2015 MacBook Review

I recently evaluated Apple’s past decade of laptops, and came to the conclusion that laptops have stagnated. Last week, I bought the base model MacBook in space gray.

I rescind my conclusion. The MacBook is my favorite computer ever.

My previous favorite was the 11” Air. I’ve used various incarnations since its late 2010 release. The Air is a nice laptop: small, light, reasonably quick. But it has some issues, the biggest being the screen. The Air’s TN display in 1366x768 is tolerable, but that’s pretty much all it is. The MacBook completely fixes that issue, while removing weight and adding style.

The MacBook’s display is gorgeous. Its native resolution is 2304x1440, but the default scaling isn’t 2:1. Instead of a jumbo 1152x720 UI, the effective resolution is 1280x800. This gives the MacBook as much screen real estate as the 13” Retina MacBook Pro. Apple’s display settings let you go to 1400x900. Things work fine at that resolution, though switching desktops isn’t as smooth.

Overall, performance is similar to my 2013 Air, which has a Haswell-based 1.3GHz Core i5. The MacBook is a little slower at sustained tasks, such as compiling large programs. It took 6:30 to compile io.js v1.8.1, compared to 5:30 on my Air. I also notice some slight stuttering if I switch desktops while building projects in IntelliJ. This is similar to my Air’s behavior when plugged into a cinema display.

Battery life is a non-concern. Depending on what I’m doing, I can get anywhere from 5 to 12 hours unplugged. With my typical dev environment running, battery life is just above 8 hours. This is significantly better than my 2013 Air. Although both laptops have similar best-case endurance, I could exhaust the Air in 90 minutes with the right workload.

Lastly, I really like the keyboard. It feels as if the keys are made of mouse buttons: short travel, but sharp. Fortunately, they aren’t as loud as mouse buttons. If anything, typing is quite quiet. After a week of typing on the MacBook, other laptop keyboards feel like I’m pressing my fingers into ground beef.

Bottom line: It’s beautiful, light, and more than fast enough for my needs. If you have the cash, I say go for it.

Addendum: I’ve read comments to the effect of, “I’ll wait for the next version with two USB ports.” I doubt the MacBook will ever have more than one USB-C port. Remember, the keyboard abuts the side. The only areas where ports wouldn’t intersect with the keyboard are already taken: USB-C on the left, headphone jack on the right. Adding another USB-C port would require sacrificing the headphone jack. I doubt that will happen any time soon.

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