The Good The new 12-inch Apple MacBook is extremely slim and lightweight, has a premium appearance and is available in three colors. It offers a better battery life than other laptops with Intel Core M processors, and performance that is as good or better than these models. The new USB-C port allows you to charge from an external backup battery.
The Bad Its performance and battery life do not match the MacBook Air and Pro. The new keyboard is shallow and takes some getting used to, and sharing a single port for all accessories, as well as a power cord, is almost unpleasant at once.
The Bottom Line If you can live with its limitations, the new 12-inch MacBook offers innovative design that points the way to the next chapter of laptops.
Editorial Note (June 27, 2017): The tech 12-inch MacBook, fully viewed below, was updated in 2016 and then again in June 2017 at Apple’s World Developers Conference . The new $1,299 12-inch MacBook and $999 13-inch MacBook Air now have faster, more powerful Intel processors. Current crop of MacBook Pros – the $1,299 13-inch, $1,799 13-inch with Touch Bar, and $2,399 15-inch with Touch Bar – Have these new circuits, along with updated graphics hardware.
Otherwise, except for the fall in RAM and a slight drop in prices there, the 2017 party is very similar to the one from 2016, with the same enclosures, ports, trackpads and screens. But be warned: Buying a new MacBook Pro may require you to invest a variety of adapters for your legacy devices. Also note that 13-inch MacBook Pro from 2015 was discontinued though $ 1,999 15-inch model from this year it remains available to those who want all ports and fewer keys.
Apple’s MacBook Pro gets an early upgrade by Dan Ackerman01:49Replay videoLarge play-pause toggle Apple’s slim new 12-inch MacBook AutoplayOnOff 00:00 03:45 Settings
The complaints began before Apple’s first MacBook demonstration ended. During a March 2015 press event, observers worried about a new, slimmer, lighter 12-inch MacBook. “That’s not enough,” they said. “Battery life will be short. The new keyboard is too shallow. Touchless touchpad is the trick.”
The sluggishness, which ranged from the launch of the new, single USB-C port to the overall price, was reminiscent of the world’s original iPad 2010. And like this groundbreaking tablet, the new 12-inch MacBook won’t do everything for everyone. But the strictly applied minimalism will make this laptop a model that industrial designers will strive to copy over the next few years.
The 12-inch MacBook is a system that ejects Air and Pro air ducts and returns to a simpler designation that isn’t observed since the classic mid-2000s black and white polycarbonate macbooks (the ones you still occasionally see in coffee even though they were discontinued in 2011).
Starting at $ 1,299, it includes a high-definition (much sharper-than-live) Retina screen, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of solid state drive. Unlike other laptops with removable storage or RAM, everything here (forever) is packed in a tiny custom motherboard that leaves maximum space for a large battery. The second version, priced at $ 1599, adds a 512GB hard drive and a tiny accelerated processor. In the UK and Australia, prices start at £ 1,049 and £ 1,799 for the base model and are £ 1299 and £ 2199 for upgrades. More expensive custom models are also available. (The MacBook can be ordered online at 12:00 in the morning, at the same time as the Apple Watch, and should be available in the store – probably in limited quantities – on Friday, April 10.)
For comparison, a 13-inch MacBook Air starts at $ 999, but a similar 8GB / 256GB configuration will cost the same $ 1299. The 13-inch MacBook Pro starts at the same $ 1299 as this new MacBook, but with only half the memory. Upgrading this Pro to the same 8GB / 256GB costs $ 1,499. And for Windows, the Samsung Ativ Book 9 with the same 8GB of RAM / 256GB of flash storage and the same processor – costs you $ 1399 (all prices in US dollars). So, in the context of major MacBook competitors, the price is actually quite competitive.
Looking at the specification, it’s easy to see why this new MacBook can be a tough sell. The MacBook uses a new Core M Intel processor designed for thin, light laptops, hybrids, and tablets with premium prices. It’s efficient enough that full-fledged laptops can operate even without fans, allowing for quiet and cool operation. However, Core M has been disappointed in several Windows systems, in which we have already tested it, turning it into sluggish performance and mediocre battery life, the latter is an unforgivable drawback for computers designed as easily and portably as possible.
To spare you the strain, I can say that the new MacBook performs much better than any other Core M system we’ve tested to date with our 11 hours video playback test. It’s almost not as much as you would get from a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro – and it puts this system at a disadvantage compared to the longest-running laptops – but battery life is definitely not the excuse it could be. .
Heavy use of the Internet drains the battery faster, and I often look into the top right corner of the screen to see the percentage of battery life I used while I was working. I have found that it can take a whole day of moderate use, but unlike today’s MacBook Pro or Air, it will be difficult to take a few days without plugging it in at all.
In addition, limiting the availability of one USB-C port to all your communication needs (except for the standard audio jack, which also took a break) is even more of a challenge if you’re not ready to arm yourself with a pocket of keys and adapters.
Other changes are easier to adapt. Previously, we took a closer look at the new click-free panel that Apple calls the Force Touch trackpad, which is also available in the updated MacBook Pro. It’s a clever place-saving piece that replaces the old trackpad, with a hinged design for a physical click down, with a flat glass surface reinforced by a feedback engine. The keyboard is an even more radical change, replacing the old Mac standard with island-style deep keys with a set of much smaller keys, but with larger actual key faces.
To use a new MacBook means to accept its limitations, some of which are intentionally imposed on your own. This is especially noticeable when you look at another new laptop, the Samsung Ativ Book 9. It weighs the same as a MacBook, has a similar high-resolution 12-inch screen and an Intel Core M processor, but has time to fit in two full-fledged ones. -Size USB ports and micro-HDMI output (though it also has its own power connection and lacks the USB-C that is set to become the new standard).
If your need for more battery life, higher performance, or more ports does not automatically bother you, then the personal experience of using the new MacBook will far outweigh the flaws on paper. It’s enjoyable to use for writing, surfing the web, watching videos and social media, and it still makes the slim 13-inch MacBook Air look a bit like a haughty dinosaur, not to mention other ultrabook laptops. This is the perfect companion to the cafe.
Some of the critical reactions to this notebook remind me of another new introduction to the Apple design that I covered seven years ago, the original MacBook Air. The system was also criticized for denying ports and connections such as Ethernet and VGA that people were sure they still needed. And, like the new MacBook, it included only one USB port.
Back in 2008, I was correct that the new, downed Air design had real legs, and it would set the standard for years to come. But it was also true that future downgrades would turn the MacBook Air from a special product into a core product. When the next 12-inch MacBook update arrives, I suspect that it will at least add a second USB-C port, and that is when it will be much easier to recommend to a large audience.
Apple MacBook (12 inches, 2015)
|Price as reviewed||$1,299, £1,049, AU$1,799|
|Display size/resolution||12-inch 2,304×1,440 screen|
|PC CPU||1.1GHz Intel Core M 5Y31|
|PC Memory||8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz|
|Graphics||1,536MB Intel HD Graphics 5300|
|Networking||802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0|
|Operating system||Apple OSX 10.10.2 Yosemite|
Design and features
It’s the slimmest Mac Apple has ever made: at its thickest, it’s only 13.1mm (about half an inch), 24 percent thinner than the existing 11-inch MacBook Air. It’s also the lightest MacBook ever weighing 2.04 pounds (0.9 kg). Samsung’s new book Samsung 9 weighs 2.08 pounds, essentially the same, although it has a slightly larger footprint.
Apple MacBook versus Samsung Book 9
The overall shape and design are familiar, coming from the last seven and a half years of MacBook design, but with a few new twists such as new colors. In addition to traditional silver, the new MacBook also has a cosmic gray or gold color. Our test block was gold, and like the iPhone color scheme it copies, the color is subtle and gives the impression that your laptop has a bronze finish.
The keyboard, another major change, uses a new butterfly mechanism for keys that are thinner and more stable. The keyboard, at the far end, has larger key faces, yes, but the keys are also smaller, barely popping over the keyboard tray and only slightly tapping the body. You need to get used to this, especially if you are used to deep, clicking physical reviews of current MacBooks or similar island-style keyboards on most other modern laptops.
The first time I tried the keyboard, I couldn’t pass even a few sample sentences without a few mistakes, due to the shallow keys and the lower level of tactile feedback. But when I tried again in a couple of hours, it was much easier.
After using the new MacBook keyboard for most of the week, I’m still worried about the shallowness of the keys and the lack of a deeply satisfying click. But as one introduces a very long form, the larger key faces and firmness of the solid breed achieve this by rolling the needle into the positive category. The keys are almost non-volatile, unlike the rocking you can get under your fingers on the current MacBook keyboard.
The new trackpad, called Force Touch, changes even more. About the same size as the air, but compressed in a smaller space, it dominates the bottom half of the laptop and goes straight to the bottom edge. While the previous trackpads had a hinge along the top in the form of a kind of diving board, the new pad works quite differently. We took a deeper look at Force Touch when we tested it in the only other Apple product that now supports the new TrackPad, the 13-inch MacBook Pro.
Test driving Apple’s Force Touch trackpad by Dan Ackerman02:49Replay videoLarge play-pause toggle Apple’s slim new 12-inch MacBook AutoplayOnOff 00:00 03:45 Settings
Four sensors under the pad allow you to “click” anywhere on the surface, and a push effect that combines sensors with quick (or tactical) feedback allows you to have two levels of click perception within a program or task. This deep pressing of the finger and brain, like a trackpad, has a stepped physical mechanism, but in fact the movement you feel is a small horizontal shift that, even when fully explained, still feels like you are suppressing the trackpad with two levels.
Apple describes it this way: “With the Force Touch trackpad, force sensors detect your clicking anywhere on the surface and move the trackpad sideways toward you, although the sensation is the same habitual downward motion that you are used to in the trackpad.”
With this second deeper click, you can access several types of contextual information, such as highlighting a word and getting pop-up wikipedia, or seeing a map by deep-clicking on an address. Going to a preview of a document or file also works with a deep click, just like it does now, pressing the space bar in OS X. Most recent usage is probably fast-moving through a video clip in QuickTime, faster or slower, depending on how hard you hit the trackpad.
I ended up using this trackpad just as I do almost every other one, Apple or otherwise, by tapping rather than clicking. It still bewilders me that Apple turns off tap-to-click by default, forcing you to hunt around the preferences menu to find it. Here’s a tip: besides the tapping feature under the trackpad preferences menu, you may want to go to the accessibility menu and look under Preferences > Accessibility > Mouse & Trackpad > Trackpad options to turn on tap-to-drag.
The new MacBook has a 12-inch Retina display with a resolution of 2,304×1,440 pixels. It also has a new design – the slimmest ever built into a 0.88mm MacBook with a larger aperture for light and individual pixels of red, green and blue. A bit unusual is the combination of a very high pixel-per-inch Apple drive, and a 16:10 aspect ratio, unlike almost any other laptop currently available that uses the same 16: 9 aspect ratio parties like HDTV. (The 11-inch MacBook Air remains the only MacBook 16: 9.)
The screen looks crisp and bright and works from wide viewing angles. There is a glossy overlay, but I have seen much worse offenders when it comes to screen glare and reflection. The screen panel, located between the actual display and the outer edge of the lid, is thinner here than the MacBook Air, and the glass screen is almost to the edge, giving the MacBook a flawless look like the current Pro models. The slim bezel is definitely an important note of style these days, though Dell does so much better than its current XPS 13 laptop, with its attractively framed design.
The speaker grille above the keyboard is supposed to sound subtle – it’s a very small laptop, after all, there’s little room for speaker cones to move the air – but that’ll be enough for casual video viewing. Because Beats Audio is part of the Apple family, we may be focusing more on audio on Macs in the future, as Beats and HP have had a successful partnership for several years.
One of the specifications that many feel has been changed in this new laptop is the built-in webcam. It’s a simple 640×480 camera, and not as high resolution as the 720p camera found on Air or Pro laptops. The image above was taken with an iPhone 6 and shows my image, which is transmitted via a 12-inch MacBook, via FaceTime. Notice the softness of the image, which causes the 480p screen to be viewed on a much higher resolution.
Ports and connections
|Video||USB 3.1 Type C|
|Audio||3.5mm audio jack|
|Data||USB 3.1 Type C|
|Networking||802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0|
Connectivity, performance and battery
When testing my new MacBook, I often found myself plugging and unplugging accessories. Starting with the power cable connected to one USB-C port, I pulled out the power to connect the short USB-C cable to USB-A (retails for $ 19, £ 15 or $ 29 AU $ 29) and connected the USB mouse for a wireless mouse . When I wanted to use a USB data key, I had to unplug my mouse and use the same adapter cable to plug in my key.
You will soon be able to connect video in the same way using USB-C to an HDMI, DisplayPort or VGA adapter. Apple has two connectivity units that include HDMI or VGA for $ 79, £ 65 or AU $ 119, but neither was available at the time of this review.
The official step is that MacBook users will use just about anything wireless. Bluetooth for the mouse, Wi-Fi for Internet access, AirDrop for file transfer and more. Most of these assumptions are correct, but you can say that you can use a full-size USB or HDMI port to connect to any USB or HDTV key with minimal hassle.
One of the potentially very useful benefits of USB-C is that, because it is used to power a laptop battery, it can also draw power from portable batteries, with so many people lugging in laptop cases and bags. Take the USB-C to a male USB cable (we tried $ 10, sent by Monoprice), and you can get extra battery power on the go without having to bring all the brick power or have access to an outlet. It does not fully charge the laptop, but it can offer enough juice to make you jam.
Using USB-C in Apple’s new MacBook by Dan Ackerman02:54Replay videoLarge play-pause toggle Using USB-C in… AutoplayOnOff 00:00 02:54 Settings
Unfortunately, MagSafe is truly one of the most important events in the history of laptops, and its new USB-C power cord has no magnetic connection at all. It just cuts through. The connector is rather shallow, so it can just pop out if you unplug it by accident, but it’s certainly not as stable as the MagSafe version.
The new 12-inch MacBook also stands apart from the rest of Apple’s PC lineup in that it doesn’t use an Intel Core i Core processor. For the most part, Macs use Core i5 chips either from the current fifth generation of those chips or from the previous fourth generation (although the professional-level Mac Pro uses an Intel Xeon processor).
Instead, this notebook uses Core M, a new entry in the Intel notebook family. The mission of Core M is that it allows laptops to be very thin and light, yet powerful and long-lasting. This is an attractive move, and Core M chips are currently only available at premium prices (the least expensive is the $ 700 Asus T300 Chi).
But in the first three computers we tested on Core M chips, the results did not reach a buzz. Lenovo’s Yoga 3 Pro was notable for its sluggish performance and low battery life. The Asus T300 Chi did a little better, but it still took less than 6 hours in our battery test. The Samsung Ativ Book 9, a 12-inch laptop, very similar to this one, did a little better in both performance and battery life, approaching 8 hours.
To get the most out of Core M, you may need to properly configure your hardware and software, including your operating system. Since Apple can control every aspect of its OS and exactly what hardware it comes with, it’s no wonder the company is able to get some of the best results available today from Core M. In our benchmarking tests, nobody will confuse this system with even the basic 13 -inch MacBook Air, but it was faster in our multitasking test than the other Core M. laptops we reviewed. More importantly, in everyday use it often felt as responsive as a MacBook Air, with a few important caveats.
Basic web surfing worked flawlessly, as did streaming even 4K YouTube videos or Netflix HD videos. Even the basic Steam games were suitable, and I could play older or simpler games, such as Portal 2 or Telltale’s The Walking Dead, if I scored games up to 1,440×900 and played with midrange graphics settings.
Using a browser other than Apple’s Safari, which is very well optimized for OS X / Core M, can cause some slowdown as several video streams can be downloaded. Clicking on applications such as Photoshop with sophisticated filters and high-resolution files will also be slower than most Windows laptops with Core i5 processors.
But for many laptop users, especially those who are primarily interested in the size and weight of a laptop, battery life is extremely important. This is one area where Apple’s use of the Core M platform has generated the most speculation. Other Core M systems, all thin laptops or hybrids, have enabled battery life on the low side, from about five and a half hours (for Yoga 3 Pro and Asus T300 Chi) to seven and half hours (for Samsung Book 9) in our video tracking test for video playback.
Meanwhile, Apple’s own MacBook Air runs for an amazing 18 hours (thanks to the recently updated Broadwell Core i5 processor), and the 13-inch Pro runs for 15 hours in the same test. The last two thin, premium laptops, the Dell XPS 13 and the HP Specter x360, both took 12 hours to complete.
The 12-inch MacBook doesn’t last as long as those Core i5 laptops, but it defeats other Core M high-end systems, running 11 hours 3 minutes in our video battery disconnect test. Apple says it should provide you with at least 10 hours of video playback, so this is compliant with the company. Real-world scenarios, using power and frequent web applications, will be shorter, and in secondary test streaming, online video will stop without interruption via Wi-Fi for 5 hours.
How has Apple managed to improve battery life through the highly volatile Core M? Part of this may be the optimization that Apple can do as creator of both the hardware and the operating system. But much of it can be a large 39.7 watts per hour lithium polymer battery packed into the body of a small MacBook. The actual motherboard and all internal components were reduced to only a fraction of the size of a typical laptop motherboard. Instead, the entire other interior of the system is filled with a battery designed to accommodate each corner of the available space.
My initial impression of the original MacBook Air 2008 feels timely and appropriate here. I said about the laptop, which was considered both innovative and frustratingly limited:
“The design is revolutionary, but Apple’s MacBook Air will appeal to a smaller, more specialized audience than standard MacBooks, thanks to an exhaustive set of connections and features.”
In addition, this new MacBook will also be the right fit for a smaller segment of the audience than the more universally useful 13-inch MacBook Air or Pro. But those who can handle the limitations – most notably the lack of ports, shorter battery life, non-professional photo and video editing capabilities, and the shallow keyboard to get used to – will enjoy its sharp display, slim and lightweight body and responsive touchpad.
My main caveat is that if history is any guide, you can count on the next generation of this laptop to increase its usefulness by doubling the number of USB-C ports by at least two. Since, like many new technology products, it might be worth waiting for the next version, even if having a 12-inch, two-pound gold MacBook will now make you the coolest kid in the cafe.
|Apple MacBook (12-inch, 2015)||OSX 10.10.2 Yosemite; 1.1GHz Intel Core M-5Y31; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 1,536MB Intel HD Graphics 5300; 256GB SSD|
|Dell XPS 13 (2015, non-touch)||Windows 8.1 (64.bit); 2.2GHz Intel Core i5-5200U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 2,000MB (shared) Intel HD 5500 Graphics; 128GB SSD|
|Lenovo Yoga Pro 3||Windows 8.1 (64-bit); 1.1GHz Intel Core M-5Y60; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 3,839MB (shared) Intel HD Graphics 5300; 256GB SSD|
|Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2015)||Yosimite OSX 10.10.2; 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-5250U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 1,536MB Intel HD Graphis 6000; 128GB SSD|
|Samsung Ativ Book 9 (2015)||Windows 8.1 (64.bit); 1.1GHz Intel Core M-5Y31; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 2,005MB (shared) Intel HD 5300 Graphics; 128GB SSD|