Slim and sexy: Apple’s 2016 MacBook reviewed

Specifically the MacBook is for anyone that wants something thin and light, with a more than decent battery life and just enough power to get work done, stories written, productivity handled, and a general feeling that you can survive life.

While the Intel Core m3 in our review 2016 MacBook handled everything we threw at it, we knew going in that this wasn’t a machine to test games on, or to stick graphics on. In fact, the little bit of graphics you’ll want to throw its way may come from Adobe’s Photoshop, or something like it.

In that category, the MacBook can be used for a smidgeon of photo editing and even a little audio control in Audition, but productivity, emails, writing and web surfing are the main fortes of this laptop.

Performance isn’t bad, and we found less lag working on this model compared to the previous generation we’ve been carrying for a few months now, with fewer occurrences of the spinning wheel of death Apple users have been known to survive under, particularly when something is about to go wrong. So few, actually, that we haven’t commented on it.

The learning on this machine, however, is that provided you keep the activities to what this machine is good for, web up to 10 or 15 web browser tabs, an email client, and some productivity apps, you should be good.


Seriously, this machine is made to make work something you’ll have no problem doing, and part of that comes from the design because it’s so simple and light — almost effortless — while the other comes from the performance.

A practical state of “instant on” lives with the 2016 MacBook, and when that’s paired with that remarkable thickness, or lack thereof, it makes it easy to get stuck into work, and occasionally that side project you keep telling yourself you’re going to work on.

One thing of note is the storage, and while Apple gave an impression of faster storage in the new machine — something chipsets for Intel’s sixth-generation of processor can certainly offer — the performance increase is minor.

You still get fast storage speeds, but they’re just not as much of an improvement as you might believe.


In our test between the 2015 MacBook and the 2016 model being reviewed, we found the new MacBook was only 50 to 70MB per second faster across the read and write speeds, with the speeds topping out around 171MB per second write on the 2015 model while the 2016 nabbed 244MB per second. Read speed was a little more impressive, with 770MB per second on the 2015 MacBook comparing with 826MB per second on the 2016 model.

That’s not a massive increase, and certainly doesn’t confirm M2 SSD like we had hoped for. It’s still not a bad speed all the same, and the 8GB RAM helps push it along, but if you were hoping for the 1GB per second minimum speeds of M2 storage, it won’t be here.

Maybe in the MacBook Pro in June, just not here.



Battery life has improved, though, and while Apple quotes suggested times of up to 10 hours for wireless web browsing and up to 11 for movie watching on iTunes, we found that if you didn’t connect to the web, there was a little over 10 hours for working in office-y applications, and that if you did, the battery life dropped to closer to 9.5 hours.

That’s not bad, and suggests a full day is easily possible, though it’s aided by a few factors we’ve noticed.

One is that Apple’s apps and the apps optimised properly for Mac OS X tend to go a long way to guaranteeing solid battery life, so for this test, we replaced our regular usage of Google Chrome for Apple’s Safari.

There is a pretty noticeable battery drain between the two web clients, and it’s clear that Apple’s option handles the battery better on the MacBook Air than its cousin from the search giant that is Google.


Another is the fact that when you put this computer to sleep, it sleeps.

There’s practically no delay when you collapse the screen, and no worries from the processor or operating system; you’ve closed the screen, it’s down for the count until you can be bothered to wake it up again.

That helps to keep the battery drain to an absolute minimum in the time when you’re not using machine, something few laptops accomplish, and we know having tried so many.


The last thing that makes this battery friendly is the surprisingly fast recharge time. We’re not sure if this is technically a Qualcomm Quick Charge product — our guess is not — but it performs kind of like one, boosting battery life fairly quickly when put on charge for a small amount of time.

Couple that with the fact that the one charging port (which is also the one data and connectivity port) is now a little more mainstream in 2016 than it was in 2015 when no one had heard of it let alone seen it on products, and you have something that is ready for use by the common people.


That keyboard

Yes, that keyboard is back, the one where Apple went and reinvented the wheel, or at least the flex scissor mechanism keyboards have been using for yonks.

The keyboard in the MacBook is therefore very different, with a mechanism that squeezes up as you push down, compared to the scissor-style mechanism that pretty much every tactile button keyboard has been using for ages.

This change in keyboard design has allowed Apple to get a full-size keyboard into a very, very slim computer, keeping some hint of travel even when it’s quite clear to your fingers that little travel remains.

There are catches to this design, however, the first of which is that not everyone will find it a comfortable change.