The new MacBook looks just like the old MacBook.
When everyone is demanding excitement and change, it takes discipline to not mess with a good thing. That’s why I applaud Apple‘s decision not to unduly alter the 12-inch, ultra-thin (0.14-inch thick), 2-pound MacBook.
The latest update to the laptop has the specs I want in an ultraportable Mac, with almost day-long battery life. Any major design change would run the risk of altering that balance, and the aesthetic.
That even goes for the single USB-C power/data port which, in a year of use, has not caused me any significant issues. When I use a MacBook, I do sometimes need a dongle (or two), but most of the time it fits my cordless, wireless lifestyle. (I am surprised that the 3.5mm audio jack has survived yet another iteration on the MacBook. The iPhone must be like, “But how?”)
As Apple announced at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) on Monday, it didn’t leave the MacBook completely alone. The laptop, like virtually every other system Apple produces, got a component update. All the MacBooks now run Intel’s 7th-gen Kaby Lake CPUs.
The MacBook now also reaches higher. The base model, which I tested, is still running a Core m3 processor and has just 8GB of RAM. It also costs $1,299. Now, though, you can configure the tiny MacBook all the way up to 16GB of RAM and a zippy Core i7 CPU running with a turbo boost up to 3.6 GHz. I am very curious to see how that tiny aluminum chassis handles all that power.
However, my system, which packs a 3GHz Core m3, is no slouch. I’m betting battery life will be a bit better on my system than on the Core i7 model.
Aside from faster and more battery-efficient components, Apple made one important external change. It took the second-generation butterfly keyboard from the new MacBook Pro and put it into the MacBook.
Visually, you can barely tell the difference. Running my hands over the large chiclet keys, I noticed how little they rose above the chassis surface. The typing experience is, however, noticeably better than on the original MacBook. The softness of the original keystrokes is replaced by a much firmer response. It makes typing on it more satisfying and sure.
In addition, the Force Touch trackpad offers a sharper response than the original. It’s not a lot, but enough to be noticeable and, for a device that relies on a tiny motor to create the sensation of movement, this is important.
I never had a complaint with the performance of my MacBook, which runs a 6th-generation Core m5. However, according to the my GeekBench results, the new m3-based base model now easily beats 6th-gen Core m5 scores.
How this impacts real-world performance, I’m not sure yet. I will need to spend more time with the MacBook running more apps.
Aside from components and the keyboard, everything else about the MacBook, including its sharp retina screen (2,304 x 1,440), is the same. Content and apps look good and sound good on the MacBook.
As for battery life, I’ll need more time with that, too.
My conclusion? The latest MacBook is a worthy update to an excellent ultraportable laptop, and now it has far more versatility if you’re willing to pay almost $500 more (for both the CPU and memory upgrade). None of that will get you discrete graphics and, if you need that, you don’t want the MacBook. You’ll want to invest in the MacBook Pro.