Why The 2015 12″ Retina MacBook?

When the decision was made to move on to something different from the MacBook Pro Retina, I seriously considered moving back to PC with the announcement of Windows 10.  Since the release of Windows 8, the overwhelming reaction has been less than stellar.  To say I hated Windows 8 would be an understatement.  However, Windows 10 is a step back towards relevance for Microsoft.  But I just couldn’t move back to PC.  So, what computer would work then?  In order to make that decision, the ways in which I use my computer had to be considered.

Daily MacBook Use

My every day job calls for a fair amount of travel.  I travel out of state two weeks out of the month, living out of a suitcase.  The other two weeks are spent on the road visiting customers.  A light, portable laptop is an absolute necessity.  The MBPr served this purpose perfectly adequately.  At only three-quarters of an inch thick and about three-and-a-half pounds, the MBPr is more than portable.  But the allure of a two-pound, incredibly thin ultraportable laptop was even more intriguing.  When I began this job, I was given a Dell laptop by my company.  An adequate machine, it quickly began collecting dust in the closet.  The battery could barely last five hours off of charge, and spending entire days in the field required something that had the stamina to last all day.  Carrying around a spare battery quickly became tiring, as I would always forget to charge the extra one at night.  So portable but still with strong battery life.  What else?

A typical use case for my computer consists of surfing the internet and watching YouTube videos during my downtime.  For work, the only real requirement was a machine that could handle numerous emails and operate Excel spreadsheets.  Beyond that, my computers do not get overly taxed.  There were days that my iPad with a Logitech Solar Folio keyboard (fantastic product) was the only device that I took with me, and it suits 95% of my day just fine.  However, I’ve always preferred a clamshell design with a full fledged operating system, so the iPad is relegated to a media consumption device.

Finally, and possibly most importantly, hard drive space was discovered to be a big necessity.  Similar to “range anxiety” that electric-powered car owners experience while driving, I had what we could term “hard drive anxiety.”  I have seen many Tesla car forum members describe the overly anxious feeling they get while driving any long distance because they are afraid of running out of juice.  Although I’ve never run out of hard drive space, seeing that I only have 30% remaining (after only 3 months!) was too much to handle.  So there you have it: light, portable, strong battery life, and plenty of storage.  Those are the requirements.

Why the $1,600 Model?

I’ve heard it all too many times already: “Why would you pay $1,600 for a glorified Netbook?”  Truth is, if you begin to crunch the numbers, the price turns out to be very similar to most other options.  The 12″ Retina MacBook starts at $1,299.  And for that you get a svelte ultraportable laptop with 8gb of RAM, a 1.1GHZ Intel Core M processor and 256gb of SSD storage.  It might seem steep, but let’s compare against Apple’s other options.  Sure, the MacBook Air 13″ starts at $999, but you’re not getting a great machine for that price.  The Intel Core i5 processor is clocked at 1.6GHZ (Turbo Boost up to 2.7GHZ), which is solid.  But you only get 4gb of RAM and a 128gb hard drive.  When built to match the 12″ MacBook with 8gb of RAM and a 256gb hard drive, the 13″ MacBook Air costs the same $1,299.  You do get a more powerful Core i5 processor, but not by much when looking at Turbo Boost (at least on the paper): 2.4GHZ vs 2.6GHZ.  And the MacBook Air has an antiquated and low resolution screen.  The potential trade-off for processor speed is well worth it when compared to the Grand-Canyon-sized chasm in screen resolution.

To compare against the PC competition, the Samsung Ativ Book 9 is a stiff competitor.  It runs the same Intel Core M processor, is just a hair over two pounds, and has a similar 12″ high-res screen.  Also, when spec’d with the same guts as the MacBook, the Samsung costs the same $1,300.  Now we’re only talking about personal preference; PC vs. Mac, Samsung vs. Apple… You get the idea.  I will choose Apple over Samsung every single time.

When comparing the $1,299 model MacBook against the $1,599, you’re really only paying for hard drive space.  The MacBook Air and MacBook Pro both cost an additional $300 to upgrade from 256gb SSD to the 512gb variant.  And you don’t get a bump in processor speed.  Any additional performance bump from the 1.2GHZ Core M processor is just an added bonus.  And some early reports show a significant performance jump from the 1.1GHZ model (I know, no benchmarks).

MacBook Shortcomings

To say the announcement and subsequent release of the MacBook has been polarizing would be an understatement.  If you’re reading this, then I’m sure you’ve read all about the cons to owning the MacBook.  But do they really affect you?  Using the MacBook for it’s intended purposes, an ultraportable computer shouldn’t require so many ports.  If you’re the user that plugs in USB hubs and Thunderbolt peripherals, then no, you should not consider the MacBook.  I only ever connect a thumb drive or an external hard drive.  And the added inconvenience of carrying an adapter, or buying new, compatible options doesn’t outweigh the portability and aesthetics of this machine.

The Core M processor is essentially out of a tablet.  Yes.  But as I stated earlier, I don’t need an overly powerful processor.  The Core i7 processor in my MBPr was being completely wasted.  And based on early reviews, I’m willing to take a chance on this processor.  Which brings me to my final point.

If, for some reason, the processor is not powerful enough to be my one and only computer, I picked up a used Mac Mini for cheap (~$300) to use in the office.  From my time using my MBPr as my only device, I have a 27″ 4K monitor and Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse already.  The new (to me) Mac Mini is powered by an Intel i5 processor, 16gb of RAM, and a 256gb SSD hard drive.  If the MacBook can’t handle it, this will.

I’m willing to take a bit of a gamble on the New MacBook and I will continue to document my experience along the way.  I’m hopeful (confident?) that I will come out of this impressed and satisfied.  Please tag along for this journey and thank you for reading.


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