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MacBook review roundup

If you're thinking about getting Apple's new MacBook, you're probably wondering what it's like to use and how well it works. Read on to find out what the first reviewers think, and check back with iMore after we get our hands on one.

These first reviews are an interesting study in contradictions. Many of the reviewers repeat the same basic idea: That the new MacBook is unquestionably the future direction not just of Apple's laptop products, but of the PC laptop industry in general, since so many PC manufacturers ape the same design features that Apple puts in its systems.

But having said that, the current MacBook design clearly has some limitations that at least some of the reviewers are not pleased with.

Christina Warren, writing for Mashable:

The most important thing about the new MacBook, to me, isn't necessarily what it is now, but what it represents. In five years, the sea of MacBook Airs and MacBook Air-style machines we see now at Starbucks will be replaced by machines that look more like the new MacBook.

Katherine Boehret, writing for Recode:

If money is no issue for you, you want a significantly smaller laptop, and you don't mind being limited by a lack of ports, then maybe upgrading to the new MacBook makes sense for you. But if you rely on USB ports and SD card slots, this MacBook's single port for charging, storage transfers and other functionality will really bug you.

Ben Bajarin, writing for his Techpinions blog:

This is the type of laptop I have been wanting for decades. Thin, light, under two pounds, it has had the same effect the original iPad had on me in that the iPad became a device I always have with me. My iPad is still going to be a faithful companion but I will now take the new MacBook with me as well and have the best of both worlds during my business day. This is by far the best ultra-thin laptop on the market and will become the gold standard for this type of portable computer.

Joanna Stern, writing for the Wall Street Journal:

I expect the new MacBook to follow the same path as the Air. Over the next few years, it will improve, and become an affordable, indispensable tool for life in the future. But here, now, in the present day, there are more practical slim, everyday laptop choices. The MacBook Air is the best option all around, the MacBook Pro Retina 13 is a great step up, and PC users can do no better than Dell's latest XPS 13.

Mark Spoonauer, writing for Tom's Guide/Laptop:

My initial reaction to the MacBook was that it was too ahead of its time, but there are lots of things I love about it right now. The new butterfly keyboard and touchpad design make this 2-pound wonder surprisingly comfortable to use for long stretches, and the ultrabright and colorful Retina display make the experience all the more pleasant. Apple's engineers also deserve a shout-out for the loud and clear speakers that put laptops twice as big to shame.

Joshua Topolosky and Stephen Pulvirent tag-team for Bloomberg:

With the new keyboard and trackpad innovations, lust-inducing industrial design, and impressive downsizing of internal components, the MacBook feels like a an important next step in the evolution of portable computers. But this machine isn't for everyone, particularly those who expect extremes from their devices. Still, if you prioritize style, need something ultraportable, and don't mind trading power for a crisp and clear Retina display, then the perfect computer may have arrived.

Harry McCracken, writing for Fast Company:

That's the thing about the new MacBook: It doesn't cater to exactly the same audience as any existing Mac. It's a really good laptop—assuming you can figure out how to make USB-C make sense for you—and yet its size, weight, and overall minimalism give it an iPad-like persona. The thinking behind it is a different, more subtle way of mixing PC and tablet than all those other devices that try to be both at once. But like the original 2008 MacBook Air before it, this specialty Mac could also be a blueprint for the next generation of mainstream notebooks.

David Pierce, writing for Wired:

I don't know just who Apple's newest laptop is for. Rich people who fly coach? People with one laptop who want a second, gold one? Maybe. But I do know two things about the new MacBook: This is what the future of laptops looks like, and I want one very badly.

Jim Dalrymple, writing for The Loop:

The MacBook runs completely silent and fits perfectly into my workflow. I haven't touched either of my other two computers since I started using this one, and I'm very happy. This is my workflow now. The good news is that if you need more ports or more power, Apple has two other MacBook product lines that may suit your needs. For me, I'm sticking with MacBook.

Darrell Etherington, writing for TechCrunch:

I came to the MacBook with certain expectations; specifically, that it would not be able to meet my more "pro" level needs, in terms of Photoshop, Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro. Luckily, the MacBook defied those expectations and performed well with each of the above applications. Which isn't to say performance is on par with, say, the brand new 13-inch MacBook Pro – it isn't. But pre-launch concerns of this machine being seriously hampered by its low-power Intel M processor were, in my experience, very premature. The new MacBook handled the tasks I threw at it so well that I am no seriously considering whether or not I can adopt one full-time, as a replacement to my original 2012 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro road warrior.

Dan Ackerman, writing for CNet:

My primary caveat is this -- if history is any guide, you can count on a near-future generation of this laptop boosting its utility by doubling the number of USB-C ports to at least two. So like many new technology products, it may be worth waiting for the next version, even if having a 12-inch, two-pound gold MacBook right now will make you the coolest kid at the coffee shop.

Jason Snell, writing for Macworld:

As a longtime user of the MacBook Air line, I look at the MacBook with a mix of excitement and trepidation. This is the future of Apple's thin and light laptop line, as well as a warning that we're about to enter a transition period for devices as Apple begins to embrace USB-C. And ultimately that's the trade-off here: To get the cutting edge technology, you've got to deal with the incompatibilities and limitations that go with it.

Dieter Bohn, writing for The Verge:

Basically, if you do anything that's going to really tax the processor, this laptop probably isn't going to cut it for you. In that sense it's actually kind of like a Chromebook. It's fast enough for 70 percent of what I do, but a little slower than what I'm used to. For about 20 percent of what I do — mostly photo editing — it works but requires patience. But it's the last 10 percent that's hard: video editing, really big iPhoto libraries, basically anything processor-intensive can get rough.

David Pogue, writing for Yahoo Tech:

The new MacBook is really small and thin and great-looking. I mean, you could practically fold it into a paper airplane. And when the FedEx man arrives, he can slip it under your front door. But unless you're a well-heeled executive who doesn't do much besides write, email, and surf the Web, the price you pay — in speed, utility, and, yes, price — is just too high.

Andrew Cunningham, writing for Ars Technica:

The 2015 MacBook is a much better first take on a new kind of laptop than the first MacBook Air was. The first Air was expensive and slow and not really plausible as a replacement for either the MacBook or the MacBook Pro, but pretty much any current MacBook Air user could buy this thing and be happy with the price and performance. The size, weight, and screen are all stunning and the space gray (or gold, if that's your thing) finish makes this the best-looking Mac in the lineup.

Anick Jesdanun for ABC News:

The new keyboard takes getting used to, even after a week of testing. I feel as though I need to press more firmly. But taller, old-style keys on some keyboards have started to feel flimsy by comparison, as though about to come off their springs. The new keyboard does get more comfortable over time— just don't expect to write a novel on Day One.

Did any of these reviews change your opinion of the new MacBook, either positively or negatively? Are you planning to order one? Sound off in the comments.

11 Comments
  • It's missing the LED Apple logo on the lid - that's a deal breaker for me. Glad I got my Early 2015 13" MacBook Air. Faster processor, bigger screen (resolution is nice) and $300 less. I couldn't be happier.
  • Ars Technica put it best - This laptop is defined by the features it doesn't have. For some, it'll be a deal-breaker, for others, it's what they've always wanted (funny how they missed Chromebooks though). Me? I'll give it a few years. This thing's pretty much in the same space the Air was when it first came out. Give it a couple of iterations and it'll be enough computer for most people, I reckon. As it is right now, an iPad Air plus keyboard seems a way better deal for "everyday" portable computing, to my eyes at least. Wonder how it'll all play out if/when Apple bring out that rumored iPad Pro or whatever the speculators are naming it now.
  • Except an iPad doesn't run OS X.
  • Interesting there's so little feedback on the reviews on actual performance. It's all about the form factor and the screen. I'll be buying one tomorrow as my first Mac laptop to compliment my 2012 Mac Mini.
  • Now I'm really stuck! I am looking to change out of my mid-2011 Macbook Air 11" and I've been eyeing the Macbook. The new Macbook Air is pretty much the same I have now, only newer, maybe a little faster. But no retina display. The new Macbook has a retina display, but it's a smaller processor (although some reviews tell us it beats out my air handily), and it has a 480p camera. Then again, who uses the camera on the laptop? That's what my iPhone 6 is for. So I'm stuck. Do I buy it? I have birthday money burning a hole in my pocket!!!!
  • The new MacBook is lighter and has a retina display. Those are about the only advantages you have right now. If probably want to wait until next year with Intel's skylake processors in the MacBook. They will be faster, have better battery life, and the chip includes wireless charging. According to Wikipedia, all the computer manufacturers have agreed to use it. If this is true, next year's MacBook will have a big advantage over this year's model. Sent from the iMore App
  • "According to Wikipedia, all the computer manufacturers have agreed to use it"
    Remember it's Apple we are talking about. Since when they go with the flow? The set the course of the flow :p
  • The new mac is perfect for me. Although I relish having an earth shattering processor to brag about (I also have a 400 horsepower car I hardly ever get to drive), in real world use, my world that is, I just don't need it. The M processor will power everything I need to do on it and looking back over the last 14 months, as a road warrior, I have never had a need to plug ANYTHING into my mac but the charger. The new, smaller size, sheds weight from ones carry on shoulder bag, which is a big deal for frequent travelers. Brings me back to the days when the 12" Lenovo ThinkPad ruled my world. Although the ThinkPad had to double as my desktop back then so the superior horsepower was a must. Today, I use whatever PC my clients have on-site while on a job, and often reminds me of a scene from one of those Star Trek movies where Scotty had to use a keyboard to write the formula for transparent aluminum: "How Quaint". Thats what windows feels like to me now, quaint. Some people never upgrade versions either. On a side note, if my existing plug bug doesn't fit the new charger, I will be upset. That means I have to pack an additional iDevice charger.
  • It all sounds nice, still none of that makes me want to change my 13" rMBP just yet. I agree with those who say give it a few years!
  • I just recently switched back to an iPhone from windows phone and really enjoy it. But until Apple has a touchscreen laptop they will never get my money for one. I use touch all the time on my Yoga 3 and couldn't imagine living without it. And no, a great trackpad does not obviate the need for a touchscreen for me. Too bad, looks like touch may never happen. I'll go surface pro next as I don't like Lenovos lack of updates.
  • Nice mix of opinions. I'm keen to side with Techopinions and Jim Dalrymple myself. I think this IS the long rumored iPad Pro, with the lightness and portability, long battery life, silent operation, Retina display and case color choice of an iPad, but with the Full functionality of a Macintosh. As much as Jason Snell derides it, that keyboard still must be a big step up from the iPad's glass panel keyboard.
    I've worked on slow Macs before. This thing has still got to be much faster than any of those.
    Has nobody yet noticed the new, improved, faster SSD internal storage? I can't afford one this year, but I'll be looking at it seriously for next year...