March 9, 2015

Apple's New Super-Thin 12" Retina Macbook Uses One USB-C Port for Everything

If you've joked about Apple removing all the ports on a computer sometime in the future, they've just about done it. 

You might be wondering why every Apple announcement gets some attention here, but creatives still flock to Apple in crazy numbers (plenty of NFS staff included). Unfortunately, that also means we're likely to deal with whatever insane thing Apple has come up with for you to actually use the device. Besides the new Apple watch, which will start at a "sort-of affordable" $350 and go all the way up to a "don't even bother" $17,000 18-Karat Gold version, they also announced new computers today, refreshed Macbook Airs and refreshed 13" Macbook Pro, and a new 12" Macbook with a fanless design, full-size keyboard, and 2304 x 1440 Retina display.

Here's The Verge with a hands-on the new 12" model:

And the specs:

  • 12" IPS LED Screen with a resolution of 2304 x 1440 (16:10)
  • 1.1GHz up to 1.3GHz dual-core Intel Core M processor
  • 8GB of 1600MHz LPDDR3 onboard memory
  • 256GB or 512GB PCIe-based onboard flash storage
  • Intel HD Graphics 5300 (Supports up to 3840 x 2160 on an External Display)
  • USB-C Port for Charging
  • USB-C Port Has Native Displayport 1.2, Can Also Have VGA, HDMI, USB 3.1 with Optional Adapters
  • 802.11ac Wi-Fi wireless networking;IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n compatible
  • Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology
  • 480p FaceTime camera
  • Speakers/Dual Microphones/Headphone/optical digital audio output
  • Battery Life: 9 Hours Wireless web & 10 Hours Movie Playback (75% Screen brightness)
  • Dimensions: 0.14–0.52" x 11.04" x 7.74"
  • Weight: 2.03 lbs.
  • Silver/Gold/Space Gray Colors
  • Availability: April 10th, 2015
  • Price: $1,300 - $1,600

The screen is a huge upgrade from previous models in this range, and while it has an unusual resolution, at least it's at the level of full HD or beyond. The computer is also capable of sending out 3840 x 2160 to a UHD monitor, but it's unclear how well 4K videos are going to play considering the processing power has been lowered to account for the thin and fanless design.

12_inch_macbook_gold

This computer really is the new Macbook Air (since it's thinner and lighter), though they've gone with the simpler name likely because it's the flagship device for the lower end (Macbook Pro is still for the beefier heavy-duty laptops). While the new computer seems incredibly thin, they've taken out a lot of the basic functionality. Whatever Apple does, they are sure to make people go a little crazy, and this new model has just one USB port that doubles as a charging port. If you rarely need to plug anything in this seems like a great option, but doing literally anything else requires an accessory cable, and if you don't want to carry around a bunch of those, it will cost you $80 for one with HDMI, USB 3.0, and USB-C.

12 Inch Apple Macbook USB-C Connector Side

Unfortunately the move to USB-C as the charging connector means it loses its Magsafe functionality. If the cable gets yanked in the wrong way, it's not going to just pop out harmlessly like other Macbook models. It's unfortunate that they couldn't have built in the functionality to one of the breakout cables, but it will be just like plugging in your iPhone or iPad (and in fact the new power cable is just a USB-C that plugs into a big brick like the iPad does). The one positive is that it will lower the cost when a cable breaks, as you'll only have to replace the USB cable, and not the whole thing.

Apple is clearly trying to innovate in this space, but as always many of us will complain about the changes and still move to the new computer anyway. In their quest to go ultra-thin they've removed functionality out of the box, but if you're a user who is mostly surfing the web and has wireless peripherals (and can edit or do whatever else from the main hard drive), you probably won't care that it can't do much without the breakout cable.

As far as video is concerned, I don't expect this to fare all that well for editing, especially as the clock speed is pretty low, and it's the lower-end Intel Core M. It will probably be fine for light video duties, but it's going to be a laptop more for light users or people who want something easy to carry around, but need the functionality over an iPad. The screen should be nice for watching videos at least.

Other Macbook Updates

As far as the 11" and 13" Macbook Air, they've all been upgraded to newer generation Intel processors maxing out at a 2.2GHz dual-core i7. They've also got updated graphics and both got Thunderbolt 2. Here's a quote from Apple:

Today the popular 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display, 11-inch MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Air all received significant upgrades,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “The 13-inch MacBook Pro has been updated with the latest processors, more powerful graphics, faster flash, longer battery life and the all-new Force Touch trackpad. We’re also bringing the latest processors and graphics, and faster Thunderbolt 2 to the 11-inch and 13-inch MacBook Air, as well as up to two times faster flash to the 13-inch MacBook Air.

And more:

The updated 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display also features fifth generation Intel Core processors up to 3.1 GHz, with Turbo Boost Speeds up to 3.4 GHz, faster integrated Intel Iris Graphics 6100, and flash storage that is up to two times faster, with throughput up to 1.6GBps.* In addition, the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display now delivers up to 10 hours of battery life and up to 12 hours of iTunes® movie playback.**

The updated 11-inch and 13-inch MacBook Air now feature fifth generation Intel Core processors up to 2.2 GHz, with Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.2 GHz, integrated Intel HD Graphics 6000, and Thunderbolt 2, delivering up to 20Gbps, twice the bandwidth of the previous generation. The 13-inch MacBook Air also features faster flash storage that is up to two times faster than the previous generation.

Also the 13" Retina Macbook Pro battery life has increased to 10 hours. All of the refreshed Macbook Air/Pro models are shipping right now in the Apple store.     

Your Comment

27 Comments

So you can't charge it and run an external drive at the same time?

March 9, 2015 at 8:32PM

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Derek Doublin
Director, Cinematographer, Large Scale Artist
140

You can with a little adapter.

March 9, 2015 at 9:01PM

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Daniel Thoen
ne'er-do-well
293

an $80 little adapter.

March 9, 2015 at 9:06PM

2
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Michael Goldfarb
Senior Technical Director - Side Effects
310

Plus tax.

March 9, 2015 at 9:08PM

2
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Daniel Thoen
ne'er-do-well
293

"I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened." And just like that, years of thunderbolt investments gone to waste...

March 9, 2015 at 8:58PM

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Thunderbolt is still on all the other computers, it's not going anywhere. This is not a computer for pros, hence the "MacBook" name.

March 10, 2015 at 10:51PM

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Julian Faras
Editor, Cinematographer, Director
374

So many steps backwards. Sad to see them fall.

March 9, 2015 at 9:57PM

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Taylor Russ
Director of Photography
675

But only kinda.

March 9, 2015 at 9:58PM

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Taylor Russ
Director of Photography
675

I disagree, smaller is the future. I like the specs and new look of this mac

March 10, 2015 at 3:57PM, Edited March 10, 3:57PM

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Kyle Lamar
Director Producer DP
1101

You know I complained when my Mac didn't have a DVD drive, so I bought a USB DVD drive and haven't used it since. I think that at some point in the future everything will go wireless and USB will die out (sort of). File storage/transfer (airdrop or cloud), Headphones/keyboard/mouse (Bluetooth), ect. We just haven't reached that point yet.

March 10, 2015 at 5:50AM

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Zachary Will
Cinematographer
809

The iPad market has made Apple more confident in a one port machine. Keyboards, harddrives (specialty ones at least), and printers are all wirelessly accessible for tablets. This allows for less specialized physical ports. If we consider some the of the pro-oriented connections that Apple has dropped in the past (all flavors of Firewire, SCSI, DVI) it's been in an effort to streamline.

I consider my siblings to fit into what some would consider the average consumer. They both have 13in MBP. They've never plugged anything into the FW, Thunderbolt, or Ethernet ports. They use the power adapter and maybe a flashdrive or mouse will sit in a USB port. The SD card reader? I've found that a lot of people had no idea they had it which is a shame since transferring photos straight from the SD card is much safer than over a USB cable from a camera (unless that camera also charges via USB). These things belong on a Pro machine because they see use. The Macbook Air has seen success despite "only" having 2 USB ports and Thunderbolt.

Would I use this machine for my work? Hell no! Can I see my sister or dad feeling dandy with just one connection port? Absolutely. The $80 dongle with USB A and HDMI out is very handy.

March 10, 2015 at 9:37AM

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Luis Cardenas
DP, Editor
83

This is an innovative design. However this is not a major media editing machine. It's not suppose to be. That's what the MacPro and MacbookPro line is for.

March 10, 2015 at 10:09AM

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Brandon Blackburn
Videographer / Editor
214

Point to the innovation for me?

March 10, 2015 at 12:47PM

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Taylor Russ
Director of Photography
675

You're missing it no reason to point it out when its in your face

March 10, 2015 at 8:01PM

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Charles C.
Editor/ Director/ Director of Photography/ Wannabe Thinker
941

Did you watch the video on everything they did to make this computer? It's about as thick as two iPad Air's. The keyboard is a completely new design and has bigger buttons (which I would love for my keyboard shortcuts), the logic board is 2/3rds smaller than the one in the MacBook Air, the battery is a completely new design that takes up all of the space inside the computer, the hinge is no longer plastic and so the whole thing is completely made of aluminum. Literally every single piece of this computer is a new innovation.

Definition
(innovation |ˌinəˈvāSHən| noun
the action or process of innovating.
• a new method, idea, product, etc.: technological innovations designed to save energy.).

Here's the video of how it's designed, if you can't appreciate that just purely from a design perspective, then I don't know what anyone can say.

http://images.apple.com/media/us/macbook/2015/98474cad-63d2-443a-9125-a1...

March 10, 2015 at 10:58PM, Edited March 10, 10:58PM

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Julian Faras
Editor, Cinematographer, Director
374

If the "innovation" doesn't provide improved functionality and performance for the end user then who cares. Shaving a few mm off the thickness of my laptop won't help me edit faster.

March 11, 2015 at 4:49PM

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That's complaining that the new energy efficient Prius won't win you the Indy 500.

March 12, 2015 at 11:08AM, Edited March 12, 11:08AM

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Facundo Rodrigo Campos
Wearer of Multiple Hats
248

I'm not sure how this plays into filmmaking other than announcing a likely unusable option for an editing device.

March 10, 2015 at 12:41PM

5
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Screenwriters, producers, etc. There's more to filmmaking than just cameras and editing.

March 10, 2015 at 5:29PM

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Ty Leisher
Director, Writer, Producer, Editor
81

If I was a writer and not a video editor, I would totally use this computer. In fact, if I wasn't a video editor I would use this computer. Literally, the only time I ever plug anything into my computer is when I edit. I have zero use for any ports when I'm not editing, I've wanted to buy a really fast thumb drive for a long time, but I literally have no use for it since I use iCloud or Google Drive.

Once again, Apple is going in the direction the industry is headed while everyone seems to have no idea that Apple will continue to update the Pro line.

March 10, 2015 at 11:01PM

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Julian Faras
Editor, Cinematographer, Director
374

You're right but maybe I missed the part where it's relevancy was discussed in the blog post. I mean, yea, writers/producers can use it. It should allow for long writing sessions without a charger. The screen space should allow for better document editing. It's full sized keyboard is a great benefit for writing in contrast to normal tablet sized keyboards. All great things - none mentioned.

March 11, 2015 at 12:10AM

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I agree, most people want something really light when they're traveling on and off trains, writing while on a train, etc. This isn't for editing or anything other then doing light work like writing, surfing the web, etc. This thing weighs 2 lbs and takes up no space due to being so thin. Definitely intriguing that they even pulled off this kind of design and kept great build quality and materials.

March 11, 2015 at 3:03AM

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Brad Watts
Filmmaker/Creative Director - Redd Pen Media
298

It's a great "viewer," but not so much everything else. I'm just viewing it as Apple's answer to Chromebooks. A browsing laptop with an Apple name.

March 12, 2015 at 3:51PM

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Ok why not just make this thing a touch screen with a keyboard that rotates and flips back?

March 11, 2015 at 3:03PM

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Dantly Wyatt
Musical Comedy & Content Creator.
464

As an editor and cinematographer, I have zero interest in this product. Creatives need horsepower. Not a pretty gold finish.

March 11, 2015 at 4:46PM

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"Creatives need horsepower."

I can't think of a single screenwriter that can out-type a computer's processor.

March 13, 2015 at 6:44PM

0
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I like the universal port idea. Now they just need to work on getting rid of the huge boxes on the power plug.

March 14, 2015 at 8:42PM

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Ryan Gudmunson
Recreational Filmmaker
396