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Apple MacBook (2015) Hands-On
When Apple first introduced the MacBook Air back in 2008, I’m not sure anyone knew quite what to expect in the long-run from the little, low-powered Mac. Though the ultra-portable laptop itself wasn’t a new idea, there is in retrospect a distinct line dividing the Air – the first of what we now classify as Ultrabooks – from previous attempts at ultra-portables. What Apple eventually kicked off was a distinct market segment, though as a market it did take some time to materialize.With the announcement this week of the suffix-less MacBook (2015), I’m left to wonder if Apple is doing the same thing for a new market segment. The MacBook isn’t just a new Air – though in a sense it’s an heir to the Air – but it’s something new that isn’t entirely removed from its predecessors while not being exactly the same either. The end result is a device that like the original Air is hard to pin down in this time frame, as it straddles a couple different product segments.Mac Meets iPadIn terms of design, the MacBook is best described as what would happen if you crossed an iPad with a MacBook Air. At 2lbs it’s light, lighter than even the 2.38lb 11” Air, never mind the 2.96lb 13” model. It’s thin too, its 13.1mm thickness making it thinner than the original iPad (13.4mm), and yet it’s a clamshell laptop with a keyboard and trackpad. But despite being thin and light it’s not really small, as the 12” screen makes it larger than the smallest Air, never mind any kind of iPad comparisons.A lot of the time the MacBook ends up feeling like a Macintosh tablet, combining the form factor of a laptop and OS X with the design cues of the iPad. Externally this is backed by the use of Apple’s common glass & metal design philosophy, but I think it’s also very telling that this is the first Mac to come in various colors like iOS devices, silver, grey, and gold. Apple has never been one to shy away from making their devices conspicuous, but the metal colors really take this up a notch.Apple’s internal component choice also reflects this design philosophy. Though this is a Mac through and through – OS X and x86 lie at its heart – Apple has shifted from Intel’s Core U-class processors in the Air to their Core-M (Y-class) processor in the MacBook. Intel’s lowest power Core processor design to date, Core-M is intended to be used in tablets and up, further driving the point that the MacBook is a tablet Mac in laptop form factor. The use of Core-M influences several design aspects of the MacBook; it’s smaller and thinner than other Intel processors, allowing for Apple to get away with a very small logic board, and at 4.5W it means Apple can rely on the relatively large 12” metal case to dissipate heat and skip the fans entirely. Which in turn has allowed Apple to fill most of the rest of the laptop’s internal volume with 39.7Wh of batteries.Those batteries in turn help drive the only other significant power drain on the device, which is the MacBook’s 2304x1440 Retina-class display (sorry, Air users). The use of a Retina display is not unexpected here – especially if you want to make it all the more comparable to the iPad and offer similar display clarity – but using Retina displays is always a tradeoff due to the greater power requirements that come from the stronger backlight needed to punch through the display. I wouldn’t be surprised if more than half of the MacBook’s average power consumption is the display, which would also explain why Apple’s battery life estimates are only 9-10 hours despite the low power Core-M processor. With that said, we’ll have to see how well the MacBook’s display holds up to critical analysis in our labs, but in our brief hands-on time it looked as good as any other Apple Retina display.Moving on, to get a Mac laptop so thin Apple has made some other design tradeoffs in other areas, which in turn will have some interesting ramifications. For the keyboard Apple has done away with the long-standing scissor switch mechanism in place of a new “butterfly” mechanism, as Apple has pushed for keystrokes so shallow that even the scissor doesn’t work well here. The butterfly mechanism in turn is an interesting change; the resulting keystrokes are extremely shallow – think of something akin to the iPhone/iPad home button – and perhaps a bit unsettling at first, meaning it takes a bit of time to adapt to touch typing this keyboard. On the other hand the butterfly mechanism also does away with one of the scissor switch’s only real weakness, the mechanism’s trouble with off-center key presses, resulting in a key that responds the same no matter where you press it. Having used a number of different scissor keyboards over the years, and having struggled with a few of them not registering keystrokes, I think the potentially improved accuracy of the butterfly mechanism may be even more important than the space savings that Apple is really going for.Meanwhile the keyboard’s compatriot, the touchpad, has also received its own upgrade here with the Force Touch trackpad. Similar to the keyboard, Apple’s first goal here is to save space, doing away with the switch mechanism in place of a combination of force sensors and an electromagnet “taptic engine” to simulate key presses. The result is shorter tap depth, but it also allows the MacBook to register multiple click types based on how deep the click was. This essentially manifests itself as two clicks – a shallow click and a deeper click – with Apple playing around with what to assign their new-found clicks to. Otherwise the trackpad can also be used as a variable force sensor, allowing for applications to respond based on how much force is being used.Whereas the keyboard’s improvements were more obvious, the trackpad change is more significant and one that’s harder to judge in a short period of time, especially given the ability to adjust the pad’s resistance. It still feels like an Apple trackpad, clicks and all, but with the click varying with the force it’s going to take some practice to learn what the new clicks do in various applications, and to be able to reliably trigger the click that you want.Side Discussion: USB Type-CLast but certainly not least, the final design tradeoff of ports has certainly attracted quite a bit of attention, to the point that I got emails about this before I was even out of the Apple event. In scaling down from the MacBook Air, Apple has also scaled down the number of port on the MacBook. What you’ll find is a single data & power port in the form of a new USB Type-C port on the left side, and on the right side is a 3.5mm headphone jack. The Air was already light on ports, but there has never been a Mac like this before.From a design perspective I’m sad to see the MagSafe power port go. I suspect there are first and second-order size issues at play here – Apple can’t get the MagSafe port small enough to use on the MacBook, and there’s only room for one port of any kind on each side of the laptop – so in its replacement we have an all-in-one port that does away with the magnetic safety feature in place of getting data and power down to a single port.Depending on configuration specifics, Type-C ports and cables can accommodate upwards of 100W of power (5A @ 20V) along with over 20Gbps of data in various forms. And for the first time on a USB connection, they’re reversible, doing away with full-size Type-A’s infamous trinary nature, or Micro-AB’s need to figure out which side is the top or bottom. All of this comes with the ability for Type-C to be used with both hosts and devices, eventually allowing cables to be C at both ends, and allowing devices like the MacBook to be both a USB device when charging, and a USB host when other devices are plugged into it.For Apple’s implementation of Type-C there are still a few unknowns, but there are a few common points that bear pointing out based on the email questions I have received. Using the Type-C connector does not require that a device support a specific version of USB; the connector is designed to supersede protocols, being all-around better than pretty much any other connector and purposely created to allow manufacturers to take advantage of it for its size and reversibility. Consequently we will be seeing devices with Type-C connectors and USB 2.0 connectivity (phones, tablets, etc), and even hosts won’t necessarily support USB’s fastest speeds. Put in other words, while 10Gbps USB requires Type-C, Type-C does not require 10Gbps USB.In Apple’s case the company will be using Type-C to host 3 different functions: USB data, power, and DisplayPort video. Apple is driving the MacBook’s USB data capabilities straight off of the Core-M processor, which in turn only supports USB 3.1 Gen1 data (5Gbps Superspeed), which is otherwise equivalent to USB 3.0. To support Gen2 speeds (10Gbps Superspeed+), Apple would need to use a 3 party USB controller at this time, which are still very new and would compromise the size of the logic board, along with potentially compromising battery life. For the moment at least I suspect 5Gbps will be enough for the MacBook, particularly if the similarly small internal SSD is unable to saturate that connection.As for power, Apple will be supplying a new 29W Type-C power adapter with the MacBook. So far Apple has not published the full specifications for the adapter itself, but with Type-C allowing up to 5A of power, at this point Apple could be using either 12V or 20V, with the former being more likely. The use of a Type-C port and the USB Power Delivery 2.0 specification means Apple is much more strongly bound to industry standards this time, pushing them away from their previously proprietary power chargers and interfaces.
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Apple Releases The Adapters You’ll Need For The New MacBook
Apple announced the new MacBook today, and in true Apple fashion, it does things differently. A lone USB-C port will handle the charging, data input and video out. So how will users recharge an iPhone and the laptop at the same time? Buy these adapters from Apple of course! Apple just released a series of accessories for the USB-C port in the new MacBook. To use a standard USB cable,… Read More
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Apple Announces The New MacBook (2015)
Today Apple announced a brand new MacBook laptop. This new laptop doesn't fall under Apple's existing MacBook Pro and MacBook Air categories, but is instead simply called the MacBook. In truth, this is actually more like the return of an old name that hasn't been seen in some time, rather than the creation of a new product line. When the MacBook Air was introduced, consumers overwhelmingly chose it over the original MacBook line. It eventually absorbed that category of Apple's laptops, while the Pro line remained for users who needed something with more processing power.The New MacBookDimensions28.05 x 19.65 x 0.35–1.31cmWeight920gCPUIntel Core M-5Y70 or M-5Y71L3 Cache4MBBase CPU Clock1.1GHz or 1.2GHzMax CPU Turbo2.9GHzGPUIntel HD Graphics 5300System Memory8GB 1600MHz LPDDR3Storage256GB or 512GB PCI-E SSDDisplay12" 2304x1440 IPS LCDBattery39.7WhPorts1 x USB Type-C, 3.5mm combo jackConnectivity2x2 802.11a/b/g/n/ac + BT 4.0Price$1299 or $1599This new MacBook was recently rumored, and there have been many different reactions from Apple fans and tech press alike. It's certainly a departure from even the existing MacBook Air, and in many ways it seems more fitting of the Air name than the current Air does. Apple's goal was clearly to make something thin, light, and almost appliance like. They've certainly succeeded, but in order to get there the MacBook makes some big changes to what is currently thought of as a notebook.The biggest change is to physical connectivity. Macs currently come with a couple of USB ports, a couple of Thunderbolt 2 ports, a 3.5mm jack for audio, and some connector for power. The new MacBook goes in a completely different direction, ditching every single legacy port with the exception of the 3.5mm jack. Instead, the MacBook has a single USB Type-C port on the left side, and this port is the only method of connecting with other devices, as well as charging. It's a huge departure from the current MacBooks and laptops in general, and only time will tell how well consumers respond to this change.Apple's pursuit of thinness also necessitated changes to the input devices when compared to other MacBooks. With a slimmer chassis comes less space for the key switches underneath the key caps. In order to make the keyboard on the new MacBook, Apple designed a new type of key switch which they are calling a Butterfly Switch. This new switch is 40% thinner than the scissor switches used on older MacBooks, and it eliminates the wobble that occurs when pressing on the edges of scissor switches. The trackpad has also been redesigned to use Apple's Force Touch technology from the Apple Watch. which allows the user to press anywhere on the trackpad to click, and gives a haptic response to presses. It can also determine the force of a press to perform gestures or other actions. Both of these changes are interesting, but they do make large changes to the feel of the keyboard and trackpad. Key travel distance has certainly been reduced, and the new trackpad won't have the clickiness of the old ones. It will be interesting to see how consumers react to these changes.Apple's other goal seems to have been making the new MacBook fanless. In order to do so, the new MacBook utilizes Intel's new Core M processors. The starting configuration at $1299 uses Core M-5Y70 which has a base frequency of 1.1GHz and a turbo frequency of 2.9GHz. The 1.2GHz Core M-5Y71 is available in the $1599 model, and a 1.3GHz version is available as a build to order option on Apple's online store. All models come with 8GB of LPDDR3 memory standard.Like all of Apple's recent products, the new MacBook comes with a Retina display. This is a 12" 2304x1440 IPS display, which equates to 226 pixels per inch. While this new MacBook is not a MacBook Air, it's good to see the thin and light laptop in Apple's line finally moving both to a high resolution display as well as to an IPS panel. Assuming that Apple does the same 2x scaling that they've used in all of their other products, users will be given a desktop with the same area as a 1152x720 display which is actually slightly lower than the 11" MacBook Air. Apple specifies that the scaled resolutions available are 1440x900, 1280x800, and 1024x600, although it remains to be seen how well Intel's HD 5300 will keep up when rendering at 2880x1800 offscreen for the 1440x900 scaled mode.This new MacBook reminds me a lot of the iPad. It has a port for charging and for interfacing with other devices via adapters, and a port for your headphones. Everything else is meant to be done wirelessly, and there's certainly no room for user upgrades or repairs. It's very much an appliance-like computer, and it's something very different from any laptop Apple has ever done before. I naturally want to feel skeptical about it, but the MacBook Air was an equally dramatic shift from the norm when it was first introduced, and it eventually replaced the original MacBook line entirely. Whether or not the changes in the new MacBook become common among future laptops is up to consumers. If you want to be one of the first people to enter uncharted territory with this new MacBook, it'll be available in just over a month, on April 10.
Apple announces ResearchKit, new MacBook
Apple held its Apple Watch event today, but despite all the hype, the two most exciting announcements had nothing to do with the Apple Watch. I want to start the announcement that excited me the most, even though the general public won't care all that much: ResearchKit. ResearchKit combines the iPhone and HealthKit to allow iPhone owners to participate in medical research.This may sound like something trivial, but anyone who has ever done any serious scientific research - medical or otherwise - knows how hard it is to find enough quality participants. ResearchKit will allow users to opt-in into medical research programs, so you can collect data through your iPhone and send it straight to researchers. They can then use this data to aid in research for conditions like diabetes or breast cancer.In addition - and this is hugely important - Apple announced that it will release ResearchKit as open source, so that other platforms can participate in this endeavour too. In other words, Android or Windows Phone users could install applications to aid medical research as well, assuming developers implement support for it. I'm really hoping the big players - Apple, Google, Microsoft, etc. - come together to make sure this is a proper open standard, implemented on all the major smartphone platforms.Cancer has had a huge impact on my life - even though I - thank the goddess - have never had cancer, I've had people close to me and my family die all around me ever since I can remember. I've seen families torn apart by it, I've seen people fight through it to live another day (like my mother), and I've seen people suffer horrendous pain. In fact, I'm sure we all have.However, I've also seen what medical research has done for those suffering from cancer. Even a few years can make a huge difference - breast cancer treatment today is better than it was only a few years ago. And of course, while my personal frame of reference is cancer, there are countless other horrible diseases that could benefit greatly from more and easier research participation.So yes, this was, at least for me, as a human being who cares about the people around him, the most significant and most important part of today's event. I'm setting my cynical self aside for a second, and I'm really hoping the industry gets behind this as quickly as possible. Please.That being said, on to new products. Apple announced a new MacBook that's crazy thin, has a fancy new keyboard, and a nice new touchpad. It's only 0.92kg, 13.1mm thick, and has a 12" 2304x1440 display, and comes in silver, blackish-silver and gold. The specifications are a bit disappointing, though: a 1.1GHz dual-core Intel Core M with Intel HD Graphics 5300. It's got 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD (configurable to 512GB). Best thing: it's completely fanless.The keyboard replaces the scissor mechanism with a butterfly one, which sounds like marketing nonsense, but actually makes sense. Whereas scissor hinges causes keys to wobble upon keypress, the butterfly gine has a more uniform keypress. I'll have to try it out to see if it translates into actual benefit, but it sure does look like it. Similarly, the touchpad has been redone as well, and now implements Apple's confusing force touch stuff from the Apple Watch. I think a force touch is a harder press, but I still have no clue.All in all, this looks like a fantastic, if not underpowered laptop - until you hit the price. The price is very hefty - $1549 in the US, and â¬1449 in the EU. No thanks.Lastly, we have the Apple Watch. Apple essentially just redid the demo from late last year, showing very little new information or functionality. Basically, take any Android Wear device, add the ability to answer calls on the device itself, make the software more complicated and the UI uglier and messier, add several hundreds of dollars or euros to the price, and you've got yourself an Apple Watch. In other words, dangerously close to that Tizen Samsung Gear thing nobody wanted.Apple had one job this evening: tell us why we want an Apple Watch. Tell us why we should spend at least $349/â¬399 (the price of the small version of the cheapest model), all the way up to â¬17000 (the most expensive gold model) for a gadget so we have to take our phone out of our pockets slightly less often. The cold and harsh truth is that Apple failed to answer that question - what they showed us was a very complicated, finnicky device with an incredibly hefty price tag (only the garish aluminium/rubber small models are $349/â¬399 - the better-looking models are all around â¬900-â¬1000).You don't have to believe me - take it from The Verge's Nilay Patel, not exactly a vocal Apple critic, who actually tried the device out after the event.That's sort of the defining theme of the Apple Watch so far: it's nicer than I expected and I'm sure the confusing interface settles down into a familiar pattern after you use it for a while, but I'm still not sure why you'd want to put this thing on your wrist all the time. Apple's big task at this event was convincing people that a use case for the Watch exists, and at this moment it still feels like an awful lot of interesting ideas without a unifying theme. We'll have to wait until we get review units in hand and spend way more time with one to really understand the value of the Apple Watch.The device is riddled with unintuitive and arbitrary UI conventions, and just as I predicted when the device was first announced, Patel states it feels disjointed and confusing. This is by no means a surprise to me, but it is a surprise for a first-gen Apple product. The iPod, the first iPhone, the iPad - they were all quite intuitive and easy to grasp, but the Watch, clearly, seems not to be so.This is a matter of taste, of course, but the applications Apple showed didn't look particularly nice, either. Words like garish, information overload, cramped come to mind. Android Wear is already confusing and cumbersome at times due to the small screen, and Apple is cramming a lot more functionality and user interface in that same space. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that's not going to be easy to use. All in all, nor this event, nor the first hands-on reports seem to allay my initial concerns about the confusing and cumbersome UI.Apple promises "all-day" battery life of 18 hours, which is less than what I get out of my Moto 360 (two days easy, three days with effort), and more or less forces daily charging. It'll be available in select countries starting in April.
Apple introduces new, ultra-thin MacBook
At Apple's press event today, the company returned its mid-line MacBook to its product lineup. And yes, it's the thinnest Apple notebook ever. But there's much more to the new wafer-thin MacBook than meets the eye. ...Read more...
Apple’s golden year gallery: Apple Watch and the new Macbook
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