MacBook: Review Updated

Review: Updated: MacBook


Update: If a recently granted patent is to be believed,the next MacBook might have 4G LTE capabilities. What’s more, if you’re simply looking for a MacBook Air alternative with 2016 specifications, the Xiaomi Mi Notebook Air might pique your interest.

Did you buy the 12-inch MacBook? I did, but not because I wanted one.

No: the laptop I really wanted was a new MacBook Air, or even a redesigned 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro with a sleeker chassis. Of course, neither came. And like many other Air fans, I realised that another year was to pass by without Apple’s best laptop getting an upgrade. So I bought the next best thing.

The MacBook is all about compromise. With more pixels than the Air, its display allows me to be more productive on the move and slinging it into a backpack almost feels like cheating. While no powerhouse (editing 4K images on it is slightly painful), it handles basic tasks with ease.

One year later, Apple has refreshed the MacBook with Intel’s sixth-generation Skylake processors while introducing faster storage, memory and graphics for the same price. The most interesting change is on the outside: a new Rose Gold finish that genuinely makes me consider owning a shiny pink laptop for the first time. Gender stereotypes be damned.

Review: Updated: MacBook

But despite its upgrades, the new MacBook is not the MacBook Air replacement that rumors once again predict will arrive this summer – it’s the same unique, dazzling and challenging laptop as the one that launched one year ago. Only faster, and with longer-lasting battery life.

A new processor, coupled with faster internal storage, memory and graphics has brought tangible improvements to the MacBook’s performance. You’ll still have to somehow manage with a single USB-C port, bolting on adapters and connectors to equip your FrankenMac with vital extra limbs.

And if you didn’t get on with its super-shallow keyboard, your fingers will remain as unconvinced as they were before – especially during long typing sessions. The MacBook brings more megahertz, and I’m not talking about clock speed.

Review: Updated: MacBook

Big money Mac

Some people expected Apple to discount its refreshed MacBook to sweeten the deal. It didn’t. The entry-level model still costs £1,049 ($1,299 or AUS$1,999), around $50/$73/AUS$99 more than the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro.

Review: Updated: MacBook

If the cost remains too high for you, then consider picking up last year’s version from Apple’s refurb store. While the 2016 refresh is technically the better machine, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the two when undertaking low-level tasks such as surfing the web or typing up documents in Pages.

At the time of writing, the entry-level version is on there for £749 (around $1,108 or AUS$1,457) alongside eight other models of varying specs and price.

Gabe Carey has also contributed to this review

Specifications and features

Apple often shaves a millimetre or two from its laptops when they undergo refreshes, but the 12-inch MacBook leaves no room. At 11 x 7.8 x 0.5 inches (or 280 x 197 x 13.1mm – W x D x H), the MacBook has a smaller footprint than another skinny Core M-powered laptop, the Asus UX305, which spans 12.7 x 8.9 x 0.5 inches (324 x 226 x 321mm).

It also out-skinnies the MacBook Air’s 12.5 x 8.9 x 0.6 inches (325 x 227 x 17mm). The 12-inch MacBook is the lighter of the two laptops, weighing just 2.03 pounds compared to the Air’s 2.38 pounds. That’s roughly the same as holding two iPad Pro 9.7s in the hand.

In comparison, Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 weighs 2.37 pounds with the keyboard cover attached. Other Windows machines are quickly catching up the design stakes – check out HP’s Spectre 13 for evidence of that. While the MacBook remains a fine feat of engineering that hasn’t lost its allure, strides being made by the competition means that you won’t have to choose between slick design and practicality for much longer.

Review: Updated: MacBook

Spec sheet

Here is the configuration of the review model supplied to techradar:

Processor: Intel Core m5-6Y54 Dual-Core CPU @ 1.2GHz Turbo Boost to 2.7GHzOperating system: OS X 10.11 El CapitanMemory: 8GB of 1867MHz LPDDR3Display: 12-inch LED-backlit IPSGraphics: Intel HD 515Storage: 512GB PCIe-based flashCamera: 480p FaceTime cameraNetworking: 1/10/1000 BASE-T Gigabit Ethernet (using a USB-to-Ethernet adapter)Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi; Bluetooth 4.0Audio: Stereo speakers; Dual microphones; headphone port (supporting for Apple iPhone headset with remote and microphones)Dimensions: 11 x 7.8 x 0.5 inches (or 280 x 197 x 13.1mm – W x D x H)Battery: Built-in 39.4-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery

The MacBook is offered in three configurations, starting with the entry-level model that comes with 256GB of flash storage. Apple has swapped out last year’s fifth-generation Broadwell processors for Intel’s newer Skylake variants, with the cheapest MacBook housing a lower powered Core m3 chip clocked at 1.1GHz (Turbo Boost to 2.2GHz).

Review: Updated: MacBook

Starting at £1,299 ($1,599 or AUS$2,249), the more expensive configuration doubles that model’s storage and houses a Core m5 processor with a faster clock speed of 1.2GHz (Turbo Boost to 2.7GHz). Both are equipped with faster RAM compared to last year’s MacBook (8GB of 1867MHz DDR3, up from 1600MHz), and Apple claims that the Intel HD Graphics 515 solution in this year’s models is 25% faster.

For extra oomph, the MacBook can be configured with a faster 1.3GHz dual-core Core m7 processor with a maximum clock speed of 3.1GHz for another £120 (around $175 or AUS$230).

Review: Updated: MacBook

Aside from new configurations, Apple has made a more subtle change to this year’s MacBook. In its teardown of the device, iFixit discovered that they use new hinge screws featuring heads filled with a substance that disintegrates when a screwdriver is used on them. These could be used to indicate to Apple that you’ve tampered with the machine, which may have a knock-on effect when it comes to solving warranty-related issues, though this is yet to be confirmed.

Bundled software

Review: Updated: MacBook

Plus, Apple’s Mac App Store has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years, proving an excellent resource with frequent recommendations on apps in multiple categories, such as Games, Productivity, Writing, Navigation and more. Here’s every app you’ll find upon booting up a New MacBook for the first time.

Intel’s Core M processor has, perhaps unfairly, earned itself a poor reputation since sliding under the bonnet of the Yoga 3 Pro back in 2015. The Yoga and other early machines that adopted Intel’s fanless processor (ironically, the Yoga 3 Pro wasn’t fanless) were sluggish and the performance hit wasn’t considered worth it to get hold of their sleek new designs.

However, successive generations have seen Core M’s performance increase to the point that you often wouldn’t be able to tell whether a laptop houses a Core M or Core i-series processor, depending on what it is you’re using it for.

Unfortunately for the 2015 MacBook, the Core M processors inside weren’t powerful enough to provide a smooth experience under OS X 10.10 Yosemite. I found that disabling transparency effects and animations, while taking care not to open too many apps at once, was vital to prevent applications from temporarily freezing.

So how does the refreshed MacBook fare?

Review: Updated: MacBook


Here’s how the MacBook performed in our suite of benchmark tests:

Xbench: Overall: 394.6; CPU: 267.14Cinebench R15 (CPU: Multi Core: 237cb; Open GL: 21.11 fps)Unigine Heaven 4.0: Medium Quality (1,680 x 1,050): Score: 397; FPS: 18Unigine Heaven 4.0 Ultra Quality (1,680 x 1,050): Score: 397; FPS: 15.7NovaBench: Score: 623; Graphics: 43Geekbench 3 (Single Core): 2,938; Multi Core: 5,900BlackMagic Disk Speed test: Read: 921MB/s; Write: 838MB/sBatman: Arkham City (1,440 x 900, Medium): Average: 14 fpsTomb Raider: Medium Quality, 1,400 x 900 (Average): 17.8 fpsStreaming 1080p video over Wi-F (75% brightness): 7 hours and 10 minutes

For comparison, here is the performance of the entry-level MacBook, configured with a 1.1GHz Intel Core m3-6Y30 processor clocked at 0.90GHz (Turbo Boost to 1.1GHz), Intel HD Graphics 515 and 8GB of 1867MHz memory.

Xbench: Overall: 347.54; CPU: 228.25Cinebench R15 (CPU: Multi Core: 213cb; Open GL: 21.03 fps)Unigine Heaven 4.0: Medium Quality (1,680 x 1,050): Score: 292; FPS: 11.6Unigine Heaven 4.0 Ultra Quality (1,680 x 1,050): Score: 256; FPS: 10.2NovaBench: Score: 489; Graphics: 41Geekbench 3 (Single Core): 2,535; Multi Core: 5,025BlackMagic Disk Speed test: Read: 929.7MB/s; Write: 620.2MB/sBatman: Arkham City (1,440 x 900, Medium): Average: 13 fpsTomb Raider: Medium Quality, 1,400 x 900 (Average): 18.2 fps

Review: Updated: MacBook

The good news is that the spec bump has turned the MacBook into a machine that runs much efficiently under more stress. I tried both the entry-level and the mid-spec version, and found that both machines provided a smooth experience out of the box without any tweaking of OS X ‘s settings.

Review: Updated: MacBook

Running my usual load of office applications, which includes multiple Firefox browsers, GIMP image editor, Skype, Evernote, Filezilla, Wunderlist, Ulysses, Slack, Echofon, Reader and Spotify (they’re all essential, alright?), the MacBook didn’t so much as stutter. I still wouldn’t be confident opening another few FireFox windows and loading 30 tabs into each of them, but that’s more of a criticism of the browser than it is of the MacBook’s performance.

Review: Updated: MacBook

The 2,304 x 1,440 pixel-resolution display remains one of the best I’ve seen on a notebook, and is the best on a MacBook. It brings incredibly rich colors and excellent 170-degree viewing angles.

There’s another advantage: you can scale it up to get more desktop space and go far beyond Apple’s default scaled resolutions. By adding a custom resolution, I managed to soar all the way up to 1,920 x 1,080 in High-DPI mode using SwitchResX, which allowed me to see the same amount of spreadsheet rows and columns as a 27-inch monitor. Sure the text was tiny, but I could still make out the numbers and edit the spreadsheet without any trouble.

I might not be doing it all the time, but compared to my old setup, which was an 11-inch MacBook Air connected to a portable USB DisplayLink monitor, I now have enough desktop real-estate to switch to see more on the screen at the same time. That’s been possible on high-resolution Windows and Apple machines for some time, but having all that desktop space is even more impressive on a 12.1-inch machine as thin as a pencil.


The 2016 MacBook isn’t going to win any new converts, but it leaves no excuse to pick one up if you’re already swayed by what Apple’s machine has to offer. Better yet, its new Rose Gold option is gorgeous.

We liked

Now that there’s more horsepower under the MacBook’s bonnet, you won’t have to tweak OS X El Capitan’s settings to get hold of a smooth experience. As the old Apple motto goes: it just works. The increase is marginal, but it undoubtedly makes a difference. That doesn’t mean you’re suddenly going to be swapping your MacBook Pro for one to undergo heavy computing lifting.

Apple didn’t tweak the MacBook’s chassis because it didn’t need to. It still can’t be matched even by its Windows-based counterparts, though I wouldn’t be confident of saying that six months down the line. Its color-packed display is as vibrant as it was on the previous model, and you just try finding a 12- or 13-inch laptop with better speakers. It’s a near-impossible task.

We disliked

That single USB-C port remains the biggest problem with the 12-inch MacBook. It’s simply too much of a compromise to use it as your main machine, and even if you’re on the move you’re forced to make a decision between connecting a peripheral or charging a device if you don’t have a dongle to hand. It would have been nice to have seen a price drop too, if only because it feels like the MacBook should have come with sufficient power to deliver a smooth experience in the first place. If new MacBook Air and Pro models appear this summer, you can count on it taking a price dip then.

Final verdict

Should you buy the 12-inch MacBook? The question is a little more complex with the possibility of new MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models arriving at WWDC. One way of thinking of it is that neither are likely to be as thin and portable – it would take a near-impossible engineering feat for that to happen. On the other hand, if you’re happy to wait for a machine with more power, hanging on may be the way to go.

If you do decide that Apple’s mini marvel for you, buying this year’s MacBook is less of a risk than getting the previous version. With faster internals, it’s capable of zipping through lesser-demanding tasks without complaining and leaves you with more confidence when slinging it into a bag to take on the road.


47 thoughts on “MacBook: Review Updated

  1. So are you saying nobody should compare Apple products to any other because they don’t run the same OS? Don’t think it works quite like that unfortunately (for Apple).

  2. And no OSX… That’s like telling someone they could easily be on an equally good planet2014 in another solar system.

  3. for what the Core M machines are built for (web, video, light typing etc) there’s not much need for power, sides if you need power the base MacBook pro is more or less the same price

  4. Its the CPU that will bottle neck any of these M class machines.

  5. My new MBP was hitting 1300MB/s in both read and write in the black magic test, sata tops out at 6gbit so 750MB/s tops. Not really much need for speed over 750MB/s though haha.

  6. it definitely is, maybe look at the spec before making such assertions.

  7. Hadn’t heard that myslef, but I can believe Apple would do that. Thing is, in a laptop of this spec it probably won’t make much difference. This disk won’t be the bottleneck.

  8. I have a simple test for build quality. Pick it up and try to twist the main body and then the screen. If it creaks, put it down and step away… Build quality? My 2005 Powerbook and iMac both finally expired after 11 years. Eleven years?!?!? Anyone heard of TCO? Total cost of ownership? That2019s 9000a3 p.a for the ‘book. Bargain.

  9. i know this comment is old…but seriously if you can buy a laptop, tablet and phone for the same cost…. AND you still buy the macbook….you dont actually know the meaning of value…

  10. IDK, that UX305 looks very nice. The Macbook will have better resell value though.

  11. It depends what you value. In terms of build quality and fit and finish the macbook is in another league.

  12. Hey look, two people having a reasonable discussion on the internet!

  13. Good point, I did overlook that. I would argue that with the size screens we’re talking it’s not a huge issue; but agreed, that is a difference. But then on the other hand the UX305 does have 2 full size USB 3.0 ports as well as HDMI. That with 8GB RAM and a 256GB SSD I think they’re comparable. They’re exactly the same apart from the Macbook has a higher resolution screen (and probably better quality, although I cannot comment on that), whereas the Asus has way more functionality for half the price. I’d buy the Asus, a new top-of-the-range smartphone and a good tablet over a Macbook any day :)

  14. when you compare the differences, the cost difference is certainly not in the new Macbook favour. Asus has less resolution, but more hardware cost in terms of ports and bigger battery (if my memory serves). AND remember how the isheeps diss the competitors for offering higher resolution that was NOT needed .. and suddenly now it is all turned around. Typical.

  15. exact same spec? How is 1080p screen the same as a 2304 x 1440 one? How you got 7 up votes for the assertion of a lie is beyond me.

  16. love the casual homophobia of iFruity. You must be a Micro$ofty Windoze fanboy

  17. push the technology curve? Don’t make me laugh. Trying to cut their bill of materials so that they are gorge their customer base is more like it. And btw USB and optical and floppy drive is NOT exclusive to each other. What is your point? The fact is that iFruity has always wanted to provide less at a higher cost and wanted to convince people to live with less, when the environment actually does not support that decision. And for your information, optical drive is still used as a backup storage even now (as it was then) and has not died off as you seems to imply. And this is really nothing more than an cynical exercise in seeing how much a customer base will allow itself to be ripped off. USB C device become more mainstream? Then why not do it like other companies that support BOTH USB-C and other legacy connectors? Because it increase the cost, that’s why. And when their argument is that moving to single connector allows them to shave 1 mere mm off their chasis, it is pure stupidity to suggest that more connectors and docks are the way to go.

  18. But the annoyance of dropping Thunderbolt- a rather recent introduction- and MagSafe is a real b!tch.

  19. Best advice: 003cstrong>DETOXMAC.ORG003c/strong> will speed up your Mac if it starts going slowly. It is the same software that Apple employees use if customers come in saying their Mac is going too slow or that they are seeing the rainbow wheel too often. It’s great for extending battery life too.

  20. As an Apple fan, you should be used to this approach by now. The Macbook Air was introduced in exactly the same way —

  21. As an apple fan….. I think this is overpriced…. For the same amount, I could upgrade to the macbook pro, and have usb ports, and a faster processor. They should be charging around 800 for it, as its obviously for the non-pro user.

  22. Yes I’m really in China 5 years now…here in Beijing and in big cities normally no problem but I work in places like Dongying Shandong province and trust me no CAT-5 no network…..

  23. … actually … are you really in China? If you are, you should know that even in budget and small hotel, they have wifi. In most restaurant, they have wifi as well ….. But yes, a single port is simply a lazy design choice and one that provides little benefit to the user.

  24. the $350 watch is not aimed at much of us, it looks like it’s designed for our 8 year old daughters.

  25. oh and the cheapest in China the Sport is $580 almost twice the US price…. go back to Billo…

  26. At the weight even if the whole thing were made of solid gold it would be worth about 00a31500.

  27. The technology will certainly be massively devalued, but the gold in it won’t and it is a lot of gold. People who have $20,000 to spend on this won’t be caring

  28. Yes but its not an investment like a Rolex you turd…as soon as the iWatch S comes out you are screwed….

  29. Meh, not the $17k watch gripe again. That thing is aimed at fashionistas and watch fanatics who think nothing of dropping $20k+ on a watch as an investment. The watch aimed at the people who read this sort of website costs $350. Now, whether a $17k Apple Watch will be as good an investment as a $17k Hublot certainly remains to be seen, but that’s the market they’re going for.

  30. I just want to put out there that whoever decided ‘dongle’ was a great word should be shot.

  31. Kind of defies the point of having the thinnest laptop IN THE WORLD* if you have to carry additional bits and pieces around with you that are in all likelihood much thicker than the laptop. What’s the point in saving space on the laptop to go and add it with accessories? *by 1mm

  32. If only dongles would become available that are tiny – and give you 2 more type-c ports for about $3. As that won’t be happening that’s a great point. Wait…

  33. 003cstrong>If your Mac doesn’t have antivirus, you’re putting yourself at risk!003c/strong> There’s free antivirus options at 003cstrong>TINYURL.COM/APPLEANTIVIRUS003c/strong> – good luck! Mine is finally working great again :)

  34. I am sitting here in a hotel room with the 13 inch MBA I bought about 6 months ago…..I love it but it has one drawback…..lack of ports….Here in China there is generally no wifi so I already have to pack around a $70 dongel to get online and I normally am using both USB ports to charge all my geek stuff……If there was a separate charging connection I could stomach it maybe but charging and data on the same port???? This increases the charging cycles on the battery enormously…Big NO…..My iPone is always plugged in to charge so I would have to carry a charger for it or a USB hub….And I don’t care how thin it is there wasn’t room for a SD slot ??? Sorry I like Apple but between this and a $17,000 watch I think they are using Meth… Peace from Beijing

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>