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Apple MacBook (2016) review

Apple's rosier MacBook brings nippier performance

New Macbook 2015

Apple often shaves a millimetre or two from its laptops when they undergo refreshes, but the 12-inch MacBook leaves no room. At 11 x 7.8 x 0.5 inches (or 280 x 197 x 13.1mm - W x D x H), the MacBook has a smaller footprint than another skinny Core M-powered laptop, the Asus UX305, which spans 12.7 x 8.9 x 0.5 inches (324 x 226 x 321mm).

It also out-skinnies the MacBook Air's 12.5 x 8.9 x 0.6 inches (325 x 227 x 17mm). The 12-inch MacBook is the lighter of the two laptops, weighing just 2.03 pounds compared to the Air's 2.38 pounds. That's roughly the same as holding two iPad Pro 9.7s in the hand.

In comparison, Microsoft's Surface Pro 4 weighs 2.37 pounds with the keyboard cover attached. Other Windows machines are quickly catching up the design stakes - check out HP's Spectre 13 for evidence of that. While the MacBook remains a fine feat of engineering that hasn't lost its allure, strides being made by the competition means that you won't have to choose between slick design and practicality for much longer.

In plant

Spec sheet

Here is the configuration of the review model supplied to techradar:

  • Processor: Intel Core m5-6Y54 Dual-Core CPU @ 1.2GHz Turbo Boost to 2.7GHz
  • Operating system: OS X 10.11 El Capitan
  • Memory: 8GB of 1867MHz LPDDR3
  • Display: 12-inch LED-backlit IPS
  • Graphics: Intel HD 515
  • Storage: 512GB PCIe-based flash
  • Camera: 480p FaceTime camera
  • Networking: 1/10/1000 BASE-T Gigabit Ethernet (using a USB-to-Ethernet adapter)
  • Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi; Bluetooth 4.0
  • Audio: Stereo speakers; Dual microphones; headphone port (supporting for Apple iPhone headset with remote and microphones)
  • Dimensions: 11 x 7.8 x 0.5 inches (or 280 x 197 x 13.1mm - W x D x H)
  • Battery: Built-in 39.4-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery

The MacBook is offered in three configurations, starting with the entry-level model that comes with 256GB of flash storage. Apple has swapped out last year's fifth-generation Broadwell processors for Intel's newer Skylake variants, with the cheapest MacBook housing a lower powered Core m3 chip clocked at 1.1GHz (Turbo Boost to 2.2GHz).

USB-C

Starting at £1,299 ($1,599 or AUS$2,249), the more expensive configuration doubles that model's storage and houses a Core m5 processor with a faster clock speed of 1.2GHz (Turbo Boost to 2.7GHz). Both are equipped with faster RAM compared to last year's MacBook (8GB of 1867MHz DDR3, up from 1600MHz), and Apple claims that the Intel HD Graphics 515 solution in this year's models is 25% faster.

For extra oomph, the MacBook can be configured with a faster 1.3GHz dual-core Core m7 processor with a maximum clock speed of 3.1GHz for another £120 (around $175 or AUS$230).

Headpjhone

Aside from new configurations, Apple has made a more subtle change to this year's MacBook. In its teardown of the device, iFixit discovered that they use new hinge screws featuring heads filled with a substance that disintegrates when a screwdriver is used on them. These could be used to indicate to Apple that you've tampered with the machine, which may have a knock-on effect when it comes to solving warranty-related issues, though this is yet to be confirmed.

Bundled software

The new MacBook fits OS X Yosemite like a glove

Plus, Apple's Mac App Store has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years, proving an excellent resource with frequent recommendations on apps in multiple categories, such as Games, Productivity, Writing, Navigation and more. Here's every app you'll find upon booting up a New MacBook for the first time:

  • iPhoto

  • iMovie

  • GarageBand

  • Pages

  • Numbers

  • Keynote

  • Maps

  • iBooks

  • Safari

  • Mail

  • Facetime

  • Messages

  • Calendar

  • Contacts

  • Time Machine

  • Photo Booth

  • Mac App Store

  • iTunes

  • Game Centre

  • Preview

  • Notes

  • Reminders