Macbook & USB-C Review

macbookI’ll start by saying I’m writing this on a 12″ Macbook in space grey. The screen, weight, size, and weird keyboard have captured my heart and I’m enjoying using the machine. It has replaced a 15″ Retina Pro as my primary laptop for about 2 weeks now, with most of that being on the road.

For better and worse, it’s a lot like an iPad — the size and weight feel very natural in your life, and the screen is really gorgeous. It’s also not worth plugging anything into it besides its charging cable. It feels great to open and pick up right where you left off. The speed feels more than adequate for everything I’ve thrown at it so far, though I haven’t tried video editing or photo management outside of the new Apple Photos app. If there was a perfect iPad and keybard combo, it would feel and look like the new Retina Macbook.

The second thing I’ll say is I wouldn’t recommend this laptop for everybody yet. There are some trade-offs, for example I can get 5-6 hours from the battery but it’s a little shorter than I expected. It’s refreshing to have a computer that’s totally silent with no fan, and I’ve only had a heat warning once when it was sitting in hot direct sunlight for about 20 minutes. I moved into the shade because I was also wilting a bit from the direct LA sun.

The main reason I’m not sure if I’d recommend this Macbook right is hopefully ephemeral: USB-C. One of the very coolest things about the new Macbook is it charges (quickly) with a new standard called USB 3.1 with a Type-C connector, which is open for anyone to use, is reversible, and I think is going to be the future as I’ve written about on this blog before.

USB-type-C

Today, however, USB-C is bleeding edge. I actually have one other device that uses it, Google’s new Chrome Pixel laptop, but when you search on Amazon for “USB-C” there are almost no results except sketchy or not-in-stock generic things, and Apple doesn’t have any USB-C stuff in stock, even in their stores. (Perhaps related to the general stock issues I ended up writing about last time I tried to pen this Macbook review.) I was able to get a cable that had male old USB and male USB-C on Amazon, that was pretty much it. The promise of USB-C is incredible: standard cables for charging everything super-quickly, a battery pack that could charge your phone or laptop, smaller power bricks, a next-gen Thunderbolt display with one cable for all data, display, and charging. You can see and imagine a really perfect ecosystem around USB-C, but it doesn’t exist today. Some cool stuff has been announced but isn’t coming until the summer, even thumb drives.

The problem in one sentence: it is impossible to buy a cable, from Apple or otherwise, that let’s you plug an iPhone 6+ into the Macbook. They’ve announced but not shipped (to me at least) an adapter for old USB stuff (Type-A), but the last thing I need in my life is another dongle.

I thought I would miss this but in practice it has been a surmountable problem. Instead of using my laptop as a battery, I’ve been using a battery to recharge miscellaneous electronics on-the-go, and everything else including transferring photos from phone to computer is now happening wirelessly.

apple-line-upI think the most perfect tech combo in the world right now might be a 5k iMac at home, an iPhone 6+ as your phone, and the Macbook as an on-the-go device. (The iPad isn’t in my must-have list anymore.) The strengths of each of these products complement each other, and as Apple gets better about the cloud with things like photos, tethering, keychain sync, and continuity it’s really becoming a pleasure to use these products together. I also have an Apple Watch in the mix, but still forming my thoughts on that one.

The thing I might be most excited about is when some of the new tech in the retina Macbook around the keyboard, screen, trackpad, and battery is applied to their “Pro” series, which will probably be a bit more in my wheelhouse.

12 thoughts on “Macbook & USB-C Review

  1. iPad is now my media consumption device. I like this Macbook and agree with you that there are some tradeoffs but i think they are worth it.

  2. The USB-C to USB-A adapter was in stock at the Stockton St Apple Store last week. The display adapters aren’t though, my HDMI one hasn’t shipped yet (the BTO MacBook, ordered at the same time, shipped last week)

  3. This laptop is exquisite but I’m still really mourning the lack of the MagSafe. I agree with the rest of the perfect tech combo, though!

  4. I was able to get all the adapters as an early orderer. I have the USB C to HDMI+USB A+USB C dongle, the USB C to USB A (female) dongle, and a USB C to USB A (male) cable. The has allowed me to use USB sticks, external drives, SD cards (from camera), and monitors, etc.

    My only complaint so far is the re-shaped left and right arrow keys – for some reason I’m still struggling with that. I love everything else about this machine. I’d certainly take more battery, but I’m getting ~8 hours which is a nice upgrade from the 15″ MBP.

    I’m just so happy to finally have light + retina!

  5. Nice review Matt. I am pretty certain that the TrackPad has already made its way into the MacBook Pro 13″ (but not 15″). I just got a new 13″. I really like the response of the click on the new trackpad. I also have a MagicTouch, which I was excited about originally, but the feeling is not nearly as nice as the new track pad. Hopefully they will upgrade the MagicTouch too.

  6. Hey Matt, loved your review, agree this new Macbook isn’t for everyone but you got to hand it to Apple for taking such an aggressive step towards the future of our portable devices, in any case is not like it’s the only Macbook available in their line up, it sure is the most gorgeous though. I thought you might be interested to check our proposal for the one single USB-C port issue on this MacBook , it’s a small, simple and practical USB-C expandable module, you can use one for each port you need and add as many more as you’d need. You can check it out at http://www.cusby.com/ it’s in final development stages and we’re considering crowdfunding to speed things up, we’d love to hear what you think about it, let us know! 🙂

  7. I assume you use Chrome for all your web browsing and development. Using Safari without system-wide Flash I get 2-3 hours more on my 2013 MacBook Air compared to Google Chrome. I only use Chrome as my development browser and for the occasional Flash content.

  8. Cable shortages come and go very quickly.
    But in general, for Macs it is wisest to wait for the second generation of a new form factor.

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