The MacBook: sleek design, brilliant screen but expensive

The MacBook: sleek design, brilliant screen but expensive
PHOTO: Apple

After using the 11-inch MacBook Air for four years, I was ready to plonk down cash for the 13-inch MacBook Air this year. Then I saw the gorgeous 12-inch MacBook Apple released earlier this year.

It is a good looker, nicely contoured, and it feels good to the touch. It weighs less than 1kg - about 100 gm lighter the Air and is only 13mm thin. I could not wait to buy it online in Singapore as it would take four to six weeks to arrive. I bought mine recently from the Apple store in San Francisco where I had been on a work trip.

More later on my reasons for buying the MacBook.

This is the first time Apple has a 12-inch machine in its laptop line-up of MacBook Air and MacBook Pro.

Users must be aware that they can only choose between a 1Ghz 256GB flash drive or a 1.2Ghz 512GB flash drive. The 8GB memory and Intel HD Graphics 5300 are fixed. This is unlike other Apple laptops where additional memory and more powerful processors and/or graphics cards can be added.

But for the first time, users can choose the laptop's colour. In addition to silver, there are two new colours, space grey and gold. The MacBook is taking a leaf from its siblings, the iPhone and iPad which also comes in these three shades. Colours maybe a small matter but it lets users create a special bonding with their Apple mobile devices when all of them are in one shade. My iPhone, iPad and MacBook are in space grey.

USB-C connector

The MacBook is unusual in that it has one port called USB-C and it is one that virtually nothing you currently own can plug into. The other port is a regular headphone jack.

The USB-C is a relatively new standardwhich supports everything from charging to connecting peripherals. Apple and other vendors sell adaptors that let you connect to other accessories like printers, external screens and thumb drives and which also let you re-charge at the same time. I used a USB-C to USB adapter that connected to a multi-USB hub. In turn this was connected to an external hard drive and a printer. It worked effortlessly.

While offices and public places are increasingly blanketed with wi-fi, the reality is people are still tethered to some devices like our external screens and hard drives for work and for pleasure. Apple is among the first to use USB-C in its laptops. Dell, Lenovo and Hewlett-Packard and other companies will soon unveil their tablets and phones that will use the USB-C.

Apple incorporated one port ostensibly for the lack of space. At just 13.1mm thick, its base is dominated by batteries. The new batteries are terraced and contoured in sheets, so they fit snugly inside the MacBook's tapered enclosure.

Battery life and Force Sensors

Unfortunately the MacBook cannot match the Air's incredible 12 hours of battery life. But its nine-hour battery life still works for me. It was my constant companion throughout the work day. My interview notes are done on it. I do online research, email and write my stories on it, throughout the day which could last almost 10 hours.

The MacBook sports a new, flatter-style keyboard, allowing the laptop to be thinner. I am a touch typist used to having a good "spring" in the keys. Initially it felt odd since the keys do not "travel" as much. I had to use less force, type "lighter" but once I got used to it, I can type very quickly and accurately.

The machine also gets a new Force Touch trackpad that has Force Sensors and a taptic engine. Press down harder to get a deeper-feeling click. This sets off other secondary functions such as a Calendar entry, previewing Web links in the browser, or a Wikipedia tab. If you are watching a video on QuickTime for example, the harder you press, the faster it plays back.

Again this needs adjustment to get used to the Force Touch. You can adjust how hard you want to press in Settings. The first few times can be frustrating as you try to get the "force" just right. It does require practice and patience.

Why I bought the MacBook

My MacBook Air is working fine but I wanted a wider screen and keyboard. Typing on the 11-inch keyboard for more than three hours at a stretch can scrunch up the shoulders and is tiring. I was looking for a laptop with a bigger screen.

I can understand why some users would give the MacBook a miss. It is expensive at $1788. In comparison the 13-inch MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro cost $1488 and $1688 respectively. Users will also miss the additional ports while the flatter keyboard and force sensors of the MacBook can be frustrating.

However, its sleek design, light weight and brilliant screen won me over. I wanted a machine that I can carry everyday to work. At less than 1 kg, it will not dig into my shoulder when I have it in my tote or satchel. The 12-inch screen also makes a difference, offering more real estate space. My shoulders also feel less tired after working long hours.

Is the laptop fast enough to cope with what I do in a day? If I am a Steven Spielberg wannabe and need to edit special effects for a movie, the MacBook is inadequate. But if you like me work mostly with text, surf, play simple games and watch some online videos, then the MacBook is good. Besides, its gorgeous look is also a good conversation starter.

What enhances the sleek design is the retina display. It has a type of IPS (in-plane switching) LCD screen that offers fantastic viewing angles, whether it is from the side or with the screen dipped forward.

That's not all. Apple has reinvented the laptop and turned it into an engineering marvel. It is made from an all-new unibody structure with no internal fan for the first time ever. It contains the smallest and densest logic board that is 67 per cent smaller than the one in the 11-inch MacBook Air. The battery are re-designed into contoured sheets.

I am going to enjoy the MacBook.

For detailed technical specifications go to http://store.apple.com/sg/buy-mac/macbook.

Grace Chng is senior correspondent with The Straits Times.

 

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