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New MacBook: Why I’m still on the fence

by Todd Haselton | March 10, 2015March 10, 2015 1:00 pm PDT

Apple unveiled its brand new MacBook yesterday and boy is it a beauty. There’s really no other laptop on the market like it, at least that I’ve seen. It packs a high-res display, an Intel Core M processor, plenty of battery life and more into a super thin and light package that’s even smaller than the MacBook Air.

Yes, it seems, this laptop is lighter than air.

It looks nearly perfect from all angles, but I’m still on the fence about whether or not it’s something I can upgrade to. I’m in the market: I’m currently using a 2012 MacBook Air with a battery that barely gets me more than two hours of usage. That’s not good enough for me at events, and it means I usually need to carry around my backup ASUS Windows 8.1 netbook just to make sure I can get through a press conference.

Still, I have a lot of reservations about the new MacBook. Let’s go over them together.

USB Type-C

First, I’m worried about that USB-C port. Sure, it’s no doubt the future of where we’re heading, it’s the next USB standard, and it offers redeeming qualities. That port can be used to transfer data, to power your PC, or to even output to a monitor. The problem, at least as I see it, is Apple’s vision that we should rely on wireless networks for everything. It’s very similar to when Apple ditched the DVD-drive on its notebooks, when it argued that the USB ports were enough for data.

Apple turned out to be right in that regard. I have no need for a DVD drive anymore, all of the media I consume is over-the-air through services like Netflix, and if I need to store files on something I simply hook up a USB hard drive. The problem with a single Type-C port, however, is that I have nothing that connects to it. That means, at the very least, I’ll need to cough up $79 for a dongle that will support my existing USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 devices. I’m also bummed that it removes the MagSafe charger, which connects easily with a magnet and, if tripped on, doesn’t pull my MacBook Air crashing to the ground.

At a press event where we’re handed USB keys with images, press releases and more, I’ll be out in the cold without that adapter. Or, more than likely, I’ll need to rely on Wi-Fi the way Apple wants me to. The only problem, at least for me, is that Wi-Fi at press events is often so terrible I have a hard time connecting, let alone downloading large image files.

Core M

I’m also worried that the Core M processor isn’t going to be enough power for my needs. I’ve used a similar chip on the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro and, while it’s great for a super thin and fanless design, it’s also not enough power for editing videos and photos on the fly, at least in my experience. On Lenovo’s notebook, it also had a hard time providing me with enough battery life to get through the day.

Apple said it redesigned the battery inside the MacBook so that it offers more capacity, and also filled in all of the empty “air” space inside the chassis with battery. That, it says, allows it to promise up to 9 hours of battery life. It’s a bit less than what you’ll get from the latest MacBook Air, but 9 hours is still pretty solid. Still, I’m going to need to see if that promise really holds up in early reviews before I drop cash on the new computer.

Price

The MacBook is expensive no matter how you look at it. Sure, I plan to use a new computer for the next 3 years at least, so $1,300 split across that time means the cost isn’t as big of a problem. Toss in that $79 for the dongle, however, and any other upgrades, and it quickly becomes as expensive, or more, than a MacBook Pro.

Yes, it’s much lighter than the MacBook Pro, but it’s also not nearly as powerful, and again I start to wonder if maybe all of the ports on the MacBook Pro are worth the added weight and thickness of that machine.

I know that with a MacBook Pro I’ll be able to edit any videos needed, tweak photos and more. Plus, since it’s powered by an Intel Core i5 processor, I can even play a few games, something I highly doubt the new MacBook is going to do very well with its Core M chip.

Beauty

And then I come back to this point, every single time: but gosh it’s beautiful. As Jon showed us in his video, the new MacBook is incredibly thin, sports a totally revamped keyboard, has an edge-to-edge glass panel without the chunky silver bezels on the MacBook Air and has a unique new trackpad. I’m more attracted to the space gray model, but the gold one does look pretty sweet, too.

Additionally, at 2 pounds it will feel even more lightweight than the MacBook Air in my backpack. That weight adds up quickly for me, too. As a journalist, I need to carry at least one camera, sometimes several, battery packs, cords, a tablet, backup phones, headphones and more. Each item quickly contributes to a bag that can weigh me down, and keeping things as light as possible is essential for a long day on the show floor.

I’m torn

So here I am, even at the end of this editorial, torn about whether or not the new MacBook is something that makes sense for me. Sure, it’s good enough for typing out articles, browsing the Web and staying in touch with the team. It’s also gorgeous.

But then I worry: $1,300 is a lot to spend, and I’m definitely going to need to buy the $79 adapter on top of it. Sure, you might say that’s not much when you’re spending $1,300, but it also feels like I’m being nickle and dimed. And I hate that.

The Core M processor means I won’t be able to do much else other than my basic writing tasks. When I consider those issues, it seems like the MacBook Pro is the better choice. Or, instead, I could look at the whole batch of new Windows PCs that are hitting the market, like the new Dell XPS 13 which is also getting rave reviews.

Am I alone, or is anyone else concerned about the price and power of the new MacBook offsetting its beautiful design?


Todd Haselton

Todd Haselton has been writing professionally since 2006 during his undergraduate days at Lehigh University. He started out as an intern with...

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