Full MacInTouch report on MacBook Pro and MacBook

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
August 3rd, 2006 • 2:59 pm

MacInTouch now has its full report on MacBook Pro and MacBook notebooks available on-line. The report is based on an extensive survey of MacBook and MacBook Pro owners.

Of particular interest to me is the section about mooing MacBooks:

The less expensive MacBooks have their own peculiar sound, a low “mooing” sound made as the cooling fans slowly speed up and slow down. About 20% of MacBooks appear to be affected. Some owners report that an SMC Firmware Update from Apple resolved their MacBook’s bovine expression, but others report it made no difference. One owner reported “Mooing began after applying 10.4.7 update. Prior to that, no mooing.”

One intriguing report indicates that the problem’s source may be the fan’s maker. An intrepid reader opened his two MacBooks – only one of which mooed – and noted that the cooling fans were made by different companies. He swapped the fans between machines, then turned them on. The moo followed the fan.

That’s quite interesting. It would appear to confirm that the mooing only affects some machines, not all of them—which, of course, makes it very difficult for the owner of a mooing MacBook to convince the owner of a moo-less MacBook that there is a problem with his machine.

If the report about the fan’s maker is true, then it unfortunately confirms that buying a MacBook laptop is essentially a lottery if you are sensitive to noise issues. If you are lucky, you’ll get a MacBook that doesn’t moo. If you are not, you’ll get one that moos—and you won’t be able to do anything about it, since Apple considers that the mooing is “within spec,” even though it doesn’t affect all MacBooks.

It is possible that Apple will eventually identify the particular brand of fan that causes the mooing and switch to another brand for all its MacBooks—but there is absolutely no guarantee of this. And even if Apple does this at some point, we will probably never know.

So the conclusion for me at this point in time is still pretty clear: I am not trying to buy another MacBook. It’s just unacceptably risky. If my wife’s TiBook died on us tomorrow, I might consider buying a MacBook Pro, in spite of the risks and drawbacks (higher price, poorer AirPort reception, different noise issues). But not a MacBook. There’s just too much of a risk of encountering the mooing and, in this household, the mooing is an unacceptable noise.

4 Responses to “Full MacInTouch report on MacBook Pro and MacBook”

  1. AlanY says:

    Great link. I’m in the same boat as you. I need a laptop (my only machine right now is a PPC Mac Mini and I’m starting graduate school in September) and I really like the MacBooks, but I’m very worried about getting a bad one. The heat is not an issue for me, I don’t mind heat, but the mooing would bug me. I’ve even been considering jumping ship and getting a ThinkPad, though their current lineup doesn’t impress me all that much and NoteBookReview has some reports of whine from those machines as well.

    What I may ultimately try to do is look into Apple’s return policy, then roll the dice on the cheapest MacBook in the hopes that if there were problems I wouldn’t lose all that much in returning it, or if it can’t be returned, sold on eBay. I read your earlier blog entry about having trouble returning customized machines, so I’ll be sure to order a stock unit.

  2. Pierre Igot says:

    As I understand it, in both the US and Canada, the policy is that the mooing noise is within spec, so they won’t treat it as a defect, and you’ll be expected to pay a 10% restocking fee, even for a stock unit.

    But of course, if you spend enough time arguing with them and are persuasive enough, you can get to bend the rules, as they eventually did in my case. (I got a full refund and a $100 credit on my next Apple Store purchase.)

    The fact remains, however, that Apple does not consider the mooing to be a problem. Which is, of course, the crux of the problem.

    FWIW, the rules appear to be different in other countries. But I was told in no uncertain terms that the rules I am referring to here (restocking fee, no option for built-to-order machines) apply to both the US and Canada.

    Good luck!

  3. totoro says:

    i have a mooing macbook too (week 18)..have to admit it doesn’t bother me as much as it used to, but i’d still like a fix.

    I’m a bit confused about the Macintouch report-MacBooks haven’t gotten an SMC firmware update, only the MacBookPros have. Also, before the MacBookPro SMC firmware update, a lot of MBP users complained about both mooing and whining..but after the SMC firmware update, many MBP users said the mooing was solved (but not the whining).

    I’m still hopeful there will be an SMC firmware update for the MacBooks as well to address the issue.

  4. Pierre Igot says:

    Yeah, I think MacInTouch got it wrong there. It could very well be that the reader in question was actually referring to a MacBook Pro. One of the unfortunate aspects of Apple’s new naming scheme for laptops is that this kind of confusion can occur much more easily than it used to be. There was no way you could confuse an “iBook” with a “PowerBook.” Now it’s common to see people talk about “MacBooks” in general when referring to both MacBook and MacBook Pro laptops.

    As far as I know, there have not been any firmware updates for the MacBook (not Pro).

    I will most definitely interested to see if the mooing is fixed in a future update. I am not holding my breath, though. The fact that Apple considers the mooing “within spec,” the fact that the MacBook is a smaller, hence more compact machine with less surface to dissipate heat, and the fact that some MBP users report that the firmware update didn’t fix the mooing on their machine, or that a subsequent OS update caused it to start occurring—all these are not encouraging signs at all.

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