Review: My MacBook 12″ Experience

At the end of last year, I was carrying a large laptop bag between meetings and at times I was really struggling. It felt like I was carrying weights. Running between various offices and locations for meetings made it a little tough at times. A retina MacBook Pro 13″, an iPad Pro 12.9″, several files and folders, a power bank and a power brick. At times, I might have two computers on me as well.

I felt like I needed a bit of a change and decided to sell my retina MacBook Pro to my sister and I sold off my iPad Pro 12.9″. I dusted off an old iPad Mini 2 and bought a second-hand MacBook 12″ 2015 model. In truth, I have always liked the MacBook 12″, it was small and light but yet had a retina display compared to the older MacBook Air. I had my doubts about the performance of the MacBook 12″ and after a month of using it, here is what I have to say.

Oh yeah, my shoulders are thanking me for the change in weight as well. 

Let’s first see what good ole Jony Ive has to say. 

I really am a sucker for videos like that. 

Lots and lots of dongles

It’s a Dongle Life

How does it feel moving away from the retina 13″ MacBook Pro to the 12″ MacBook? Well, the first thing which hit me was that I needed to buy a lot of dongles as the 12″ MacBook had only a single USB-C port. I carry with me 2 USB-C ports, one for HDMI output and one for VGA (there are still a number of projectors being used with VGA connections). 

Because USB-C isn’t that mainstream (Apple is getting a lot of flak for only having 4 USB-C ports for their new MacBook Pros), dongles and docks are extremely expensive. As I only have just a single USB-C port, all of my dongles require me to have a power pass through feature, meaning that I am able to charge my device whilst hooking it up to a monitor or other USB devices. 

Recently at CES 2017, plenty of manufacturers started offering USB-C docks which looks damn attractive and also very practical except when it comes to the price point. At USD$299, Malaysians are looking at a dock for more than RM1,000. The only hope is that as USB-C becomes affordable in the near future. 

Typing with the MacBook

The keyboard takes a bit of getting used to thanks to the new butterfly mechanism but after 2 weeks, I am slowly getting used to it. Where I am making mistakes is usually related to a combination of keys, for example, pressing shift+1 to get the exclamation mark. Another area I have to get used to are the arrow keys. Not too sure why Apple decided to make it such that the right and left arrow keys so large. 

I did let my boss try out the keyboard recently as I needed a document to be reviewed and the response I got was that of someone who just can’t get used to it. I am glad that the new 2016 MacBook Pros have a slightly longer travel distance making the keyboard a little bit more bearable. 

Working with Applications

The apps which I normally use on a daily basis would be the following:

  • Microsoft Outlook, Excel, Word & Powerpoint – Creating and editing documents as well as preparing presentations
  • Wunderlist – Keeping track of my to-do lists
  • Evernote – I take all my notes on this app including snapping receipts and storing them as a notebook
  • Google Chrome – web access, chrome remote desktop and ChromeCast
  • LINE, Telegram, WhatsApp – Collaboration and chat tools
  • Google Drive, Dropbox & Amazon Cloud Drive – File storage
  • 1Password & eWallet – Password management
  • PhotoBulk, Pixlr, Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom CC – mild editing work

In truth, I haven’t faced many issues with any of the applications above with the occasional office document crashing (happens randomly and rarely). It’s great for presentations and capturing notes on Evernote. 

Charging on the go

As much as Apple would like to say that it has all-day battery life, it doesn’t. Not especially with the amount of things I run concurrently at once. But with such a small footprint, the MacBook doesn’t require a heavy ass charger which many other laptops require. The size is one that is similar to an iPad and since it runs on USB-C and on lower power requirements, I can charge my MacBook with a power bank. I bought the Xiaomi 20,000mAh Mi Power Bank and am absolutely satisfied with it’s size, weight and performance. 

Loud Speakers!

I was pleasantly surprised by how loud the speakers were. Over the month I had to show a couple of videos in my presentation to a room full of people and not only did I not have to connect the MacBook to an audio system of sorts, the speakers were loud and clear enough so that everyone could even hear the dialogue from the video. Amazing! Although the MacBook does come with a 3.5mm audio jack which seems to have disappeared from the iPhone 7, I haven’t had the need to want to plug in any earphones into the MacBook. 

Price, oh Price!

With the current exchange rate, prices have increased and the current 2016 MacBook base model is sold at RM5,289. Compared to the base models of Dell’s XPS series and HP’s Spectre, it is cheaper if you were to compare on a base spec comparison. But the Dell and HP are equipped with better processors and have larger screens. Apple being Apple of course are known for pairing amazing operating systems with their hardware so hardware specs are never in a direct orange-to-orange comparison with other manufacturers. 

Build Quality and Handling

Like every other Apple product, build quality is amazing. The model I am using is Space Grey which also meant that if I were to have little nicks and scratches on it, it is damn visible thanks to the contrast. Hold it felt nice due to it’s sleekness and using it without a mouse is really easy thanks to it’s ultra large trackpad. As much as many will argue that Windows based laptops are just as great as Apple ones, they all fall short when it comes to the trackpad. The MacBook does feel a little fragile at times due to it being so small and thin that at times I am afraid I might accidentally sit on it (sometimes I just leave it on the sofa at home). 

Model MacBook 12″ Dell XPS 13 LG Gram 15″ Fujitsu Lifebook 13″ Razer Blade Stealth
Weight 920 grams 1220 grams 980 grams 800 grams 1270 grams

Photo and Video Editing

In truth, I haven’t had the chance to fully utilise it for either of those tasks above as I normally stick with a desktop PC instead for heavy lifting. There have been some rave reviews that the spunky little MacBook is capable of editing and exporting 4K footage like a boss. Still, I would assume those tests were mostly using iMovie or Final Cut Pro which is optimised for the Mac OS.

Conclusion

Overall the MacBook plays an important role in my day-to-day activities. I love how light and portable it is and I also admire it’s battery life. If there were a wishlist of items that I want in a refreshed 2017 MacBook would a more powerful processor and the ability to support up to 16Gb of RAM which rumour has it, might be introduced in Q2 2017. 

Yes, people are going to complain about the single USB-C port, yes, people are going to complain how pricey the dongles are but in truth, it is a one time purchase and I haven’t had any other need to get specialised dongles or docks for the MacBook. My single dongle has been able to support my current day-to-day workflow quite well. By the way, don’t be cheap with the dongle, I have had colleagues who bought some China made ones which failed after a month of use. So beware! 

As I am typing this, my colleague was also admiring the MacBook and I said straight to him, if I were to replace it, it would probably be another MacBook. Perhaps in Gold colour instead.