By Alfred Hermida
Technology editor, BBC News website
Apple's entry-level line of consumer laptops should give PC giants like Dell and HP sleepless nights.
The black version of the laptop costs extra
The new MacBooks are powerful, fast and sleek machines, at a price to rival similar offerings from the world of Windows.
In addition, they sport Intel chips, so they can run Microsoft's operating system as well as Apple's OS X.
But such versatility comes at a cost. The MacBook can run so hot that it is almost unbearable to have on your lap.
Leap in power
The new machines are the first major update to Apple's consumer laptops for five years. It replaces the iBook range which proved popular among students.
The MacBooks offer a considerable leap in power over its predecessor. The secret lies in the 1.83 or 2 GHz Intel Core Duo processor at the heart of the machine.
It runs many software programs such as iPhoto at lightning speed, even with a library of hundreds of pictures.
13.3-inch glossy widescreen 1280 x 800 display
1.83 GHz or 2.0 GHz Intel Core Duo processor
667 MHz front-side bus
512MB of 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM, expandable to 2GB
60GB or 80GB hard drive
Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950
The new machines could also attract a new raft of consumers who have previously lived in the world of Windows.
The MacBooks can run Microsoft's operating system, using either Apple software Boot Camp or the beta of the Parallels Workstation program.
Mac fans may wonder why anyone would want to run Windows.
But this may be enough to win over those who have hesitated before due to worries about whether a specific program would run on a Mac.
However, a word of warning to gamers. The MacBooks may be able to run Windows, but it will have trouble coping with some of the latest PC titles.
This is because the laptops do not have a dedicated graphics card, unlike the more expensive MacBook Pros.
The MacBook packs most of the functions and capabilities of the most expensive pro line of Apple laptops, including some high-end features often lacking from comparable Windows machines.
Among these are the built-in iSight webcam and a remote control for use with the media software Front Row.
The keyboard is substantially different to the iBook
This effectively turns the laptop into a media centre computer, letting you to control your music, photos or video remotely.
But consumers interested in plugging the MacBook into the TV will have to shell out for an extra video adapter.
The glossy screen on the laptop lends itself to viewing photos or watching a video. These types of displays are common in Windows notebooks and produce crisper images and more vivid colours than matt screens.
One of the main issues with glossy screens is their reflective nature.
This is negligible when using a MacBook indoors. However, the reflections may prove a distraction in brightly lit offices or for use outside in sunny weather.
The other feature that may divide fans is the new keyboard. The keys on the MacBook are widely spaced apart and look like they belong to a notebook from the 1990s.
But in practise, the keyboard proves to be one of the best features of the machine. The keys are responsive and the gaps between them mean fewer mistakes.
All in all, there is little to fault with the MacBook. Its greatest weakness is that the underside gets almost painfully hot.
There are also a few minor points. The speakers are on the tinny side, and the machine only sports two USB slots.
Compared to similar Windows machines, it lacks a memory-card reader, a PC Card expansion slot and even a modem.
Like the iPod, it comes in white or black. The black model is striking, but costs more and gets easily smudged with fingerprints.
With a competitive price point, the MacBook offers an enticing package of power and style at an affordable cost.
It is an accomplished product which will be serious competition for comparable Windows laptops from PC mammoths like Dell and HP.