Just updated with faster Skylake processors and a new Rose Gold color option
At A Glance
- The 12-inch MacBook is Apple's newest notebook, even thinner than the MacBook Air, with an Intel Core M processor, a Retina display, USB-C, and a revamped trackpad. The MacBook was updated with Intel's Skylake processors and a new Rose Gold color option on April 19, 2016.
- Ultra-thin design
- No fan, silent operation
- Revamped trackpad
- Low-power Intel Core M processor
- Retina display
- Silver, Space Gray, Gold, and Rose Gold colors
The 2016 Retina MacBook
- The 2016 Retina MacBook
- 2016 Retina MacBook Reviews
- Keyboard Redesign
- Intel Core M Processor
- Memory and Storage Improvements
- Force Touch Trackpad
- Battery Life
- Other Features
Apple announced the first update to its ultra-thin 12-inch Retina MacBook on April 19, 2016, introducing machines with faster processors, better graphics, improved battery life, and a new Rose Gold color option.
First introduced in March of 2015, the MacBook is Apple's newest product line, distinct from the existing MacBook Air and Retina MacBook Pro lineups. The MacBook is Apple's thinnest, lightest Mac product to date with terraced battery technology and a fanless design enabled by a low-power Core M processor.
Measuring in at 13.1mm thick, the MacBook is 24 percent thinner than the MacBook Air, and it weighs just two pounds, lighter than both the 2.38 pound 11-inch MacBook Air and the 2.96 pound 13-inch MacBook Air. It has a 12-inch Retina display with a resolution of 2304 x 1440.
The second-generation MacBook continues to use the same design as the original version, featuring a full-size edge-to-edge keyboard with a speaker grille located above to save space, Retina MacBook Pro-style black display bezels, and a Force Touch trackpad that enables Force Click, allowing users to use pressure-based click gestures. The trackpad also incorporates haptic feedback for a tactile response when it's used.
Due to its thinness, the MacBook uses a "butterfly mechanism" for the keyboard keys to make them 40 percent thinner than traditional keyboard keys and significantly changing the feel. The keys are also more stable for better precision when typing and each key is backlit with a single LED for uniform brightness.
Apple's MacBook comes in four colors that match the iPad and the iPhone - Silver, Space Gray, Gold, and Rose Gold. Rose Gold was introduced as a color option in 2016 to match the Rose Gold iPhone and 9.7-inch iPad Pro.
The 2016 Retina MacBook uses Intel's Skylake chips with integrated Intel HD 515 graphics for both improved processor speeds and 25 percent faster graphics performance. Also included is faster PCIe-based flash storage and 8GB of faster 1866 MHz memory, giving the second-generation machine some solid performance improvements.
A single USB-C port continues to supply power, USB 3.1 connectivity, and DisplayPort 1.2, HDMI, and VGA capabilities. The MacBook continues to feature 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, stereo speakers, dual microphones, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a 480p FaceTime camera.
Apple has improved battery life on the second-generation Retina MacBook, both through a larger 41.4-watt-hour battery and a more efficient processor. The Retina MacBook now features up to 10 hours of battery life when browsing the web and up to 11 hours of iTunes movie playback.
Pricing on the second-generation Retina MacBook, which became available for purchase on April 19, 2016, starts at $1,299.
2016 Retina MacBook Reviews
When Apple announced a refreshed 12-inch Retina MacBook, it provided several publications with review units to get a look at the changes in the new machine. We've gathered up a range of these reviews below to highlight the general release reaction to the 2016 MacBook.
The 2016 MacBook is identical in design to the 2015 MacBook, but it includes a faster SSD, improved Skylake processor with better graphics, longer battery life, and a new Rose Gold color option. Many of the reviews focus on these improvements while also calling out missing features that many were hoping for, including an increased number of USB-C ports, Thunderbolt 3, and an improved FaceTime camera.
Engadget's Dana Wollman says Apple's claim of 25 percent better graphics performance and extra battery life "are indeed accurate." With the SSD in the 1.2GHz 512GB machine, Wollman saw read/write speeds of 947MB/s and 845MB/s, respectively, significantly improved over the 738.2 and 451.7MB/s speeds of the year-ago model.
In everyday use, I had no problem juggling all my usual apps: Slack, Spotify, TextEdit, Photos, Notes, Messages, Maps and Chrome, with nine pinned tabs and a handful of unpinned ones. Apps were quick to launch, and I thankfully didn't notice any of the hiccups that sometimes plague slower machines; it kept up as I hopped between pinned browser tabs, for instance, which not all laptops do. [...] How similar is the updated MacBook to last year's model? Put it this way: I was strongly tempted to assign it the exact same score. In the end, I decided it deserved a slightly higher number as a way of acknowledging the extra hour of battery life and considerably faster disk speeds.
Ars Technica's Andrew Cunningham said the 2016 update isn't going to please people who disliked the 2015 MacBook given its single USB-C port. Those who held off from purchasing the 2015 MacBook might be interested in the 2016 model given its speed improvements, though, and with the SSD, encrypted performance is much improved. Ars Technica has a wide range of benchmarks that are worth checking out.
If you've already got a 2015 MacBook, this one is usually faster but won't run circles around it. Its CPU, GPU, and storage performance is in the neighborhood of a MacBook Air from two or three years ago. This new release is a solid upgrade for anyone with a Mac from, say, 2010 or earlier, but it's not a high-powered workstation. If you thought you wanted a MacBook but didn't buy one because you were worried about the speed, the new model's GPU and storage in particular are improved enough that they might tip the scales.
Laptop Mag's Mark Spoonauer says the 2016 12-inch MacBook "better than its predecessor" but "still involves compromises." He highlights the improvements in the 2016 MacBook but notes that Apple didn't fix its biggest shortcomings -- port availability and low-res FaceTime camera.
The 2016 MacBook is certainly an improvement over its predecessor. It's significantly faster, especially if you opt for the Core m5 model, and it lasts an hour longer on a charge, all while being extremely portable. I also continue to love the Retina display and don't really mind the flat butterfly keyboard. However, for this kind of money, I would really like to plug in a power cable and a second device sans a dongle, and I believe anything in this price range should be able to power two external monitors.
Apple designed the MacBook to be thinner and lighter, but also more functional and intuitive. When it comes to appearance, the Retina MacBook looks like a marriage between the MacBook Air and the Retina MacBook Pro, featuring a super thin clamshell design and a black bezeled display.
The Retina MacBook design was introduced in 2015 and remained unchanged in 2016 aside from the addition of a Rose Gold color option, which joins the existing Space Gray, Silver, and Gold options.
At 13.1mm thick when closed, the Retina MacBook is Apple's thinnest MacBook to date, and it weighs just two pounds. The display portion of the notebook is only 0.88mm thick, which means it does not have room for the same light-up rear Apple logo that's found in Apple's existing MacBook Pro and Air lines. Instead, it has a polished, embedded Apple logo that more closely resembles the logos found on the iPhone and the iPad.
The MacBook has an edge-to-edge keyboard with a speaker grille above the keyboard, and a single USB Type-C port on the left. On the right, there's a 3.5mm headphone jack. Aside from the USB-C port and the headphone jack, there are no other ports on the MacBook.
The MacBook features a 12-inch Retina display that Apple calls "paper thin" at 0.88 millimeters. It's the thinnest Retina display ever on a Mac, which Apple says was created using a manufacturing process that creates edge-to-edge glass that's just 0.5 millimeters thick.
It has a resolution of 2304 x 1440 with 226 pixels-per-inch, a 16:10 aspect ratio, and a 178 degree viewing angle.
According to Apple, the MacBook includes redesigned pixels with a larger aperture, which allows more light to pass through. That let the company use LED backlighting that's 30 percent more power efficient but still offers the same level of brightness.
Because the MacBook is so thin, Apple had to entirely redesign the keyboard, leading to a new key feel that's seen some criticism. According to Apple, the keyboard is "dramatically thinner" than the keyboard in the MacBook Air.
It includes a butterfly mechanism underneath the keys that's 40 percent thinner than a traditional keyboard scissor mechanism, but also "four times more stable." Apple says that the butterfly design offers better precision regardless of where a finger strikes the key. A traditional scissor mechanism is focused on the center of the key, causing wobble around the edges.
The MacBook required a more precise key because hitting a key off-center on such a thin keyboard could cause keystrokes not to register, leading to the more precise butterfly mechanism that ultimately takes up less vertical space.
To keep the keyboard thin, Apple opted to remove the LEDs and light guide panel that traditionally light up its keyboards, opting instead for a single LED built into each key. This has the benefit of no light leak around each key cap for a much cleaner look.
Intel Core M Processor
The second-generation MacBook uses Intel's low-power Core M Skylake processors, enabling fanless operation. At the low end, the MacBook includes a 1.1GHz dual-core Intel Core m3 processor, while the higher-end machine uses a 1.2GHz dual-core Intel Core m5 processor. A 1.3GHz dual-core Intel Core m7 processor is available through Apple's custom configuration options.
Skylake processors are faster and more efficient than the previous-generation Broadwell processors used in the first-generation MacBook, and thus the new MacBooks see some speed improvements ranging from 5 to 18 percent based on the chip.
The low-end 1.1GHz Intel Core m3 MacBook earns average 64-bit single core and multi-core scores of 2,534 and 5,025, respectively, which is between 5 and 10 percent faster CPU performance than the previous-generation 1.1GHz MacBook.
The mid-tier 1.2GHz Intel Core m5 MacBook earns average single-core and multi-core scores of 2,894 and 5,845, respectively, which is between 15 and 18 percent faster than the 1.2GHz Broadwell-based MacBook model from 2015.
The high-end 1.3GHz Intel Core m7 MacBook earns average single and multi-core scores of 3,023 and 6,430, respectively, which is between 9 and 17 percent faster than the 1.3GHz Broadwell-based MacBook model from 2015.
All new Retina MacBook models use integrated Intel HD Graphics 515, which are 25 percent faster than the Intel HD Graphics 5300 used in the previous-generation MacBook. The MacBook supports full native resolution on the built-in display while also powering an external display of up to 3840 x 2160 pixels at 30Hz.
Memory and Storage Improvements
Along with Skylake processors and faster graphics, the 2016 MacBook's performance is also bolstered by faster PCIe-based flash storage and faster memory. Apple has not outlined the speed improvements of the new PCIe-based flash used in the second-generation machine, but it is described as "faster" than that in the 2015 MacBook.
Early BlackMagic disk speed tests have seen write speeds that are up to 80 or 90 percent faster than the write speeds in the previous-generation MacBook. Read speeds are also improved.
The second-generation Retina MacBook SSD is reportedly PCIe 3.0 x2, capable of reaching read/write speeds of up to 1300Mb/s and 700Mb/s, respectively.
As for RAM, the 2016 MacBook includes 8GB of 1866MHz LPDDR3 memory while the 2015 machine contained 8GB of 1600MHz LPDDR3 memory.
Force Touch Trackpad
The Retina MacBook includes a Force Touch trackpad, which has been standard on all of Apple's Mac refreshes since the feature was introduced last year. The Force Touch trackpad includes built-in force sensors to detect how much pressure is being applied to the surface of the trackpad, enabling pressure-based gestures.
A "Force Click" gesture, for example, is enabled by a click and a long press. This brings up features like file previews on the desktop, maps in the Mail app and Wikipedia entries in Safari. Adding pressure to the trackpad when scrolling through the maps app or fast forwarding through a movie will gradually speed up movement, and when using features like Mark Up in the Mail app, Force Touch will be able to distinguish between thin strokes and harder presses.
The Force Touch trackpad also has the benefit of being able to register a click on any part of the trackpad, an improvement over the trackpads of the MacBook Air and Retina MacBook Pro. Existing trackpads can be difficult to click near the top part of the trackpad adjacent to the keyboard, a problem solved by the Force Touch trackpad.
The trackpad includes a Taptic Engine that provides tactile feedback whenever it's pressed, letting the users feel what's happening on the screen in addition to seeing it. Apple says it delivers tangible responses to certain tasks, such as aligning annotations on a PDF.
The MacBook's thin design prevents Apple from including standard USB and MagSafe ports for charging and as a result, it has just one USB-C port. There was some hope a second-generation machine would add an additional USB-C port, but the 2016 MacBook models continue to feature a single port.
The port offers quick charging, USB 3.1 data transfer at speeds up to 5Gbps (Gen 1), and video output that supports HDMI, VGA, and DisplayPort 1.2 connections.
Apple is selling a USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter for $79, allowing users to connect their MacBooks to an HDMI display while also connecting to a standard USB device and a USB-C charging cable.
There's also a USB-C VGA Multiport Adapter that's priced at $79, which allows users to connect their MacBooks to a VGA display while also connecting to a standard USB device and a USB-C charging cable.
A USB-C to USB adapter is available for $19.
The second-generation MacBook features a 41.4-watt-hour battery, an improvement over the 39.7-watt-hour battery in the first-generation machine. Due to the larger battery and a more efficient processor, the MacBook now offers an extra hour of battery life.
The MacBook's "all-day" battery lasts for up to 10 hours of wireless web browsing and up to 11 hours of iTunes movie playback, with up to 30 days of standby time. The MacBook charges through the included USB-C cable and power adapter.
FaceTime Camera Downgrade
Apple downgraded the FaceTime camera in the MacBook when compared to the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro, likely due to size constraints. The MacBook has a 480p FaceTime Camera, which was not improved in the second-generation machine.
Speakers and Microphone
Above the keyboard, the MacBook has stereo speakers. It also includes dual microphones for clear audio when placing phone calls and conducting FaceTime video chats.
Like the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro, the MacBook includes 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.
Apple's MacBook is available in two stock configurations, with an additional 1.3GHz Core m7 build-to-order customization option available for the processor.
- 1.1GHz dual-core Intel Core m3 Processor plus Intel HD Graphics 515 with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of flash storage. $1,299.
- 1.2GHz dual-core Intel Core m5 processor plus Intel HD Graphics 515 with 8GB of RAM and 512GB of flash storage. $1,599.
With the 1.3GHz upgrade, the entry-level MacBook Price is $1,549. For the higher-end model, the 1.3Ghz processor upgrade raises the price to $1,749.
How to Buy
USB-C Cable Replacement Program
For original Retina MacBooks purchased between April and June of 2015, Apple is offering replacement USB-C cables through a USB-C Cable Replacement Program because the original cables may be faulty. Problematic cables may fail due to a design issue, causing the MacBook not to charge or to charge only intermittently when connected to a power adapter.
Cables with the issue can be identified by their labeling, which reads "Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in China." Redesigned cables have the same text, but also include a serial number.
Apple is automatically sending replacement cables to some customers who purchased a MacBook with a faulty cable, but customers who want to check on the status of their cables or have not received a replacement cable directly from Apple should contact Apple support or visit the Genius Bar at an Apple retail store.
What's Next for the MacBook
According to KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, Apple is planning to introduce a 13-inch MacBook in the third quarter of 2016, which will allegedly join the 12-inch MacBook. While Kuo often accurately predicts new features and products, this rumor has not been backed up by additional sources and it is not clear why Apple would release two MacBooks so similar in size. It is more likely Kuo is talking about
Next-generation Kaby Lake chips appropriate for the MacBook Air launched in the fall of 2016. Because the MacBook is not due to be updated until the spring of 2017, it's unlikely we will see machines with these chips until then, but the chips are readily available.
The low-power Kaby Lake chips that could be used in the MacBook boast improved graphics capabilities, 12 percent faster productivity performance and 19 perfect faster web performance. Users will see improved app switching and battery life improvements.
In the future, Apple notebooks could adopt OLED displays that will be brighter and more energy efficient for longer battery life. While Apple is exploring OLED displays, it is not clear when an OLED notebook might be released.