Earlier today, Apple took wraps off of a refreshed 12-inch MacBook just over a year after the line was first introduced. While Apple is touting that this MacBook is faster and offers longer battery life than last year’s model, the company is notoriously vague when it comes to sharing under-the-hood details on its product pages. We’ve done some digging, however, and will attempt to break down all of the differences between last year’s 12-inch MacBook and this year’s upgraded model.
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The biggest difference between the 2015 12-inch MacBook and the 2016 12-inch MacBook comes with the processor. Last year, Apple opted for a low-power Intel Core M processor that supported Turbo Boost to 2.9GHz with the maxed out 1.3GHz model. This year, Apple has upgraded the processor to an Intel Skylake Core M processor. These processors consume the same power as the low-power Core M used in last year’s model, meaning that battery life shouldn’t be affected, but offer improved performance.
In GeekBench tests, which should be taken with a grain of salt, The Verge found that the mid-tier 1.2GHz 2016 MacBook came in about 20 percent faster than the mid-tier model from last year. While benchmark tests are synthetic and don’t always correlate to real-world performance, any increase is a good increase.
Below are the processor configurations and their Turbo Boost speeds:
- 1.1GHz dual-core Intel Core M processor, Turbo Boost to 2.4GHz
- 1.2GHz dual-core Intel Core M processor, Turbo Boost to 2.6GHz
- 1.3GHz dual-core Intel Core M processor, Turbo Boost to 2.9GHz
- 1.1GHz dual-core Intel Core m3 Skylake processor, Turbo Boost to 2.2GHz
- 1.2GHz dual-core Intel Core m5 Skylake processor, Turbo Boost to 2.7GHz
- 1.3GHz dual-core Intel Core m7 Skylake processor, Turbo Boost to 3.1GHz
In addition to bumping up the processor slightly this time around, Apple has also upgraded the GPU found in its 12-inch MacBook. While the 2015 model included an Intel HD 5300 integrated setup, the 2016 model includes the snappier Intel HD 515 GPU. Apple says this year’s GPU is “up to 25 percent faster” to than last year’s, while not affecting battery life either.
The frequency of the HD 5300 was between 800MHz and 900MHz, while the frequency of this year’s HD 515 supports slightly faster speeds of up to 1000MHz. Intel’s estimation is slightly less conservative than Apple’s, as the company is claiming the HD 515 is “up to 41 percent faster” than the HD 5300.
Ultimately, the moral of the story here is that you still won’t be able to do any intense gaming or video editing with the 12-inch MacBook, but with the improved graphics performance, it should be better equipped to keep up with most general tasks you throw its way.
Personally, my biggest gripe with the 2015 12-inch MacBook is its battery life. Apple touted that last year’s machine could pull in 9 hours of battery life, assuming you were doing light web browsing. This time around, however, Apple claims that the new 12-inch MacBook can last for up to 10 hours of web browsing, 11 hours of iTunes movie playback, and 30 days of standby.
The 2015 MacBook included a 39.7-watt-hour battery, while this year’s model features a slightly larger 41.4-watt-hour battery. It’s likely, however, that the main battery benefits will come from the more efficient Skylake processors from Intel.
While Apple in the past didn’t seem to exaggerate its battery claims for laptops as much as other manufacturers, that didn’t necessarily seem to be the case with the 12-inch MacBook. Ideally, however, the more efficient processor and slightly larger battery will help the machine inch closer to that 10-hour market.
Of course, one advantage of the 12-inch MacBook’s USB-C port is that you can charge the laptop using a power bank that many have grown accustomed to using with their iPhone. For instance, this Anker PowerCore+ pack can give your MacBook an entire recharge and comes in at just $59.99.
While Apple is still limiting the RAM options for MacBook customers to 8GB only, the company did make a slight improvement with the 2016 model. This year’s 12-inch MacBook uses 8GB of 1866MHz LPDDR3 RAM, where as the 2015 model used 8GB of LPDDR3 RAM clocked at 1600MHz.
Ultimately, this won’t have a huge impact on performance and we would have liked to see Apple upgrade to DDR4 RAM, but the slight bump could lend itself to ever-so-slightly improved graphic and multitasking performance. As you would expect, Apple still isn’t allowing users to upgrade the RAM, and we don’t anticipate that ever being the case with the any laptop as thin and sleek as the 12-inch MacBook.
While specific details about the flash storage used in the 2016 MacBook remain unclear at the moment, early benchmarks using the Blackmagic disk testing application show that the newest MacBook offers speeds that are 80 percent to 90 percent faster than last year’s model.
Again, this is another instance of a smaller but definitely welcomed improvement. Apple offers the 12-inch MacBook in 256GB and 512GB storage variants.
Last but certainly not least, with the 2016 12-inch MacBook Apple has brought its Rose Gold color option to the Mac lineup for the first time. The pink-ish color joins the previously available silver, gold, and space gray color palette of last year’s model.
What should have been upgraded but wasn’t
While admittedly we were all expecting a slow year in terms of updates to the 12-inch given the radical refresh it got only a year ago, there are still a few things that probably should have been upgraded but weren’t. For one, I really wish Apple would have added a second USB-C port. Sure there are a bunch of accessories available to get the most out of the single USB-C port the MacBook has, but adding another would have gotten rid of a lot of complaints regarding the machine.
Another area that should have been upgraded this time around is the FaceTime camera. Despite the fact that we’re now in 2016, Apple still thinks it’s reasonable to ship a $1,299 computer with a 480p camera slapped on it. Why Apple hasn’t at least upgraded it to a 720p sensor is anyone’s guess, but it needs to be done.
Finally, it would have been nice to see Apple drop the entry price for the 12-inch MacBook to $1,199 or even lower. Given that it’s been available for over a year now and the “wow factor” of the design is wearing off, Apple’s going to have a hard time justifying the $1,299 price tag for something that doesn’t carry the “Pro” moniker, especially if Apple updates the rest of its Mac lineup this year. On the other hand, you can now get a 2015 12-inch MacBook for $929 and that’s an insanely solid deal.
Do you plan to purchase Apple’s new 12-inch MacBook? Let us know in the comments.
For all of the best accessories to use with a 12-inch MacBook, check out this guide by 9to5Toys.