How fragile is the new MacBook?

Update January 3, 2010: It’s been over a year since the unibody MacBook was released, and I am pleased to report that they have held up very well! We have seen far fewer instances of case and hard drive damage than with the white MacBook model. Good work Apple, and please remember this in future redesigns!

I continue to wonder at the gulf between the needs of our student laptop program and Apple’s recent laptop releases. No kidding, they have won the heart of our kids, what with 80% of incoming ninth grade students choosing Mac over Lenovo both this year and last. At the same time, we have seen hardware repairs go way up, as kids drop the Macs, and they crack, dent, and break. I am a solid Apple enthusiast, but I also run a school technology program with pretty reasonable needs.

In recent years, we have cautioned parents and students away from the Aluminum MacBook Pro. Aluminum is a soft metal (it makes great foil and not so good jewelry). Most of our students (and teachers) who have the aluminum laptop have suffered dents and warps, some of which have increased stress on internal components and caused them to fail.

Now we have no plastic Mac to sell (at least once Apple’s inventory of white MacBook is exhausted). I recognize that the new aluminum case is cut from a solid piece of aluminum, but how will it withstand impacts? Will it still dent and ding? Will the hard drive, located right at the corner, take the brunt of the blow? I want to see crash test ratings!

The new glass screen face is another point of concern. We already experience cracked plastic screens, and now it’s covered by a layer of glass?

glass screen

Let me be clear. This is not our students’ fault, but their families get to foot the bill. If I had to move my computer from room to room ten times a day, mine would probably also get dropped or stepped on as well. Congrats to Apple for producing a machine likely to win the hearts of home users, graphic designers, and college students. That’s not enough for our students. We need toughness, too. Why won’t Apple produce a school-appropriate laptop?

Our “Mac tax” is currently $300. Families pay that much more to purchase a MacBook compared to a similarly equipped ThinkPad T61. The ThinkPad is more solid and comes with both a four-year warranty and accidental damage protection for the price. For the MacBook we start with a higher base price, pay a premium to get a four-year warranty that you can’t buy in stores, and then charge another fee to fund a limited, school-sponsored accidental damage protection program.

As the economy tightens, families are not going to accept this different much longer. We may end up with two tiers of laptop purchase, a Mac for those who can afford it, and a ThinkPad for those who want a tough machine for the money. I’m glad that my son is only in first grade.


  1. Ben Chun says:

    I just got mine so I can’t say yet how it holds up over time, but I can tell you that it feels great. They’ll have to learn to take care of nice things someday, right?

  2. Love my lenovo laptop says:

    Oooh as a three time user of a lenovo notebook I would choose them every time

  3. websearch says:

    Mine already got an ugly ding from dropping a not very heavy wireless keyboard onto it. Sorta disappointing that it dings that easy, but otherwise it’s a great computer.

  4. Richard says:

    Sorry to hear that, "websearch." Thanks for reporting this to us.


  5. Jeff P says:

    The mac book dents very easily, as it did w/ mine.