Why We Should Be Very Pleased With Apple’s 2016 MacBook

| Editorial

On April 19th, Apple announced an update to the 2015 12-inch MacBook. But the extent of the update didn't suit many observers. By some distorted logic, many didn't know what to expect (except Skylake processors), but when they finally saw it, they were disappointed. Why is that?

Image credit: Apple

Actually, I'll argue, we should be quite pleased. Let me explain.

1. Here's what Apple thought was important to highlight. "Apple Updates MacBook with Latest Processors, Longer Battery Life & New Rose Gold Finish."

2. Here's what many observers noted. For the class of the CPU, compared to, say, the MacBook Air, the price is too high. In other words, the conceit is that the only thing that should drive the price is the overall CPU power of the notebook. It is asked, why buy an underpowered MacBook with a Core m3/m5/m7 that remains underpowered?

The Buyer Psychology

I think there are several reasons for the power-user mentality. First, many observers may not appreciate the engineering tradeoffs that are made. If they, perhaps, were to intern with Apple from the design to shipment phase, they'd see how factors such as a fanless design, the battery capacity (41 watt-hour), the best available processors from Intel, and the interior remaining space (and thickness of the lid) all create a set of engineering compromises that must result in a product up to Apple's standards.

For example, the thickness of the MacBook lid probably puts a design constraint on available technology for the resolution of the FaceTime camera at 480p. Want 720p? Really, really need 720p? Tell Apple you want a thicker notebook that weighs more. Or select a different model.

Two USB-C ports is good, but requires some engineering to deal with the doofus who decides to plug in two chargers at once to get "you know, faster charge time!" That engineering costs time and money. But the complainers want a lower cost.

After all those engineering decisions were successfully made by the intern, they'd be proud of what they had achieved instead of being critical.

Secondly, what's overlooked is that we as customers are not paying for blazing CPU/GPU speed per dollar spent. In this product, we're paying for a thin, lightweight notebook that happens to look very cool, comes in a variety of technically pleasing colors, and uses the latest USB-C technology. (Even though there is no Thunderbolt 3 in this entry-class MacBook.)

A litmus test of the critical approach is to ask, "If you want more CPU power, why not select a MacBook Air with a Core i5?" The answer might well be that the keyboard is too clunky, it's not ready for a USB-C future, and it doesn't have a Retina display. "Then why not get a 2015 MacBook Pro?" The answer may well be that it doesn't have Skylake CPUs. And. besides, it's too expensive.

This thought experiment reveals that many critical observers don't wish to cope with hardware and cost fundamentals. They want every cool thing, rolled into their ideal notebook, and they have specific ideas about how much they think it should all cost to meet their budget.

And yet, from what we've heard, the 2015 MacBook has been selling really, really, well. Could it be that Apple has a better handle on what the customers want than any single observer? Gulp.

Next page: What Apple Has Actually Achieved Here

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Two USB-C ports is good, but requires some engineering to deal with the doofus who decides to plug in two chargers at once to get “you know, faster charge time!” That engineering costs time and money. But the complainers want a lower cost.

So they spent all that time and money coming up with Rose Gold. And really a “charge from only one port at a time switch” is not that hard.

Tell Apple you want a thicker notebook that weighs more.

Many of us have but Apple is on a truly anorexic quest for thinner. It’s gotten to be unhealthy.

I understand the difficulty of engineering something. How trade offs must be made. I work for an engineering company. That’s not the issue. Priorities are. I guess it looks more and more that Apple is going away from one of its founding principles; the computer for the rest of us. You know the thinker, the creator, the rule breaker, the one who thinks outside of the box? Increasingly it looks like we’re being tossed aside in favour of the shallow fashionistas that don’t demand a lot of their computers but are willing to pay a lot for a computer that matches their pink blazer. Those of us who use the Mac as a tool are left behind with Apple putting all of their efforts into designer MacBooks, and expensive watches, while dumbing down their pro software and letting moss grow on the Mac Pro.

If we are angry it’s because we are the users that stuck with Apple through the lean years. We kept buying Macs because we knew why they were better. We defended OS9 for gods sakes. And now it increasingly looks like Apple has forgotten its purpose, forgotten it’s roots, forgotten us.

So no I am not pleased with the new MAcBook. It’s thin and light and neat looking, and anemic, and a poor value for the money. Apple shyouls have not put it’s effort into that last oz and mm and rather put it into making it a better value. And if the current MacBook is selling like hotcakes then I have no trouble in saying they’ve just cornered the fashionista market that does not understand these things. How many more would they have sold if it were $899 though a mm thicker?

Lastly “if I don’t like the MacBook get a MacBook Pro”. I am planning to. Unless of course it matches your description from yesterday. Then I may have to explore other options because that would really be the final nail in the coffin for “Apple makes the computer for the rest of us.”


I have a MacBook Pro 15” retina (2014), and it is the best laptop I have ever had.  At the same time I am not going to complain about the new MacBook because that is not the laptop for me.

Back when I was in college and running around everywhere all day, I would be super excited about the new MacBook.

I thought Apple would have made the single USB-C port a Thunderbolt 3 port as well.  However, I wonder if this is more of a limitation from Intel and the coreM processors then it is an Apple design decision.

I think WWDC is going to be really interesting this year with many possible hardware changes across the board.  I am also hoping that the new MacOS will get a Swift rewrite from the ground up.

Also, I know this is little bit off topic, but I am going to recant my previous complaints about the new MacPro.  I have been shopping around recently for workstations from HP, Dell, and Lenovo, and it has been an eye opening experience.

As a small business owner I wear a lot of different hats and I usually look for computers that can do a lot of different things.  Sure there are PC workstations that are really good at video, or others that are good at music recording, but the MacPro is good at everything. 

So as someone who bounces from many different forms of media creation I cannot find a better machine then the MacPro.  I really hope that the MacPro gets an update at WWDC, because that will definitely be my next computer.


Maybe so, but I and many professionals I know did not go around sighing for 20% more speed or 20% more Wall street sex factor (Rosebud and Gold colors which are really really creepy by my personal standards).

We longed for real estate displays - retina or not retina - of about 15”. Why 15? Because a videographer on a location and a musician at a concert needs to reed true colors and true sound controls.

And, boy, did we long for ports to communicate with our soundcards and video converters and a ton of other gear that still plays a main role in the industry because big laptop providers like Apple give a shit about poper sound and imaging.

I respect if you, John, can do with a one port lady laptop in a wimpsy aluminium kitchen machine color tone. I would, say, go so far as to buy you a nice little lady handbag for your beloved 12”.

But there’s a sweet little minority who have to go to work every day to feed a family and get things going. Please do not forget that, and eventually give your friends over at Apple’s a tiny hint. Thanks!

Peter Larsen

“Here’s what Apple really did achieve for the same price as last year.

  New Core m3/m5/m7 processors are about 20 percent faster than last year’s.
  “New Intel HD Graphics 515 deliver up to 25 percent faster graphics performance.” [From Apple.]
  Faster 1866 MHz memory access compared to last year’s 1600 MHz”

Actually, intel achieved this by making the skylake processor, apple did nothing except slot it into last years hardware.


I agree with the above comments but I’m not going to complain until I see the entire line up of this year’s machines because the MacBook one is perhaps not for me (but neither is the MBP, I am quite pleased with the MBA).

What I do find interesting is something I ran across on the Internet when wondering about graphics card updates for my aging iMac or how to get a laptop to play top of the line video games. You can get a graphics card that plugs in to one of the fancy new ports (I forget if it is USB-C or Thunderbolt 3). Since Apple has made most of their machines non-upgradable it might be an interesting solution to deliberately buy a low end machine and use a user-swappable external graphics card. It would work well if that was part of a docking station setup too. All my stuff in a light, portable form factor but the latest games when docked at home.


Peter Larson wrote:

Actually, intel achieved this by making the skylake processor, apple did nothing except slot it into last years hardware

A Skylake-equiped MacBook is certainly an improvement but not an innovative Apple upgrade IMO. Hopefully, an nMP update will delight us.


Well said geoduck, well said !

Apple’s almost OCD/Anal preoccupation with thinness/lightness has gone from the practical to the absurd !

iMac’s that can’t be opened without a special “pizza cutter” tool and replacement double sided tape. Portables that can’t have their RAM upgraded, because Apple “decided” to shave off a millimetre by dropping RAM sockets.

These are not value for money improvements.
They’re so Apple can announce that this year’s model is x millimetres thinner, or y milligrams lighter than last year.

That’s just stupid.

It’s like me chopping off a leg so I can announce that I lost weight. And then repeating a year later. What then ?
Get my arms chopped off, just so I can continue announcing that I’m even lighter ?


furbies wrote:

iMac’s that can’t be opened without a special “pizza cutter” tool and replacement double sided tape. Portables that can’t have their RAM upgraded, because Apple “decided” to shave off a millimetre by dropping RAM sockets

Apple’s designs are clearly business decisions and not whimsical based on some form over function theory.  Planned obsolescence might be factor and clearly the demand for a particular product line makes a difference (i.e. with several newer available Xeons, the 2013 MacPro has not received a CPU bump as the MacBook did yesterday ).


John et al:

One is bemused by the level of angst, indeed anger, over Apple’s updated MacBook. I am reminded of one of Ted Landau’s reviews (a truly gifted and insightful writer whose comments here I sorely miss) of an iPod Nano update, which he excoriated. I recall opining that perhaps this was simply not a device for him. I further recall the initial release of the MBA, to mixed reviews, which garnered no small amount of ridicule and hostility from the Apple user blogosphere. At that time, one reviewer, perhaps here at TMO, commented that, if one did not grasp the value proposition of the MBA, then this was simply not a device for them. I believe this to be a universal adage for all products of any type from any manufacturer. Personally, there are many Apple products, for example desktop computers of any type, that I am simply not interested in for myself, although I buy iMacs for my family.

Your points are well taken, sir. Still, I discount the criticism that Apple are making notebooks thin for fashion’s sake alone. A key feature of laptops and other ‘portable’ computers is that they are, well, ‘portable’. I view what Apple are doing with the MacBook in much the same way I see car manufacturers using F1 to test innovations for their flagship cars. I have no doubt that this reduction in mass with expansion of both power and battery life will find its way into the next iteration of the venerable MBP.

Why? Simple. I can do multiple reps of power deadlifts with the equivalent of my body weight. Hefting my ‘portable’ computer should not count as one of my workouts. For most of my colleagues, at any rate, porting their laptop means going from car to office or home. Mere minutes of work. I could do that with my daughter’s 21” iMac, which weighs only 6kg (12.5lbs), with no trouble. And for most of these colleagues, I argue that the imperative for them to have a portable computer is minimal to non-existent, as they use it virtually as a desktop. For most hours of most days, it sits in one location. If the only rationale for them to cart it home at the end of the day is to check the odd email or surf the Internet, they could do the same with an iPad or even their iPhone - worse that’s what most of them do! Many of these people would actually be happier with a desktop iMac (bigger screen, potentially more storage, more ports, etc, etc) and simply port an iPad to and fro.

Me? I’m hauling my ‘portable’ over rough terrain in bad weather, from main office to field office, from field office to the field, then back to the field office, thence to main office - and don’t get me started about long haul flights through cavernous international airports with long layovers. In short, at the end of my workday, I’m feeling the burn from a good workout courtesy of my ‘portable’ MBP; and although I appreciate a good workout, hauling my ‘portable’ shouldn’t count as one. Now, I could start steroid injections to boost my muscle mass (and box my kidneys in the process, but hey) or hope that Apple can reduce my work (force/distance) by reducing the mass of my ‘portable’.

Mind you, I still need the power and capability of the MBP for analysing massive datasets, generating graphics and what-have-you, but what I wouldn’t give to have a more portable friendly but powerful computer.

As the Second Law avers, there is no free lunch. Costs have to made. I’m prepared to shift that cost away from my back to my wallet in order to purchase hubs for any additional ports that my less massive MBP might lack, which has the added benefit of letting me customise my MBP’s expanded capabilities.

In sum; I think that each user has to objectively examine their individual use case, get the device combination that addresses it, and ignore the options that do not. Indeed, they should view Apple’s mass reduction/power expansion exercises as principles that will work their way into devices they do use, albeit in modified form. If they did so, I’d be willing to bet that many who require powerful workstations would modify their arsenal and pair down their portables; while still others would need only a more modest portable of any kind.


wab95 wrote:

Still, I discount the criticism that Apple are making notebooks thin for fashion’s sake alone

Yes, thinner and lighter make sense for a portable but Apple’s pursuit of iMac thinness leaves me less than sanguine and wondering.


Apple’s almost OCD/Anal preoccupation with thinness/lightness has gone from the practical to the absurd !

Agreed. I respect wab95’s argument about lightness, but Apple’s thinness obsession is counter-productive, IMO. When a device is unwieldy or slippery or uncomfortable to hold due to being too thin, Apple has wasted resources and made compromises they don’t need to make. Do they pay much heed to how it feels to hold it, aside from weight?


A single port is a deal breaker. Apple should bring standards like Thunderbolt 3 and USB 3.1 Type-C Generation 2 to all devices, including Mac and iOS. And SDXC supporting read/write maximum speed (300 Mb/s).


Hello John, you mentioned what Apple actually achieved. It’s not clear to me what they’ve achieved as the CPU and Intel graphics are Intel’s achievements not Apple’s. The extra hour of battery life is a direct consequence of the above, at least in a big part. What Apple did not achieve with the refresh would also be an interesting article. All the best.


This is ridiculous, I have been a MacBook Pro user for at least 10 years, and I have also installed IMac and MacBook Pro systems for clients, and the latest MacBook Pro is useless. Also, I don’t think we (as users) should be so forgiving in comments to Apple regarding this misnamed iPad.

It is not a laptop, it is not a MacBook Pro, and it is not a useful product without all the connectors needed for effective business and personal use as a Laptop computer ... go back to the 2010, 0r 2011 case with all the connectors a user needs (without requiring adaptors that always get lost).
Professional users are not confused by CPU speed or chip sets, but they can be confused when they are trying to connect to a CAT-5 ethernet cable and can’t ... or when they want to transfer files from a camera flash drive to a USB (and can’t), or even if they are forced to buy an external Hub to combine multiple USB devises through a “Thunderbolt” connector that does not exist exist (again- can’t do???). Cant even connect to an HDMI TV screen for presentations. Whats up Doc !!!
This “Thing” may be a skinny IPad with a big screen, but it is not a MacBook Pro Laptop computer that I can use as a “Workhorse”.
I assure you—most humans have never had a problem carrying and using the “Original and far superior” heavy MacBook Pro with all the connectors.
What are you trying to improve ... any fast cpu chip set is fine, OSX is great. BUT ...  We need the connectors ...

John Martellaro

JJFinn: You wrote “MacBook Pro,” but I think you meant “MacBook.” The new MacBook Pros for 2016 will come later, perhaps announced at WWDC in June.


I like the new MacBook. I like the fact that it’s super light and small. However, an achievement would have been to find a way to get en extra USB or Thunderbolt 3 port, or figurer out a way to upgrade to a better camera. Even a mini sd-card slot could fit. Even phones can accomodate a mini sd-card slot and they are way smaller than a laptop. That would have been an achievement. For now, I’ll stick with the MB Air. I don’t want to catch dongle-itis from the MacBook. I hope future generations will be a little more accommodating.


SSD as RAID 0? That is the best way to lose data if one of the disks fails or the controller:
Toshiba TH58TFT0DFKLAVF 128 GB MLC NAND Flash (+ 128 GB on the reverse side for a total of 256 GB)

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