Apple just announced a new 12-inch MacBook for 2015, which totally redefines what the ultra-portable notebook category. The new machine was unveiled at the start of Apple’s Spring Forward event, which was mainly about the Apple Watch, but CEO Tim Cook and senior VP of marketing Phil Schiller also took some time to talk about the new Mac.
MacBook is the thinnest, most portable machine ever
Apple’s MacBook Air was previously considered one of the very best laptops that you can buy. It was already super slim and light, but was sorely in need of an update especially in terms of the screen resolution, which is now considered low compared with Apple’s ‘retina’ displays which look much sharper and pack in more pixels.
The announcement was a surprise, as the new machine isn’t in fact to replace the MacBook Air, which is now Apple’s budget laptop, but a whole new mid-level machine that sits between the Air and the more powerful MacBook Pro. It’s just 13.1 mm thin at its thickest point, and weighs 2 pounds (900 g).
Apple revealed the improvements to the new MacBook – a new, edge to edge keyboard that uses a specially designed butterfly switch for better stability, and individual key LEDs rather than a single module that lights all the keys from below. Apple also took a cue from the Apple Watch with a new Force Touch trackpad that senses how hard you have pressed it, enabling more variety and richness in interacting with the machine.
The MacBook also comes with 8 GB of RAM in the base configuration and uses Intel’s new Broadwell Core M chipset, which means it does away with the need for a fan and is hence absolutely quiet with no moving parts, as well as leading to longer battery life (which the ‘all day’ now).
The new notebook comes with a 1.1 GHz dual-core Intel Core M processor with Turbo Boost speeds up to 2.4 GHz, 8GB of memory, 256GB of flash storage and Intel HD Graphics 5300. You can also go for a 1.2 GHz dual-core option, with Intel Core M processor with Turbo Boost speeds up to 2.6GHz, 8GB of memory, 512GB of flash storage and Intel HD Graphics 5300.
The new laptop is so thin, it’s mind-bending. Crafted out of a single piece of aluminium, Apple has even go so far as to design custom, tapered batteries to fit into the interior, and has reduced the size of the logic board inside by almost a third, leading to more room to squeeze everything in and less heat and power usage. Apple claims it’s the world’s most energy-efficient notebook, using just 5W of power.
The machine eschews all the traditional expansion ports (it’s so thin, they wouldn’t fit anyway) except for a single USB 3 Type C connector, which is a reversible plug that provides power and communications – i.e. you need an adaptor to connect HDMI or other connectors if you want to connect to other devices. The loss of connectivity is a bit of a shame, but it means that the machine is now more portable than every before, and to be honest, how many regular consumers ever connect much to their laptop anyway – for that, there’s the MacBook Pro or the original MacBook Air.
There is also a headphone jack, but the USB connector also means there’s no ‘Magsafe’ connector, which is one of Apple’s most popular charging mechanisms – if you trip over the cable, it just pops off. That’s a loss on this machine, and it remains to be seen whether Apple adopts the same approach for its other laptops in future.
Apple has really pulled off an amazing feat of engineering with the MacBook – it does redefine what a portable machine should look like and do. Oh, and it also comes in regular aluminium, space grey, and a new champagne gold finish…