I’m a big fan of computers that I can take with me everywhere I go. For most people, the smartphone in their pocket is the most active computer that they use for pretty much everything. Not me, though. I use my iPhone mostly for notification of emails, messages, social media, some YouTube and Netflix (mostly sitcoms), and starting recently, reading books.

12-inch macbook review

For everything else, even for writing an email, I resort to a larger computer that I carry with me all the time. Until recently, that computer had been the 10.5-inch iPad. The only reason I sold it was that I was missing a fully-featured desktop class operating system experience.

I replaced the iPad Pro with a 12-inch MacBook. I remember opting for the iPad Pro in the first place to experience something different. Having enjoyed using that device for a year, I decided it was time I got back to a full-blown computer running macOS. I opted for the 12-inch MacBook.

The gold is gold but not that gold

As someone who, similar to the larger tech-obsessed audience around the world, has been surrounded by Space Grey everything, I wanted to go with a different color for my MacBook. I wanted this to be flashy. I wanted this to be different. But I didn’t want it to be pink. Apart from the space grey and silver finish, the 12-inch MacBook only comes in Gold.

The pictures on the screen do not accurately reflect the actual color of the device.

The first thing I noticed when looking at a Gold-colored MacBook in person was that this was more of a lighter gold than it looks on the pictures. The pictures on the screen do not accurately reflect the actual color of the device.

I think it’s for this reason people don’t like the gold finish of MacBook when they look at pictures. But everyone, including those who had told me not to get a Gold-colored MacBook, pleasantly checked out my 12-inch MacBook in person and said they actually liked its color.

Not just light gold, lightweight too

It’s not just the shade of gold that is light on the 12-inch MacBook, its weight shares a similar characteristic. When I began using it a few months ago, every time I picked it up, it gave me that “MacBook Air with its impossible thinness” vibe back from when MacBook Air was the thinnest laptop in the world. Except that this was even lighter.

12-inch macbook review
12-inch MacBook’s thinness at the thinnest part next to an iPhone 8 Plus.

In fact, it’s lighter than the iPad Pro with the full suite of accessories (Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil tucked into the Leather Sleeve). Apple outdid themselves with this laptop. It’s a shame that this incredible feat of engineering, coupled with the attractive look, was overshadowed by people’s reaction to the single USB-C port that Apple decided to include in it.

Having been using it constantly, I can tell you, this thing is really beautiful to hold, use, and look at. Its thinness is extraordinary. I’ve just had a friend tell me the other day, ‘Does this MacBook keep getting smaller every day?’

Is the 12-inch MacBook underpowered?

This is the talk of the decade, isn’t it? When the 12-inch MacBook came out, everyone bashed it for being expensive and underpowered. That was probably true for the first generation. But I have the 2017 model. While it’s still expensive, it is not underpowered; at least, not for what I do.

I will not recommend the 12-inch MacBook to anyone who needs heavy processing power.

I should mention that I wanted to get the base model with the core m processor, but the store had run out of it. So I had to increase my budget and opt for the 1.3 GHz Intel Core i5 model with the standard 8 GB of RAM and 512 GB of storage. While I do get a little bit of performance boost due to it, I think for most people, the base model will be just fine.

12-inch macbook review

I will not recommend the 12-inch MacBook to anyone who needs heavy processing power. It won’t do well as their primary computer. It makes sense when you have a desktop computer at home or at work and you need a secondary computer for on-the-go tasks. Of course, even then, it will depend on what you plan to do with it when you’re on the go.

The MacBook handled all the tasks that I threw at it – sometimes keeping too many apps and too many tabs on Chrome – and it delivered beautifully.

For example, if you’re Austin Mann, and you need to edit files that are gigabytes in size, the 12-inch MacBook is not for you. You’ll be better off with a more powerful (and larger) MacBook Pro that you can use to speed through your Lightroom or video editing workflow. (On a related note, the redesigned 2018 iPad Pros can handle such large files much better than a full-blown MacBook Pro. See for yourself here.)

Most photographers or videographers would need the power of the MacBook Pro to cull and process a large amount of multimedia files on the go. But if you’re like me, whose work is confined within a web browser and a handful of other apps, including light photo editing with Photoshop, Lightroom, and some Final Cut Pro editing, then you will do just fine with the 12-inch MacBook.

Again, if you’re a heavy user of these apps, the 12-inch is probably not going to cut it.

Exclusively MacBook for two weeks

To prove my point before I publish it, I took only the 12-inch MacBook to my two-week trip to the United States last year. In addition to everything that I do on the computer – using internal tools, writing, messaging on Slack, juggling too many tabs at once, and did I mention writing? – I also used it to copy and organize heavy video files. I recorded all my driving in the US on a dashcam and a GoPro, so all of those video files had to be transferred back to the computer and then to an external hard drive.

Although I did not actually edit any of the footage on the MacBook, something that I know for sure that could be done with Final Cut Pro, (see proof here) I did not feel slowed down or sluggish performance from the Mac for a single moment. The MacBook handled all the tasks that I threw at it – sometimes keeping too many apps and too many tabs on Chrome – and it delivered beautifully.

12-inch macbook review

The only thing a bit slow was the cold startup. That can be blamed on me as I have a few too many startup apps – so much so that my entire menu bar is filled with icons, which is another problem because it only happens due to the screen size being so small. But there are apps like Bartender that I use to clear the clutter and hide any number of icons from the Mac menu.

Two weeks of one port

Any discussion about the 12-inch MacBook is incomplete without bringing up the port situation. The 12-inch MacBook got all the blame not only because it only has USB-C port (other than the headphone jack), but also because it has only one of them. That means the dongle situation worsens due to the lack of any additional USB port on this computer.

In practical, day-to-day life, though, I did not notice it that much.

12-inch macbook review
The culprit ‘single hole’ that put the world’s attention aside from all that’s good about the MacBook.

I carried only one dongle that had an HDMI port, a USB-A port, and another USB C port. I also have a bunch of USB-C to USB-A adapters that are always connected to the USB cables (such as the one from an external hard disk).

That makes it easy for me to connect them to the MacBook without having to deal with dongles. Because I don’t have a need to connect to any USB A port, I just keep that small adapter connected to the USB cable all the time.

Check out the adapters I use with my MacBook to avoid the dongle hassles.

After a while, I didn’t even notice that the MacBook didn’t have a USB-A port, nor did I care that there was only one USB-C port. I understand that the life would not have been that easy if I had to connect multiple stuff all day long, but as someone who is not a professional photographer or videographer, I was not bothered by it at all.

12-inch macbook review

I should clarify that I’m not defending Apple’s decision to put only one port on the 12-inch MacBook. By all means, I would have loved to see one more port added to it. What I’m saying is that from my own experience using this MacBook exclusively for two weeks – and now as the on-the-go computer – it is not as catastrophic as people on the internet’s comment section make it out to be.

Think of it as the notch on the iPhone X and XS. People make a big deal out of it. But everyone I asked who uses an iPhone X said they don’t even notice it after a few days. I think it’s the same with the port situation on this Mac. Unless you have a constant need for connecting multiple ports at the same time, you will barely notice it once you have the right adapters.

Keyboard, Trackpad, sound, display, and battery

The display on the 12-inch MacBook is absolutely gorgeous. I haven’t done any side-by-side comparison with the 15-inch MacBook Pro, but I’ve used it in all situations, and I’ve never had anything to complain about. The only inconvenience I have is that the screen real estate is a bit small. But that’s understandable given the size of the display.

Also, I keep the resolution at the default scaling. If I go for ‘more space,’ it will obviously give me more real estate to work with. I just prefer to keep the text and icons a bit easy on the eye.

The sound quality is great. It’s not amazing, but great. This is the first Apple device I’ve bought that doesn’t have ‘amazing’ sound quality. But you know what, it’s pretty great, better than many laptops that I’ve checked. It’s just not that great when compared to its larger sibling, the MacBook Pro.

12-inch macbook review

The keyboard is my second favorite thing on this laptop. Coming from the 15-inch MacBook Pro’s keyboard that kept dying on me for invisible dust particles, the 12-inch MacBook’s keyboard has been a huge relief for me. As I’ve written in my previous post, I love typing on this keyboard. It’s not as good as the legendary pre-2015 era of Mac keyboards, but certainly better than that on my 2017 15-inch MacBook Pro.

Even though it’s a full-size keyboard, I noticed some inconveniences when switching between this keyboard and the one on the 15-inch MacBook Pro. The 12-inch MacBook’s keyboard goes all the way to the edges, unlike the 15-inch’s keyboard which has speakers on both sides. Because of this, I need some time adjusting my hand positions for hitting the corner keys like Fn, Control, Option, and Command every time I switched between these two laptops.

Ideally, the MacBook should be the cheapest computer in the Mac lineup, followed by MacBook Air and Pro.

Lastly, the battery life is satisfactory. I’ve gotten about a day’s work out of the MacBook. If I decide to work outside and I know I’ll be back by night, I don’t bother bringing the charger with me. I know that it will go through the whole day without the battery dying on me.

But I have that confidence more so because the MacBook can be charged up from a portable power bank. I use Anker’s PowerCore+, and this one comes with a hefty price tag, to be sure that for the whole day, my iPhone, AirPods, and the MacBook is good on the battery life department.

I haven’t needed to plug in my MacBook all that often. But it’s good to know that like my iPhone, the MacBook can be recharged from the portable power bank.

MacBook Air vs 12-inch MacBook

The redesigned MacBook Air was not yet announced when I bought the MacBook last year. However, if I were to buy it again, I’d still go for the 12-inch MacBook.

For the price of the MacBook Air, I would spend just a little bit more and get the non-Touch Bar model of the MacBook Pro. It’s better in every sense and is not even that much heavier compared to the MacBook Air.

A YouTube comparison shows that in some parts, the MacBook Air is even thicker than the MacBook Pro. Not that it’s a big deal, but I feel that the MacBook Air simply isn’t that much more portable when compared to the MacBook Pro that you can get just for a few extra bucks.

On the other hand, the 12-inch MacBook, when compared to the MacBook Air, is quite a bit thinner and lighter. The extra screen real estate that the MacBook Air provides can be really worth it if you need it, but my reason for getting the 12-inch MacBook was ultra-portability. The 12-inch MacBook wins it in this department without a doubt when compared to the MacBook Air.

The only downside of the 12-inch MacBook is the price. If you’re within a budget, the 12-inch MacBook doesn’t really make sense because it’s more expensive than the MacBook Air.

Strictly based on pricing, the MacBook Air is a better buy when compared to the 12-inch. Power-wise, the base model of the MacBook Pro non-Touch Bar is the better buy. And portability-wise, 12-inch MacBook is the best buy.

Final Words

There are rumors that Apple is working on a 16-inch MacBook. We’ll know soon what will happen to the world of Macs. Some shuffling has to happen as the current Mac lineup is pretty confusing for anyone who’s not well-versed into the Apple world.

However, I do wish that Apple keeps the 12-inch in the lineup and maybe add one more port to this machine in its future generations. Ideally, this should be the cheapest computer in the Mac lineup, followed by MacBook Air and Pro.

12-inch macbook review
12-inch MacBook tucked into the leather sleeve Apple makes for it.

The rumored 16-inch may be the highest-end Mac notebook on the farthest end of the price point, but for someone who just needs a lightweight laptop for light work and wants to be in the Apple ecosystem, I like the 12-inch MacBook more than the redesign of the iconic MacBook Air.

At its current pricing, the 12-inch MacBook is in an odd position. If Apple makes it even cheaper than the MacBook Air and continues to improve this computer, I think there will be a market for it even with the Air in the stores.

What do you think? Have you used the 12-inch MacBook? Aside from the pricing, anything else you dislike or like about this computer? If you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer them as I’ve been using this computer pretty heavily ever since I bought it. And I can honestly say that I have no regrets for buying this computer.

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I unapologetically enjoy writing about tech and life. I love cars. I'm a Happiness Engineer at Automattic/WordPress.com.

This post has 3 Comments

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  1. I prefer to have only ONE computer on the move that does everything. That means, iPad is not an option for me and so is MacBook.

    I prefer to carry the slightly heavier, but powerful and all-in-one MBP everywhere. Not having to buy/setup/keep the second device is the trade off I chose to live with instead of having one more machine altogether. For this reason, I hope MBP gets lighter over time.

    1. I understand and see how that can be pretty useful to have just one computer for everything. The extra weight of the 15-inch aside, the other reason I don’t want to keep it with me all the time is because of safety concerns. The streets here aren’t exactly safe and I wouldn’t want to be out of computers if, you know, mugging happened. 😛

      I am, however, considering the 13-inch for my next upgrade when I can probably take that with me everywhere. But I’ve always had this _I must have a backup device_ feeling. So, I don’t know. I might end up keeping both devices (though keeping one 13″ and one 12″ doesn’t really make sense. Hmm.)

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