For awhile, we’ve been waiting for a MacBook Air with a Retina Display so we could have the perfect traveling laptop. The MacBook Air itself is already a great device boasting really good overall performance, unmatched battery life, and a really good size for those who need something thin and light. It is still by far one of the best notebooks for the general consumer. The only problem with the Macbook Air is that the screen resolution of 1440 x 900 (on the 13 inch) seems really outdated with all retina displays that have been out for quite some time.
Earlier this year, Apple re-introduced the 12-inch MacBook this time with a Retina display so we all sort of got what we wanted. Weighing in at only 2-lbs, (.92kg), the Macbook is Apple’s smallest and lightest mobile device running the desktop version of their OS X.
I wasn’t even interested in the 12-inch Macbook and I was quite happy with the 13-inch Air but of course I had to purchase it out of curiosity thinking that it will go back to the store within the return period but that has long past and I have already traveled across the country with this thing. Let’s take a look.
The Macbook Retina comes in 3 colors: Silver, Gold, and Space Gray (just like the iPhone). I they all look good but I like the Space Gray best. Specs are 1.1/1.2/1.3 Intel Core M processor with 8GB RAM and 256/512GB. Base Model sells for $1299 and 1.2/512 model is priced at $1599. If you max out the system at 1.3/512, you will need to pay $1699. Yikes!
At only .52-inches thick at it’s thickest point, this thing is crazy thin. However ports are sacrificed and you only get ONE USB-C port for power, display output, and connectivity. Yes it’s really lame and I agree that they should have at least included two. Apple of course charges an arm and a leg for the dongles ranging from the single USB-C to USB-A for $19 all the way to $79 for their multi-port dongle if you want to connect to an external display and have a standard USB port and power input for charging. Ouch.
Did I mention this was thin? On the other side of the Macbook we have one standard 3.5 audio port. Could have put in anther USB port in there somewhere.
So here it is in all its glory. The best feature is the high resolution retina screen at 2304 x 1440 with 226 ppi which is by far the best display in its class. Text, videos, pictures look very sharp and it makes the Air’s screen hard to look at. This year, Apple has also introduced Force Touch into the track pad which simulates a “clicking effect” by haptic feedback. The trackpad can detect how hard you click which will open up new software features in the future. Gimmicky? Maybe. Work well? It absolutely does.
Another new feature introduced to the MacBook is the butterfly mechanism keyboard. In order to stay as thin as possible, Apple had to remove and reduce the size of its moving parts as much as possible. There is now less space between the keyboard and the sensor so it feels really rough at first when typing which some people may have a hard time getting used to. You may hate it right away and give up on it, which is totally understandable and that was my first impression as well. However, after using it for an hour on day to day stuff, I got used to it and I type as accurate as if I were on any other keyboard.
In terms of performance, the base model at 1.1Ghz does just fine on basic things such as web browsing, watching videos, etc and other type of non multimedia related work. Also I should point out that if you need to do a lot of multimedia work or need good hardware for gaming, this isn’t for you so let’s just get that out of the way. I actually started off with the silver base model and was quick happy with it for the most part. However, in running some VM in the background (I need Windows applications for work), and having Chrome and Outlook open, there was quite a bit of slowdown. I then exchanged it for the 1.2Ghz Space Gray and I have been quite happy with the performance. Some people debate that there is little to no difference between the 3 CPUs but I definitely noticed for my uses.
I took the Macbook from LAX airport to LGA in New York and having such a lightweight laptop makes a huge difference especially for those who travel and don’t need to bring a high performance machine on the go. Carrying the dongles wasn’t that big of an issue as I thought it would be and even carrying one USB-C to A adapter with the USB-C Multi-port adapter was still lighter than carrying a 13-inch MacBook Air. It didn’t take more footprint in my backpack at all.
One big advantage of being able to charge through the USB port is that if you get a USB-C to USB-A cable, you can charge the Macbook with an external battery (that needs to at least output 2.4A) giving you power in emergency situations or topping off your battery while it’s in the bag. This makes up for the battery life difference from the 13-inch Macbook Air which lasts over 12 hours. The Macbook Retina claims to go for 9 hours, but on my uses, it barely makes it passed 6.
The Macbook Retina seems to be full of compromises which seemingly takes a few steps backwards with the lack of ports, lower battery life, and weaker performance than even the 2013 MacBook Air. However, if consider what Apple has done in cramming all that hardware and innovation into such a tiny casing to run a desktop based OS, then you are get a glimpse of what’s to come in the future. I personally like the beautiful design of the Macbook and am quite pleased on how well it works for MY uses but if I were to speak on behalf of the general consensus, I would say that the 2015 MacBook Air and even the MacBook Pro 13-inch Retina would be a MUCH better value in terms of performance, battery life and connectivity.
- Beautiful, lightweight design
- Stunning display
- Excellent trackpad
- Great device for travelers who are willing to pay a premium
- It’s f*cking expensive
- One USB-C Port
- Expensive adapters
- Lower battery life and performance than MacBook Air
Overall Score: 3.5/5