Change is in the air at Apple.
The big MacBook refresh this morning is great for anyone shopping for a new Apple laptop.
The MacBook Air has an improved screen, the supposedly more reliable keyboard first introduced with the new MacBook Pros in May, and now starts at $1,099 (or $999 for students). Meanwhile, the new entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro now has faster performance, a Touch Bar (love it or hate it) with T2 security chip for fast data encryption, Touch ID, and improved speakers for the same $1,299 price ($1,199 for students).
But the real news is that the 12-inch MacBook is officially dead. Four years after its introduction, Apple has discontinued the 2-pound laptop. Its death is a significant turning point for the company as it marches into the future without Jony Ive’s stewardship.
The 12-inch MacBook was controversial from the start. Launched in 2015, the MacBook felt like a laptop from the future.
At two pounds, the MacBook was impossibly light. Its single USB-C port ushered in the dongle era. The 480p resolution FaceTime camera was frustratingly low res. The fan-less design — quiet as it was — didn’t allow for much performance. And, oh my god, typing on the flat-ass “butterfly keyboard” was not fun.
I was arguably one of the harshest critics of the MacBook, and yet I am extremely sad it’s going to gadget graveyard.
After trashing the MacBook for all of its aforementioned flaws, I ended up buying one at a huge discount a year after launch, and it’s been my trusty travel laptop ever since.
I’ve had a love-hate relationship with my MacBook. On the one hand, I love that it’s so friggin’ thin and light. A 2-pound laptop seems unnecessarily light, but I appreciate it the most when I’m traveling or covering big events like CES or MWC.
Back in the day, I used to have to drag a 5-pound MacBook and a 2-pound DSLR (with lens) around the sprawling Las Vegas Convention Center halls to cover CES. Since buying the MacBook in 2016, that backpack weight has dropped to about 4-pounds: 2 pounds for the laptop and 2 pounds for a compact mirrorless camera. I can’t stress how great the MacBook has been on my back these past few years.
While every tech journalist is hauling around their heavy gear, I’ve been able to fly freely without the same physical burden.
That said, using the MacBook has been a real learning experience. Instead of complaining about what the laptop couldn’t do, I adapted to its limitations. For example, I learned that pressing lightly on the keys is more effective than pounding on them. (For what it’s worth, my MacBook’s keyboard has never suffered from any of the reported issues.)
Similarly, because the screen is smaller than on a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro, I started using macOS’s multiple desktop spaces to better manage windows and apps. Doing so also reduced a lot of the bottlenecking from the underpowered processor.
And as for the single USB-C port? It grew on me. It’s still the laptop’s greatest weakness — you can’t charge and connect another accessory at the same time — but being able to quickly charge up via a battery pack has been a godsend. Furthermore, the MacBook helped me lean into AirDrop with my iPhone.
Killing the MacBook is almost a quiet admission that Apple went too far. Now, it’s time to correct course. With Ive leaving at the end of this year, Apple’s industrial designers can start to undo his extremes.
Word on the street from the well-connected Ming-Chi Kuo suggests Apple will release future MacBooks with keyboards based on a traditional scissor mechanism instead of the butterfly switches. That’s really promising news.
I’m hopeful future MacBooks will emphasize more function over form. Instead of shaving a few millimeters off the chassis, I’d love to see up-to-date performance with Windows laptops with improved thermals, or – gasp — the return of beloved features like MagSafe and a memory card slot.
Moreover, Apple’s MacBook lineup is now way less confusing. Instead of Apple’s sub-15-inch lineup that prior to today looked like this:
- $1,299: 12-inch MacBook
- $1,199: 13-inch MacBook Air
- $1,299: 13-inch MacBook Pro without Touch Bar
- $1,799: 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar
It’s now more streamlined:
- $1,099: 13-inch MacBook Air
- $1,299: 13-inch MacBook Pro (two USB-C ports)
- $1,799: 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (four USB-C ports)
Get a MacBook Air if you want the cheapest and lightest Apple laptop. Go for a MacBook Pro if you need more power. It’s as simple as at that.
I know I’m in the minority of people who grew to love the MacBook (RIP lil guy!). But while I mourn its death, I know it’s for the best. Out with the old and in with the new.