MacBook (2017)

Macworld - - CONTENTS - Ro­man Loy­ola

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It’s now year three of the MacBook as we know it, and it seems that af­ter ini­tially be­ing a lap­top with­out an ecosys­tem, and then a lap­top that we’re still get­ting used to, the MacBook has set­tled into its groove. It’s es­tab­lished its place in Ap­ple’s lap­top line, and it’s fi­nally gain ac­cep­tance by the con­sumer.

But maybe you’re still a hold­out. You’re out there, I know, still not con­vinced that the MacBook is a good buy. Well, I have some good news: The new­est MacBook is a bet­ter buy than it has

been, thanks to per­for­mance im­prove­ments by its pro­ces­sor and graph­ics up­grade. What Ap­ple has in the MacBook is a small and light lap­top that packs a nice speed punch.

Kaby Lake, graph­ics, SSD up­grades

The speed in­crease is largely due to Kaby Lake, In­tel’s sev­enth-gen­er­a­tion CPU. In the £1,249 MacBook (which is the model this review fo­cuses on), you’ll find a 1.2GHz dual-core Core m3 pro­ces­sor with Turbo Boost up to 3GHz, which re­places a Sky­lake (In­tel’s sixth gen­er­a­tion CPU) 1.1GHz dual-core Core m3 pro­ces­sor with Turbo Boost up to 2.2GHz that was in the 2016 £1,249 MacBook. Ap­ple also of­fers a £1,549 MacBook (from, which has a Kaby Lake 1.3GHz dual-core Core i5 pro­ces­sor with Turbo Boost up to 3.2GHz. That re­places a Sky­lake 1.2GHz dual-core Core m5 pro­ces­sor with Turbo Boost up to 2.7GHz.

The MacBook’s graph­ics gets an up­grade, too. It’s still an in­te­grated graph­ics chip (where the graph­ics pro­ces­sor is part of the main CPU and uses part of a com­puter’s main mem­ory); the In­tel HD Graph­ics 615, to be spe­cific. It re­places the In­tel HD Graph­ics 515 from 2016.

To top off the speed up­grades, Ap­ple says that the solid-state drives in all of its lap­tops are now 50-per­cent faster than be­fore thanks to an im­proved hard­ware con­troller.


In or­der to see how much the speed of the 2017 MacBook has im­proved, we ran a set of bench­marks and com­pared the re­sults to the

pre­vi­ous MacBooks. We also in­clude a new 2017 13in 2.3GHz Core i5 MacBook Pro – the model that sells for £1,249 and does not have a Touch Bar, like other MacBook Pros.

The Geek­bench 4 64-bit Sin­gle-Core test gauges the com­puter’s per­for­mance with CPU in­ten­sive tasks that re­quire only a sin­gle pro­cess­ing core, like us­ing a web browser, a spread­sheet, a text ed­i­tor, or email. In this test, the £1,249 MacBook, with its Kaby Lake 1.2GHz dual-core Core m3 pro­ces­sor, sur­passed the 2016 and 2015 MacBooks, to no one’s sur­prise. But what might be sur­pris­ing is by how much. The new MacBook is a whop­ping 28 per­cent faster than the 2016 1.2GHz Core m5 MacBook. Against the 2015 1.1GHz Core M MacBook, the new MacBook left the old one in the dust, with a 63 per­cent im­prove­ment. As ex­pected, the new £1,249 13in MacBook Pro was faster that the new MacBook, but only by 10 per­cent.

To see how a pro­ces­sor han­dles multi-core tasks, like those per­formed by pro-level apps, we used the

Geek­bench 64-bit Multi-Core test. Again, we saw a sig­nif­i­cant speed gain by the new £1,249 Kaby Lake MacBook – com­pared to last year’s 1.2GHz Core m5 MacBook, the new MacBook was 21 per­cent faster. The speed im­prove­ment com­pared to the 2015 1.1GHz Core M MacBook is def­i­nitely some­thing to brag about: a juicy 67 per­cent.

We used the Cinebench OpenGL bench­mark to test the graph­ics chip of the new MacBook. Here, the new £1,249 MacBook, with its In­tel HD Graph­ics 615, posted a 22 per­cent im­prove­ment over last year’s MacBook with its In­tel HD Graph­ics 515. The im­prove­ment is quite dra­matic when com­pared to the 2016 MacBook and its In­tel HD Graph­ics 5300 in­te­grated chip: it’s a 181 per­cent jump. (No, that’s not a typo.)

Much of the same out­side

All the changes to the new MacBook are in­ter­nal. From the out­side, the MacBook is the same lap­top as it was last year and the year be­fore. The alu­minium body is avail­able in Space Grey, Sil­ver, Gold, and Rose Gold. The MacBook is Ap­ple’s small­est and light­est lap­top, mea­sur­ing 280x196.5x3.5-13.1mm and weigh­ing just 920g.

The 12in, 2304x1440 Retina dis­play looks great, though I of­ten find my­self think­ing that the dis­play is a tad too small for my pref­er­ence. I ad­justed the Dis­play set­tings to More Space, which makes the screen res­o­lu­tion look more like 1440x900 than the de­fault 1280x800, but I found that while I liked hav­ing more desk­top space, some­times I’d

find items on screen that were hard for me to see. A 13in screen, like the one on the MacBook Pro, seems to hit my tol­er­ance level. The MacBook Air has a 13in screen, but it’s not Retina, so the im­age qual­ity isn’t as nice.

Then there’s the key­board. I do not like this key­board, and it’s also on the MacBook Pro, so it’s not go­ing away. For me, it’s too flat – I like keys with more travel and spring to them. It feels as though Ap­ple wanted to repli­cate typ­ing on an iPad on-screen key­board as much as pos­si­ble, with­out com­pletely tak­ing away any key ac­tion. Ap­ple’s ex­ter­nal Magic Key­board, which uses sta­ble scis­sor switches than the but­ter­fly switches on the MacBook, feels more com­fort­able to me.

The MacBook is small, and that’s great, be­cause you’ll need some room in your bag for adap­tors and hubs. The lap­top still has only one USB-C port, which could make con­nect­ing mul­ti­ple de­vices to it a chal­lenge. And since the sin­gle port is also the power adap­tor power, you’re re­ally in for it if you need to charge, as well. It’s a good it to spend a few pounds on a USB-C hub, and one of our favourites is Dodocool’s DC30 7-in-1 USB-C Hub £29 from Other­wise, be pre­pared to rely on wire­less con­nec­tiv­ity for things like files trans­fers.


Like a lot of Ap­ple prod­ucts, it takes a gen­er­a­tion or two be­fore a new prod­uct line hits its stride. And the MacBook has hit its stride. Thanks to Kaby Lake,

the new MacBook makes huge per­for­mance gains that make it a bet­ter value than when it was first re­leased. This is a MacBook worth brag­ging about.

If you own last year’s MacBook, you prob­a­bly aren’t com­pelled to up­grade. But if you have a MacBook that’s just two years old, and you love (or are used to) the small form fac­tor, it’s time to hand that lap­top off to some­one who can use one or sell it. The speed gains over the 2015 MacBook are tremen­dous and worth the money.

New to the MacBook? Know that this lap­top pri­or­i­tizes porta­bil­ity over per­for­mance. But the per­for­mance sac­ri­fice isn’t as big as it once was. Even with the adap­tors and a USB-C hub you’ll need to buy, the MacBook won’t take up a lot of space in your bag and it won’t weigh you down. And you’ll find a lap­top that of­fers great value for money.

Geek­bench 4: longer bars are bet­ter

Cinebench: longer bars are bet­ter

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