The announcement of a new MacBook earlier this year was as much a shock to Apple watchers as it was somewhat confusing and at the same time awe-inspiring. So many emotions! Why? And just what is this new MacBook for? EFTM has been road testing this baby and we’re here to share the news.
While the new MacBook is available in Gold, and that most certainly does and would stand out, I opted for the just as new-look “Space Grey” version of this compact little powerhouse.
The Space Grey is dark enough to differentiate it from the original MacBook Air but not extreme enough that every single person stops you to ask “did you get a new laptop?”.
My daily workhorse is an 11 inch MacBook Air which I added every bell and whistle to when ordering, yet the MacBook is a very different beast. There is no processor choice, RAM choice – just two options for the specifications.
The difference is the size of the on-board flash storage, and a slight bump in processor speed from the Intel Core M processor.
It’s a device designed for those who live in the cloud, so in reality, you shouldn’t need the 512GB hard drive, but many will opt for that out of safety.
At $1,700 it’s not cheap. Not by any measure. In fact, despite being the smallest MacBook available, it sits between the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro on price – heck, you can get a 13 inch MacBook Pro with Retina for the same price.
So if you’re shopping on price, look again.
This is all about portability and being wireless.
As outlined in the announcement by Tim Cook, this thing is innovation at every level. The logic board – the heart of the computer is tiny – probably the size of an iPhone 6 Plus. The battery is actually a series of thin wafers of battery spread inside an ultra-thin body.
Yet the screen is bigger than the MacBook Air – a 12 inch screen, and that’s where the real value is. A Retina display on a device this size was always going to cost money. If you don’t need the Retina screen, a MacBook Air is perfect for you, and will save you dollars.
Five things stand out for me after several weeks of usage.
As a day-to-day MacBook Air user – I’m going to have to sell my MacBook Air. The MacBook has made me realise that I thrive on resolution, I want the better screen, I like the better screen – and so will you when you realise that in reality the MacBook Air screen hasn’t changed in years.
Retaining the MacBook Air as the “base” model MacBook gives a better entry price for the mass market, but the purists will move away from the Air to this 12 inch model because the screen alone justifies the expense.
The difference is a little over 100 grams, but compared to the MacBook Air the difference is noticeable.
When you carry it around daily from meeting to meeting, or classroom to classroom – especially if you don’t keep it in a bag or case, it’s a whole lot lighter in the hand. Being thinner though, it’s also a lot sharper – strange, but true, you really do notice that.
What they’ve done to the keys simply amazes me. Gone is the long-standing mechanism underneath your laptop keys, replaced with a whole new more streamlined way of doing things.
That’s resulted in less key “travel” – so they don’t push down as far, and also the keys are lower in the first place, not sticking up from the laptop as much.
While Apple say it’s the same feel, it’s not. But it’s no-where near the fake feeling of many third-party tablet keyboards which are ultra thin etc.
This is actually more accurate, the keys “press” with a softer touch so you can type faster and with more accuracy once your fingers get used to the feeling.
I’ve spoken about this magical little thing before. And this is the device which made that innovation necessary. The old push down trackpad mechanism simply wouldn’t fit into the new MacBook. Instead the Force Touch Trackpad tricks your mind into thinking it moved, while it’s actually moving so little it’s almost impossible to see.
Again it takes time, but it really is great once you get used to it.
Ok Ok, people are worried about the lack of USBs and the new charging cable. I am too! But just like with the iPad when people ask that same question – why do you need one? – That’s the best answer.
When I need to do a presentation on my MacBook Air – I carry around a dongle. The new MacBook means you’ll still need that dongle, but you’ll also need one when you want to use a USB stick.
The USB stick dongle is affordable at $29, the USB-C to HDMI or VGA will set you back $119 each. Fortunately they are feature rich, and allow charging and USB port access also, so probably a better option if you’re out shopping.
Look, as far as USB-C goes, I didn’t miss the USB ports, the only thing I missed was the MagSafe power charger of the MacBook Air (And Pro’s). This USB-C requires two hands, one to hold the MacBook the other to jam the connector in. It’s more work than it ever used to be, and yes, that’s a genuine First World Problem – so shoot me.
Performance wise, this is not for video editing. You can run your photo editing and even design programs, but when resources are required, it will struggle in comparison to a well purchased Intel Core processor driven device.
It’s for the cloud, it’s for people wanting the portable MacBook experience without the need for the ports, but with the desire for a quality screen.
It sits almost awkwardly in-between the MacBook Air and MacBook Pros, both offering great devices in a similar price range, yet I know people will flock to this if they have the cash. I know I would.
It’s a five-star device, every day of the week. But don’t compare it to anything else, because there’s always going to be a compromise. Embrace the freedom of working wirelessly and you’ll embrace the beauty of the MacBook.
Trev is a Technology Commentator, Dad, Speaker and Rev Head.
He produces and hosts two popular podcasts, EFTM and Two Blokes Talking Tech. He also appears on over 50 radio stations across Australia weekly, and is the resident Tech Expert on Channel 9’s Today Show each day and appears regularly on A Current Affair.
Father of three, he is often found down in his Man Cave.