Falling for Apple’s latest Macbook is like falling hard and fast for someone totally inappropriate. You know deep down that you’re being seduced by glamour and beauty and charisma against your better judgement, but ultimately, that doesn’t change how you feel.
DESIGN AND HARDWARE
In order to make this MacBook the device that it is, Apple has had to go right back to the drawing board, redesigning mechanisms and components with intense precision to make sure every piece of the puzzle fits perfectly and that there’s no wasted space. The result is both a feat of engineering and an object of beauty.
The requirements for this machine could have left it feeling overly cramped, or half baked like previous generations of netbooks and hybrids aiming to conquer this corner of the market. But as it is, the Macbook is the thinnest, sleekest laptop we’ve ever seen, and is eye catching despite its diminutive size.
It would have been almost criminal to not equip this MacBook with a Retina display given its price, and Apple has pulled through with the full 226 pixels per inch. Not only is it dazzlingly sharp and bright — the kind of screen that will force you to change your standards when it comes to what displays on which you’re prepared to watch videos — but the bezel is very thin. This adds to the overall delicate look of this incredibly lean machine.
Delicate though the design may be, it doesn’t for a single second feel fragile. Thanks to its increased portability, I found myself carrying it around open in one hand in ways I wouldn’t usually be able to with a laptop. It felt perfectly capable of holding its form, remaining strong and inflexible, no matter what reckless manner I manhandled it in.
I found myself frequently tucking the Macbook just under my arm and carrying it with me between locations and meetings. Yes, when open it is much less discreet than my iPad, but it’s much better for taking notes on and at 0.92kg it was light enough to be my constant companion, in lieu of an actual notebook.
The smaller, yet still full-sized keyboard, is likely to divide opinion. The new butterfly mechanism that sits underneath the keys provides improved stability, but some may be frustrated by their lack of movement. When you first start to use the keyboard it feels undeniably strange, but within a day it’s pretty likely you will feel perfectly at home. I found my typing accuracy much improved by the stability and spacing.
The large trackpad has also been redesigned, providing haptic feedback in the form of a double click sensation when you use Apple’s “force click”. Force click is one of the functions of this latest MacBook that sounded great in theory, but in practice, I kept either forgetting about it, or finding it not as fast to respond as I would have liked.
MacBook PERFORMANCE AND FEATURES
Inside the new MacBook are a surprisingly weak set of components that don’t measure up to that of the previous MacBook Air. The basic tech specs see the MacBook equipped with a 1.1GHz dual-core Intel Core M processor, 8GB of on-board memory and 256GB of flash storage.
I’m sad to have to report that, as expected, the MacBook is a bit of a wimp in the power department. The computer wasn’t noticeably sluggish, but it wasn’t lightning fast either, and regular users of other Apple products will spot the difference. The only time the computer actually struggled was when I tried to edit some Jpeg images in a Chrome browser-based editing tool. This could have been a fluke, it could have been Chrome, it could have been the Wi-Fi, or it could have been the MacBook. Or, of course, some kind of combination.
CONNECTIVITY AND BATTERY
When it comes to bells and whistles, this MacBook is somewhat lacking, offering just a headphone jack plus one USB type-C port. Apple has been steadily binning ports — first Ethernet and the SD card slot, and now USBs — to the point that its latest laptop has roughly the same connectivity options as an iPhone.
The evidence that Apple is aiming this product squarely at keen bean Apple-philes can be seen in the fact it has bravely adopted USB-C, a new standard we are soon likely to see everywhere. This one port is used for charging, and also for plugging an adaptor into, should you wish to connect a USB device. This sounds like a pain, but in reality I didn’t find it to be so.
A little bit like with Google’s Chromebook, and increasingly, mobile phones and tablets, there is a sort of assumption these days that you will probably rely primarily on cloud storage. If it’s not true for you already, it will be soon. The only time I actually used the adaptor was to transfer over pictures from an SD card, but given that this MacBook isn’t really up to editing a slew of raw files, there was really very little point.
The benefit of USB-C is that it is totally reversible, which means that not only can you charge from a power socket, but from a power bank — great if you need a little boost in an emergency.
Overall battery life was actually better than I thought it would be. I found that as long as I was focussing on basic tasks, I could get nearly a full work day out of it. This was a surprise given that I use Chrome, which notoriously sucks juice from Macbooks like a thirsty, sugar-deprived monster. Just as with overall performance, however, the Macbook did not quite match up to my Macbook Air.
It’s hard to pin down exactly who this MacBook is for, but I suspect it’s someone who already owns another computer that they will intend to keep on using, most likely another Mac. This will be their notebook, their travel companion and the thing they want to show off in public. It’ll be used for emails, browsing, organising, Facetiming and work-related tasks on the move.