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. Although the latter arrived eventually, neither came quite in time for Apple’s early 2016 rounds. 

And like many other Air fans, I realised that another year was to pass by without one of the best Macs 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.

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One year later after the first Retina MacBook, Apple has refreshed it 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

Now that the iPhone 8 and the iPhone X are both here in the flesh, the 12-inch MacBook is one of the remaining ways that you can take home an Apple product in a Rose Gold suit. But clearly, given the fact that overall Mac sales are up 10% this quarter at 5.4 million units, its glaring finish isn’t the only reason to purchase the 12-inch MacBook.

In fact, if you were thinking about buying a Google Pixelbook instead due to its use of 7th-generation Intel Core i5 and i7 processors, surely you’ll be delighted to know that there’s a comparable MacBook model out there for you. The MacBook 2017 starts at $1,299/£1,249/AU$1,899, but for 300 more in any currency, you can get the same i5 Google uses in the Pixelbook, not to mention an i7 for 150 on top of that.

However, if you’re happy with your existing MacBook or plan on buying a 2016 model in next couple of months or so, there are some improvements in tow for you as well. The latest version of the Mac operating system, macOS High Sierra 10.13.1, came out recently and decided to thwart the widespread ‘Krack’ WPA2 connectivity issue in addition to adding new emoji.

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.

First reviewed: April 2015

Gabe Carey has also contributed to this review