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I am looking for information about what macs are considered unibody and wondering if there are any notable advantages and/or disadvantages to this fabrication style.

Answers that address marketing material as well as lifecycle data or experiences for largish deployments of macs with real life failure rates or data would be great to read.

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Given your demonstrated, detailed, broad knowledge of Mac topics, I have to wonder why you asked this question. Was it possibly to stick it to the people (including the mighty Jeff Atwood himself) who were shooting down your question about the "unibody" tag on Meta? (…) If so, I admire your gumption. ;] – Austin May 11 '11 at 1:12
I was absolutely pondering Jeff's comment when the question formed in my brain. Turns out it's actually a good question as well as a case in point. I don't mind stirring the pot if it provokes some genuine commentary or knowledge sharing. ;-) – bmike May 11 '11 at 1:58
Then this is the best thing I've seen on this site in a week. :] – Austin May 11 '11 at 2:12
up vote 4 down vote accepted

The unibody design makes the case lighter and stronger. Since it is machined, there is minimal error in the creation of the case. For more information, watch the video on The first unibody MacBook Pro was the 15" model released in 2008 and had a removable battery. I believe that all other unibody models (and only unibody models) have integrated, non-removable batteries.

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The first unibody MacBook Pros had removable batteries. The unibody construction method is also supposed to be more environmentally friendly, as the excess aluminum machined away can be melted into a new block to machine. – CajunLuke May 10 '11 at 23:08
It also improves general durability. Because the body can't flex, things like lid hinges, port openings, and internal connectors of all kinds don't experience the same wear and tear as other laptops. Anyone who has experienced the pain of having to replace a laptop because fixing the connection to the screen or the connection to the power was so expensive will appreciate how uncommon these types of things become with the unibody design. – Matthew Frederick May 10 '11 at 23:08
What materials were used before solid aluminum or polycarbonate? Good call on the unibody material being more durable during life and more recyclable at end of life. – bmike May 10 '11 at 23:20
@bmike Pre-unibody MacBook Pros (and the PowerBooks that preceded them) had an aluminum bottom body that was constructed from flat (probably rolled) aluminum bent on the edges to make the sides and welded on the corners. The electronics and suchlike were put in there, then the top (with the keyboard) was put on. The meeting of those had a plastic spacer (that grabs my arm hairs all the time and is quite annoying). These pre-unibody machines are less durable (corners dent in easily) because the metal was thin (much more so than the unibodies). – CajunLuke May 10 '11 at 23:31
@bmike The MacBooks (plastic ones) have similar parts in much the same place as the pre-unibody MacBook Pros, but with polycarbonate instead of aluminum. Ironically (and confusingly), the MacBooks tended to be more durable, as the polycarbonate was thicker than the Pro's aluminum case. The top-case, with the keyboard, on the plastic MacBook, however, would deteriorate near the edges and flake off. – CajunLuke May 10 '11 at 23:37

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