After spending some time working on the Apple MacBook 12-inch (2016), I remain quite impressed with its overall performance. Keep in mind that this is the base model running a 1.1GHz dual-core Intel Core m3 processor (Turbo Boost up to 2.2GHz), 8GB RAM and 256GB PCIe-based flash storage and not a unit that has been upgraded to an Intel Core m5 or m7 processor.
The Retina Display is certainly a significant upgrade. The Retina Display on the MacBook 12-inch makes visuals rich, vivid and vibrant. The color depth and resolution are welcomed upgrades especially for users of the MacBook Air who have long awaited a Retina Display.
The 12-inch screen size may take a little getting used to if you’ve been using a a 13.3-inch or larger display but it’s doable. While you do lose a bit of the screen real estate, it’s certainly not a deal breaker.
The audio from the built-in speakers on the MacBook 12-inch is fantastic. The sound quality is a major improvement and you can tell the difference immediately. To put it in perspective, think of it as the difference between listening to audio using a MacBook Air’s built-in speakers vs. attaching an external speaker (ex: JBL, Bose, Beats). With the MacBook’s speakers, you won’t need to attach an external speaker for great sound.
Whether it’s e-mail, surfing the web, streaming audio and/or video, multi-tasking or so forth, the Intel Core m3 processor handles pretty well. I haven’t run into any spinning beach balls or significant performance lags. Again, I wouldn’t recommend it for Adobe Creative Cloud or audio/video editing and/or exporting (go with a minimum of a MacBook Air and opt for the Core i7 processor . . . MacBook Pro would be ideal) but for every day tasks, the MacBook 12-inch does a decent job.
I haven’t done any aggressive battery tests but running off the battery, I will say that battery life seems pretty good. Using the MacBook 12-inch in similar fashion to a MacBook Air 13.3-inch, the battery charge did not appear to drain any faster on the MacBook 12-inch than on the MacBook Air 13.3-inch. While the MacBook Air should give you a couple extra hours of battery life over that of the MacBook, the MacBook should still provide solid battery life.
Apple replaced the traditional scissor mechanism on the MacBook keyboard with a new butterfly mechanism. The new butterfly mechanism does make the key press feel quite different than the traditional scissor mechanism; butterfly mechanism keys do not depress as far down as traditional scissor mechanism keys. This does require some adjustment.
When typing on the MacBook keyboard, I found that I would periodically fail to strike a key properly and would need to go back to make corrections. Again, not a deal breaker but it will require some time to make the adjustment.
With thin and light comes the trade-off of a single USB-C port on the MacBook 12-inch. It would’ve been nice if Apple decided to add a second USB-C port to last year’s MacBook refresh; however, there are enough USB-C adapters out there that you should be able to find one that can accommodate your needs.
The Satechi Slim Aluminum Type-C Multi-port Hub Adapter with Type-C Charging Port, 4K HDMI Video Output (30 Hz) and two USB 3.0 Ports has worked flawlessly thus far. While it may be a bit inconvenient to have to pull out an adapter every time you need to connect a USB device or charge the MacBook while connecting to some other port, it’s bearable.
One trade-off that isn’t quite as bearable is the 480p FaceTime camera especially when the MacBook Air (11.6-inch and 13.3-inch) and MacBook Pro (13.3-inch and 15.4-inch) models come with a 720p FaceTime camera.
The 480p FaceTime camera’s image quality is quite choppy and pixelated. Hopefully, Apple will give the FaceTime camera an upgrade in the next MacBook 12-inch model.
With the thin design and Intel Core M processors, Apple was able to make the MacBook 12-inch fanless which allows it to run extremely quiet. While the unit did get warm on the underside after prolonged use, it did not feel unusually warm.
Starting at $1299, the MacBook 12-inch may not be the most “bang for your buck;” though, it’s still a good investment if you are considering it for the right reasons.