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Evolution of the MacBook

How the MacBook took a different route to beat the competition

By the mid-2000s, the race to see who could design the best consumer laptop was heating up. Brands like BenQ, Sony and ASUS were battling to produce the fastest, sleekest Windows-based product.

Steve Jobs and Apple, though, had other ideas. Transitioning from PowerPC to Intel processors, Apple took the iBook series of notebooks and gave it a healthy dose of upgrades. 

The result? The MacBook — the best-selling Macintosh ever.

The beginning of the MacBook

Upgrading an aging system

Apple set out to fill a gap created by Windows-based laptop makers — something different. With the iBook already a marginal success, Jobs used it as the backbone for the first MacBook, released in 2006. Apple replaced the PowerPC processor with Intel, and modeled the polycarbonate and fiberglass casing on the iBook G4.

Taking a bet on better graphics

The first MacBook had some technical problems, as the graphics card and hard drive caused the computer to overheat. So two years later, Apple announced that the new MacBook would feature an Nvidia GeForce 9400M graphics card, an aluminum unibody, and LED backlights. The updated version was well received.

Turning on the professional charm

Quietly powerful

At the same time as the MacBook’s launch, Apple introduced a more powerful version, called the MacBook Pro. And 2008 saw the launch of the second-generation MacBook Pro, with a 17-inch display and more connectivity ports. It also had a redesigned trackpad and keyboard, and Intel Core 2 Duo processors.

Lighter than air

The original MacBook and the more powerful MacBook Pro were rather hefty, so Apple designed a lighter (both in physical weight and specifications) version, called the MacBook Air. The 13-inch version was launched alongside the other models in 2008, but it wasn’t until 2011 that the versions became popular.

Setting the trends for future models

Dropping the original

Apple might have found it difficult to design, develop and manufacture three distinctly different MacBook versions. So in late 2011, the company announced that the original MacBook would be discontinued. This gave Apple more resources to focus on the MacBook Pro and the lighter MacBook Air.

Focused approach

By removing the original MacBook from the family, Apple took a more focused approach to the MacBook Pro and Air. Between 2011 and 2018, the company released five upgraded versions of the MacBook Pro, each adding new specifications. 

The fourth generation added the TouchBar (a thin touch-sensitive panel) at the base of the screen that replaced the Function keys. Getting new hinges, this model also introduced the new version of the butterfly-mechanism keyboard. The 13-inch and the 15-inch models also received a bigger touchpad, with the latter’s twice as large as before. 

The 2011 MacBook Air was still being sold through this point, but early in 2015 Apple decided to release a somewhat upgraded version of the original MacBook. Featuring a 12-inch Retina display, it was sold until mid-2019. Available in 11.6-inch and 13.3-inch models, it featured a 1.4-gigahertz Intel Core i7, and retailed for $1,300.

The MacBook we know today

Sticking to what works

The last official release of the MacBook Air came in 2018, with the third generation using Amber Lake processors from Intel. The model was available in a 13.3-inch version with Retina display, with a resolution of 2,560×1,600 pixels. Making it even lighter, this model only weighed 2.75 pounds and was 0.61-inch thick. The base model was released with 8 gigabytes of random-access memory, a 128-gigabyte solid-state hard drive, and an Intel Core i5 processor.

Own components make a powerful machine 

The fifth and current version of the MacBook Pro was announced by Apple in October 2021, and is vastly different from previous iterations. Where Apple had used Intel processors and third-party components, the 2021 MacBook Pro is based on the M1 Pro and M1 Max chip. Apple itself designed these components, and uses the Advanced RISC Machine (ARM) processor architecture.

What you need to buy for a MacBook

Apple Leather Sleeve for MacBook Pro

The latest version of the MacBook Pro isn’t exactly cheap, so you’ll want to protect it as much as possible. Available in black or saddle brown, this leather sleeve for the 16-inch Pro version is tough enough to protect it from bumps and water splashes. It is made from European leather, and a soft microfiber lining makes sure the case doesn’t get scratches when stored. 

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STM Dux Rugged case for MacBook Air

The MacBook Air might be light, but it isn’t impervious to damage. That is why you need to toughen it up with this solid case. The polycarbonate and rubberized thermoplastic polyurethane bracket fits around the outside of the lid and the bottom casing, protecting it from bumps and even slight drops. The cover on the lid is transparent. 

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Apple Magic Mouse

Using the trackpad on a MacBook can sometimes feel a bit awkward. To have the best browsing experience, the Magic Mouse from Apple is the best accessory to get. The wireless mouse is charged with a Lightning cable, but luckily that won’t be needed frequently. The battery life on a single charge is about one month. The top multi-touch surface is what really makes the mouse special, as you can perform simple gestures without having to use a keyboard. 

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Apple AirPods Max

Whether you are working at home or in the office, sometimes you require a soothing environment. The Apple AirPod Max headphones are the perfect add-on for you to listen to music, streaming content or podcasts. The wireless device features active noise cancellation to block out external sounds, has a battery life of more than 20 hours per charge, and uses high-fidelity audio drivers. AirPods can also automatically detect when you put them on your head, and the ear cups are designed with memory foam while the headband is a knit-mesh. 

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Apple USB SuperDrive

The MacBook Air doesn’t have an optical drive, so there is no way to insert a disc into it. But with the SuperDrive, simply use the USB connection and you instantly have a portable optical drive. It is compatible with both CDs and DVDs and no external power cable is needed. It is small enough to easily slip into a bag or backpack, and weighs only 1.3 pounds. 

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Synerlogic MacOS Keyboard Shortcuts

If you are new to Apple’s laptop computers, it can be difficult to remember all the shortcuts that can make your life easier. There are websites you can bookmark or sheets you can print, but why not have it ready at all times? This is where the ingenious macOS keyboard shortcuts sticker comes in. It simply sticks to the casing below the Macbook’s keyboard, and gives you a quick glance at all the shortcuts you need. 

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Havit 17-inch Laptop Cooler

Any laptop can run hot when used for a long period or when doing resource-intensive work. You’ll know when this happens, as the internal fans will quickly spin into action. This is loud and can be distracting, not to mention damaging if the components aren’t cooled. To prevent all that, you’ll need a laptop cooling pad. This model has three fans underneath the mesh tray to dissipate any heat from your MacBook, and is powered through a USB cable. 

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Brydge Vertical Docking Station

If you are always on the run or working from different locations, it is important that you keep your MacBook fully charged at all times. But there might not be a flat surface available to do that. The Brydge vertical docking station is a great space-saving option. By standing the MacBook vertically, it not only saves on desk space but also charges it. 

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Supershieldz Screen Protector For Apple MacBook

In addition to making sure your MacBook isn’t damaged by bumps or drops, you should take precautions to keep the display as scratch-free as possible. The best way to do that is with a screen protector. This one is available in a three-pack and also works as an anti-glare and anti-fingerprint shield. 

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Charlie Fripp writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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