Love it or loathe it, Apple’s 12-inch MacBook certainly left an impression.
Its single USB Type-C port and shallow-travel keyboard meant that many people found themselves in the latter camp, while fans of the 12-inch MacBook’s unmatchable style and portability couldn’t get enough of its unique charm.
I didn’t love the 12-inch MacBook like I did the MacBook Air when it first came out, but I liked it. A lot. In fact, I think it’s a much more usable computer now than when it was it launched one year ago and argued 5 reasons why you should give it another go.
It’s been one year since the divisive laptop touched down at the Cupertino company’s Spring Forward event, and speculation is mounting that its successor is on the way.
The question is: will they be joined by a sleek new computer?
Cut to the chase
- What is it? The second-generation 12-inch MacBook
- When is it out? Could be as soon as late March, early April
- What will it cost? Likely as much as the first-generation 12-inch MacBook, which started at $1,299/AUS$1,708 (£1,049)
12-inch MacBook 2016 release date
You can bet your bottom dollar that we’ll see a successor to the 12-inch MacBook this year, but it isn’t clear when it will surface.
Apple has sent out invites to an event on March 21, which starts at 10am PDT (5pm UK time). It’s expected that the company will use it to show off new mobile devices including the iPhone SE and iPad Air 3.
The ad on Apple’s invite contains the phrase ‘Let us loop you in’, suggesting that new Apple Watch models and features will also be unveiled.
There hasn’t been so much as a hint that a new 12-inch MacBook is on the way, but with it being one year since the original raced out of the traps you wouldn’t want to entirely bet against an updated model making an appearance on the Cupertino stage.
Should a new 12-inch MacBook pop its head above the parapet, it could launch around April 10 — the date that the first generation model was released.
12-inch MacBook 2016 price
The cost of the 12-inch MacBook was a bone of contention for many. Its Intel Core M processor, lack of ports and small size made many prospective buyers feel like they weren’t being offered much computer for its not insubstantial price tag.
At £1,049 ($1,299/AUS$1,708), it’s much pricier than the MacBook Air’s starting price of £749 ($1,078/AUS$1,418) and around $100 (£69, or AUS$130) more than the cheapest 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina.
For better or worse, the 12-inch MacBook is certainly a unique computer and one that most rival manufacturers in the Windows camp have struggled to match when it comes to design.
Dell’s impressive XPS 13 matches its lust-worthiness without sacrificing ports or power, and second-tier devices such as the Asus Zenbook UX305 and Toshiba Satellite Radius 12 have successfully combined bag-friendly dimensions with high-resolution displays.
Of course, none of the above run OS X, and there isn’t much to prevent Apple from charging what it feels a successor to the 12-inch MacBook is worth. Once again, it’s not likely to be small change.
12-inc MacBook 2016: What we want to see
Another USB port
No prizes for guessing this one. With just one USB-C port on the 12-inch MacBook, you were forced into a decision between hooking up a single peripheral — such as a keyboard, mouse or monitor — or using an adapter to connect several pieces of hardware at once.
The right adapter allows you to work as you would on a laptop with more ports, and carrying around a small adapter isn’t really a huge deal. However, even the most ardent MacBook fan would admit that it makes for an inelegant setup.
Problems arise when you want to use several USB peripherals concurrently, or switch from a HDMI-equipped monitor to one that connects using DisplayPort (for example). The 12-inch MacBook isn’t designed to flit between such scenarios, and if you want to use it like a desktop, things often get messy. Third-party docks have tried to alleviate the problem, at the cost of a few extra bucks.
All I want is one more USB-C port on the 12-inch MacBook. It would be a little addition that would go a long way.
A keyboard with deeper travel
Everybody has different tastes when it comes to keyboards. You may prefer the shorter travel of laptop-style keyboards, while others enjoy the deeper travel afforded by mechanical ones.
The 12-inch MacBook’s keyboard is extremely shallow and depresses with the lightest of taps — a bit like tapping on a touchscreen.
In the summer last year, Apple launched the Magic Keyboard which sports a similar feel, only with slightly deeper travel. It’s much more comfortable to type on for extended periods, and would be a great fit for a new 12-inch MacBook.
Apple managed to make the 12-inch MacBook incredibly thin while running whisper quiet by using Intel’s Core M processor. One drawback of that decision is that the machine often struggles to multi-task under heavy load, even when running the smoother performing OSX 10.11.
Don’t expect to see a new 12-inch MacBook with an Intel Core i7-6700HQ inside any time soon. Instead, any new model is more likely to feature Intel’s Core m3, m5 and m7 processors which have been used in Windows laptops and 2-in-1s including the aforementioned UX305, Dell’s XPS 12 and the HP Spectre X2.
A bigger display
Yeah, yeah — the 12-inch MacBook’s small stature is all part of its charm, but a bigger display would widen what you can comfortably do on it.
It’s highly likely that Apple is saving such a display for its refreshed 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina, but will that machine be as thin as the 12-inch MacBook? That would take some feat of engineering.
The LG Gram 15 is one example of how to make, yet super-skinny laptop with a high-resolution display that doesn’t weigh a ton. Could the 12-inch MacBook be joined by a larger, similarly-styled model that retains the first-generation model’s charm? We can but dream.
Longer battery life
The 12-inch MacBook has good, but not great battery life. It reminds me of what could be squeezed out of Apple’s Ivy Bridge-powered MacBook Air machines from 2012, which is around seven or eight hours with the display’s brightness set to a level upwards of 75%.
That’s not for a lack of trying: Apple developed up a completely new battery for the 12-inch MacBook that features a terraced, contoured design allowing it to fit comfortably into the machine’s slender chassis.
I’ve been spoiled by battery runtimes afforded by the MacBook Air (and even the MacBook Pro) in recent years. They consistently stretch into double figures, and it would great if the 12-inch MacBook’s successor could achieve such leggy battery life.
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