If you haven't heard already, Apple announced an updated version of its 12-inch MacBook featuring a new 6th Gen Core M CPU, slightly better battery life and faster SSDs. And normally that would be a pretty decent refresh, except that Apple forgot to fix the real problems plaguing this system. That makes the latest MacBook one of the most disappointing new products so far in 2016.
The new MacBook's biggest problem is that it still has just one USB Type-C port. That means that without one of Apple's pricey dongles (or a third-party adapter), you'll often have to choose between recharging your system and plugging in any kind of peripheral that isn't a pair of headphones. There's no SD card reader (micro or otherwise), which means if you want to transfer pictures or videos so you can edit them on the MacBook's 12-inch Retina Display, you have to carry around an adapter with you at all times. Was it really too much for Apple to tack on a second USB port in the year since the first 12-inch MacBook was released?
In fact, iPhone owners are forced to buy a $25 adapter if they want to connect their phones to this MacBook, since the Lightning cable that comes with every iPhone features a plug with an older USB Type-A connector. And Apple's USB-C dongle featuring HDMI, USB-A and USB-C ports costs an even pricier $79. That means you are practically required to purchase about $100 of adapters when you buy a new 12-inch Mac if you ever want to hook it up to any of your other devices. This brings me to my next point: the MacBook's price.
Starting at $1,299 for an 6th Gen Intel Core m3 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, the new 12-inch MacBook costs $400 more than an 11-inch MacBook Air, which has more ports, a faster Core i5 processor and arguably a more comfortable keyboard, albeit with half the RAM and a smaller, 128GB SSD. Measuring 0.68 inches thick with a weight of 2.38 pounds, the 11-inch MacBook Air isn't really that much bigger or heavier than the 0.52-inch thick, 2.03-pound MacBook either.
Then there's the 13-inch MacBook Air, which features an Intel Core-i5 CPU and way better battery life, and now comes standard with 8GB of RAM, all for just $999. In our most recent review, the 13-inch MacBook Air boasted a battery life of 14 hours flat. Even if you take Apple's claim of an extra hour of battery life for the 12-inch MacBook at face value, and add that to the 8:43 mark we got from last year's machine, the new MacBook would still fall about 4 hours short of the 13-inch MBA's time.
The 12-inch MacBook's biggest advantages are in its larger base storage and high-res screen. But if Apple ever bothered to update the Air line instead of letting it languish, those advantages probably wouldn't remain.
As it stands, the 12-inch MacBook seems like a laptop for people with more money than sense, and because Apple didn't feel like addressing the system's issues, I don't feel like this new model is much better than the 3.5-star version we reviewed last year. But maybe there will be a surprise beneath that shiny, new rose-gold finish.
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