Apple MacBook review

Liking Apple’s latest MacBook more than we want to

MacBook

Our Verdict

With an improved processor and trackpad, as well as room for more RAM now, then prepare to enjoy what’s surprisingly the best MacBook in years – Pro or otherwise. That is, if you can get past the lofty price tag – even as an Apple fan.

For

  • Updated processor
  • Vastly improved keyboard
  • Still delightfully compact
  • Long battery life

Against

  • Still only one USB-C port
  • Poor audio and webcam
  • Still too pricey

When Apple first unveiled the MacBook way back in 2006, it was designed and appointed as the affordable alternative to the MacBook Pro. These days however, while it’s still cheaper than the MacBook Pro, a lot has changed for the MacBook, beginning with its major redesign in 2015. 

That’s when the Apple MacBook evolved into the 12-inch ultra portable notebook it is today – a design that the MacBook 2017 further improves on.

MacOS News

 Our first look at the new, completely redesigned Mac Pro at WWDC 2019.

Sidecar, Voice Control and other new features come to mac with macOS 10.15 Catalina.

The MacBook 2017 rocks a ravishing Retina screen, which elevates the price somewhere between the 2017 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro without 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.

The new 12-inch MacBook is certainly worth your consideration, even if it could be argued that the MacBook Air 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 a MacBook 2019 is on its way and somehow rectify that.

Spec Sheet

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

You’ll be able to find the MacBook we reviewed here at your local Apple Store (or Amazon) 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 can get the 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) by customizing it and opting 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 MacBook Air 2018 might be 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.

MacBook

Design

Honestly, the look and feel of the new Apple MacBook’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.

And, 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.

MacBook

One major improvement the new MacBook 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 drastically.

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 nearly unrivaled.

We say ‘nearly’ because Google may have caught up to Apple with its Pixelbook. Seriously, the keyboard and trackpad on that thing are ones to be emulated.

MacBook

Display and sound

We all know that Apple has made a name for itself with its gorgeous displays for years, and rightly so. The 12-inch MacBook’s screen remains unchanged since the dawn of the product in 2015, which is just fine. Editing photos and doing graphically intense work looks amazing on the Retina display, though it’s not exactly the sharpest screen in school anymore.

Plus, the MacBook’s 16:10 aspect ratio 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.

MacBook

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. But, we’re still thanking our lucky stars that Apple hasn’t forgone the headphone jack from the MacBook.

Gabe Carey and Bill Thomas have also contributed to this review

First reviewed November 2017

Images credit: TechRadar