The first round of reviews for Apple’s new MacBook, the super-thin model with a high-resolution display, are out.
The consensus is pretty much unanimous: The new MacBooks are a marvel of engineering and very pretty to look at, but not something you should buy right now.
The reviews largely echo concerns I had when Apple first announced the new MacBook last month:
First, there’s the price. You’re paying a premium because Apple pulled off some engineering magic and created a beautiful computer that is not much thicker than an iPhone yet powerful enough to run a full desktop operating system. In fact, it is $US300 more expensive than the cheapest MacBook Pro but has weaker specs. (The Retina MacBook Pro starts at the same price as the new MacBook). It is not the best deal on paper unless you value design and portability over everything else.
Then there are the ports. Or, rather, the lack of ports. The MacBook has only one: a special USB C port that is designed for charging the computer, connecting video cables, and plugging in accessories. That means you will not be able to transfer files using a traditional USB stick, and you will have to get a special adaptor for a lot of other things.
Finally, I’m not a fan of the fact Apple did away with the MagSafe charger in favour of USB C. If you’re like me, you have a habit of tripping over your laptop’s cables. Apple’s MagSafe charger is a brilliant solution: It holds the charging connector firmly in the laptop but will not do any damage if you yank it out. When I was in college I did some major damage to my old PowerBook when I tripped over its charging cord. I have a feeling there will be more than a few damaged USB C chargers from new MacBook owners. USB C charging feels like a step backward.
But let’s rewind a bit. The new MacBook reminds me a lot of the first MacBook Air that launched in 2008. That computer was underpowered, had very little storage, and had minimal ports. It was light, thin, and beautiful, unlike any laptop anyone had seen at the time, but it was also way too expensive for what you got. As with the new MacBook, the original MacBook Air was a marvellous feat of engineering that most people probably didn’t need to buy.
Two and a half years later, the MacBook Air was the best laptop in the world. Apple improved everything from the processing power to design to battery life. Today’s MacBook Air is even better.
I bet we’ll be having a similar discussion about the new MacBook in two or three years. It’s ahead of its time now, but eliminating ports and going fully wireless in favour of an ultra-portable design will be the new norm. Eventually you will not need to plug a zillion accessories and projectors into your computer. Everything will be wireless.
Plus, traditional computers don’t need to be as powerful for the stuff most people need to do, hence the exploding popularity of Chromebooks. The new MacBook is Apple’s answer to that burgeoning trend. People use their laptops to email, check Facebook, do some word processing, and maybe stream some movies. You don’t need a beast of machine to do all that. And if you can get one with a high-resolution display and knockout design, something like the new MacBook is really appealing.
For now, the MacBook Air will remain the best laptop you can buy, just as the old plastic MacBook was when the Air originally launched in 2008. The new MacBook is a glimpse at the future, but you’ll probably want to wait until the rest of the world catches up.
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