Apple’s botched launch if this cool new device meant and Crummy UPS service meant it took twenty days for the Macbook I ordered early in the morning of the April 10 launch to arrive at my door. The day it arrived at my door was the same day MacBooks started appearing for sale at Canadian Apple stores. A coincidence???
But all is forgiven! Now that I have been playing with this exciting new device for a week, love it. I chose the Gold base model with 1.1 GHz Intel Core M Processor 8 gigs of RAM and the 256Gb Flash Drive. It is the first Apple notebook available the the same three finshes as iPhone and iPad.
Once it arrived at my door I was anxious to start playing with my new MacBook…but I stuck with my tried and true startup prcedure for new computers. Step one is to follow the Setup assistant to get the basics up and running, that took less than 5 minutes. Then there was a OS X 10.10.3 update and the Essentials…Pages, iMovie etc., Finally I went to the app store and downloaded all the previously purchased apps I wanted to put on this new on the road computer. While all this was going on all my media was synced from iCloud. All in all I was ready to go in about 45 minutes.
I have two uses for my new MacBook, travelling of course but equally important now that the nice weather has arrived I like to do my writing outdoors in the fresh air and the Macbook is perfect for that…the screen looks pretty good even in direct sun. I do however, prefer to work in the shade…more comfortable and the brightness doesn’t have to be cranked up so high thus easier on the battery.
Speaking of the screen it is nothing short of spectacular with bold colours, strong contrast and excellent all-round viewing angles. The display’s native resolution of 2304 x 1440 in a 12” panel, puts the pixel density of the display at 226 PPI, which is virtually identical to Apple’s other Retina laptops.
The native resolution of 2304 x 1440 could be a litle hard on the eyes so the OS X Display control panel within OS X provides a number of ‘looks like’ options that scale text and graphics in order to make them easier to read. By default, the MacBook display ‘looks like’ 1280 by 800, which is a good size for me, but you can increase or decrease this simulated resolution to suit your particular needs.
Now to actually using the new Macbook. Let me say this first, this device is NOT underpowered for anything I want to do with it. This despite what you may have read in early reviews. My typical use is for example writing this..I have the Blogo, the app I use for writing, Preview to look at the images I have available while I am writing and I also have 8 windows open in Safari for reference to specs, prices and other reviews. Under these conditions this little MacBook is just as fast as my desktop which is a Mac mini with a quad core i7 processor. That is because with this type of work the 8 gigs of RAM and the super fast flash memory is way more important than a powerful CPU.
Not to say the processor in this Macbook is puny by any means…sure it is only 1.1 GHz dual core…but it can ramp up to 2.4 GHz for short periods for CPU heavy tasks. For example I have edited a couple of short videos and really didn’t notice that was any slower than any other computer I use. But then I am sticking within its design capabilities…I wouldn’t epect to edit a feature film, a multi layer photoshop file or recompile a complex spreadsheet as quickly as I do on my desktop. To give you an idea how the MacBook handles CPU heavy tasks, I converted a 1:30 720p HD feature film from avi to m4v using Handbrake. It took 12 minutes on my Mac mini compared to a long 36 minutes on the MacBook. Surprisingly the back of the MacBook got only slightly warm at 34.6 C.
Speaking of movies, this is a great machine for watching movies on the long flight…the battery as enough juice to handle most movie watching needs even on intercontinental flights. For the hotel room the MacBook sports amazing speakers just above the keyboard. plenty of volume and surprising bass performance. Apple claims up to 9 hours of wireless web and 10 hours of movies on a battery charge. I managed a little over 7 hours of mixed use at medium brightness with WiFi turned on..way better than my old MacBook Air.
As far as input goes it took me a few days to get used to the new keyboard with the butterfly switches. I can type comfortably just as fast as I can on my old MacBook Air. However, I am a bit of a heavy handed typist so while I find this keyboard comfortable I do notice the short travel. Truth be told I still like the one on my MBA better. On the other hand the individual LED for each key produces better backlighting.
Now the big trackpad is another story..nobody makes them better than Apple and this new Force Touch unit is the best of the bunch. I find it handles tap to click better than the previous model and Force Touch is really cool. Press a little bit harder (Force Click) on a word and the dictionary pops up. Force Click on an address and a Maps preview of the location appears…and there’s more. Look here for the things you can do with a Force Click.
Then there is the single USB-C port. Is it a problem? Sort of, well, not exactly. How’s that for ambiguous. I did buy a USB-C to USB adapter to connect my backup drive for a weekly clone as well as to plug in my little SD card reader to transfer images from my camera. This is a bit of a messy solution but, I expect by the end of the year all of these things will be available with USB-C connectors. I have already ordered a USB-C cable for my Seagate Backup Plus portable drive. The single port is less of a pain for me…in fact no pain at all. I can count on one finger the number of times I have ever wanted to connect more than one device to my Notebook. I do a Time Machine backup via WiFi at home and I do all file transfers via WiFi, Air Drop is pure magic for this purpose.
So is this terrific little notebook perfect for everyone? Absolutely not. For starters, the price of admission is steep: $1549CAD for the base model with the 1.1GHz processor, 8 Gb of RAM and a 256Gb Flash drive and it doesn’t do everything. So if you want your laptop to be as powerful as your desktop then you should be looking at a MacBook Pro.
The new MacBook is a great laptop for those of you who are prepared to pay a premium price for a very light device powerful enough to get the basics done on the road. Surfing the net, email, general writing even some limited movie editing are all managed comfortably with this little 2 pound notebook. And for media consumption the Retina display and stereo speakers are outstanding.