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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...

But of course, the dimension Apple has tended to be most obsessed with is thickness, or as it's been called since the Titanium PowerBook G4 was "1 inch thin," thinness. And of course the MacBook delivers: I've used an 11-inch MacBook Air for many years, and the MacBook seems impossibly thin.

At its thickest point, the MacBook is 0.52 inches thick. The 11-inch Air, in comparison, is 0.68 inches thick at that same point. I admit that 0.14 inches, or 4 millimeters, is not a whole lot of difference, but shaving one-fifth of the thickness off the MacBook Air is still a pretty impressive accomplishment.

Then there's the weight, which is 2.03 pounds, down from 2.38 pounds on the 11-inch Air, and 2.96 pounds on the 13-inch Air. Again, this is a major reduction--especially for 13-inch Air users--and even as a user of the 11-inch Air, I noticed how light the MacBook was as I toted it around.

To make the MacBook this thin, Apple's had to make some compromises. The device is positively iOS-like in its lack of ports--it's got a headphone jack and a single USB-C port rather than the Lightning port found on iPads and iPhones. This is about as minimal as a computer can get, at least until wireless charging becomes standard.

The MacBook also shows familial resemblance to iOS devices in its color options: silver, space gray, and gold are now on the menu. The MacBook I tested is of the space gray variety, and while the difference is subtle, it's fun to use a Mac laptop that isn't silver for the first time in ages. It matches well with my space gray iPhone 6 and iPad mini. The Apple logo on the device is also no longer backlit by a cutout that allows the screen backlighting to shine through, but is instead mirrored like the Apple logo on an iPad.

With the darker gray color, taller display, and the large square keys, the MacBook actually reminds me of Google's Chromebook Pixel (itself a gorgeous bit of hardware), only much smaller. Physically, this is a device that shows off all of Apple's skill as a hardware developer and everything it's learned from building iPhones and iPads. This is the iPad of laptops.

Like the 13-inch MacBook Pro that preceded it to market by a few weeks, the MacBook features Apple's new Force Touch trackpad. I like it, though it took me a day or two to get used to the more subtle click feel. To say that this trackpad's surface doesn't move isn't entirely accurate--the material flexes, subtly, but the clicking sensation you feel is generated by a haptic device that's shaking the surface slightly when sensors detect that you've applied an appropriate amount of pressure. The net effect is that it feels like a click, but it's controlled by software.


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