MacBook review

Apple's rosier MacBook brings nippier performance

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Our Verdict

Apple has given the MacBook's performance a much-needed boost, and it helps OS X zip along much better. Its critical flaws remain, but the 2016 version is less of a risk than it was last year. We just wish it was a bit cheaper.

For

  • Gorgeous Rose Gold color
  • Improved performance
  • Terrific design
  • Great speakers

Against

  • Single USB-C port
  • No price cut?
  • Controversial keyboard

Did you buy the 12-inch MacBook? I did, but not because I wanted one.

No: the laptop I really wanted was a new MacBook Air, or even a redesigned 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro with a sleeker chassis. Of course, neither came. And like many other Air fans, I realised that another year was to pass by without Apple's best laptop getting an upgrade. So I bought the next best thing.

The MacBook is all about compromise. With more pixels than the Air, its display allows me to be more productive on the move and slinging it into a backpack almost feels like cheating. While no powerhouse (editing 4K images on it is slightly painful), it handles basic tasks with ease.

One year later, Apple has refreshed the MacBook with Intel's sixth-generation Skylake processors while introducing faster storage, memory and graphics for the same price. The most interesting change is on the outside: a new Rose Gold finish that genuinely makes me consider owning a shiny pink laptop for the first time. Gender stereotypes be damned.

Above shot

But despite its upgrades, the new MacBook is not the MacBook Air replacement that rumors once again predict will arrive this summer - it's the same unique, dazzling and challenging laptop as the one that launched one year ago. Only faster, and with longer-lasting battery life.

A new processor, coupled with faster internal storage, memory and graphics has brought tangible improvements to the MacBook's performance. You'll still have to somehow manage with a single USB-C port, bolting on adapters and connectors to equip your FrankenMac with vital extra limbs.

And if you didn't get on with its super-shallow keyboard, your fingers will remain as unconvinced as they were before - especially during long typing sessions. The MacBook brings more megahertz, and I'm not talking about clock speed.

Recent developments

Since the rose gold addition to the MacBook family launched in the spring, rumors of its successor have already begun to circulate. A patent filed last summer, for instance, suggests the MacBook could see an update in the future featuring mobile LTE connectivity for internet on the go, thereby making it a thrifty alternative to the iPad Pro.

The MacBook Pro 2016, on the other hand, which Tim Cook claims is still on the way, appears to be upping the ante by taking advantage of USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports. As the current MacBook only supports a single USB 3.1 Gen 1 port, this could give Apple's 12-inch thin-and-light a run for its money depending on the price. Rumor has it, with the next MacBook Pro, we'll see a small OLED-lit display on the keyboard in addition to a thinner design and new color variants.

Moreover, a recent leak shows that the MacBook may be getting native TouchID support in its next rendition, an unsurprising move considering Apple's attempts at alternative authentication options in macOS Sierra. Speaking of which, you can download and install Apple's latest Mac operating system for yourself right now.

Lid open

Big money Mac

Some people expected Apple to discount its refreshed MacBook to sweeten the deal. It didn't. The entry-level model still costs £1,049 ($1,299 or AUS$1,999), around $50/$73/AUS$99 more than the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro.

In bush

If the cost remains too high for you, then consider picking up last year's version from Apple's refurb store. While the 2016 refresh is technically the better machine, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference between the two when undertaking low-level tasks such as surfing the web or typing up documents in Pages.

At the time of writing, the entry-level version is on there for £749 (around $1,108 or AUS$1,457) alongside eight other models of varying specs and price.

Gabe Carey has also contributed to this review