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The MacBook Air was once the golden child in Apple's laptop lineup. Impossibly thin with curved edges, it set the standard for what an ultraportable should look like. But Apple's iconic notebook is no longer the company's thinnest laptop.
Announced at Apple's "Spring Forward" event, the new MacBook — which appears to be an entirely new category of its own — is thinner, packs Intel's latest chips, and finally boasts a Retina display. (Read more about it here.) Unfortunately, it also packs a costlier $1,299 starting price tag. Before you jump on the MacBook bandwagon, here are some things you should take into consideration.
The new MacBook amazingly weighs 2.03 lbs. and measures just 0.5" at its thickest point. That's a fraction of an inch slimmer than the 0.68" MacBook Air. What Apple naturally failed to mention, however, is that there are already similarly light notebooks in the market today.
Announced in December, the Samsung ATIV Book 9 Ultrabook is 0.46" thick and weighs 2.09 lbs. Its 12.2" screen packs a 2560x1600 resolution and inside you'll also find Intel's latest Broadwell processor. It starts at $1,199.99 for the Intel Core M 5Y31 CPU with 128GB SSD configuration. Yes, that's only $99 cheaper than the base model MacBook, but the Samsung ATIV is far more likely to see deals in the coming months that will slash a few hundred extra off the price as well.
Plus, if you want an even lighter machine, the 13" Lenovo HZ550 claims to be the world's lightest 13" laptop weighing just 1.72 lbs. It'll be available in May for $1,299, which is the same price as the MacBook, but Lenovo is no stranger to regular coupons and it will undoubtedly drop in price.
The new MacBook is the first mainstream laptop to use a USB Type-C port. As CNET reports, this port was designed to do away with proprietary power adapters and USB cables, and move to a single solution that works for all devices. However, the MacBook only has one USB Type-C port. That means you'll need an adapter if you plan on connecting anything to your laptop. Apple's adapters will start at $79, which is a significant price for an already pricey notebook. Fortunately, it's an open standard so you can expect to see third-party adapters in the market soon. Either way, you'll need to spend more money if you want to connect devices to your MacBook.
Apple's new MacBook is roughly 0.5" at its thickest point. To accomplish this feat, Apple had to redesign the MacBook's keyboard. Rather than rely on the traditional "scissor" mechanism, Apple invented the "butterfly" keyboard, which more evenly distributes the pressure on a single key. According to Apple, that means less errors and more precise typing. According to reviewers, it means getting used to a completely different style of typing, one which many reviewers compare to typing on a touchscreen.
Apple's popular touchpad also got a major upgrade. Now called the Force Touch trackpad, it features four sensors that let you click the trackpad anywhere, even along the top edge. It also features a taptic engine that provides tactile feedback, since the trackpad itself doesn't sink in like it used to. Until full reviews are out, early adopters might want to wait before making the jump to Apple's new keyboard and trackpad.
Although it still lacks a Retina display, Apple's MacBook Air did receive some love yesterday getting an upgrade to Intel's current Broadwell processor. But not only is the starting price lower at $899, the Air is far more likely to see regular, consistent deals as it always has in the past — which widens the price gap between the two computers even more. In the past we've seen a current-generation Air drop to as low as $700 just four months after debut, which means you may end up paying $600 more for the luxury of a slightly lighter, thinner MacBook with more storage.
This is admittedly an issue for more than just the MacBook; the MacBook Air mentioned above, for example, similarly suffers from limited configuration options, and the aforementioned Samsung and Lenovo options are likely to be difficult, if not totally impossible, to DIY upgrade due to their thinness. Regardless, it's important to keep in mind that you will only have two configuration options when considering the MacBook: one with 256GB of storage and a 1.1GHz CPU and one with 512GB of storage and a 1.2GHz CPU. Both laptops come with 8GB of RAM. Conversely, the still svelte MacBook Pro with Retina offers a lot more flexibility.
Make no mistake, the new MacBook is an engineering masterpiece. But it's designed for a very specific user. And as many of you already know, because it's a first generation product — much like the Apple Watch — you'll see better deals as the laptop's life cycle progresses. At the very least, early adopters should wait for initial reviews, which will paint a better picture of the MacBook's performance, battery life, and overall functionality.