New 12-inch MacBook (early 2015) hands-on review – Macworld UK
Apple has unveiled its all-new 12-inch MacBook for 2015, simply called MacBook rather than MacBook Air or MacBook Pro – creating a new (or resurrected, perhaps) line of laptops to add to its expanding range. We spent some time with the new 2015 MacBook following Apple’s special event on 9 March to bring you a hands-on 12-inch MacBook review and our first impressions of the thinnest, lightest MacBook ever.
UPDATED: Reports have come in claiming that when benchmarked the MacBook may be almost as fast as the 2015 MacBook Air.
Plus, are you wondering what happened to the 15in Retina MacBook Pro? Take a look at our New 2015 15-inch MacBook Pro release date, specs and UK pricing story.
New MacBook 2015 hands-on review: Display
You’ll immediately notice the bright, vivid and detailed Retina display on the new MacBook. It’s 12 inches (diagonal), and has a resolution of 2304×1440, which equates to 226ppi (the current Retina 13-inch MacBook Pro has a resolution of 2,560 x 1,600 and a pixel density of 227ppi). Apple has reduced the size of the bezel around the screen, too, bringing it much closer to the edge-to-edge design we’d ideally love to see.
New MacBook 2015 hands-on review: Design
Pick up the MacBook and you’ll be amazed by how thin and light it is. It weighs just 907g, and measures just 13.1mm thick. “Can you see it?” Tim Cook joked on stage when he unveiled it. “I can’t even feel it!”
There are thinner laptops out there, however. The Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro is 12.7mm, for example, and the Lenovo LaVie Z HZ550 weighs just 780g.
Here are the 12-inch MacBook’s full dimensions and weight:
Pop into an Apple Store when the new MacBook becomes available on 10 April and you’ll spot something else that’s new with the new MacBook. Not only does it come in silver; it’s also available in the iPhone and iPad’s Space Grey and gold hues.
New MacBook 2015 hands-on review: Keyboard and trackpad
That thin, light design doesn’t sacrifice keyboard real estate, though. Apple has kept the full-size keyboard but has tweaked it. The keys are actually slightly bigger than those on current Mac laptops (17 per cent bigger, to be precise), which makes them slightly closer together.
But more importantly, Apple has changed the mechanism beneath the keys, replacing the scissor-switch mechanism with a new butterfly mechanism. Now, the keys will go straight up and down rather than leaning like they do with the scissor-switch mechanism.
Using the keyboard on the New MacBook, Macworld’s Susie Ochs found that her fingers didn’t feel cramped like they do when using a keyboard that’s sized for the iPad, for example, but some reports we’ve seen have argued that it’s difficult to tell when you’ve actually pressed a key, feeling more like using a touchscreen than a physical keyboard.
The backlit keyboard has been improved, too, with each key boasting its own LED light, meaning they all have the same brightness level.
Sadly, the Apple logo on the back of the new MacBook doesn’t get an LED at all, so wave goodbye to that much-loved glowing Apple.
In addition to the keyboard improvements, Apple has also made some big changed to the trackpad, which we think are pretty cool. The new MacBook boasts the new Force Touch trackpad, which uses technology like that found in the Apple Watch to measure the degree of pressure you’re applying. This introduces a raft of new ways to interact with the MacBook.
The new Force Click gesture (which is simply a harder version of the standard click) can be used in various ways. Force Click on an address, for example, and it will automatically launch the Maps app. And within the Maps app, you can use a Force Click rather than a normal click when zooming in or out, and the zooming will be quicker. Likewise, varying the pressure when clicking on the fast-forward button in QuickTime will vary the speed of the fast-forward function.
You can also Force Click on a Mail attachment to Quick Look at it, Force Click on a date and time to create a new Calendar event, or even Force Click a word to find out what it means.
It’s not the same as a right-click (or the equivalent on a trackpad – usually either Ctrl-click or a tap with two fingers). The Force Click is effectively a third standard click, by default opening a ‘look up’ menu in most applications, delivering a definition or Wikipedia article summary for the word you’re clicking on.
Susie tried the new trackpad and said: “I found this to be super handy – and faster than right-clicking and digging through contextual menus. It’ll save MacBook owners a lot of time.”
Apple has also taken away the hinge traditionally found beneath the trackpad, so it feels the same no matter where you click. In fact, there’s no mechanical click action at all: it feels and sounds like there is one, but this is entirely simulated by the vibrational effect of the electromagnets under the pad.
In the following video we explain how the Force Touch trackpad works, and demonstrate some of its current applications:
New MacBook 2015 hands-on review: Ports
Another big talking point about this new MacBook is its ports. There are just two found on the new MacBook: one for your headphones, and on the other side a USB Type-C port that does pretty much everything else.
That’s right: there’s no Magsafe, there’s no USB 3, there’s no Thunderbolt, there’s no SD card slot. Instead, Apple has decided that USB Type-C is all you need.
The USB-C port can be used for charging, as USB for connecting peripherals, for HDMI, VGA and DisplayPort. And of course, that means you’re going to need an adapter, which you can buy from Apple (and you’ll need to remember to lug around with you).
There’s a USB adapter for plugging in one USB device available from Apple for £15, as well as a USB-C VGA Multiport Adapter for charging, USB 3.1 and VGA, all available to use at once and a USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter with charging, HDMI and USB 3.1. Those cost £65 each, which we wouldn’t describe as cheap. Apple says that a DisplayPort adapter is coming soon.
Having that one port may have enable Apple to make this MacBook incredibly slim, but just how portable is it really if you’re required to also carry adapters, which you’re likely to forget and leave behind?
It’s something that has both impressed us and concerned us, but as Macworld editor Karen Haslam pointed out, we all freaked out about the MacBook Air when it launched without an optical drive and everyone is over it now. (She defends the new MacBook’s allocation of ports in an opinion piece: Why people need to stop panicking about the MacBook’s USB-C port.)
We’ll see how we go with it in day-to-day use, but for now concerns aren’t completely banished (far from it, in fact).
Apple isn’t worried, though. The MacBook is designed to fly solo, unencumbered by wires.
“I use my trusty 13in MacBook Air as my everyday machine, and almost all of its ports see daily use,” says Susie. “I connect to a Thunderbolt Display, a USB hard drive for Time Machine, and even a four-port USB hub to keep all my gadgets charged.”
For her, the new MacBook might not be ideal. She points out that it’s better suited for people who want the lightest machine possible, and can use wireless connection methods such as AirPlay, AirDrop, Bluetooth and WiFi.
New MacBook 2015 hands-on review: Processor
We haven’t yet had a chance to put the new MacBook through our speed tests, but we do know that inside the notebook is Intel’s new energy-efficient Core M “Broadwell” processors, housed in a logic board that is 67 per cent smaller than Apple’s previous record. The base model runs at 1.1GHz and can Turbo Boost to 2.4GHz.
The Core M runs so cool that computers that take advantage of the chip can be fanless. And being fanless means that the computer in which they feature can be thinner and smaller than ever. That M in Core M stands for mobile, though, and these are processors destined for tablets and hybrid laptops, so don’t expect anything like the power of the Core i5.
That said, something surprising has come out of early testing of an equivalent processor. According to T-Gapp the new MacBook processor could be just as fast as the i5 in the MacBook Air.
According to that site (aka Two Guys and a Podcast), Geekbench 3 results of the 1.2GHz MacBook suggest that it scored 2831 for single-core and 5567 at dual-core. Apparently this is 3% less than the 13-inch MacBook Air, with its 1.6GHz processor. We’ll bring you our full test results soon to determine how speedy (or not so speedy, as the case may be) the new MacBook proves to be.
New MacBook 2015 hands-on review: Battery life
The other thing we’ve yet to test is battery life, but Apple made a point of highlighting that the battery is one of the new MacBook’s standout features. Apple describes it as “all day” battery life, but what that really means is an official rating of 9 hours of web surfing or 10 hours of watching video.
Mind you, Apple has become known for making surprisingly modest claims about its devices’ batteries: we’re currently finding that the new 13-inch MacBook Pro, for instance, consistently outlasts its ‘official’ battery life by a matter of hours. We’ll be testing the new MacBook’s battery life when we get it to our labs.
New MacBook 2015 hands-on review: Price and availability
The new MacBook 2015 will be available from 10 April, with a starting price of £1,049. Find out more in our new MacBook 2015 release date, price, specs and features article.
Below, you can watch the Macworld UK team discussing the new MacBook announcement.