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Monday, August 6, 2007

Getting Familiar with MacBook Parts

Your MacBook Pro may be only an inch thin, but a lot of superb design lives inside, and you'll encounter the same parts that you'd find in a desktop machine. In the following sections, those important parts are revealed — both the stuff you can see and the stuff that's shoehorned within.

Of course, as you'd expect, a computer has a body of sorts in which all the innards and brains are stored, a display screen, a keyboard, a mouse or other pointing device, and ports for powering and exchanging data with outside toys.

That magnificent screen

What a view you have! Today's Mac laptops feature a 13-, 15-, or 17-inch liquid crystal display (LCD).

LCD screens use far less electricity than their antique cathode ray tube (CRT) ancestors do, and they emit practically no radiation.

Apple's laptop screens offer a widescreen aspect ratio (the screen is considerably wider than it is tall), which works well for those who enjoy watching DVD movies.

Throw away your printed dictionary! You won't need it because Mac OS X Tiger includes the fantastic Sherlock application, which uses the Internet to retrieve definitions from

The keyboard and trackpad

Here's something novel for your laptop: Unlike the external input devices on a standard desktop computer, your Mac has a built-in keyboard and trackpad (which does the job of a mouse). The keyboard has the following features:

  • You can either control the sound volume or mute all that noise.
  • High-end Mac laptops have illuminated keyboards, which are perfect for darkened dorm rooms and airplane flights.
  • A handy-dandy Media Eject key lets you eject a CD or DVD.

The disc slot

You'll notice a long groove at the lower-right corner of your MacBook or MacBook Pro. No, it's not for your credit card. This slot accepts CDs and DVDs into your optical drive. If the drive is empty, loading a disc is as simple as sliding it in an inch or so; the drive sucks in the disc automatically. (And you don't need a floppy disk drive. Macs haven't had floppy drives for years now, and the PC types are just beginning to follow.)

The printed label side of the disc should always be facing you when you load a disc.

The audio system

A machine this nice had better have great sound, and the Mac doesn't disappoint. You have a couple of options for Mac laptop audio:

  • Mac laptops sport built-in stereo speakers (and a microphone to boot).
  • You can use built-in optical/digital Line Out ports to connect your Mac's audio to a pair of headphones or a more powerful (and expensive) external speaker system, or a home stereo system.

The power cable

Unfortunately, you can't get a wireless power system . . . yet. (Apple is working hard on that one.) However, the MacBook Pro was the first major release of a laptop with a magnetic power connector; the MacBook followed suit soon after. The MagSafe connector reduces the chances of your pride and joy being yanked off a desk when someone trips over the power cord.

The Apple remote

Here's a pleasant surprise that you won't find with most PC laptop boxes: The remote looks like an iPod Shuffle, but it allows you to control your laptop wireless from across the room. (Think DVD viewings, presentations, and lazy iTunes listening.)

The power button

Yep, you have one of these, too. It's on the upper right, next to the keyboard.

The iSight camera

Have you noticed that tiny square lens above your screen? That's a built-in iSight camera, which allows you to chat with others in a videoconferencing environment using Tiger's iChat feature. You can even take photos with it, using the PhotoBooth software that comes with your laptop, or you can set up a traveling Webcam.

The battery compartment

You can open the cover on the bottom of your laptop to switch batteries. Many road warriors who constantly use their laptops for extended periods swear by extra batteries, especially if they're on site in the middle of nowhere and an AC outlet isn't to be found.

Of course, your laptop automatically charges the battery while it's plugged in, so you shouldn't have to remove the battery unless you're replacing it or switching it with another battery.

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