Chat transcript: MacBook and other Apple products

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Jason Snell, and Jonathan Seff hosted a live chat event Friday featuring questions about Apple’s latest products. The new MacBook was a popular topic, as users asked about performance, heat and durability issues. Here’s the complete chat transcript.

Macworld: Welcome to the Macworld live chat with Editorial Director Jason Snell, and Senior News Editor Jonathan Seff! Jason and Jonathan are ready to take your questions on Apple’s new MacBook, or any other piece of recently released Apple hardware you’d like to discuss.

Welcome Jason and Jonathan!

Jason Snell: Hi there everyone. It’s great to be here for this first Macworld chat. We await your excellent questions!

TheDeepThought: I am about to make the switch to Mac. Is there some way to use the Apple Remote with Keynote so that I can hook up a MacBook to a TV and use the remote to advance slides?

Jason: The Apple Remote does work with several Apps outside Front Row including iTunes. I don’t know off the top of my head if Keynote is supported but if not, hopefully someone will come up with an add-on to make it work. Alternately you could use a third-party remote or even a Bluetooth phone via the Salling Clicker program!

robco: I know that the MacBook won’t be able to run games like Doom III or Quake 4, but how about more casual titles like OttoMatic, Enigmo 2, Sims 2, etc.—how well will they run?

Jonathan Seff: Even 3D games will run on the MacBook. Just not very well. But in games where the processor is important it should run pretty well. In Nanosaur, we got some pretty good frame rates.

craigb6: I’m considering buying a MacBook to use for school work. I’m thinking of getting the middle model, with upgraded RAM to 1GB and HDD to 80GB. I want to use OS X for ‘non work’ stuff, but I really need to run Windows XP on a regular basis. Which is the best method of doing this? Bootcamp or Parallels, or should I wait to see what wonders are to come in Leopard?

Jason: If you want to use Windows on a regular basis, I think that Parallels is probably the best approach. With Boot Camp, you have to re-boot whenever you want to run the other operating system and if you’re switching back and forth between OSes a lot, that’s a pain. Parallels, meanwhile, lets you run them in parallel! Hence the name. I’m using Parallels and it’s great for just about everything except for games, where you need full speed.

atomic16: Can you actually order a custom MacBook from the Apple store?

Jason: Depends on what you mean by custom . You can build it to order, within Apple’s parameters. You can’t order one with your name laser-engraved on it. :-) But you can, for example, build a white one to be maxed out, even though the black model is technically the high-end version.

baratunde: My black MacBook showed up today with horrible, horrible screen problems. Many dead pixels, I think. I just sent it back. How many reports of this have you heard?

Jon: We haven’t heard problems with dead pixels. The one I’m typing on right now is just fine.
Jason: In every new batch of systems there are going to be some bad apples but I don’t think we’ve seen anything more systematic than that. All the MacBooks we’ve seen here have been in pretty good shape.

robco: Aperture most likely won’t be officially supported, but will LightRoom be able to run well on the MacBook?

Jason: It’s hard to say, but my guess is that the MacBook will do better than you might expect when it comes to Pro apps. For example, Final Cut isn’t really supported on these systems, but it works. Whether any of these Pro apps work well enough to let you opt for a MacBook instead of a MacBook Pro, sort of depends on whether or not you care about screen size, weight, and performance. It’s a balance.

Irene: Is there any consensus yet about the relative merits of the new MacBooks? I’ll be getting one in October to replace my G3 900MHz 640 MB iBook and am debating if the Black one is worth the extra cost. What are the pros and cons of black vs. white?

Jon: Well, the only differences between the two are a slightly bigger hard drive and the black color So you’re paying $150 just for the black color. Is it worth that to you? I bought the white model.
Jason: And I got the black one. They’re functionally the same. But of course, the black one is cooler. :-)
Jon: No way!
Jason: We shall agree to disagree. It’s a personal choice.

teamspike: I want to know what the Macworld editors think of installing a non-Apple 7200 RPM drive in the MacBook. Would the performance gains be noticeable? Would there be heat issues?

Jason: Actually we just ordered a 7200 rpm SATA laptop drive, and got it in yesterday. So look for a report on that in the near future. Generally my guess is that it will work, but you never know for sure until you try.

wjdoyle: My iBook G3 600 MHz has just died and I have a G4 dual 1GHz desktop w/ 1.5 Gb RAM for Final Cut Studio and Photoshop. Is there a downside to replacing both machines with a 17” MacBook Pro to do all of these tasks? I’m assuming the Intel Core Duo with Universal apps will outperform the G4 Dual, but what about under Rosetta?

Jason: Good question. My guess is that with Rosetta apps, the MacBook Pro 17 would be in the ballpark of the dual 1GHz desktop. For some tasks that take advantage of multiple processors, the PowerPC desktop might be slightly faster, but I doubt you’d notice a big difference. And of course the Universal versions will be much faster on the MacBook Pro.

b0gl3: Does Macworld get free new Apple computers/products when they come out?

Jason: Apple does have a program where they send out review units to reviewers … However, we don’t generally take advantage of that program because it takes a little bit of time for those models to get to us. Instead, we do what you do — run to the Apple Store and call mail-order retailers and try to find the products as fast a possible! Then we buy them, test them, and eventually turn them into systems that Macworld staff members use for work. So for example, last week Jon and I were at the San Francisco Apple Store waiting to pick up two MacBooks the day they came out. So, short answer: we buy everything we can. :-)

robco: I’m curious as to your collective opinion with respect to durability compared to the iBook and the MacBook Pro.

Jon: That’s hard to say, since the MacBook hasn’t been out very long.
Jason: I can’t see how it would be any less durable than the iBook. It’s really hard to say, because it’s so early. They sure seem solid, though.

MIlo: Is the screen clear to read in bright light?

Jon: In really bright light, it’s somewhat similar to a TV screen. But I’ve found that once you focus on the screen, and not the reflection, it’s just fine.
Jason: Apple says it’s something like 75 percent brighter than the previous iBooks and 12” PowerBook. And that brightness helps a lot. Jon says it’s 79 percent brighter, according to Apple. So it’s pretty impressive compared to those old systems. Much brighter.

Charles: Why the price difference between the 2 colors?

Jon: The black model costs $200 more than the 2.0GHz white model and when you figure in the $50 hard drive upgrade It’s $150 for the black… if you want to look at it that way.
Jason: It’s not always cheap to be beautiful and fashionable.

Sweden: Don’t you think the black MacBook is way too expensive just for 20 GB and a black paint?

Jason: I’d view it as more like $150 for black color, since you can upgrade the white to the larger drive. If you’d be willing to pay extra for black, then it’s worth it. Otherwise it’s too expensive. :-)

Prof1950: What about waiting until fall for the next generation of Intel chips? My priorities are weight and battery life, rather than processing speed. How likely is it that the next generation of chips will produce lighter weight, longer lasting laptops?

Jason: Waiting will always be a problem for computer buyers. There’s always something better coming down the line. If you need a new computer now, don’t wait. If you can wait, consider waiting. I doubt that the weight will dramatically change. The battery life might improve a bit, but battery technology also improves. I love small laptops, so I hope Apple comes out with something smaller or lighter than the MacBook but I’m not confident that it’ll happen. That said, the new generation of chips should be pretty impressive when they arrive. But isn’t that always the way?

Matt: My MacBook isn’t overheating and is running fine but has anyone else noticed the fan cuts on and off 30 times a minute?

Jon: Sometimes that happens. It’s not a constant thing on the models I’ve used.
Jason: I’d imagine that Apple would eventually release a firmware update that tweaks the fan settings.

erik: Is anyone experiencing fairly quiet but high-pitched sounds from their MacBook pro?

Jason: We’ve heard that one a lot. Some models seem to emit a high whine intermittently. I get it sometimes. It seems to be something that may be able to be fixed with some software tweaks And Apple’s been releasing firmware updates lately.

John: What RAM configurations are possible with the new MacBook?

Jon: Apple sells all MacBooks with 512MB using two 256MB modules. You can upgrade to 1GB or a max of 2GB. Apple says you should match the RAM modules since you’ll get the full dual-channel speed from the memory, which is very important with the integrated graphics processor.

davejohn: Is it worth delaying acquiring a MacBookPro for a while or not? I hear the launch of things like Boot Camp and the fact that other applications are delaying launch. I currently have to use a PC / Windows XP and would need to boot into Windows sometimes.

Jason: I’m using a MacBook Pro right now and it works great. Boot Camp and or Parallels should work fine.

wishR: Does the MacBook have the ability to run with the lid closed, while not needing any keybrds/mice/vid adapters attached?

Jason: Indeed it does! I have a 23-inch Apple display here at Macworld and it works great. Sorry, I misread the end of your question - things are going fast and furious. It will not run lid closed without something attached. Basically a USB pointing device and an external display. I assume you’re asking because you want to use it as a Front Row server. I wish it was smart enough to stay alive, but I don’t think it will. The MacBook Pro won’t either. However a small external USB mouse will do the trick. And the MacBook works great in lid-closed when tethered to a monitor, keyboard, and pointing device.

CalebofAvalon: Does the MacBook use the exact same RAM as the Intel iMac (17)?

Jon: Yes, the MacBook uses the same RAM as all the Intel Macs. Apple has gone to using SO-DIMMS 667MHz DDR2. So you can easily take the memory from one Intel-based Mac system and put it in another.

srolls: What is the small port on the front of the MacBook to the right side?

Jason: There are two little items there. One of them is the infrared receiver for the Apple Remote. The other is not a port, but rather the “sleep light.” Since there’s no latch to put that light on, it’s migrated to the right side.

patsnewmac: Do you think that there is a chance that Apple will release a new Airport Express with video and Front Row for us that have been left out in the cold with our Power PC Macs.

Jason: I’m not quite sure about the “left out in the cold” part. However, I do think that Apple must have a strategy for getting into the living room with video and audio content. I have a hard time believing that the Mac mini is the answer there. It seems a bit like overkill. And I’m someone who has a Mac mini attached to his TV!
Jason: I have no idea when it’ll happen, but I think Apple certainly will release some small device that attaches to your TV and home stereo, and integrates digital content from your home and the Net into your living room. The question is when! Only Steve Jobs knows for sure.

cevision: Will the MacBook work well in the high humidity tropics?

Jason: Mr. Eko, is that you? Stop pushing that button! I honestly don’t know. :-) If you would like to buy me a plane ticket to Hawaii, I will find out.

MacBookusr: How much RAM should I put in my new MacBook?

Jon: 512MB may be enough for some people. But I put 2GB in mine and it purrs.
Jason: Meow.
Jon: I suggest 1GB or 2GB.

wjw1-2: Please explain the difference between display options (matte vs. glossy) and limitations of each.

Jason: Well, on the MacBook there’s no option. On the MacBook Pro, you can choose glossy or matte. The matte screen is what Mac laptop users are used to. It’s much more consistent with its appearance, including contrast and color. And it’s very, very resistant to glare. However, the glossy screen is much nicer if you’re doing things like looking at photos or watching DVDs. Very much more like a TV experience, with dark blacks and vivid colors. However, there is more glare. I’d recommend that you take a trip to a local Apple Store or Mac retailer to see them for yourself, because I think there will be a lot of individual preference involved.

Planner: Is there a way to add a different graphics proccessor?

Jon: No. The GMA950 chip is integrated on the MacBook’s motherboard. Just like with the Mac mini.

dmlawrence: What is the least expensive way to run Windows on a Mac?

Jason: Find the cheapest copy of Windows you can. Keeping in mind that it needs to be XP (Personal is cheaper than Pro), and that it can’t just be an upgrade version or OEM version. So if you shop smart and use Boot Camp (which is free), that’s the best bet. I’ve heard some people try to call Microsoft and get their OEM version of Windows that they got with an old PC transferred over to their Macs… but I don’t know quite how successful that would be. Parallels is awesome, by the way, but it does cost.

wjw1-2: Is the hard drive “user-swappable”?

Jason: And how. I just posted a video last week about this. Basically, you take out the MacBook battery and remove three screws and pull out this little aluminum housing. It’s easy. At that point, the hard drive and RAM are accessible. You can pull out the drive with your fingers —it slides right out. And there are two levers that you pull on to pop out the SODIMM memory modules. It’s very easy to do the RAM upgrade, and extremely easy to do the hard drive upgrade as well. In dramatic contrast to the previous models.

lakersfan237: Can you run logic pretty well on a MacBook?

Jon: We haven’t had a chance to try Logic yet. But I have installed the latest Final Cut Studio (Universal) and on a MacBook with 2GB of RAM. All the apps perform quite well. Not as well as with a MacBook Pro which has dedicated graphics. But quite useable.

Rick: I just purchased a black MacBook from MacConnection with rebate. Get it tomorrow! How do I use the FireWire cable to transfer my settings from my PowerBook? Do I connect it before I turn on the new machine? Any help would be appreciated.

Jason: When you boot up the new machine, one of the first questions it will ask you is if you want to transfer files from an older system. You basically can follow those instructions — the new system will step you through putting your old system in FireWire Disk Mode, and attaching it to your new system. It’s very clear. So just start the new one up and let it walk you through the process. It works pretty well, too. That’s how I migrated.

Ken: Should a serious FCP editor consider a MacBook?

Jon: If you’re really a serious editor… then no. If you need a laptop, go with the MBP.
Jason: The screen size will be tough on the MacBook because FCP has many palettes. So very many. And it’s compromised when it comes to video. It’s usable on a MacBook, but if you’re “serious”… probably not so much.

Nickel: Is the keyboard very vulnerable to dirt?

Jason: No more than any other keyboard. In fact, in some ways it might be less vulnerable because you can clean between the keys much more easily than on a traditionally-shaped keyboard.

Kabbalist: The MacBook is made from polycarbonate, which means it bulletproof right?

Jon: I wouldn’t use it to replace your kevlar vest. And since I’m no expert in bullets, I’ll leave it at that.

talentwave: Does anybody make a case for the 13”?

Jon: I’m actually looking for one right now. They are trickling in slowly. Look to the usual suspects in the coming weeks and months.
Jason: Some 12-inch cases will work with it. And many 15-inch cases are actually pretty decent with the smaller sizes. My backpack is actually a 15-inch backpack case and it works nicely with the 13”. But I’d assume custom ones are coming soon!

Fred: Hi, newbie question here. Will Mac put a superdrive in the basic level MacBook? It doesn’t seem to be an option - but perhaps at an Apple dealer they could swap drives?

Jon: Apple doesn’t have a BTO (built to order) option for the optical drive. I don’t think a dealer will do it either. So for now, you need to get the model that includes the optical drive you like.
Jason: You might be able to visit your local hardware hacker… and Apple might change the policy eventually. But right now I don’t think it’s a realistic option.

Ruefrak: Aside from gaming, what other practical applications are crippled by the integrated graphics?

Jason: Is gaming a practical application? :-) 3-D rendering stuff. Apps that do serious compositing. I think games will be by far the apps with the biggest problems, because they stress the 3-D graphics system of video cards more than any other software.

BizDev: Will you talk about the MacBook on the next Geek Cruise?

Jason: Thank you for asking about the Geek Cruise! Your check is in the mail. The next Geek Cruise is actually in July, to the Mediterranean, and Chris Breen will be on that one. I’ll be going on the one after that, in late October, to the Carribean. And I’m sure I will be bringing my black MacBook with me! And Leo Laporte will be there as well, and he just bought a black MacBook. So I’m sure we’ll be talking about the MacBook a bunch on the next cruises. You’re all invited to come — go to to find out more.

Ruefrak: Is there any way to allocate more memory to the integrated graphics, above the set 64MB?

Jon: Sometimes it will use more than 64MB. Apple says so on a somewhat hidden knowledge base article. But I don’t think there’s any way for the user to change it other than using a graphics-intensive app. :)

harriman: But how to connect a Mac mini to a TV?

Jason: Depends what TV. If your TV supports DVI, it’s very easy. Otherwise you can buy an adapter that goes from DVI to S-Video, and attach it that way. It’s not high-def unless you use DVI, though.

Slim: I was wondering if the new iMac with Intel chips still uses emulators to run the processor, and how much of a performance difference there is?

Jason: If you’re running Universal software, it doesn’t emulate. It’s fully native. If you’re running Windows, either via Boot Camp or Parallels, it doesn’t emulate. It’s fully native. If you’re running old apps that are PowerPC only, they run in Rosetta, which is essentially translating PowerPC code to Intel code—you can call that emulation if you like. It’s definitely slower, although depending on how old your old PPC Mac is, it might be faster even via Rosetta!

CombatCraig: I was told by a friend that once I got my MacBook I could use my Mac mini as a wireless router or access point? I’m clueless.

Jason: Sure. Go to system Preferences. Click on Sharing. Click on the Internet tab and turn Internet Sharing on. Basically the Mini will route your network traffic via its AirPort card, assuming that it’s connected via Ethernet to the rest of your network.

garyfilm: Apple Genius said no Photoshop binaries till next year? Why get a MacBook Pro?

Jason: If all you use is Photoshop, there’s probably no reason. The MacBook Pro is much faster than old laptops when it comes to Universal stuff. And it’s much faster than G4 laptops under about 1.2 GHz, even using Rosetta. So if you’re using a 1GHz PowerBook G4, Photoshop will actually run faster on a MacBook Pro now… even in Rosetta. But if Photoshop is your main thing and you’ve got a last-generation G4 PowerBook, it’s probably worth it to wait.

CombatCraig: How much of a difference is there between using a MacBook with 1 or 2 GB of RAM?

Jon: We don’t have specific numbers. But the jump between 512MB and 1GB is a huge leap and the jump from 1GB to 2GB is a little less of a difference. But more RAM is always nice.
Jason: Yeah, you can notice the difference between 1GB and 2GB but it’s not as great as the diff between 512 and 1GB.

booleanman: Do you expect a dual layer DVD burner to make it to the 15” MacBook Pro anytime? Also I assume modems are gone forever from Apple laptops?

Jason: Why, I just answered this question in the latest Macworld Podcast. I think it will make it sometime. However, the placement of the drive in the 17” MBP case is different from its placement in the 15” case. As a result, I think it’s not as simple a process as just dropping in a new mechanism. They either need to wait for a slimmer burner to arrive, or they need to slightly redesign the case.
Jon: And yes, the modem is dead. Long live the modem. Or not so long. But only in USB form, for $49 extra.

Macworld: Jason and Jon, thanks for being here, and answering so many questions! Do you have any last thoughts on the MacBook, before we have to close?

Jason: It’s been great being here. I want to let everyone know that our review of the MacBooks will be up later today, so keep checking And thanks for coming. We appreciate it and hope we’ll do this again soon! Jon?
Jon: Thanks for all the great questions. We hope many more will be answered in the review later today So check it out!
Jason: Thanks again, everyone.

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