When Apple first unveiled the MacBook way back in 2006, it was designed as the more budget-friendly alternative to the MacBook Pro. When its 2015 follow up rolled out however, while it’s still cheaper than the MacBook Pro, a lot has changed for the MacBook, beginning with that major redesign.
That’s when the Apple MacBook evolved into the 12-inch ultra portable notebook it is – a design that the MacBook 2017 further improves on.
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The MacBook 2017 rocks a ravishing Retina screen, which elevates the price somewhere between the 2017 MacBook Air and older MacBook Pro (without the Touch Bar). If you’re not super familiar with Apple jargon, Retina means there are so many pixels in the display that they’re practically invisible to the naked eye.
Unfortunately, Apple has recently discontinued this 12-inch laptop and has no current plans of releasing an overhauled model in the near future.
However, especially since there are still some third-party sellers that have it, the 12-inch MacBook is certainly worth your consideration, even if the recently refreshed MacBook Air has essentially replaced it. Thin, light and inalterable, it’s a classic Apple design no matter how you look at it, and will definitely draw admiring looks at your favorite coffee shop.
However, alongside this thin and light design is a steep price tag. We just hope that the dwindling supply will somehow rectify that.
Here is the 12-inch Apple MacBook (2017) configuration sent to TechRadar for review:
CPU: 1.2GHz Intel Core m3-7Y32 (dual-core, 4MB cache, up to 3.0GHz)
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 615
RAM: 8GB LPDDR3 (1,867MHz)
Screen: 12-inch Retina (2,304 x 1,440, 226 ppi) LED (IPS, 16:10 aspect ratio)
Storage: 256GB SSD (PCIe)
Ports: 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C, 3.5mm headphone/mic jack
Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi; Bluetooth 4.2
Cameras: 480p FaceTime camera
Weight: 2.03 lbs (0.92kg)
Size: 11.04 x 7.74 x 0.14~0.52 inches (280.5 x 196.5 x 3.5~13.1mm; W x D x H)
Price and availability
While the MacBook is no longer available at Apple’s online store, you should be able to find the MacBook we reviewed here from third-party sellers for $1,299 (£1,249, AU$1,899). That’ll get you everything found under our hot pink spec sheet.
For the time being, should your lavish taste or demanding needs require a more powerful 12-inch MacBook, there are higher tiers to choose from.
For example, you might be able to find a MacBook with an Intel Core i5-7Y54 and 512GB of SSD storage in lieu of the base model’s 256GB. It’s still fanless, so it still wouldn’t be as powerful as something like the MacBook Pro, but it does raise the price to $1,599 (£1,549, AU$2,349).
If you want to max out the Apple MacBook, it’ll set you back a whopping $1,949 (£1,864, AU$2,909) for an Intel Core i7-7Y75 CPU and 16GB of RAM backed up with a 512GB PCIe SSD.
Keep in mind that these are dated processors in 2019, with 8th-generation chips having launched in the latter half of 2017. If you want the latest fanless silicon, the refreshed and cheaper MacBook Air 2018 is definitely a more ideal option for you.
If you’re looking for a Windows laptop with similar specs, take a look at the Acer Swift 7, an Ultrabook seemingly positioned to compete with the 12-inch MacBook. Currently, it starts out at $1,599 (£1,400, about AU$2,312) for a similar Intel Core i7 Y-series processor, but with 8GB RAM and 256 GB SSD storage, you do get a Full HD, 14-inch display.
Or, maybe even the ultra-sleek Asus ZenBook UX310UA, which you can pick up for about $869 (about £688, AU$1,256) for a beefier U-series processor and the same amount of RAM and storage.
On the Chrome OS side, there’s Google’s flagship Chromebook, the Pixelbook, starting at $999 (£999, AU$791) with a more powerful Intel Core i5 CPU and the same RAM, but half as much SSD space as the top-end MacBook.
The look and feel of the Apple MacBook 2017’s frame hasn’t changed much – if at all – over the 2016 model, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Coming in Space Gray, Gold and Rose Gold, the brushed aluminum feels just as cool and exquisite as it has for years.
The MacBook’s thin chassis and feathery weight is impressive as usual, to the point that its dimensions are one of the major selling points of the laptop.
That said, an even narrower screen bezel or just one more USB-C port would have been amazing at this point.
One major improvement the MacBook 2017 holds over its 2015 and 2016 predecessors is the refined, second-generation butterfly switches that make up the new backlit keyboard. Travel isn’t any deeper, which we don’t appreciate, but feedback is definitely more forceful, improving the typing experience considerably.
The MacBook’s wide, glass-coated trackpad remains unchanged since last year, which means it’s just as pleasant to use as it’s ever been. Apple’s touch interface tech through both software and hardware remains practically unrivaled.
We say ‘practically’ because Google may have caught up to Apple with its Pixelbook. Seriously, the keyboard and trackpad on that thing are ones to be emulated.
Display and sound
We all know that Apple has made a name for itself thanks to its gorgeous displays, and rightly so. The 12-inch MacBook’s screen remains unchanged since the launch of the product in 2015, and that’s completely fine. Editing photos and doing graphically intense work looks amazing on the Retina display, even if it’s not exactly the sharpest screen in school anymore.
The MacBook’s 16:10 aspect ratio, however, may just be unusual enough to be annoying sometimes – like while watching movies or editing images that are formatted to 16:9 in fullscreen mode, for example.
As for the MacBook’s audio quality, the four stereo speakers toward its hinge can certainly pump out some loud tunes. Still, like all notebooks with mere millimeters to work with for audio chambers, the sound can be a bit thin and tinny, with some channels in songs just getting lost outright.
Though to be fair, you’re not going to get much better audio from any laptop near this thin. And, we’re thanking our lucky stars that Apple didn’t drop the headphone jack from the MacBook.
Gabe Carey and Bill Thomas have also contributed to this review
First reviewed November 2017
Images credit: TechRadar
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