Apple MacBook (2016) review: The laptop you'll want more than any other

Last year Apple made jaws drop and every laptop owner in the land instantly hate the computer in front of them as they reinvented the 12-inch Apple MacBook. Now, a year on, and with the laptop-replacing iPad Pro having since landed, 2016's update might not bring the same wholesale changes, but in true Apple form, things have been made faster, smarter, and just different enough to have you clamouring for a new computer.
From speedier internals to a new iPhone 6S-echoing Rose Gold (read pink) colour scheme, the 2016 12-inch MacBook isn't a big enough improvement to get you upgrading from last year's model, but if you're in the market for a new laptop, it's pretty much the only one to consider – as long as you're not a power user, and money's no object.

The Good
  • Stunning, minimalist design
  • Brilliantly sharp, vibrant Retina display
  • Sleek, user-friendly OS X software
The Bad
  • Single connection port is restrictive
  • Hugely expensive
  • Gets seriously hot with prolonged use
Apple MacBook (2016) design: the most beautiful laptop ever, at a cost
Apple MacBook 2016
There's no escaping it, the new MacBook isn't just easy on the eye, it's easily one of the best-looking gadgets ever forged. No, it's not any different to last year's model, but when it looks this good, who cares? It's a slimline head turner that will garner envious looks wherever you take it, and a device that doesn't lose that air of being something special once it's been out of the box for a couple of weeks.
It's not just easy on the eye though. That compact, 920g aluminium-hewn form is practical too, and as easy to cart about as an iPad Pro 9.7, despite featuring a 12-inch display. It will make your old MacBook Air look and feel positively oversized too. From a mere 3.5mm thick at its slimmest to a still-super-svelte 13.1mm as its widest point, this is a computer for those who covet portability without the need for a dedicated laptop backpack, and those who rank style every bit as important as substance.
This slimline, minimalist design does come at a cost, however, and not just the one that will hit your bank balance for a significant sum – prices range from £1,049 to £1,299. Its lack of connection ports is more than a little frustrating. The MacBook doesn't just skimp on connections, it near enough does away with them completely.
Apple MacBook 2016
As well as the 3.5mm headphone jack (something the iPhone 7 is rumoured to be ditching) the MacBook features just a single other connection point: a multipurpose USB Type-C offering. This is responsible for everything from charging the thing to transferring files and connecting accessories. That's a lot of work for a single connection.
While 90% of the time this won't be an issue – how many things do you need to connect to your laptop at once, really? – when you're trying to transfer files with a heavily depleted battery, you've got to choose which is more important, and that's frustrating. It gets worse too. Chances are, too, that USB-C hard drives and other assorted accessories aren't already in your tech arsenal, so, as well as giving your wallet a serious kicking on the device itself, you're going to have to splash out on a number of adaptors.
Apple MacBook (2016) screen: sharp, bright, stunning
Apple MacBook 2016
Apple's smartphone screens have been overshadowed by their Android-based rivals in recent years – we're looking at the stunning Samsung Galaxy S7 and HTC 10 here – but its laptops are still up there as unadulterated visual delights. And this is no truer than on the 12-inch MacBook.
The 2304 x 1440 pixel Retina display isn't just a little bit pretty, this is a full-on catwalk-worthy 10. Text and images are both stunningly crisp and on point. Blacks are deep, moody and immersive and colours provide plenty of pop while still retaining a beautiful range of subtle tones. Images on the MacBook screen look like the real world. There's no unwanted oversaturation or pixelation, just pure visual perfection.
Sure, 4K laptops have started to drop, but this, like 4K phones – *cough * Sony Xperia Z5 Premium – is overkill. The MacBook's panel is more than sharp enough and makes the 13-inch MacBook Air's 1440 x 900 pixel display look positively dull and dated by comparison. Featuring significantly less screen framing than its Air-based brother, it doesn't just keep the computer's footprint down, but goes a long way to further helping this panel pop too.
Apple MacBook (2016) features and performance: great for the casual user
Apple MacBook 2016
The new MacBook certainly looks the part, but Apple's been forced to be selective with what's under the hood in order to get it this slim and sexy. Depending on the configuration you opt for, your machine will be powered by either a 1.1GHz dual-core Intel Core m3 (£1,049) or 1.2GHz Intel Core m5 processor (£1,299). Both models pair 8GB of RAM with Intel HD Graphics 515 and come with either 256GB or 512GB flash storage.


For the general user – we're talking the email-answering, web-browsing, Netflix-watching, work-doing amongst you – this will be more than enough grunt for everything you need. During our time with the device there was no stuttering or stalling, just pure, fluid performance. Need a machine for intensive video editing or on-the-move gaming, however, and you're going to want to look elsewhere. Sorry, folks.
Apple MacBook 2016
Things have been tuned up on last year though. Overall performance is just that little bit slicker, with the new Intel chips working alongside the brilliant and beautifully simple OS X El Capitan to keep things running smoothly. Internal storage has been sped up too, with 20% faster read speeds and 90% speedier write speeds making everything run just that little bit cleaner. OK, no, you're unlikely to notice the differences, but these small changes all add up to a better overall performance.
Battery life is up too. Despite the laptop not getting any bigger, an extra hour of battery life has been squeezed in. Bringing the total between-charge staying power up to 10 hours, it will comfortably get you through a day in the office, and an evening of Netflix. Use the 12-inch MacBook for prolonged periods of time or while connected to the mains and it does get pretty warm. Not just a little toasty either, but, occasionally, uncomfortable to the touch. This isn't a performance killer, but it's not ideal either.
Apple MacBook (2016) keyboard and trackpad: a force (touch) to be reckoned with
Apple MacBook 2016
It's not just the elegant OS X that makes the new MacBook a joy to use. When the new MacBook design debuted last year it brought with it an all new keyboard and trackpad, and these recently revolutionised control methods have been ported over to the new model too.
What makes the keyboard so good? Well, while the larger keys are an instant win, the shorter travel on the new butterfly hinge-backed keys gives you more response and feel to your key strikes. It offers a comfortable, smooth typing experience that feels more intuitive beneath your fingers and will let you bash out emails and essays in double-quick fashion.
Paired with the glass-topped trackpad, and the MacBook offers a user experience unrivalled by any other machine out there. Yes, the multi-finger touch commands will take a little while to master, but within minutes of use the iPhone-esque interface will feel like second nature.
Apple MacBook 2016
Like an iPhone 6S or Apple Watch, this trackpad offers pressure-sensitive Force Touch tech with haptic feedback. Click the pad to select, then push further and you can launch a whole array of new command options. It's a different way of interacting with your machine, and one that's not instantly natural, but it quickly opens up all manner of new control options.
You can click anywhere on the trackpad with the same sense of feel too. There's no unwanted weighting in one corner, or a looser base than top, just a single, elegant feel. This might not sound like a big deal, but try it and you'll never want to use another trackpad again.
That's not where the impressive built-in extras end either. The days of terrible, tinny audio are gone. Despite its small stature, a stereo speaker strip has been squeezed in above the laptop's impressive keyboard. OK, it's not doing to replace your dedicated surround sound system, but for when you're away from home audio is pleasingly punchy, clean and well-rounded.
Verdict: the laptop you'll want more than any other
Apple MacBook 2016
The MacBook isn't the most powerful laptop around – not by a long shot – and its single port set-up can be more than a little restrictive, but that's only part of the story. In classic Apple fashion, these significant shortcomings aren't as damaging as they could, and probably should, be. They become a background niggle more than a major bugbear, overshadowed by a simply unrivalled design, inspired keyboard and trackpad combination and a sleek, effortless interface. It's not the best laptop out there, but it's the one you'll crave and covet more than any other.
If you're a general user, it will have more than enough grunt for your every want and need. If, however, you're going to be doing lots of system-demanding work, the MacBook Pro's still going to be your best bet. Overall the 2016 MacBook is a luxury device. Whether or not it's an unnecessary one or not depends on your budget. You might be able to snap up the entry-level MacBook Air for 300 fewer of the Queen's finest, but if your budget will stretch, we'd still recommend going for the 12-inch MacBook. You won't be disappointed.



















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