Apple presents the MacBook, reinvented

Leading into today's Spring Forward event, oddsmakers suggested that a Retina MacBook Air was inevitable. Turns out they were wrong. Apple's gone back and reinvented the MacBook.

Waiting in vain

I remember waiting the day the iPad was released. I waited line at Apple's flagship Boston location, its Boylston Street store, staving off the April chill with a cup of Dunkin' Donuts coffee, dancing in place because I needed to empty my bladder.

Yes, I'm one of those people who lines up for these things. What I didn't realize that April day, though I quickly would learn, is that the iPad wasn't the transformative device I had wanted it to be. It wasn't until I finally got my hands on a MacBook Air that that happened.

I never had to wait in line for one of a MacBook Air; they'd been out for several years already when I finally jumped on the bandwagon. I wonder if I'll have to wait in line for the new MacBook.

The MacBook Air took away lots of ports that made lots of noise with a sleek design, a big screen, fluid keyboard and responsive gesture-aware trackpad. It was fast enough to get most of my work done, with more battery life than I had ever experienced. And breathtakingly elegant.

All of these superlatives seem to apply to Apple's new MacBook, which made its debut today along with a lower-priced (but otherwise unchanged) Apple TV and the Apple Watch. The proof of the pudding, as the expression goes, is in the eating. And we won't be able to consume that particular dish until April.

The name itself is interesting: "MacBook" is what Apple called its low-end polycarbonate model aimed at students and families, which it discontinued in 2010. The MacBook Air replaced it as the entry-level model, with prices eventually dropping to $899.

Now the MacBook is back, but it's been reborn as more premium brand than MacBook Air.

Gold is best!

Apple has always attracted design fetishism, but the iPhone and iPad have occupied much of Apple's efforts to actually make its gear pretty. Those days are over, because pretty is exactly what the new MacBook is.

Just like the iPad and iPhone, the new MacBook comes in three finishes: Silver, gold and space gray. Boy, that space gray looks pretty. I'll leave the gold model for someone else.

Priced higher than the MacBook Air, the new MacBook has a bona fide Retina display: 2304 by 1440 pixels, with 226 pixel per inch density. The edge-to-edge display has the same shape and shares the same aspect ratio as other most MacBook models, but measures only 12 inches diagonally.

Under the hood

Inside is the latest generation of Intel's processor hardware, its "Broadwell" system architecture, clocked from 1.1 to 1.3 GHz. The new MacBook sports Intel HD Graphics 5300 integrated graphics, which offers considerably improved performance from last year's MacBook Air models — good thing, since it's pushing millions more pixels.

Apple's not skimping on memory or storage, either. 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of flash storage is standard on the $1299 model, with the $1599 model doubling storage to 512 GB. That's beefier than the basic Retina MacBook Pro for the same money.

The USB-C port replaces all other connections, including power charging, with what Apple is calling all-day battery life: 9 hours of surfing the web or 10 hours of iTunes movie playback, according to Apple. Thirty nine point seven watt hours of battery life, just a smidge more the 11-inch MacBook Air's battery life expectancy, with more efficient engineering inside.

The worst part, of course, is having to wait. Apple's given us a month to prepare, though. Expect to see them on Friday, April 10th.

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Peter Cohen
  • One port? So you can't charge and have an external drive at the same time? No SD slot? back to 12" (powerbook was the best).
  • There will be adapters/cables that will probably be multifunction...
  • It's $79 and defeats the purpose of portability. Sent from my Galaxy S4 running SlimLP 5.0.2
  • there is a port adapter.
  • Great article. In other words, this is the MacBook Air with Retina display, "just" thinner and better than the pre Air models and with that Retina Display?! This might be first laptop ever^^!! Sent from the iMore App
  • At first glance; Too little horsepower, too little connectivity, too much price.
    Sure, the portability is great and all, but that's MBP pricing!! The gold on the MacBook seems much nicer than the shade on the gold iPhone though. Maybe it's because it doesn't have a white face.
  • I kinda see this as an Apple Chromebook. The processor worries me. And the one port. Sure, there will be a hub, but wasn't this designed to be portable? They could have put 3 of those parts on there and satisfied people. "I'm da Blur boys!" - Me with 1200 ping. Fiber in Nashville? Save me based Google.
  • And the one thing all MacBook Airs have in common is they get hot.
    Yet in this one, they decided to make the circuit board even DENSER, and take out the FAN. That little square area where the main board is is going to be toasting a lot of people's legs this year.
  • Core M doesn't get hot. It thermal throttles so damn heavily if it had a fan it would be cold air coming out. I don't like the fact that they chip was used either. Performs about as well as the Sandy Bridge i5's is what I've seen. "I'm da Blur boys!" - Me with 1200 ping. Fiber in Nashville? Save me based Google.
  • Sandy Bridge i5 performance would be more than sufficient..... provided you wipe OS X and install a Linux distro of some kind.
  • Seeing as Linux runs perfectly well on Chromebooks, why would you do that and limit yourself to one port for $1300? "I'm da Blur boys!" - Me with 1200 ping. Fiber in Nashville? Save me based Google.
  • Good point. Also, the more I read about this the more I think "Didn't Steve Jobs hate netbooks?" , because that's what this really is to me - a pricey blogger/facebook laptop. I suppose it makes sense for all the fashion bloggers out there. I do like that they've ditched that glowing logo on the lid though. That was tacky beyond belief.
  • I used to joke that the Macbook Air was a Facebook machine. Apple has proved me wrong I guess. Of course, the fashion bloggers won't pick this up, because the glow was part of their aesthetic. "I'm da Blur boys!" - Me with 1200 ping. Fiber in Nashville? Save me based Google.
  • What?? No glowing Apple on the lid??? That kills it for me. Don't need or want one. My Macbook Pro non-retina has more beef and upgradeable storage, under the hood. I'll pass on the new "Macbook"...
  • But isnt this a broadwell? The latest?
  • Broadwell is an architecture. It's more energy and heat efficient, but that has little to do with how powerful it is. It simply is as powerful or more powerful than the last gen chips with less power draw and heat production. "I'm da Blur boys!" - Me with 1200 ping. Fiber in Nashville? Save me based Google.
  • I think so too btw the fan that was in the airs dont bother me at all, and trust me i have pretty good hearing at 30 lol
  • Shit! I was planning on getting the MacBook Pro 15" Retina, but this throws a whole load of new questions at me. No new trackpad for the 15", and the 13" doesn't even get a keyboard upgrade. I'd love to know more about Apples intentions for the MacBook Pro now, before I purchase a new one. Sent from the iMore App
  • Fall will be the big Macbook upgrades for current generation.. Hopefully with Skylake.
  • What are your usage plans for your next machine? I think this new MacBook will be more geared towards students & people who need an ultraportable device for business meetings while traveling. I cannot wait to hear the experiences of brave souls that attempt to run and actually use Final Cut Pro on this.
  • This thing is gorgeous! However... Why would I want to carry a multi port extension for all the things that I need... Completely useless as a work horse. But it's great for "show." That new Dell XPS 13 puts this to shame in terms of design, functionality and pricing.
  • Individuals are assuming that the new multi-purpose USB port will support simultaneous multi-purpose usage...
  • Yeah they certainly 'reinvented' the laptop here by putting in a weak m processor, and stripping out all functionality to one silly port defeating the purpose of portability by requiring you to use a stupid port hub. Then there's the ridiculous asking price, you can get a more powerful and practical dell xps13 for less money. Making a laptop purely for looks just isn't good enough.
  • This ^^. Sent from the iMore App
  • Right...except for the fact that it's a Dell, still has a ton of black plastic, is 50% heavier, has a much lower resolution, is running Windows, will probably be out of Dell's bloated product line in 6 months when they try something else, and will have the resale value of a paper weight a year from now. I agree that $1,299 seems high for the horsepower, but all of Apple's retina Macs have started high and come down significantly in price within a year. I expect the Air line to slowly wither away and the "MacBook" will take over the $999-$1,199 price point soon enough.
  • Nice attempt at trying to burn me but you're completely wrong. The new dell xps 13 actually has the option of a higher resolution display than the mac with touchscreen added for less money still. And it's actually made from aluminum and carbon fibre not plastic. The fact that dell have made a 13" display ultra book the size of a 12" shows great engineering. You can buy this laptop direct from Microsoft without bloatware and if purchased from any other retailer it still actually has minimal bloatware as dell aren't so bad with that stuff, the minimal amount that could be there can be easily removed also. As far as Windows devices go the dell xps line hold their value well although not as good as a mac in this area but that's because people are crazy.
    Have a read up on the dell before you go making uninformed statements.
  • What concerns me is that it is the same price as the more powerful MacBook Pro with Retina that has the same trackpad, more ports, and gets better battery life. You are basically paying for the low weight. Sent from the iMore App
  • only difference is the MBP 13 has 128 GB SSD... the starter macbook has 256 GB... Other than that, you're absolutley right! This is a mistake
  • I agree that the rMBP is a much better buy unless you really really can't stand an extra 1.5lbs in your bag. the extra 128GB is a big deal, but Apple makes these decisions harder than they need to be for consumers.
  • Looks like the G4 cube from 2000... Putting form/beauty over functionality and power, you'd think they learned from that flop, but given it's been 15 years I guess they forgot about that
  • No desire for this. One connector. Too small of a screen.
  • UGH! This thing looks like it was beat up wit the UGLy stick pretty badly. That shitty gold one is the tackiest thing I've seen in a long time. Steve Jobs is spinning in his grave so hard they could harness that energy and use it to light San Francisco.
  • A wait till the fall it is then. I simply need the dedicated graphics, extra power, screen real estate etc. It's a beautiful machine though, and nice to see the MacBook back. Sent from the iMore App
  • I really wished Apple with all of the money they had made this macbook about 800 cheaper so they could compete with chromebooks. Plus it would be a perfect entry level apple computer for my kids and for schools.
  • Only one port? With that small a screen? And at that price? Nope. It's not for me.
  • Anyone who gets this, just be careful when you're charging it because if you trip over the power cable it could be very costly. I prefer the MagSafe connecter on my Air, trip over it and only the connector hits the floor. Sent from the iMore App
  • ...... This is way over priced for one port. This should be starting around probably 499+
    It would be a great iPad pro with functionality with both OS x and iOS iPad applications in my opinion with a touchscreen. Hopefully apple shoots itself in the leg over this Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • Unfortunately there is 1 million people who think that its the greatest idea ever and are willing to shell out that much on it :/
  • Can you attach it to a Apple's Thunderbolt display? All the current data indicates - nope!
    I'll stick with a retina iMac then. At least I'll see my work in more than 12 inches.
  • Sure. They'll be USB-C adapters.
  • I see no mention of a USB-C to Thunderbolt adapter anywhere on or any article about the product.
  • A couple of notes: CPU and GPU: Both slow. ( I believe this is the slowest CPU and GPU Apple offers in a Mac).
    Display: It's an IPS! Kind of odd the MacBook has better specs than the Air.
    Display 2: Ugh, that bezel. Apple should have used the same display tech as Dell did
    Small battery - 39.7 w/Hr. (probably the most Apple could get given the size).
    Crappy 480p webcam.
    29w power adapter (that's near iPad level). It kind of sucks they got rid of Magsafe and introduced yet another cable.
  • It does seem like garbage. I'm usually a big fan of macbooks. But even the kb is crap according to reviewers. Think I'll stick with dell for laptops when win 10 arrives. Sent from the iMore App
  • Garbage seems a bit strong. It does have a lot of appealing features but it feels like it's about two years ahead before the technology is there (just like the MacBook Air)
  • Yes, and I'll pass on Dell laptops. I've spent far too much time in my career rebuilding Dell desktops and laptops. Never had to rebuild a Macbook or Macbook Pro and the only hardware repair on my MacPro workstation was memory installation and Hard drive replacement and addition.
  • Dell has an exclusive agreement with SHARP on that display. I think it's to last a year. So don't expect it in Apple tech until the fall of 2016 or later. "I'm da Blur boys!" - Me with 1200 ping. Fiber in Nashville? Save me based Google.
  • I remember reading that Dell has an exclusive license on the XPS 13's display with the tiny bezel until August, if that's what you're referring to. Not sure if my memory's wrong, though - it sucks. It would be neat to see that same kind of tiny bezel on the next 15" MBP, except with the top edge increased a bit to accommodate a webcam centered in the top bezel instead of in the bottom corner, like with the XPS 13.
  • CPU and GPU: Both slow.
    Graphics are a generation beyond the MacBook Air, and considerably more efficient. It's totally premature to discount the specs until we actually have a MacBook to try, and we don't.
  • Your info seems to be incorrect; The MacBook Air has a Intel HD Graphics 6000 while the MacBook has an Intel HD Graphics 5300, both were released by Intel in Sept 2014 The specs of the 6000 are vastly superior to the 5300 and they both use the same exact amount of power. Yesterdays Macbook Air had an Intel HD 5000, and while it uses a lot more power than the 5300 it's also much, much faster (it's not even close). As for the CPU, there are a couple current laptops with the exact same CPU so I'm not sure what else you need.
  • He's talking about the amount of pixels pushed. But if you're right, then there should be a Retina Air. But I'm assuming Apple can't keep the same battery life, which is why said air doesn't exist and we now have.... This. "I'm da Blur boys!" - Me with 1200 ping. Fiber in Nashville? Save me based Google.
  • It's not like the specs are hidden, all you have to do is look on As for pushing pixels, the original MacBook Pro Retina had an HD4000, which is not as good as the 6000 (and used more power). The Macbook Air gpu could easily push more pixels without taking any more power (the screen would definitely use more power).
  • I'm having a hard time trying to figure out who this is for. Sent from the iMore App
  • Men who wear skinny jeans and women who have name cards with "fashion blogger" listed as their primary occupation.
  • What about fashion conscious college students who want to appear to be hip this fall, on campus? :-)
  • At least I don't have to deal with the glow of Apples in my classes anymore. Let the Dragon Army glow strong! (or by the time I go back In The fall, I'll probably have traded for a Blade. Or maybe I'll wait until this time next year for a Blade.) "I'm da Blur boys!" - Me with 1200 ping. Fiber in Nashville? Save me based Google.
  • Any word on a standalone Magic Trackpad with the new Force Touch pressure sensitivity? I presume there will be one ...
  • So this had a broadwell processor? I thought it has an M processor? Im confused!
  • Nope it has M. Sent from the iMore App
  • The "M" is Broadwell based....5th Gen
  • Honestly, I don't know how good this is gonna be. Not as powerful, one port and same battery life. I think its a tough sell even with retina
  • Man does no one learn their lesson. You all said the same things about the first Air that come out. Not enough ports, under powered, no optical drive, too expensive, etc... This is a first gen device that is ahead of the curve and it's going to evolve and get cheaper. Always does. Don't get me wrong, this isn't for me either (yet), but I can see where Apple is headed with it. Sent from the iMore App