Are you thinking about buying a MacBook? Maybe you’re sick of the privacy issues on Windows and are looking for something different. The macOS platform is enticing, but which machine should you choose?
You could save some money and get the MacBook Air, but that has a lousy screen. And the MacBook Pro is gorgeous, but for everyday use it’s overkill and beyond most budgets.
There’s a third option: the revamped MacBook. Today we’ll look at why it’s the perfect machine for Mac newcomers.
A Gorgeous Screen
Screen resolution is often what separates a low-end machine from a premium one. Look at the majority of $200–$300 Chromebooks, and you’ll find most of them have a resolution of 1366 x 768. This is poor, and you’ll notice it immediately. Low-resolution screens are blurry when viewed from close up, can’t fit as many elements on the screen, and often require the perfect angle for a clear view.
The MacBook might not be Apple’s most expensive laptop, but you wouldn’t know it from the screen. A brilliant 2304 x 1440 display on the 2016 model looks unbelievably crisp, and colors pop. It looks good from any angle, too.
The 12-inch screen is a great compromise between tiny 11-inch laptops and bigger 13- and 15-inch models. While the new MacBook Pro has a slightly better resolution (2560 x 1600 on the 13-inch model), this alone is not worth the extra money. The MacBook Air is held back by a grainy-looking 1440 x 900 display.
A Fantastic Trackpad and Keyboard
In a laptop this slim, a standard keyboard and trackpad wouldn’t work too well. Thus, you’ll find a few interesting design choices on the MacBook.
First, the keyboard keys don’t necessarily act like you’d expect them to. Instead of having a cap resting on a spring, the “butterfly” design means that the key caps move down in one piece wherever they’re pressed. Combined with a flat design and low travel distance, typing on this keyboard will feel strange at first. But after a week, I was pretty much used to it — and I’m a mechanical keyboard enthusiast.
The trackpad is full-sized and comes with all the standard macOS gestures like quick desktop switching and window management tools. It also adds a new input method called Force Touch, similar to 3D Touch in newer iPhones. By pressing harder on the touchpad than normal, you can perform extra actions across the OS. These include previewing links in Safari, quickly opening image files, or looking up word definitions.
There’s also some trickery going on under the touchpad. While it feels like you’re pressing down on it, it never actually travels anywhere. Mechanics also emit the clicking sound you’re used to hearing. While it might not replace your desktop mouse for daily work, this trackpad isn’t lacking in any form.
Slim Form Factor and Stunning Looks
A name like MacBook Air suggests a slim profile, but the 2016 MacBook manages to pull off an even smaller chassis. The whole device is about 13 mm thick and weighs just over two pounds. It’s a machine that’s easy to pick up with one hand and walk down the hall with — or to keep in your bag and forget how light it is.
If you value looks when choosing a laptop, the MacBook delivers. In any of its four available colors, this is a gorgeous machine. Pretty backlit keys add to the lightweight form and sleek aluminium to make a machine that’s as fun to look at as it is to use. There aren’t any fans, so your laptop is quiet and cool even when you’re using it.
The Right Price
MacBooks are expensive laptops and that will never change. But the 2016 MacBook hits a solid price point for what it offers. You don’t have to spend $1,500 for the (lowest-end) MacBook Pro, or compromise with the MacBook Air’s screen to get a lower price.
The MacBook is available in two forms: one costs $1,300 while the other is $1,600. Opting for the more expensive model gets you 512 GB of storage instead of 256 GB, and packs a better processor. Whichever one you need, this model of MacBook arguably offers the best blend of price and performance.
Of course, you can follow our saving tips or even look for a refurbished Mac to get a better deal. I purchased a refurbished 256 GB model on Amazon for $999, which had a battery cycle count of under 10. It’s basically a brand-new machine for $300 less than retail.
A Few Caveats
While we’ve been singing the praises of the MacBook, it’s not flawless by any means. This machine is perfect for a specific way of using it — side or travel laptop — and not your primary computer. If you fit into this profile, the following negatives of the machine won’t affect you as much.
First and most obvious is the lack of ports on the MacBook. To make it so slim, Apple had to cut out the HDMI, USB, and other ports you’re used to having on a laptop. These are all replaced by a single USB-C port on the MacBook.
While USB-C is the connection port of the future and supports different device types, the reality is that you probably own devices that don’t use this connection. For those, you need one of Apple’s adapters (we recommend buying a used one to save money). The multiport adapter adds a standard USB port, as well as HDMI output.
Combined with the fact that the MacBook won’t let you connect to more than one external display, it’s clear that this isn’t a main workhorse computer. If you need to connect all sorts of devices to your computer and use three monitors, the MacBook won’t work for you. But if you value portability, you probably won’t need more than the charger and an occasional USB slot, so the adapter is enough.
The other objectively bad part of this machine is the internal camera. It’s only 480p, which is frankly unacceptable in a premium machine like this. Presumably this choice was made to preserve the slim screen profile, but the result is lacklustre video quality. If you regularly use Skype or FaceTime to communicate for work, you need a computer with a better camera (or can substitute your iPhone). For casually calling friend on the go, though, this will suffice.
Latest MacBook has to be the greatest travel laptop ever made. Perfect size for planes, super light, and battery for miles.
— Identify Station (@LEDselector) August 17, 2015
In all, the MacBook is built for a specific audience. People who want a slim, attractive laptop with a sharp screen and don’t need many cables or external devices are targeted here. As I’ve argued, this makes it a perfect first Mac. It won’t replace your power desktop or an iMac, but it’s a wonderful travel machine or secondary laptop.
The Best of Mac in an Awesome Package
Now you know what you’re getting into with the new MacBook. It’s not for everybody, but those interested in Apple’s machines should definitely give it a look. There’s no better introduction to the ecosystem. I recently purchased one as a new travel laptop, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised.
If you decide it isn’t for you, take a look at our comparison of all MacBook models.