Apple's notebook lineup just got lighter. Simply called "MacBook," the company's new 12-inch laptop which weighs just 2 pounds, is 24 percent thinner than the 11-inch MacBook Air, and incorporates a number of other innovations, including a Retina display, USB-C port, a new keyboard, and a touchpad that senses how much pressure you apply. Available in silver, gray, and yes, gold, the 12-inch Air will be available April 10, starting at $1,299.
Apple has also included a Retina display for the first time on a system smaller than 13-inches. With a resolution of 2304 x 1440 pixels, the 12-inch Air is on a par with other premium ultraportables such as the Dell XPS 13 and Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus. Of course, those Windows-based machines have touchscreens, something the Air lacks.
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Like other ultraportables such as the HP Elitebook Folio 1020, the 12-inch MacBook will run on an Intel Core M processor, which, although not as powerful as its Core i5 or Core i7 CPUs, allows for a fanless design--which freed up Apple to cram the new laptop with batteries. However, there are some limitations to making a notebook this thin. Apple says the 12-inch Air should last up to 9 hours when surfing the Web wirelessly, which would make its battery life about 3 hours less than the 13-inch MacBook Air.
Apple redesigned its keyboard, using a new type of switch, which it says results in more even pressure when pressing the keys. The touchpad is also new, and uses Force Touch technology, rather than a physical click mechanism, to sense how hard you're pressing on it. So, for example, if you press harder on the touchpad in the Calendar app, it will automatically open a new event. This isn't exactly new--HP and Synaptics experimented with ForcePad technology about two years ago, but it never really took off.
In another interesting design decision, the MacBook Air will only come with one port. A single USB-C port on the left side of the notebook will be used not only for power, but can also work as a DisplayPort, USB, VGA, and HDMI port, via various adapters which will be sold separately. While the Air will also have 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0, there will be more than one person who misses a traditional USB port--not to mention a headphone jack.
The starting configuration of the 12-inch MacBook Air will cost $1,299, and come with a 1.1-GHz Core M processor, Intel HD 5300 graphics, 8GB of memory, and a 256GB flash drive. A $1,599 model will have a faster 1.2-GHz processor and 512GB of storage. Both will be available on April 10.
Stay tuned for our full review.