Tuesday, 19 April 2016 23:26

Apple updates ultra thin MacBook at last with more power and battery

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With a new Rose Gold finish option, new Intel Core M processors, better graphics performance, faster flash storage and one more hour of battery life, the 2016 MacBook has arrived.

Ever since Apple launched the ultra thin MacBook, complete with Retina screen and ultra slim keyboard, people have been wondering when the new version with more powerful processor options would arrive.

That day is here, with Apple announcing its ‘thinnest and lightest Mac [is] better than ever.’

There are now four aluminium finishes - the original gold, silver and space grey, now joined, as you might already have imagined, by the popular Rose Gold colour already seen on various iDevices.

At 920 grams of weight and 13.1mm thin, HP’s 2016 Spectre might be thinner, but Apple’s MacBook still sets the gold (and rose gold) standard for the thinnest portable computer capable of running OS X, soon to be dubbed MacOS if the rumours are correct, while sporting the 12-inch Retina display, the ‘highly responsive full-size keyboard,’ the Force Touch trackpad, the ‘versatile USB-C port’ and the ‘all-day battery life’ that made the original MacBook a true sensation that Apple proudly called ‘the future of the notebook.’

Indeed, it is no surprise to hear Apple Senior VP of Worldwide Marketing, Phil Schiller state that: “MacBook is the thinnest and lightest Mac we have ever made and it’s our vision for the future of the notebook.

“Customers are going to love this update to MacBook, with the latest processors, faster graphics, faster flash storage, longer battery life and a beautiful rose gold finish.”

Naturally, 6th-gen Intel Core M processors power the 2016 MacBook, with speeds up to 1.3Ghz and Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.1GHz. Faster 1866MHz memory has been included. The new Intel HD Graphics 515 chip promises ‘up to 25% faster graphics performance,’ and Apple’s inclusion of faster PCIe-based flash storage sees Apple state that ‘everyday tasks feel snappier — from launching apps to opening files.’

The extra hour of battery life means you get ‘up to 10 hours of wireless web browsing and up to 11 hours of iTunes movie playback,’ ensuring ‘all-day, on-the-go computing’ isn’t just a puffed up marketing slogan but an actual reality.

Now, there is sure to be criticism that there’s still ‘only one USB-C port’, and it is true that competitors have managed to include more ports on their ultra thin designs.

However, such things are not seen as limitations by Apple, but opportunities, and indeed, an ecosystem of Apple and third-party USB-C accessories has steadily grown.

While the accessories cost extra, Apple’s USB-C accessory that delivers a regular sized USB 3.0 port, an HDMI (or on a similar but separate dongle, a VGA port) and another USB-C port is something that sits connected to MacBook’s charging cable and power adapter, so while you do have to purchase it separately (unless you buy a 3rd-party alternative), it’s not an inconvenience to use as it is simply there.

It certainly would have been nice to see a second USB-C port on the other side of the MacBook, or two side by side, and perhaps some future MacBook model will come with such a feature while delivering more battery life and being even thinner, but what I’m saying is that a single port is no impediment to productivity in a wireless world, and if wired connectivity is needed, then you simply need to buy an Apple or a third party mini port replicator.

Apple has always pushed the boundaries in this regard and the company continues doing so. If that isn’t to your taste, there are any number of competitor devices that do offer you more ports, so purchase what you think is right for you, but as usual, there is only one MacBook.

Apple’s description is that ‘MacBook comes with the incredibly small and versatile USB-C port for charging, data transfer and video output in a single connector that is one-third the size of a traditional USB port. Following the introduction of USB-C on MacBook, the ecosystem of Apple and third-party USB-C accessories has continued to grow, giving users added flexibility and capability.’

Of course, with no moving parts or vents, MacBook is entirely fanless affair, for silent, efficient performance.

Its human fans are usually, however, very vocal and noisy about their love for and appreciation of the device, but we’re talking about a different type of fan to the ones that normally keep your computer cool in a noisily inefficient manner, especially when things normally start heating up - but with no fans within the MacBook, fan noise is an actual impossibility.

More below, please read on.

The MacBook offers built-in 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 for fast wireless connectivity, and works effortlessly to stream content from your MacBook to your Apple TV using AirPlay, to exchange files quickly using AirDrop or to listen to music or other audio using wireless headphones - although don't worry, there is a headphone socket!

On a separate note, Apple has now made 8GB of memory standard across all configurations of the 13-inch MacBook Air.

OS X El Capitan is the OS that MacBooks come standard with, along with freely included ultra-high quality apps that Microsoft and others frustratingly struggle to offer any competitive or actual alternative to, such as iMovie and Garageband, while Apple’s Office apps of Pages, Numbers and Keynote offer compatible alternatives to Microsoft Office, pre-loaded and ready to go.

Available to buy from Apple online from today, and in Apple’s retail stores and select Apple Authorised Resellers starting tomorrow, the MacBook starts at AUD $1,999 (US $1,299) and comes with ‘a 1.1 GHz dual-core Intel Core m3 processor with Turbo Boost speeds up to 2.2 GHz, 8GB of memory and 256GB of flash storage.’

The a 1.2 GHz dual-core Intel Core m5 processor model with Turbo Boost speeds up to 2.7 GHz, 8GB of memory and 512GB of flash storage retails for AUD $2,449, (US $1,599) while configure-to-order options including a 1.3 GHz dual-core Intel Core m7 processor with Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.1 GHz will be more highly priced accordingly.

You’ll find plenty more information on MacBook at Apple here.

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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