The MacBook Air was Apple's thinnest Mac ever until Monday. On Monday, Apple revealed their new design for the MacBook, and it is a truly dramatic change. The new MacBook is thinner than any Mac before it, including the MacBook Air. The MacBook will come with a retina display, a new keyboard design, a new trackpad, and just one port. What's more, the internals are mostly batteries, and the logic board is small and very power efficient. The MacBook won't be Apple's fastest portable, but it will be more than fast enough for the average user. The MacBook has one final space saver that also saves power, and that's a lack of a fan. Processors get quite warm, so going without a fan requires some precise engineering. However, that's just what Apple has done: precise engineering.
The new MacBook has a completely reengineered keyboard. Most laptop keyboards use a scissor switch, a mechanism that collapses and springs back up for each key, but doesn't feel very sturdy. Apple redesigned this mechanism with what they're calling a butterfly switch. This takes up far less space, and makes the keys more stable. Apple also placed an LED under each key, which actually uses less electricity than their previous backlighting techniques. There has been some critisism over the new key switches though. According to journalists who took an early look at the new MacBook, the keyboard has very little travel, making it feel like the user is almost typing on a flat surface, like a touch screen. This is, of course, still better than some of the switchless keyboards that have been released for tablets like the Microsoft Surface, but likely won't feel as good as a full keyboard. Perhaps users can just use this keyboard when they're on the go, and at their desks, they'll have a nice mechanical keyboard with Cherry MX switches.
Apple's touchpad has been unique in the laptop market as well. It's a full multitouch trackpad, and the entire trackpad is the click button. It has a variety of built-in gestures and clicks, with additional customizability through apps like BetterTouchTool. The click mechanism was always a bit strange though. The top of the trackpad is held in place, only the bottom moves down when pressed. Picture pressing on a diving board. The new trackpad, however, is completely different, and vastly improved. First, the user can press on any part of the track pad and feel it click. Secondly, it's force sensitive, which means that, like the Apple Watch, it can tell the difference between a tap and a forceful tap. Force clicks can be used for a variety of functions, picture a third mouse button, if you will. The travel and force needed to press the trackpad down is even customizable, and when the MacBook is powered off, the trackpad just feels like a solid piece of glass. Using Apple's taptic engine, the trackpad can vibrate slightly, giving it a feeling of texture.
The screen is an impressive 12″ retina display, with a resolution of 2304×1440, 226 pixels per inch. That resolution will make the display look incredibly crisp. It's also Apple's thinnest display to date, allowing the MacBook to remain extremely portable when folded up. That thin size also allows Apple to light the display with a lower intensity backlight, saving even more electricity, one of the many things that give the MacBook incredible battery life.
The MacBook can last up to 9 hours of wireless web browsing. When I was in college I was the only person in class using a laptop to take notes in many of my classes. Many people just couldn't use their laptops because they wuld run out of power, but my MacBook would last through over 4 hours of classes in a row without issue every day. With the display tured down and wifi off, I probably could have gotten it to ast for 7 hours. Back then, that was very impressive. 9 hours with full brightness and wifi use though? That's incredible, and begins to give even the iPad a run for its money. Turning the WiFi off for note taking would probably allow the new MacBook to last as long as you can stay awake.
The MacBook gets that fantastic battery life using a number of techniques. First, it uses an admittedly slower Intel M processor. These processors aren't as fast as the Core i3/5/7 processors in the MacBook Pros, but they're more than fast enough for web browsing, school work, and business professionals. However, movie editing, photo editing, and gaming are best left up to the MacBook Pros. The processor uses just 5 watts of electricity though, which is less than half of the power used by your average CFL bulb. Apple also made a compact logic board, which means electricity doesn't have to travel as far and therefore can use less power, and flash memory, which doesn't use nearly as much power as a spinning disk. The low heat of the Intel M processor along with some creative engineering means Apple could make the first MacBook that doesn't have a fan, but instead can use passive cooling. This is quite an acheivement for a device. One can't help but remember the Mac G4 Cube, which also didn't use a fan due to its design, but would overheat if anything was placed on top of it. The new MacBook won't have that issue. The lack of a fan means the MacBook can be thinner, and it's one less moving part to power with electricity. Finally, there's the battery itself, which is an invention of Apple's making. Instead of using the block shaped batteries most manufacturers use, Apple's battery is contoured to fill the space in the MacBook, making sure there's no wasted space for air within the notebook. The batteries take up most of the space on the inside of the case.
The new MacBook is also greener than its predecessors. It's the first to use a solid piece of aluminum for the case and frame, which makes it more recyclable. It's mostly made of arsenic-free glass and aluminum, which makes it highly recycable. Apple also removed any traces of mercury, beryllium, PVC, and BFRs from the MacBook. This not only protects the environment, but also makes for slightly safer working conditions withing Apple's manufacturing plant.
There's just one port on the MacBook, even for charging, and no, it's not a lightning port. It's a new USB-C port, which is a reversable and compact form of USB. This can charge the device, as well as transfer all kinds of data. It can be used with a standard USB hub to make it backwards compatable, transfer data to and from hard drives, and output HDMI / DVI / VGA video. The MacBook can power a display with a higher than HD resolution without issue, using only this one port.
The new MacBook comes in two configurations. The first will cost $1,299, and the second is $1,599. The only differences between the two are the processors and storage. The less expensive model has a 1.1GHz Core M processor with turbo boost up to 2.4GHz. The other has a 1.2GHz processor with turbo boost up to 2.6GHz. Both can be configured with a 1.3GHz processor with 2.9GHz turbo boost. But if you're buying this laptop, you're not doing it for insane processor speeds. The storage space is 256GB and 512GB. All models come in your choice of space gray, silver, or a new color option, gold. The new MacBook will go on sale soon. For many, it might be the perfect step between an iPad and a MacBook Pro.