MacBook Internal Parts - dummies

By Mark L. Chambers

When you bought your new digital pride and joy, you probably noticed a number of subtle differences between the low-end MacBook and the uber-expensive, top-end MacBook Pro and MacBook Air models. These differences the Important Hidden Stuff (or IHS, for those of you addicted to acronyms), and they’re just as important as the parts and ports that you can see.

Internal storage devices:

  • CPU: Today’s Mac laptops feature — gasp! — Intel processors, which run faster and cooler than the old Motorola processors that powered the iBook and PowerBook models. Of course, the faster the processor, the better. (Definitely not rocket science.)

  • Hard drive: MacBook Pro laptops use the current standard in hard drive technology: namely, large-capacity serial ATA hard drives.

    In fact, The MacBook Pro has two storage options: You can choose serial ATA hard drive or opt for the much more expensive (and much more technically impressive) solid-state drive. Hold on to your chair – there are no moving parts with a solid-state drive, and it offers better performance than a standard hard drive.

    Think of the solid-state drive as an internal USB flash drive, which uses RAM chips instead of magnetic platters to hold your data! Certainly pricey as compared to traditional magnetic hard drives, but super-sweet, and Apple once again introduces the latest in computer hardware. (Oh, and those solid-state drives are standard equipment with the MacBook Air.)

  • Optical drive: Depending on your MacBook, your computer includes one of the following:

    • No built-in optical drive: The MacBook Air can be equipped with an external SuperDrive, or you can use another computer’s drive remotely over your wireless network.

    • A DVD-R/CD-RW SuperDrive: This drive can play and record both CDs and DVDs.

Wireless communications devices:

  • Wireless Ethernet: “Look, Ma, no wires!” You can connect your laptop to an existing wireless Ethernet network. All current MacBooks have built-in AirPort Extreme hardware. With wireless connectivity, you can share documents with another computer in another room, share a single high-speed Internet connection betwixt several computers, or enjoy wireless printing. Truly sassy!

    Although Apple would want you to build your wireless wonderland with an Apple AirPort Extreme Base Station or Time Capsule (go figure), you can use your MacBook with any standard 802.11 wireless network. And yes, PCs and Macs can intermingle on the same wireless network without a hitch. (Scandalous, ain’t it?)

  • Bluetooth: Although strangely named, Bluetooth is another form of wireless connectivity. This time, however, the standard was designed for accessories such as your keyboard and mouse, and devices such as a personal digital assistant (PDA) and a cell phone.

Video display device:

  • Video card: If your applications rely heavily on high-speed 3-D graphics, you’ll be pleased as punch to learn that today’s 15.4- and 17-inch MacBook Pro laptops can be ordered from Apple with muscle-bound Radeon HD hardware from AMD. These laptops are well suited to 3-D modeling, video editing, and, well, honestly, blasting the enemy into small smoking pieces with aplomb.

    Currently, the 13.3-inch MacBook Pro and MacBook Air laptops use an integrated video card, so they’re not a good choice for hard-core gaming or 3-D design.