A Look at Apple’s MacBook 12-inch (2016) – Part 2

MacBook 12-inch

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.

Display

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.

Audio

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.

CPU/Processor

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.

Battery

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.

Keyboard

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.

USB-C Port

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.

FaceTime Camera

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.

Fanless Design

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.

Price

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.

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