It’s about damn time Apple reinvented the MacBook. More than the refreshed MacBook Air we’ve been hearing rumours about since last year, this new laptop is called simply MacBook. It’s so little and tiny that we’re practically breathless.
I’ll start with the shockingly diminutive specs about size and weight because jeez: It weighs just 920g, and at its thickest point, the new Macbook is just 13.1 mm. For comparison, the 11-inch MacBook Air is 17.3mm.
This ain’t no 11-incher though: the new MacBook is has a 12-inch, 2304 x 1440 display. That resolution blows both the old 11-inch and 13-inch Airs away. (They currently sport 1366 x 768 and 1440 x 900 displays respectively.)
Keyboard and trackpad
The width of the new MacBook is basically the width of the minimum usable full-size keyboard Apple could squeeze into that slim aluminium unibody enclosure. To make it fit in an even smaller space, Apple redesigned the butterfly mechanism that gives the keys their clickiness to be slimmer than ever.
Apple didn’t stop at the keyboard. The new MacBook has a completely redesigned “Force Touch” trackpad that’s responsive to degrees of tactile input, which is powered by the same taptic engine as the Apple Watch. The trackpad isn’t hinged at the top like the old trackpads, the whole thing is a button.
Under the hood, Apple’s created an new tiny logic board, that’s powered by the energy thrifty Intel Core M processor. It runs cool so that it doesn’t need a fan. (That’s right it’s fanless!) Some users with more demanding needs might find the Core M a little disappointing compared to the top i5 and i7 Macs, but we’ve been lead to believe by Intel that the Core M chipset is no shabby operator. If you really need more power, the price point of a MacBook Pro ain’t too, too far away.
Also, as rumoured, the new MacBook will have incredibly limited physical I/O. It will have just a single USB-C type input that will take the place of USB, power, HDMI, VGA and DisplayPort. That’s a pretty ambitious amount of connectivity into a single port. Hopefully you’re not trying to do more than one thing at a time. As I’m understanding this technology, this might get complicated?
Apple seems to be gambling hard on people’s willingness to adopt Wi-Fi and Bluetooth more universally than they do today. Those technologies don’t work as well or reliably (yet) as they need to to replace connectivity to the degree that Apple obviously thinks they should.
“All-Day” battery life
With all the space saved by the logic board and connectivity, Apple filled every possible nook on the new MacBook with loads of high-tech batteries. Apple promises “all-day battery life,” which according to the specs page means, up to nine hours of wireless web and up to 10 hours of iTunes movie playback. That gives you a sense, but we’ll have to wait and see what real world usage looks like.
I’m glad Apple seemingly didn’t skimp on battery though, since battery life is basically the most important spec. A dead gadget is of no use to anyone.
Price and availability
The new MacBook will begin shipping in Australia on Friday, April 10. The basic configuration with 1.1 GHz dual-core Intel Core M, with Intel HD Graphics, 8GB of memory, and 256GB SSD for $1799 in Australia. A beefier configuration with 1.2 GHz dual-core Intel Core M and 512GB SSD for $2199 in Australia.
Yes, it’s available in silver, space grey and gold.
So what do we make of this shiny new golden egg? For starters, there’s clearly a load of impressive engineering that went into shrinking down the components to make this computer super tiny. The converse, of course, is that Apple’s cut a lot of corners and it’s hard to say what the impact will be on usability and performance. Intel Core M is still a new and as yet unproven chipset. Will the slick, efficient new keyboard and trackpad designs hold up under real-world usage, or are they just beautiful ideas that don’t blast off. Perhaps the biggest wild card to my mind is the new multi-function USB-C connector. Will it be enough?
If I needed a new laptop today — I actually do need a new laptop — then I’d be pretty psyched to check one if these new MacBooks out, even if it’s not exactly the cheap MacBook Air I’d imagined.