I just lifted Apple's gorgeous new MacBook with a single hand. For a moment, it felt like I was holding nothing at all. It's so light. With a laptop in my left paw, a DSLR camera in my right, only one of them felt substantial. It's the first of many things to love about Apple's new machine. But it's not completely lovable.
Why yes, that is a Retina display, the first on a MacBook anywhere near this thin. And oh gosh is it gorgeous. So, so very very good that even if this machine hadn't just blown my mind with its thinness and lightness, I would want to buy it. Remember when I gave you 5K pictures of Apple's 5K Retina iMac so you could have some vague idea of how much these images pop? I am sorry I didn't have time to do that here, but trust me that there's no way my DSLR photos could do it justice.
What really struck me, though, is that the "Retina" claim of not being able to see any individual pixels still holds up when the laptop's screen was right in front of my eyes, with the keyboard deck pressed up against my chest. Given how thin and light this laptop is, I could totally see myself watching movies and viewing photos, etc, with the new MacBook propped up on my body while lying in bed.
Note that the screen is glossy rather than matte, though, which could make it difficult for some work environments. And it's still not a touchscreen.
Stunning, super compact, and surprisingly rigid. I'm really happy Apple decided to get rid of the wide keyboard deck of the MacBook Air and its vast swaths of aluminum. The new MacBook's footprint is way more like an iPad than a MacBook Air, and I find that very attractive. The hinge still only opens to the angle you see in these images, but that looks like plenty for most lap and desk scenarios. Oh, and that gold color? It's really not all that gaudy!
I figured that a MacBook this thin and light might not be super durable, but I gave it a quick twist and it feels as rigid as we've come to expect from the MacBook Air line. The aluminum flexes a little bit, but the strength is clearly there.
Apple's new Force Touch pad sounded a little bit gimmicky during the announcement... but I love it. I love it so much. Not because it's easy to press like the laptop buttons of yesteryear—it's not—but because it's so smart. Forget copy and pasting text when you want to look up an address or add events to a calendar: Mac OS is now smart enough to do those things automatically the moment you push down on the trackpad.
You just physically push down harder—the sensitivity's adjustable—to take an action on what looks like plain text on the web or even in a text document, and boom, you're getting shit done.
Waiting for the other shoe to drop? The keyboard on this new MacBook makes me want to cry a little. Like the rest of the machine, it's so thin... but when it comes to keyboards, thin is usually bad. And as hard as Apple tried to create a fancy new type of keyboard switch to make a thin keyboard work well, this one felt pretty iffy to my experienced laptop reviewer fingers.
It's precise, which is a different thing from comfortable. When I deliberately pushed myself to type very quickly and very very lightly on the keyboard such that I wasn't crushing the keys like so many little pieces of cereal, I could definitely make it work. Here was one such result:
And when you're typing lightly, you can type quickly, which maybe you could spin as a plus... but god damn are these keys thin and I don't really like them at all. Maybe I'll get used to them—I got used to the original MacBook Air's keys—but these felt super awkward.
Super awesome that they still managed to cram a backlight into this model.
USB Type-C sounds amazing. And it looks pretty good, too. I don't necessarily relish the idea of having to carry around adapters for all my legacy devices—even existing USB flash drives won't fit in this thing—but at least I only need to carry one of them. And there's still a traditional 3.5mm headphone jack on the other side for your tunes. 3.5mm isn't dead yet, folks!
Over the past seven years, the MacBook Air has evolved from an underpowered status symbol to a dependable if boring workhorse of a machine. The new MacBook, its successor, is a gorgeous featherlight computer. But I wonder if it's back to being an impractical PC too. Starting at a way-pricier-than-MacBook Air $1300... with a slower Core M processor... and a crazy-thin, somewhat uncomfortable keyboard... requiring a dongle to get your USB and video-out ports... it's not the totally practical package the MacBook Air was.
But I guess it doesn't need to be: the MacBook Air will stick around. As long as you can live with that old, outdated screen.
It's going to be really hard to walk into an Apple Store and buy an Air after seeing this beauty.
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.