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Review: The new 12-inch MacBook is a laptop without an ecosystem

Jason Snell | April 10, 2015
The new MacBook is the future of Apple laptops. The Force Touch trackpad, Retina display, and 2 pound weight make up for the MacBook's weak keyboard and slower performance, but not everyone can live on...

The MacBook's display is covered edge-to-edge with glass, with a black bezel underneath. This is the style that the MacBook Pro line has had for some time, but it'll be a change for MacBook Air users. The MacBook Air's display has a large silver bezel around the screen, but this look is much simpler and more attractive, and I didn't notice any real difference in glare versus the Air's display.

No need for speed?
The MacBook is powered by Intel's Core M processor, which is designed to be power efficient and cool. (The MacBook has no fan--it's completely silent, even when stressed out.) It's not designed to be fast, and by the standards of all of Apple's other current laptops, it's not. It's not fast by the standards of last year's models. Or those of the year before. I pulled out every laptop in my house dating back four years and the MacBook is slower than all of themthough to be fair, my four-year-old MacBook Air is the top-of-the-line model. Still, it's not a stretch to say that the MacBook is bringing 2010 performance to 2015.

Does it matter? If you're a power user who likes to read super-long reviews of Apple laptops, it might. I honestly gave some thought to not even including test scores in this review, because if you're the kind of person who seeks the longest bar, the MacBook just won't please you.

But the Intel processors in Mac laptops have been so powerful for so long that I'm not sure it matters for most users. I fancy myself a bit of a power user, what with my Photoshop and my Logic Pro, and you know what? I was able to edit a multi-track Logic project on the MacBook just fine. Yes, bouncing the final project to disk took longer than it does on my 5K iMac or even my 2014 MacBook Air, but it still exported.

Similarly, although the MacBook is limited to 8GB of RAM, this seemed sufficient for all of my tasks. If you're someone who can't use a laptop if it doesn't have more than 8GB of RAM, there are better options in Apple's laptop line--specifically, the MacBook Pro.

I never found using the MacBook sluggish. Then again, I didn't try to play games on it. But again, if you're trying to play games on the MacBook, you may be missing the point. The integrated Intel HD Graphics 5300 processor is more than enough to drive the Retina display with no lag, and I found Apple's various interface animations ran smoothly.

Like a great many computer features that used to be essential, speed appears to have become a high-end luxury. In 2010, if you handed me a new laptop that was as fast as the average Mac laptop from 2005, it would probably have felt sluggish and unusable. But honestly, I wouldn't have any qualms using this MacBook as a travel machine, just as I've chosen to use the 11-inch MacBook Air rather than a MacBook Pro. Opting for a tiny, thin laptop doesn't mean you can't get your work done. It's a lesson the 11-inch Air taught me, and the MacBook fits that tale well.


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