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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 Esc key has been elongated and the function keys narrowed, which didn't really bother me. However, the redesign of the arrow keys really shook methe up and down arrows are still half-height, but the left and right arrows are now full sized. It turns out that I used the gaps above the left and right arrow keys on prior keyboards to orient by feel, so I knew which arrow key was which. On the MacBook's keyboard, there's no longer a gapand I kept having to look down to make sure I was tapping the up arrow key.

Port, just the one
The MacBook will probably go down in history for a single reason: It's got a single port for both charging and connecting to other devices, and that port is of the USB-C variety.

First, the single port thing. MagSafe, the magnetic charging technology that has adorned all Apple laptops since 2006, is gone. The MacBook comes with a USB-C charging brick and a USB-C-to-USB-C cable, and that's what you use to charge.

I have to say, I'm going to miss MagSafe. I can pick up my MacBook Air and push off the power connector in one quick motion, but with the MacBook I have to grab the laptop with one hand and then pull the cord out with the other hand. It's the tiniest of inconveniences, to be sure, but it's a regression nonetheless. And yes, if someone trips over the power cable, the MacBook will go flying.

The MagSafe connector included a small LED that lit up to indicate that it was attached and charging. That's gone, but in a nice touch, when you insert the USB-C cable into the MacBook (or plug the already-inserted cable into the wall), the MacBook sounds an iOS-style chime to let you know it's charging. There's no visual indication, however.

Then there's the fact that this MacBook is the very first Mac to ship with a USB-C connector. In a few years, this connector type will be common, and we'll not-so-fondly remember the days of the original USB port shape. But right now this is a port type that's on the cutting edge, and the transition will be difficult. When I first started up the MacBook, I wanted to use Apple's Migration Assistant utility to move files from my MacBook Air. I held down the T key at startup to put the MacBook into target-disk mode, and then I realized that I had no way to connect it to any other device I own. (I finally was able to connect the MacBook to my Ethernet network by attaching Apple's $29 USB Ethernet adapter to Apple's $19 USB-C to USB adapter, and attaching that monstrosity to the MacBook itself.)

 

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