hard drive with Carbon Copy Cloner, then powered the MacBook down and let it cool down.
I’m no stranger to Mac’s and have carried out a number of repairs on iMac, MacBook Pro, Mac Mini etc over the years, including a challenging hard drive replacement in a mid 2011 iMac [everything including access to parts is behind the screen], so was comfortable with opening these things up.
Upon opening the MacBook, I had my trusty Dyson V6 handheld at the ready, with compressed air canister at the ready, sure to discover some awful nasty truth hiding beneath the rubberised base plate. . .
The MacBook was completely, totally and utterly pristine inside. No dust. No hairs. No anything that shouldn’t have been there.
“Ah the previous owner cleaned it before sending” I hear you cry? Not so. I’ve opened enough Apple devices up to know the ‘Apple tightness’ of the screws. Each screw has a bonding agent on the end, which seals the screw in place when first installed and the screws all felt ‘right’.
I disconnected the battery (with a plastic spudger), removed the RAM and then replaced the hard drive with the SSD and inserted the 8GB (2 x 4GB) RAM modules. Quick puff of compressed air and closed the MacBook up.
Now, before I tell you what happened upon restarting, I will say this about the mid 2010 MacBook. The keyboard feels better than on any of my MacBook Pros or MacBook Airs. The MacBook keyboard is tight with great feedback. It is vastly better than the backlit offerings on the higher end models. the same goes for the trackpad. The trackpad should be the same as the higher end models, but it feels tighter and more accurate. the physical ‘click’ has a much more substantial feel and tone about it. This thing was built to last. I was by this time delighted with my bargain bucket find. This MacBook was full of surprises.
I started the MacBook up. No nasty sounds, so the memory was right and within about 25 seconds, I was looking at a fully loaded desktop. This was bloody quick.
I instantly started the upgrade to macOS High Sierra. I wanted the new APFS file system.
The install went without a glitch.
Upon restarting, the MacBook absolutely flew. This thing was really fast. Certainly fast enough for demanding tasks. Photoshop, Lightroom, Safari, everything opened within a second and a half ready for use.
Battery lasts very well, especially considering that it was June 2010 manufactured and has now only been cycled 24 times. Health is actually going up with each full cycle I’m putting it through, as I had hoped it would, since it hasn’t had that much use in its life so far.
iStat Menus is now showing it at 92% health and the time remaining has increased to over 8 hours, depending on use. I’ve been running on battery for over 7 hours, there’s 19% remains with still over an hour remaining before it cuts out. That is hugely impressive for a 7 year old computer.
So, to cut what could be a very long story down to a medium sized read, here’s the deal:
A mid 2010 MacBook unibody for £250.00. I bought Crucial SSD and RAM from Crucial, but you can get them both on eBay for less: I’ve seen new sealed 275GB MX300 SSD going for @£60 – £65 on eBay and 8GB of Crucial RAM, going for £35 – £40, so for @£100 more, you can have fast RAM and SSD in your 2010 MacBook, which brings me to the point of this entire piece.
If I was to ask you, what the cheapest Mac you could buy was, to run the latest macOS High Sierra operating system, what would you think? If I said you can do it well for under £400 and have a fantastic, iconic computer to boot, would you believe me?
I give you:
The MacBook unibody White 13.3″ LED backlit, Core 2 Duo 2.4GHz CPU, 8GB RAM, 275GB SSD, UK Layout Keyboard, 2 x USB ports, Ethernet Port, Mini Display Port, Audio In/Out, DVD Superdrive, MagSafe Power Port , Glass Multi-Touch TrackPad and that world famous Classic white polycarbonate shell, glowing Apple logo on lid, for under £400.00.
The mid 2010 unibody MacBook, is still an iconic and powerful laptop computer (with a little updating internally) for 2017 and beyond. . .You might not be able to update the CPU or the GPU and by todays standards, the internals of the mid 2010 MacBook are ‘lacking’.
But, with a bump up in RAM and a swap out to a new faster SSD, the bottle necks that limited things before, have been reduced to a minimum. More RAM and the SSD allow the CPU to process data quicker, giving an old laptop a new lease of life. The MacBook officially only supports 4GB RAM, yet this one is running 8GB perfectly fine. The even better news? It does actually support 16GB DDR3 RAM, should you need more.
I absolutely love my first MacBook. It does everything I want it to, when I want it to. Applications load in under 2 seconds and the system boots up in well under 30 seconds. It’s solid and feels great to use. The keyboard is responsive and the Glass Multi-Touch TrackPad? An absolute joy to use.
So, if you’re thinking about getting a Mac or laptop, which will run the latest operating Systems, that are more than capable power wise of a bit of video or photo editing amongst the more everyday, mundane productivity tasks, take a look around and see what you can actually get for under £400.00.
Sure, you could go into an Apple store and fork out £1249.00 for the latest Core M based 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD MacBook, which as a fashion statement looks nice, but when you add in the USB-C Dongles you need to connect that USB Stick, or that scanner, or that external DVD drive, or an Ethernet connection, when Wi-Fi is missing etc. that £1249.00 will go up, up, UP!
Or, you could look around and get something that’s classic Apple, has a much more enjoyable typing experience (I’m not alone complaining about the latest keyboards on Apple Laptops), runs macOS High Sierra is UPGRADABLE and DOESN’T NEED DONGLES.
The Apple MacBook (Mid -2010) Unibody White 13.3″ still going strong in 2017. . .with a little help. Probably the best value MacBook you can buy today.