Yesterday, I bought a 12″ MacBook, and after playing with it for 10 minutes, I immediately knew that I made the right decision. 24 hours later, I’m convinced that this is the best laptop for me, and a much better portable workhorse than something like a 12.9″ iPad Pro. Here are 10 reasons why you should consider going with a MacBook if you’re in the market for something powerful, yet portable.
No fan noise
As someone who records voiceovers and podcasts, having a quiet recording environment can be crucial. Sadly, my MacBook Pro with Retina display rarely afforded me such an environment. Its fans often sounded like a jet engine, eagerly firing up at the slightest hint of stress.
With the 12″ MacBook, there are no fans, so you don’t have to worry about this machine making noise. Ever. Even under a heavy workload.
A single cable solution
While it’s true that the MacBook can only do 4K resolution at 30Hz, having the ability to connect it to a USB-C-enabled display like LG’s 27UD88-W 4K monitor is a nice option.
Not only will a single cable provide the bandwidth to drive an external display, but it will also charge the MacBook and allow it to interface with devices connected to the display’s ports. This means that you can easily use a compatible external display as a docking station by means of a single USB-C cable. It’s not a flawless solution, as you’ll see from my upcoming full review of the display, but it features some definite advantages.
Apple’s vision for a one-cable-solution is not yet perfected — the company’s own displays lack the necessary USB-C ports — but you can definitely see where Apple is aiming. Once all of the pieces fall into place, the single cable strategy will work a lot better than it does now.
Easy charging with external batteries
My MacBook Pro always seemed to be low on power at the most inopportune times, and charging a MacBook Pro requires you to connect it to a power outlet, unless you have something like a BatteryBox. As nice as the idea of a BatteryBox-like device is, it’s still a bit cumbersome to use in practice.
The MacBook, on the other hand, can take advantage of much smaller external battery packs, and draw upon power via a USB-C connection. You can easily toss a battery pack or two in your laptop bag, and have enough juice to work uninterrupted for hours on end. The Anker PowerCore+ 20100 (full review), for instance, is a $49.00 USB-C-enabled battery pack that can charge a MacBook from 0% to 100% with juice to spare.
Export 4K videos like a champ
With Final Cut Pro X, it’s easy to export videos, even Ultra High Definition 4K videos, without breaking much of a sweat. I’ve long known that the MacBook was capable of doing this, thanks to Final Cut Pro’s use of Intel’s QuickSync Video hardware encoding, but seeing it in action personally on such an “underpowered” machine is truly something to be seen.
QuickSync Video makes exporting projects using Final Cut Pro’s Faster Encode option a breeze. If you edit videos on your Mac, and you’re a Final Cut Pro X user, you’ll be amazed at how fast you can export 4K projects.
That being said, exporting and editing 4K video are two separate tasks. You may find that scrubbing through a timeline filled with 4K video is a bit taxing on the little m5 processor. Many factors come into play here, but it’s nice to know that you can always fall back on using Proxy media, which downsamples video content so that it can be easily edited, and then you can switch back to the high quality versions when you’re ready to export.
Low profile, lightweight and portable
It’s still hard to believe that such a capable machine exists in such a form-factor, but it does, and it’s called the MacBook. This machine is so light and portable, that it feels futuristic. It’s so light and thin that I can actually hold the machine in one hand while typing with my other hand. Not that I would make a habit out of doing such a thing, but the fact that that’s even feasible is impressive.
Superb build quality
One would think that with a form-factor this light and thin, that build quality might suffer, but it’s the total opposite. The MacBook arguably has the best build quality of any of Apple’s laptops.
The hinge, for instance, eschews the black plastic found on other MacBook models. The aluminum feels dense, strong, and ready to stand up to everyday usage. The MacBook might be small, but no compromises were made concerning build quality.
Yet, even with such stellar build quality, I must admit that I was quick to slap a case on my MacBook as soon as I finished with this post. My main concern was with the nicks and dings that aluminum laptops inevitably suffer from when left to the elements.
I opted for a cheap clear matte MacBook hardshell case from a company called Mosiso. The case seems to be getting decent enough reviews on Amazon, but I’ll be sure to follow up with my thoughts on it after I use it for a while.
Surprisingly loud speakers
The MacBook features one long speaker grill that spans nearly the entire length of the area that rests right above the keyboard. The speakers are loud and clear, and deliver sound quality that might cause you to do a double-take upon first listen.
Even though the MacBook does include a 3.5mm headphone jack, I found myself satisfied with listening to music through its speakers instead of always plugging in my headphones like I’d tend to do with my older MacBooks.
Peppy Core m5 processor
I never used the original 2015 MacBook for long enough to be able to judge its performance, but the consensus seems to be that it was largely underpowered. I opted for the mid-tier Intel Core m5-equipped model of the 2016 refresh, and have been pleasantly surprised by how snappy the machine is.
Although it’s still early in the game, there’s nothing that I threw at this machine that it wasn’t capable of handling, and not just barely, but it did so admirably. If you’re going to buy a MacBook, and you can afford to splurge for the m5-equipped model, then I highly recommend that you do so.
The screen color, brightness, and accuracy is arguably one of the best things about the 12″ MacBook. We’ve had Retina displays on laptops and desktops for some time now, but Apple’s smallest laptop up until the MacBook, the MacBook Air, hasn’t been updated with a Retina display.
Editing videos and photos on the MacBook is no problem when it comes to color accuracy and uniformity across the entire screen. And since the display is a high quality IPS panel, you get to enjoy those extra wide viewing angles.
Not only does the MacBook feature a beautiful screen from a technical perspective, it also gives users the needed screen real estate to be productive. Without any additional software, the MacBook’s screen can scale to 1440-by-900 (Hi-DPI). That gives users who edit videos, audio or photos, plenty of room to work with without feeling cramped.
Long battery life
While it’s possible to charge a MacBook with an external battery, that may not be necessary depending on how you use your Mac. Thanks to Skylake processors and better battery chemical composition, users benefit from an extra hour of battery life o the 2016 version of the MacBook.
Apple says that the machine will now last for 10 hours browsing the web, and while I haven’t performed any in-depth battery benchmarks, I can vouch that the battery life seems on par with my previous MacBook Pro, which contained a much lager battery.
I don’t want to make it seem like the MacBook is perfect, because it does have flaws. The 480p FaceTime Camera, for instance, is downright laughable in 2016. Also, not everyone is going to be a fan of the keyboard with its extra-low key travel distance, although I happen to really enjoy typing on it.
Be realistic about what this machine can handle. It’s surprisingly nimble, can easily handle multiple apps running, loads of browser tabs, 4K video playback and encoding, and much more. Still, the m5 processor and integrated graphics doesn’t yet rival the performance that you’d find in a high end MacBook Pro or iMac. The MacBook can probably meet the needs of most casual users, but count the cost and consider your workflow. Set your expectations accordingly.
If you use a lot of USB peripherals on a regular basis, then the one USB-C port is going to take a change in mindset. It helps if you have a USB-C equipped monitor like the LGn27UD88-W, which can serve as a one cable docking solution, but it’s understandable that not everyone would be up to drop that sort of dough on a monitor when they just spent this much on a MacBook. Instead, it might be more cost effective to invest in a USB-C hub for your MacBook. If you need something more robust, then OWC’s USB-C Dock may be a better option.
With its integrated Intel 515 graphics, the MacBook isn’t a good choice if you’re looking for a gaming machine, but for virtually everything else, it can be a solid pick. If you’re laser-focused on getting work done on the go with a small form-factor machine, then I think that you should consider the MacBook before you consider a MacBook Air, or even an iPad Pro.
You can purchase this year’s MacBook refresh from Apple, or BestBuy, but I suggest looking at B&H as well. In most cases, unless you happen to live in New York, you can get a 2016 MacBook shipped for free and without sales tax.
What are your thoughts on this year’s MacBook refresh and the MacBook in general?