What is the Unibody?
The Apple unibody design is a major breakthrough in laptop assembly. Currently used on their Macbook Pros (and to a lesser degree on the iPhone 4), the new unibody construction method allows for a consistency of production and a reliability due to the reduction of many moving parts to one part that is revolutionary. Pictured to the left, the unibody is the only laptop enclosure that is created from a single piece of aluminum. In the past, like all other PC manufacturers, the enclosure was made from screwing multiple parts together, which naturally increased the opportunity for those parts to break or fail. The genius behind Apple’s unibody is that it is just one part, made of sturdy aluminum, and developed using their own milling procedure. To see Apple’s promotional video of how the unibody was designed and manufactured, click here to visit Apple’s Macbook Pro webpage.
Advantages to the Unibody
The Apple unibody enclosure has a few major benefits for the end user:
By cutting the unibody out of a single piece of aluminum - something new for the computer industry although very familiar in other industries - Apple is able to manufacture a critically important piece that is only one part, thus reducing the risk of other inconsistencies and failures when using multiple parts. Oftentimes, the weakest point is the joint between two objects, and the new unibody dramatically reduces those joints.
Unlike polycarbonate cases, which most PC manufactures use (including Apple with their white Macbook), the new aluminum unibody is highly recyclable and leaves a low imprint on the environment.
The Macbook Pro does not squeak or emit odd mechanical sounds like plastic-cased notebooks sometimes do after so many months of use. Aluminum is, overall, a better quality building material.
To some, and I emphasize to some, the unibody design is aesthetically more pleasing than the white polycarbonate shells and even the old Macbook Pro aluminum cases. Although this is a subjective advantage, it is one worth mentioning since so many people find the new Macbook Pros so sexy, largely thanks to some of the changes in the unibody (as well as other features such as the beautiful LED display and large, multi-touch trackpads).
The Unibody and the Future
When Apple switched their Macbook Pro line over to the unibody construction, they also updated the display assembly. Instead of an LCD display unit, the new LED display assembly connects directly to the unibody and then has a thin piece of glass that is placed directly on top of the LED display. This works as an added layer of protection to the screen in case it is hit or dropped. This new display assembly also would make the transition to a new touchscreen Macbook Pro (Macbook Touch?) very easy. In this way, the unibody enclosure really paves the way for the future of Apple laptops, which many believe will take the form of a touchscreen Macbook, similar to the Apple iPad.
Thumbs Up for Apple Unibody
While there are those out there that question whether or not the Macbook Pro unibody is, in fact, an innovation forward to laptops, it seems that the benefits of the unibody definitely outweigh any of its criticisms, such as the milling procedure being a “cheap” manufacturing technique or the aluminum not being strong enough to resist bending or denting from misuse. Overall, the unibody enclosure is a great technology, and I look forward to seeing it used on the Mac Mini and other Apple devices as well.