Apple 12-inch MacBook review (2016)

Welcome to our hands-on review of Apple's brand-new 12-inch MacBook for 2016. If you'd prefer to read about the original model, head over to our 2015 12-inch MacBook review. Our review is based on two models we've spent time with: the £1,299 model (1.2GHz m5 processor, 512GB of flash storage) in Rose Gold, and the £1,049 model (1.1GHz m3 processor, 256GB flash storage) in Space Grey.

Apple finds itself in a simultaneously difficult and enviable position in 2016. Having cast its spell over the laptop, the smartphone and the tablet, it has actually run from points to revolutionise, points to invent. It appears that Apple is starting to plateau, in both creative and financial terms, but (perhaps unfairly) it ought to live up to its own hype every time it releases a product. Such as this amazing MacBook, an update to the original 12-inch MacBook unveiled in 2015.

Much like the original MacBook Air caused outrage among tech hacks by having only one USB port (Apple later relented and added a second), so the 12-inch MacBook courted controversy by featuring a lone USB-C port which likewise serves as the power connector: the globe promptly decided it wasn't all set for a single-port laptop along with a slightly different keyboard. We feel this is the wrong means of looking at this laptop - in a simpler globe it is one of the very best laptops you can easily buy. however it isn't that simple, and it will certainly be compared to not only the rest of the world's computers, however likewise the incredible track record of the company that has actually made it.

There's no intended niche audience for this product - it is a laptop for everyone, a computer in its purest form that undoubtedly will certainly shape the future of the portable computer.
If only it weren't so darned expensive.

12-inch MacBook (2016) review: Price and availability

For a laptop that is marketed heavily as the future of computing, the price and specs are both slightly confusing and undeniably high. It's available in two base models, their differences as follows:
  • 256GB PCIe-based onboard flash storage
  • 1.1GHz dual-core Intel Core m3 processor (Turbo Boost up to 2.2GHz) along with 4MB L3 cache
  • Configurable to 1.3GHz dual-core Intel Core m7 processor (Turbo Boost up to 3.1GHz) along with 4MB L3 cache
  • 512GB PCIe-based onboard flash storage
  • 1.2GHz dual-core Intel Core m5 processor (Turbo Boost up to 2.7GHz) along with 4MB L3 cache
  • Configurable to 1.3GHz dual-core Intel Core m7 processor (Turbo Boost up to 3.1GHz) along with 4MB L3 cache
  • Both models come along with 8GB of 1866MHz LPDDR3 onboard memory as standard
Perhaps the price jars because of the way consumer technology has actually fallen over the past 20 years. You may remember the days of the very first family PC costing well over £1,000, however you can easily now pick up a Windows laptop along with higher specs than the MacBook for around half its price. Then again, this high price buys you an incredible feat of laptop engineering that weighs about as much as a tablet, yet (despite Apple's iPad Pro marketing) can easily do a tad more.
The 2016 MacBook is available in Space Grey, Silver, Gold and, oh yes, Rose Gold. More on that never.
12-inch MacBook review (2016)

12-inch MacBook (2016) review: Performance

We've been using the standard 1.1GHz model which has actually an Intel Core m3 processor. The 2015 MacBook's legacy has actually been, and will certainly remain, that it wasn't quite powerful. So far we have actually no complaints versus the 2016 model in day-to-day use - it zips along quite nicely for all your everyday computing needs. Geekbench 3 benchmark examinations gave the MacBook a multi-core score of 5053. Compare this along with the 2015 model's 4618 and the 2015 13in MacBook Air's 5821 and you grab an tip of power.
There won't be any tech snobbery here, incidentally, versus the tip of 'everyday computing', as though all tech journalists and specialists actually need and frequently use the power of the MacBook Pro they probably own. The 2016 MacBook, even in its lowest-spec model, is more than adequate for the needs of most - although video editors and users need to look elsewhere.

It's the very first Apple MacBook to ship along with Intel's latest generation of processor, 'Skylake'. Along along with Intel's HD Graphics 515 card, the MacBook has actually faster performance and storage speeds across the board. It's reasonable to say that these aren't really noticeable in use compared to the 2015 model, however the laptop is agile and responsive.

The standard 8GB of RAM helps, as does the flash storage - there are no moving parts in this laptop, and therefore no fan. It barely runs warm, even when put under a bit of tension along with multiple programmes running. A laptop that doesn't scald your lap is always a plus.
Bonus points: pleasingly for a laptop this small, the speakers are outstanding.

12-inch MacBook (2016) review: Design

Our attractively grey (Space Grey, because space is grey) review model in particular has actually chosen up several compliments on its short travels. (The Rose Gold model is more of an opinion divider.) There's no denying this is a beautiful product.
12-inch MacBook review (2016)
Instead, we are drawn to notice, and potentially criticise, the one sole port on this computer. (Bar the headphone port. very first name on the group sheet.) It's USB-C, a relatively brand-new standard of USB connection. The bundled charger connects to the port, which is likewise able to transfer data and act as a video output port. You'll need an adapter to do all three at once.

But so what? If you know you'll want to attach several USB sticks to your computer every day, then you merely won't think of this laptop - much like those that will certainly want to connect an external monitor. The MacBook doesn't support Thunderbolt 3, so the very best option for second screening is along with an HDMI adaptor to connect to a compatible monitor.

But if you really believe you'd want to connect this particular MacBook to an external monitor, why would certainly you plump for a 12-inch screen laptop in the very first place? A 15-inch MacBook Pro along with a plethora of ports is undoubtedly your preferred machine, negating the need for an external display. The point here is that the design of this laptop need to not be judged harshly by just what it cannot do in relation to its price. This is to misunderstand its fantastic combination of form and function.

Unfortunately, for the next couple of years, the one USB-C port thing is probably going to affect sales of this laptop. Given that Apple has actually gone along with it again for the second generation, we believe Apple is sticking along with this strategy for the long haul - we'll have actually to wait and see just what the next MacBook Pro brings. Some users will certainly feel they might need to suddenly plug in two USB sticks and the SD card for that point-and-shoot camera that's lying about somewhere. The MacBook Air is now considered a design classic used by several generations of person, and indeed allows these plug-ins - however in 2008 it was actually laughed at by several for being overpriced and only having a single port. Sound familiar?
12-inch MacBook review (2016)
Here's one final point of potential interest: the USB-C ports on our test machines were both a quite snug, quite firm fit: we had to Offer them a good old yank to grab the cable out. By which we don't mean that you'll ever be unable to grab it out - merely that, unless it loosens up significantly over time, it will certainly never ever come out inadvertently. And while that sounds good, it does mean that tripping over the wire is going to bring the MacBook crashing down as opposed to pulling out the cable. We skip MagSafe.

(If you skip MagSafe too, there are options. Griffin makes an accessory called BreakSafe - available from Amazon or Griffin itself - a USB-C power cable that incorporates a battery segment and will certainly divide and unattach itself when placed under moderate pressure.)

12-inch MacBook (2016) review: Keyboard

Apple has actually made the travel of the MacBook's keys particularly shallow in order to squeeze the size of the chassis down, but it's not as far removed from various other more traditional typing surfaces as reports might have actually you believe. It's not so much a compromise as a conscious design choice, merely as the decision to buy this laptop is a choice of whether its design tweaks complement your computing needs.

The company has actually made the keys larger than on its various other keyboards yet amazingly has actually fit a full-size design on to a laptop that is a hair over 11 inches wide.
Typing on the 12-inch MacBook is okay, if a bit of an acquired taste. The low travel can easily make the keys much less pleasurable and, more importantly, much less accurate to use. The sound of the keys, by the way, is quite different to just what we're used to along with Apple laptops: not necessarily bad, merely different. We fairly like it, really - it's a cleaner tap than the slightly rattly, springy sound effect you grab from the MacBook Pro's keys, for instance. however it's a shade louder than you might expect, and may become annoying for hypersensitive officemates.

The keys are a good size however squeezed with each other more closely than on the Pro. And the low travel (and consequently keys that sit much less proudly above the level) mean it's harder for your fingers to discover their means round.
12-inch MacBook review (2016)
We generally mishit or entirely missed keys more often than on larger or deeper-travelled keyboards, however the most common error concerned the lefthand Shift key. We continuously missed this key and hit the key to its right instead. Indeed, all the keys down the lefthand edge are a little hit and miss.

The issue appears related to the low-slung key profile. The keys sit quite flat in their bay; whereas the keys on the MacBook Pro are about a millimetre proud of the baseline, these are half that. Having flat, low-travel keys is good for making a highly portable laptop, however it means the keys down the edge are at the same level as the bezel - a bezel so narrow, incidentally (roughly 1.5mm), that it's really merely a ridge next to the keys. If your finger strikes one of the far-left keys on the left of the key, there's a good opportunity it'll strike the bezel ridge at the same time, muffling or entirely blocking the downward action of the key.
The more we used the 12-inch MacBook's keyboard, the more we grew used to its ways: we'll admit it feels different, however after a couple of hours of adjustment and typos, the words flow. Nevertheless, touch typing never reached fairly the same level of speed, accuracy and all-round self-confidence we have actually along with various other Apple laptop keyboards. It's a bit of a 'looking down' keyboard, unfortunately.

12-inch MacBook (2016) review: Trackpad

Not only has actually Apple impressively included a full-size keyboard in just what is the ultimate portable form, however likewise has actually managed to fit a well-sized trackpad. Much like the 2015 model, it is a Force Touch trackpad that doesn't physically click, it merely gives this impression: Apple made a space-saving mechanism that uses electrical pulses to trick your brain in to feeling a click. Press a little harder and you grab a deep click, similar to 3D Touch on the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus.

This is useful to pop up dictionary definitions within web browsers when words flummox you. Really, though, the absence of yet another traditional moving section has actually allowed Apple to shave a few millimetres off the MacBook's design. The standard feel of the trackpad Apple has actually pioneered is still there - namely, the most responsive and pleasing to use on the market.
(Read our Force Touch tips for more on this.)
12-inch MacBook review (2016)
The trackpad is big and a pleasure to use. It takes up a huge proportion of the area under the keyboard - by our measurements there's 84mm of non-trackpad, then the 112mm-wide trackpad, then yet another 84mm of chassis, so it's 40 percent of the horizontal space - and has actually a whisper-smooth top surface.

12-inch MacBook (2016) review: Display and screen

Where Apple has actually differentiated this MacBook line from its aging MacBook Air is in the screen. It's amazing. It has actually Apple's Retina display - however then again, so did the iPhone 4 in 2010. Why Apple has actually resisted adding such an impressive display to the Air is now slowly being answered by its inclusion here.

The MacBook, in all current models, only ships along with a 12-inch screen option. It has actually a 2304x1440 resolution at 226 pixels per inch. In real-life terms, it is one of the very best screens we have actually ever seen on a laptop, along with a superb range of colours and backlight brightness levels, the auto-adjustment of which is second to none in its accuracy. You can easily likewise scale the resolutions, the most useful being the 'More Space' option that pushes the 12-inch display to its most spacious for multitasking.

In comparison to the cheaper MacBook Air, the screen has actually a much better resolution however likewise a more pleasing screen-to-bezel look. Only since this laptop's design premiered in 2015 have actually individuals begun to think of the Air as looking a bit aged. The Air's thicker, plastic grey bezel now looks outdated and unnecessarily wide compared to the sleek, thin glass black bezel of the MacBook. It's a small touch, however adds to the premium look and feel of the device.
12-inch MacBook review (2016)

12-inch MacBook (2016) review: Battery

Straight up - the battery, despite the improvements, is not as good as the current crop of MacBook Airs and Pros. This comes down to simple physics: this computer is tiny, and Apple has actually done its finest to cram as much battery as possible in there.
The brand-new Skylake processor performance allows for slightly improved battery consumption compared to last year's model, and Apple quotes up to 10 hours of wireless web use. Using the 2016 MacBook day to day we found we could go through the working day without having to plug the mains charger in.

We noticed a sharper drop in the battery levels once you fire up a reasonable few tabs in Chrome (a famous MacBook energy sapper), along along with apps like Mail, Slack, Notes and Google Drive, as well as video playback all chipping in now and then.
What we describe here is several people's daily job needs, and the MacBook offers more than acceptable battery performance for a laptop for these needs. All laptops decrease along with this kind of usage. If you really balk at the 10 hours quoted, it's possible that you've been spoilt by the MacBook Air! And reasonable enough, if you need to push 15 hours away from a plug, coffee shop hopping and working on the go. Your job sounds chilled.
12-inch MacBook review (2016)

Macworld poll: will certainly you buy a 12-inch MacBook?

What do you think? will certainly you buy a 2016 12-inch MacBook, or will certainly you stick along with your current laptop?

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