MacBook 2015 Initial Impressions

I went back and forth whether or not to get the new MacBook. I had few reservations but I was intrigued by this machine. Last week, I was ready to pick up a new Mac and I was decided that I am going to get the early 2015 13″ MacBook Air (MBA). I went home with this machine instead.

It turns out that the 13″ MBA is out of stock and the last one they have is this MacBook with bumped up specs: 512GB SSD, 8 GB of RAM and 1.2 Core M processor. To get this configuration, I have to order online and wait at least 12 days. I was powerless to resist.

I’ve been using it for a week and so far everything is great.

MacBook 2015

The new MacBook’s Retina display is gorgeous. This is my first non-iOS Retina device—I used MacBook Air 13″ for more than three years—and the display is easily the most obvious benefit. Everything is crisp and the viewing angles are great. It has the same 1440 by 900 resolution, 16:10 ratio as the MBA 13″ so moving around on the desktop is familiar.

I picked up the Space Gray and I love it. The metallic Apple logo blends really well with the color. I was a little disappointed when I found out that they took out the iconic white logo but the new logo aesthetics is a worthy replacement. Using the device everyday and seeing it in different angles makes you appreciate it more. It is beautiful. I think it will become a classic color for Apple laptops.

The 12″ size is also growing on me. Few weeks ago, I had to give up my 13″ MBA for one of my developers so I borrowed my wife’s 11″ MBA. It wasn’t for me. The keyboard is too cramped and the screen is too small for my taste. However, using it for a few weeks somehow rearranged my fingers’ muscle memory so when I transitioned to the new 12″ MacBook, it seemed to work. My hands are less tense when typing and the previous orientation from my 13″ MBA gelled well. Typing on the keyboard, however, is another story. I’ll get to that later.

The slimness and weight of this device is ridiculous. It’s very comfortable to hold and to carry around. It has enough heft that you don’t need to worry about it slipping through your hand.

Performance and Battery
One of the reservations I had prior to purchasing this device is how it will perform with virtual machines (VM). Windows VM is a critical part of my day-to-day work because I use Visual Studio. Googling around, there’s a lot of criticisms regarding its specs. However, I was really skeptical reading them. Most of them are based on benchmark and not actual day-to-day experiences. The most “direct” feedback I got was this article from Gizmodo saying that the only times they noticed a slowdown is only when “running a Windows virtual machine in the background, while jumping around OS X Yosemite“. It sounded anecdotal to me so I was relieved that everything is still zippy when I run Parallels 10 loaded with Windows 8.1, Visual Studio 2013 and SQL Server 2012.

I have not noticed any significant gain in battery versus MBA. I usually have it fully charged before I leave for the office. Late in the afternoon I typically hit 10% or below. I have not tested the battery usage thoroughly so mileage may vary.

Keyboard and Trackpad
I abandoned using mouse ever since I moved to Mac. I think Mac’s trackpad is one of the best input devices out there so I’ve relied on it ever since. I use ‘Tap to click’ and ‘Three finger drag’ so I was slightly annoyed how much was changed to setup the latter. I have also yet to fully realize the use of Force Touch. I want to use it more often but it is not natural enough. I am intrigued by the application of the haptic feedback but it’s still in infancy.

The keyboard, however, is the one I am having hard time getting used to. I’ve read several criticisms about it including Marco Arment’s comment that the limited key-travel depth is something to be desired and leads to error-prone typing. However, typing relies heavily on muscle memory so I think I just need to give it time. I typed in 13″ MBA keyboard for 3 years, I don ‘t think I can shake that off in just a few days. One of the things I noticed with this keyboard is how I need to trust my keystrokes more. The more I trust my keystrokes—instead of consciously watching or worrying about them—the better my typing experience becomes. I get less typo and I type faster. It is slightly mentally straining, I will concede.

So far, so good
Unlike Marco, I won’t be returning this. I like it enough to overlook its flaws. I think it will become a better computer over time once I’ve acclimatized with its idiosyncrasies. I am looking forward to its future versions, it might be the last computer I’d ever buy.