Standing back, I’m not sure I like Apple. The slick marketing, arrogant swagger and premium price of their devices all come together to press my cynicism button. I could rant for paragraphs about how their devices are either functionally limited or technically underpowered for the money. Or maybe ask why people will give them hundreds of thousands of pounds each over their lifetimes just to have iterations of the same thing over and over again with only one or two marginal improvements per upgrade.
But then I spend some time with one of their devices and I understand. I’ll never love the company, but I do love their kit. Take the new Macbook for example. On some levels, this thousand pound plus laptop is just silly.
Since the processing power, storage and memory can all be achieved, or beaten - even by some of Apple’s own product line - what you’re paying for is a few less grams in weight and a few less millimeters in girth. A Windows PC at half the price may well be able to push its pixels faster than this and will still fit comfortably in your bag. Heck, a cheaper MacBook Air will!
But I bet it doesn’t have these pixels. The screen is just gorgeous and the 16*10 aspect ratio makes it a pleasure for both work and play. Text is super sharp, pictures pop and video oozes its way smoothly across the glass with amazing contrast. I could look at this for hours.
I have looked at this for hours and I’ve loved every minute.
By creating a device this slim, engineering challenges have also been created and with this first generation release, you’ll be paying for all the R&D that went into delivering a surprisingly usable keyboard, excellent battery life and a clever haptic touchpad. I was initially prepared to write quite negatively about the keys’ short travel. Muscle memory brought over from other laptops means it initially feels far too firm, but within a few minutes I’m typing quickly and comfortably.
The processor is no powerhouse, but it does allow for a fanless design, meaning silent operation. A noisy fan would make it feel cheaper. In fact the whole chipset is so tiny inside that most of the space between the keyboard and base have been given over to battery. Even those had to be re-engineered into slices to make them fit and give you long enough away from the wall socket.
I can’t vouch for photoshoppers and video editors, but part of the reason owners tend to report being very happy with their Apple products is that the user experience is excellent - regardless of what spec you opt for. Criticise performance benchmarks all you like, the real world experience of OSX is silky smooth, even on modest chipsets. Apps load in moments and general responsiveness to your commands is as good as you could want it to be. You don’t have to get bogged down in tech specs with Apple kit. All of them will operate well and this is no different.
Apple touchpads are special. This comparatively enormous glass touchpad keeps up fluidly with gestures and the only problem I’ve noticed whilst using it is, I cannot convince my brain that this isn’t an iPad with an exceptionally good Bluetooth keyboard. I want to touch the screen! But that does nothing but leave a mark.
As nice as it has been to spend time with this MacBook, I’m also trying to convince my brain not to talk me into buying one. I love that, like the MacBook Air, Apple is once again pushing the envelope by making a gadget that easily fits inside of one. But like the MacBook Air in 2008, paying out for the first one will cost a real premium just to be first. Perhaps it’s a sign of getting older, but I don’t feel a strong need to be first.
Soon, others will copy, the R&D investment will be paid off and the next one may just be slightly better …. and a lot cheaper. That’s what happened with the Air.
There’s also that iPad issue. The iPad Air 2 is a super light go-anywhere device and married up to a beautiful keyboard, something like the BrydgeAir (check my review of an earlier model), I actually have all the functionality I need for light tasks at home. I’d have saved some money, but would still have a lovely aluminium-clad gadget with an excellent user experience and it’s not like the MacBook is any better connected really, with its singular USB-C port. If we really are heading into a wireless-first world, then a new iPad would be just as happy there.
There’s not much wrong with this machine, there really isn’t. But I’m going to watch for a cheaper sequel and see what happens to the similarly priced iPad Pro. That’s if I can keep my brain rational in the meantime.