Apple is incredibly good at building sexy hardware… hardware I have a tough time avoiding!
A while back, I bought the then-brand new MacBook Pro with Retina screen (MBPr). I fell in love with the luscious new screen, with it’s high resolution and vivid color. Add to that a solid-state drive, and even with the big 15″ screen, the machine was a pound lighter overall than a regular MBP. And it was fast. Screaming fast.
At the time, I was really trying to build a very portable footprint, and the MBPr was a big part of that. As it ends up, I began working from home last summer, and I began growing a less mobile desktop platform based on the new cylinder MacPro.
And then Apple announced the new MacBook.
Frankly, this new machine hit me a little funny. This little laptop was gonna be light — just about two pounds — but have a pretty slow processor (by modern standards), and a 12-inch screen. Add to that some shenanigans around a lack of built-in ports for USB3 and Thunderbolt, and this new machine was a little ho hum for me.
As I took in through some spring destination races this year, I kinda found that I needed something a little more laptop-like and less iPad-like for races on the road. I didn’t like carrying the MBPr to away races, because that usually meant carrying a laptop bag, and while that wasn’t a ton of extra weight when packing for an “away” race, it did make things a little more clunky for travelling.
Those away races made me reconsider the little MacBook, and little by little, I started to fall for this wee beast.
Looking at how I use a laptop, I really wasn’t doing powerful photo processing, massive spreadsheets, or using other high-powered solutions when I was away from my desk. Even with my MBPr, I was only using it to surf, write, and do a little light Photoshop work.
Suddenly, the little MacBook started to look a little more attractive.
I even came to terms with the weird situation with external ports. The new MacBook only has a lonely USB-C connector, which is used for power and just about anything else, and a headphone connector. That’s it. Anything that’s externally wired has to go through the USB-C connector, which means a handful of dongles for USB3, Ethernet, video, Thunderbolt… and the list goes on.
Again, thinking about my use case, all that connectivity wasn’t that big a deal most of the time, and I didn’t mind too much having a dongle or two for those rare instances when I needed them. Heck, I was doing that with my MBPr occasionally anyway, so that wasn’t exactly new territory.
I’d finally rationalized all the perceived shortcomings, and was ready to buy not long after they began to ship in April. That’s when I discovered a wrinkle in my newfound excitement for this new laptop.
There was no availability. Anywhere. Apple couldn’t ship them out fast enough, with five week ship times for standard configurations. Third party providers didn’t have them. The supply pipeline just wasn’t full, which is pretty rare for Apple with a new product. It’s usually demand that dries up the pipeline, but in this case, Apple simply didn’t have very many to ship out.
I watched for quite a while to see if the ship times from Apple would get better. They didn’t. And then one night I was looking at Best Buy’s web site, and on a lark, did a search for the new MacBook.
And shockingly, in mid-June, Best Buy had them in stock for shipping, and in the configuration I wanted: 1.2Ghz Intel M processor, 8GB RAM, and 512GB SSD — one of the standard configurations. I wasted no time in making an order, and in a few days, the shipping box arrived with my new laptop inside.
The first thing that struck me was the weight of the box when the UPS delivery guy put it in my hand. It weighed nothing. I kinda wondered if the box was just empty.
Opening it up, I found the Apple box inside, and once again I was struck with the diminutive size. The white-box was really tiny. I had just packed up my 15″ MBPr for its new owner, so I was used to seeing a bigger box. This thing was itsy-bitsy by comparison.
I opened the box, unpacked the machine and lifted the lid, firing up my new 12″ MacBook. Once again, the Apple setup experience for the new machine was simply amazing. It’s easy, quick, and everything just works, right out of the box.
And now, about a month downstream from my unboxing, the experience has been great.
So, to be fair, there are times when I notice the difference in processor speed… for a second. That’s barely noticeable, and certainly not impactful. I regularly use the Adobe Cloud apps, Microsoft office apps and iLife apps, and never find myself questioning the speed of the laptop. It’s fast enough for what I need, and I think that’s the niche this machine fills… fast enough.
You’re not gonna do processor intensive work on this machine. But, to be fair, it’s really not designed for that. It’s designed to be the lightest OS X footprint device you can buy, trading weight for power. It’s kinda like the lovechild of a full-sized MacBook and an iPad Air. For me, that’s perfect.
The screen is really nice, with (apparently) even tighter pixels than my 15″ MBPr. In fact, they’re tight enough that even with a 12″ footprint, you can watch full HD resolution content, and have some screen real estate left over. The colors are vivid, and text is ultra-crisp. And with the less powerful processor, there are no fans in the machine. It is dead silent when running… almost unnervingly so.
Apple also introduced a new butterfly switch under the keys on the keyboard. This has a really different feel than anything I’ve felt from them. The keys have great tactile feedback, but don’t travel very far. I know there are a lot of folks that don’t like the new feel, but for me, it seems pretty natural. The other keyboards Apple’s been shipping always felt kinda “mushy” to me. This one definitely doesn’t feel like that. The key illumination is much better too, with each key having it’s own LED to brighten it up in dim conditions.
There’s also new trackpad. And if I have any issues with the new MacBook, it’s with the new Force Touch trackpad. This new trackpad allows for sensing how hard you click. So, for example, a light click might do one thing, and a harder click might do something different. For me, that’s taken some getting used to, as I’ve discovered I’m a heavy clicker. It’s taken a lot of practice to get the real click-action I intended, and at times, that’s still a work in progress.
But, wait, there’s more! The new trackpad is big, and with the smaller dimensions of the laptop, there’s not much room around it to rest your wrist while typing. It’s very common for me to be typing, and suddenly have some kind of force-click action pop up. If you’re a classically trained typist, and are used to keeping your wrists up, this won’t be a problem. If you’re a lazy typist — like me! — that close proximity to the keyboard might be an issue.
Realistically, though, I’ve had nothing but fun with this new laptop. I use it a ton, and am getting used to the subtle differences the new design introduced. It’s crazy light, fully functional, and does everything I could possibly want.
Now, I’ve just gotta find an “away” race to give it a full road test!