by Jim Lynch

12-inch MacBook: An Apple redditor’s review

May 24, 2016
Consumer ElectronicsMacBookMobile

Is the 12-inch MacBook worth buying? Forget the reviews by jaded journalists and bloggers, and check out this detailed review by an Apple redditor who loves his MacBook.

Apple’s 12-inch MacBook has gotten a fair amount of negative and dismissive commentary hurled at it by some journalists and bloggers. But why rely on such jaded people for your buying decision? A lot of them seem to suffer from a perennial case of technology boredom, they move from one product to another and seem to have the attention spans of gnats.

An Apple redditor has his own take on the 12-inch MacBook that’s worth reading if you’re considering buying one. And unlike most journalists and bloggers, he actually used the 12-inch MacBook for an entire month before writing about it.

Redditor Iamthehtown shared his thoughts in this detailed review:

So I’ve had the Macbook 12 for about a little over a month now and I’m in a pretty good place to give a review for it if you are curious about it or are shopping around for a new laptop/notebook and I think you really should consider it for reasons I’ll get into later.

Mine is the base model from the previous generation (and ya I’m a little peeved about that, but not too much, since they just released the newest MacBooks which means I recently bought the older one at the new expensive price.. anyways)

This is a contentious machine for sure and opinions are generally all over the place online in professional reviews ranging from some claiming ”The New Retina Macbook is the future of laptops“ to ”Overpriced and Underpowered.” Many reviewers who initially gave it a mediocre rating have amended their initial thoughts a year later to reveal that the Macbook has seemingly become their favourite laptop through extended use- though, not all.

I’ve seen about a one point increase in a score out of ten average across the board in the few reviews I’ve glanced at for the new current models, although professional review reception is still just about Warm at best. The common factor why ratings are seemingly a bit low for “the future of laptops” seems to be a matter of price being just a bit too high for what you are getting. “Terrible keyboard” gets thrown around a lot as well. Also, one port.

The Macbook is ideally for anyone who brings a laptop with them in a bag to work every day and portability is a crucial deciding factor. This is a really portable machine with a light weight, excellent battery life (though, not best in class,) instant-on functionality, and a super quick recharge. I get about 45 minutes to an hour for every 10% of battery when writing or using the web as a conservative estimate with medium screen brightness. It is said that charging for 45 minutes will bring the battery up to 80% but anecdotally I gotta say it feels even a little bit better than that.

When I play a game though, the battery drains really fast. Pillars of Eternity will last maybe two hours on a full charge (which all things considered is still pretty good.) Sometimes I get up to 12 hours of use on a single charge- there may be some background processes at play here that change these numbers.

I would also like to add that if you are tired of hearing the fan on your laptop revving up in bursts like a mini chainsaw when using it, or if you use your computer in bed and are always making sure the fans are not blocked by a blanket or whatever.. this machine will be a joy for you.

Overall, I’d say this is my favourite computer I’ve ever owned though the price is a bitter pill to swallow.

I have had many computers over the years from the Commodore 64 when I was a little kid up to this Macbook. A few desktops, a few laptops from HP, Acer, Gateway, Lenovo, Sony, Macbook Pro 13 (2012,) an Acer Chromebook and now the Macbook 12. I am comfortable with Windows, Linux, Chrome OS, and macOS.

I’m not going to do any pros or cons or break down the laptop point by point. Instead I will address some key features or pointed arguments against the Macbook, in general.

Overall build quality:

Say what you will about Apple pricing but you do get what you pay for. Nothing feels flimsy or cheap. They have been using the same overall design for their MacBooks for a few years now, and an argument can be made that the look is getting a little long in the tooth.. but it is a winner for a reason and I don’t see any compelling reasons to dramatically overhaul the industrial design of their Macbook line- at least until some kind of UI innovation requires a profound change in form.

The Screen, Keyboard and Trackpad:

I’ll get to the keyboard in a minute because that requires a little unpacking to talk about and I do think in this case it really is a matter of taste but MacBooks are known for having if not the best in class than they are among the best in class of keyboards, trackpads, and screens. It is also uncommon to find a laptop with all three being great especially when your budget dips below $1000. Usually on a windows ultrabook there is some kind of concession at play in one of these things. Really, just try one for yourself either in a store or use a friend’s and decide.

This is more or less the same screen on all of Apple’s retina MacBooks, iMacs, and phones. It’s beautiful, vibrant, bright and most importantly you don’t have to dim the display on battery power to use it all day. Medium brightness looks and performs great. A few ultrabooks in this price category offer touch screen or even convertible tablet screens, but these features mean little to nothing for me since I own a tablet and I wouldn’t expect that as a default on all notebooks or MacBooks.

I gotta say, 12 inches feels like a true ideal size for a portable computer. 11 is just a tad too small and 13, while easier on the eyes, sacrifices some portability and added weight. I wouldn’t want a notebook/laptop/ultrabook/whatever bigger than 13 inches and I don’t understand the decision to go bigger unless you use your Macbook for photography or design while on the go and cannot use an external monitor. I know some people swear by the 15 inch MacBooks so I’ll just say to each their own on that. However, the laptop doesn’t fit well in a person’s lap. The size of it requires you to hold your legs together a bit more than usual so that it doesn’t slip and fall between them. That’s something to consider.

The keyboard this time around may take some getting used to. Many people do no like the butterfly keyboard. It is the most common listed Con on professional reviews and many find the travel distance too short when pressing a key, saying that it is almost like typing on a tablet screen because there is so little give. For myself, I now find it weird to use any other keyboard and the keys feel mushy and bulky on anything else.

I do a lot of writing on my computers, I enjoy it (as this review which is getting pretty long already can show you) so you really have to try it in person before relying on the reviews because many people who bought the Macbook feel the same way that I do. It’s great. I also have large hands, 7.5 inch wrists, and typing is comfortable for me though I do make the odd mistake here or there that I wouldn’t with a full size keyboard typically used with a desktop. Also, backlit keys are wonderful when necessary.

It is near unanimous that Apple’s trackpads are best in class. They feel great, perform wonderfully and are nice and big too. Many who haven’t owned a Macbook often think it’s crazy that anyone would care about the trackpad but until you use a great one that is deeply integrated with the OS as well all the little productivity time savers and comforts that come with it, you don’t know what you are missing.

It is my understanding that Windows 10 has finally added gestures for switching between full screen apps and are making good progress toward using a trackpad for more than just clicking and dragging and that’s a good thing because everyone deserves a more comfortable user experience, not just the people who own an Apple computer or use Linux.

Force Touch is really good but I wouldn’t say it’s a primary feature. Clicking down on words for definitions and previewing links is really nice and I use it often. I’d like to see this used with a little more variety in future OS releases.

The Speaker:

Without question, this is a powerful and shockingly loud speaker with great sound quality when you consider how light and small the Macbook is. Easily fills the room with music or audio from a movie. The best I’ve heard on any laptop I’ve owned. The reviewers are glossing over this fact and for me it adds so much value to the Macbook.

One Port:

If your notebook is a docking station for numerous peripherals than I’m sorry but this machine really is not for you. If the idea of paying extra money for the ability to plug in different devices is a sign that Apple are in fact the devil incarnate then this machine is not for you. With a bluetooth mouse there really is very little need for tons of ports in my humble opinion for 95% of people.

If I were still working as a full time DJ I’m not sure if the Macbook 12 would be a great idea for me. There are options, and USB-C will have more affordable and attractive hubs in the coming months that are in full compliance with safety standards, but for now if you cannot divorce all your peripherals or switch to wireless then really you need to consider a Macbook Pro or Air. End of story. For me, I’m fine with the single port and it is not an issue for my needs.

Overpriced and Underpowered:

You’ll get no argument from me that the 12 could be a little cheaper. If Apple were to bundle the 12 with their USB-C three port peripheral they have for sale at the same price then they would have knocked this product out the park and many online reviews would be in the 9/10 range. However, I do have to concede that the Macbook is in the same range as similarly specced, fanless ultrabooks (the newest Pixel managed two USB-C ports!) and though I did say initially that the price was a bitter pill to swallow after having pulled the trigger I am completely happy with everything.

You will not being playing Witcher 3 on this, and yes you can get a desktop for a little over half the price that will (screen not included) but this is an ultra portable machine first and last. On paper, the Macbook looks underpowered with a processor that may make you think Netbook but in actual use, everything is brisk, fast loading, no slowdowns. Even using medium demanding apps like photoshop are great.

If you are not rendering animation, editing feature-length movies, or doing something truly demanding and work related using files that are in the GBs of data then I gotta say.. the “underpowered” Macbook will perform just fine. SSD technology has tremendously made the end user’s life better with a lot less waiting. And current processor capability has outstripped most normal applications demands on the system in day to day use for the next few years at least.

Macbook with a 12 GHz processor would sure look nice as a benefit printed on the box or revealed in an Apple Keynote.. but really, what are you going to do that needs so much power when browsing the web, writing documents, watching movies, creating posters for your DJ night with photoshop, playing around with Reason, Logic Pro, Ableton Live, FL Studio..? The truth is you don’t need a portable computer that can render a full pixar movie over night. I would rather the focus shifting from ultra powerful and resource heavy to the opposite with attention put on user experience, productivity, comfort, battery life, screen, keyboard, trackpad, overall build quality..

If you have money troubles or you are a student then I recommend buying a Chromebook instead for 1/6 the price or less. I’m not a rich man and I cannot scoff at the price I paid, but I have a good job and my living expenses are low when I’m not buying a luxury item Macbook. For me, the price was ok. Macbook Air was pretty expensive too when it first came out and it is still a little pricey for what you get with a bad screen. It feels like this new Macbook is it’s replacement (so get used to it) with an introduced price that is lower than the Air’s 5 years ago. When Apple drops the price on these by around $200–300, which they will in the next three years or so.. you will be seeing a lot more Macbook’s in the wild.

Basically, if a light weight, wonderfully constructed portable computer sounds nice to you: pull the trigger.

More at Reddit

Whew! That’s quite a detailed review for a post on Reddit.  I think it provides a good counterweight to some of the negative commentary that’s been put out about the 12-inch MacBook by some journalists and analysts who have been snidely dismissive of it.

Apple redditors respond to Iamthehtown’s review

As you might imagine, the review got quite a few responses in the accompanying discussion thread. Here’s a selection of those responses, along with some responses by the reviewer:

Ah_23: “Hi there, fantastic & well thought out review my friend. One question, when you’re using the MacBook in bed, is the keyboard a pain to use? I ask because there’s hardly any travel and if you’re typing on an uneven surface like a bed or duvet, then will the MacBook stay steady or not?”

Iamthehtown: “My honest opinion on that is that sometimes my wrists will cramp from pinching my hands towards my body at the wrist.. but this is something I feel with all notebook computers in bed. Using the Macbook in bed is a joy overall, especially with no fan. I prop it up on my leg while sitting against the bed post, usually, though typing with the keyboard flat against my stomach while lying down can be difficult at times, but once again I feel this issue will exist with any notebook computer regardless. ”

Marino4K: “I was traveling last week and I actually saw a surprising amount of the 12″ Macbooks in the airports, it must be growing on people.”

Iamthehtown: “I think that for a businessperson who flies a lot, the macbook is a no-brainer decision if shopping for a new laptop/macbook. It is so light in your bag and the size is just right. Plus, it’s really nice to use. ”

Notffred: “After very briefly using a few of these at work they are definitely growing on me, however I’m still not used to the keyboard, & while I don’t often use peripherals when I do it’s often multiple at once (usually transferring files from external HDD to USB) so the one port is still too hard to swallow. Enjoy your new Macbook!”

Iamthehtown: “You can get a wireless external HD. There are also wireless thumb drives now. Also, I’m looking at this Hub offered by Hootoo

With that said, I do agree with anyone who needs the ports. The Macbook is for people who consider Portability to be the trump card decision maker in buying it. We are not in the 100% wireless future yet and painfully often work related things require a wired connection since the workplace often works at ten years behind cutting edge.

EDIT: I also want to add that the battery life is excellent. There is no reason why you cannot have something else connected to the port while running off battery and doing some kind of work, like transferring files.. albeit, I do admit that is only going to be one thing.”

Booker2121: “This review comes great. I’m deciding to buy or not to buy my first Mac on the next few days. So this review comes very handy thanks!”

Iamthehtown: “If you can afford it and can live without all the ports, go for it. ”

More at Reddit

I’m tempted by the 12-inch MacBook

I’ve been toying with the idea of buying the 12-inch MacBook for quite a while now, but I work at home on a 27-inch iMac. So it’s hard for me to justify spending the money on a laptop that I don’t actually need for work.

But when I read about positive experiences like his, it does make me want to take a drive to the Apple store and snag one. Hopefully I’ll be able to avoid the temptation for at least a little while longer.

It’s great to read about the actual experience of a user versus the rather jaded perspectives of bloggers, journalists and analysts. While no product is perfect, it seems pretty clear that for some users the 12-inch MacBook is a great option for mobile computing.

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