Lamenting the loss of the adorable 12-inch MacBook

Posted:
in General Discussion edited July 9
Yes, you can still buy very light and thin MacBook Air models, but there was something special about that MacBook and Apple just killed it off. We're actually upset.

Apple's original ad for the MacBook in 2015
Apple's original ad for the MacBook in 2015


Apple has just simplified its notebook range, and while the machines and the new price cuts are very welcome, there were two casualties. One was beloved, a machine that brought in new Mac users, a machine that was just adorable.

And the other was the non-Retina MacBook Air.

Considering that this version of the MacBook Air was so very startlingly impressive when Steve Jobs pulled it out of a manilla intra-office envelope in 2010, its demise will oddly not be missed. Its demise will barely be noticed.

That's because the old non-Retina Air started to go off as soon as it was announced and the odd, token spec bump did little. It was the machine you grudgingly recommended as the best price/performance mix for someone who needed a portable Mac, but when they bought it, you used to nod politely.

Whereas the MacBook, well, actually that initially got sneered at. When it was released in 2015, it could be accused of being underpowered. Certainly we knew regular users who would come to find it struggled even with some mildly complex Word documents, although privately we blame Microsoft for that.






AppleInsider found much to adore about the machine, calling it a "groundbreaking achievement," but it also cautioned buyers to skip the first generation. Our review picked up on the slowness, and also on how this machine came with just a single USB-C port.

And then there were the colors. As first shipped, you could buy the MacBook in the then familiar space gray, and the vaguely familiar silver, but you could also get it in gold and later on in pink. Apple might call the latter rose gold, but it was pink.

It turned out, though, that pink looked great. Photographs of the pink and the gold one tend to make them seem pinker and more golden than they are in real life. So what appeared online to be practically a gaudy color option, was in reality just distinctive. You always knew which was your MacBook.

Thin and too thin

If the colors were meant to appeal to new users, the size of the display could've appealed to the more nostalgic of previous Apple notebook owners. The MacBook came with a 12-inch screen, the only machine to do so since Apple's utterly cherished 12-inch PowerBook G4 from 2003.

And whether you were new or nostalgic, the size of the case was a marvel. Where that 12-inch PowerBook was a hefty 1.18 inches when closed, the 2015 MacBook was just 0.14 inches. That's small enough to make you recheck your tape measure.

It did go to 0.52 inches at its thickest part, but that's still small enough to make the MacBook be slimmer than even the MacBook Air.

Of course, one of the ways that it achieved this thinness was that Apple had benefited from over a decade of making smaller devices. But the other was its keyboard.

Apple's first Butterfly keyboard. Perhaps you've heard of it.
Apple's first Butterfly keyboard. Perhaps you've heard of it.


It was the MacBook that saw Apple introduce its extra thin Butterfly-style keyboard and that's undoubtedly had more bad press than any other single Apple component. We're now several generations into the Butterfly keyboard and the complaints continue to the point where it's believed Apple may soon ditch it.

Yet if the keys were shallower than we were used to, they also felt wider. Your mileage did vary, absolutely, but for many people the MacBook keyboard was part of its appeal.

Nobody hears from fans of the keyboard, because they've no reason to think anyone complains about keyboards. Nobody hears from these fans because you can bet this was the first machine for a lot of them and they had nothing to compare it to, nor any reason to look into it.

Speaking of not hearing fans, though, that was another benefit of the MacBook. You didn't hear fans spinning up when the machine got hot because there weren't any.

The MacBook could still get pretty warm, but it wasn't being used for video editing, it wasn't really being pummelled much at all by most users.

You can argue that it was a pretty expensive machine to only use for light work, but it was a gorgeous expensive machine.

Light touch

Right now, Apple's closest option is the revised Retina-display of the MacBook Air and it is a good machine. It's got a larger display at 13.3 inches, and at its thinnest edge, it's only 0.16 inches thick.

Yet at its thickest, the MacBook Air is 0.61 inches and it is very light at just 2.75 pounds, yet the old MacBook was only just over 2 pounds.

Tim Cook unveils the MacBook in 2015.
Tim Cook unveils the MacBook in 2015. "Can you even see it?" he says.


The differences are small, and in the case of the screen you are getting more for your money, but the differences are significant. You'll notice the Air in your bag and in your hands more than you would the MacBook.

Not to rhapsodize over this old machine, but it always seemed to us that if you were unsure what to take with you on a trip, you'd be more likely to bring a notebook Mac if it were the MacBook. Either it would turn out to be as much Mac as you needed, or if you didn't need one, it didn't get in the way or weigh you down.

We already lament the loss of that extra bit of portability. Maybe we also just miss the option for pink, it's entirely possible.

Right now Apple has made it easier to choose a portable Mac based on price and features, and that is undoubtedly a good thing.

Yet still, even as we looked at the new specifications, even as we noticed that new lower price on the MacBook Air, it was the unheralded removal of the MacBook that made us jolt.

And made us remember all the rumors about how if Apple moves from Intel to ARM, it might start out with the low-end MacBook. Maybe this adorable machine will return, regenerated into a new ARM-based notebook.

Or maybe it will just become as fondly remembered a collector's item as that old 12-inch PowerBook G4.

If you want to pick up a factory sealed 12-inch MacBook, there are units still available from third-party sellers at discounted prices, but inventory is limited.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 68
    I’ve written three novels on mine, and it’s been the perfect companion. For writing, I demand the tiniest, lowest-specced laptop I can get, stripped down to only writing-related software. Granted, my needs are pretty uncommon, but I’ve loved my MacBook. Now I guess I’ll be keeping it until it quits on me, because I’m not about to upsize to a hulking 13-inch lummox. (Kidding … but seriously.)
    chasmAppleExposedgordoncyJWSCStrangeDaysaramosphericwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 68
    McJobsMcJobs Posts: 21member
    Maybe, just maybe this is one of the reasons why Jony Ive has decided to leave the company. The 12-inch MacBook was his baby and vision of a perfect consumer laptop of the future.
    AppleExposedgordoncywilliamlondon
  • Reply 3 of 68
    BionicJimBionicJim Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    The article states that this may have been a person’s first laptop, but for me the 2015 Macbook was my LAST laptop. Ever since my first laptop- the Zeos Contenda sub-notebook pioneer in the early 90s -  I’ve looked for smaller and lighter going to the magnesium Toshiba Portege 2000 among others until this 12” marvel arrived and has been the best for me til now and for the next few years, I hope. 
    scampercomAppleExposedwatto_cobraphilboogie
  • Reply 4 of 68
    chasmchasm Posts: 1,643member
    Agreed that the original model was underpowered and overpriced, but I've talked to a number of owners (and almost was one myself before the iPad Pro came along) and they all love it. Obviously they use very little of even the paltry (by Mac standards) storage included, but they work and live mostly on iCloud, Google Drive/Docs/etc, or OneDrive. The battery life was amazing, and the lack of all but one port (and a headphone jack) was simply a non-issue.

    This was probably not most people's main machine unless you were a very casual user or constant traveler, but for those people (especially those who prized lightness as a priority) it was just perfect. Likewise, it was the first (IIRC) of the multi-colour Macs since the days of the black -- or white -- original MacBook, so it did open up some new audiences.

    I'm more of an MBP kind of person typically, but I really wanted one of the 2017 updated ones as a travel Mac. I've since settled on an iPad Pro with a keyboard to fill that role, as I suspect many have. I've long maintained that dropping the price sub-$1K and upgrading the USB-C port to at least 3.2 (or better yet, one TB3 port) and a ever-so-slightly beefier processor/graphics would have done the trick for it, but now we'll carry on and wait to see if there is to be a third, ARM-based incarnation of the MacBook someday ...
    edited July 9 firelockcaladanianwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 68
    toysandmetoysandme Posts: 215member
    I was hoping for a spec upgrade but that didn’t happen. The weight is about the same as an iPad Pro with a decent keyboard. I still think a MacBook with a touch screen would be the ideal computer for many of us. 
    lorin schultzwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 68
    DuhSesameDuhSesame Posts: 605member
    chasm said:
    Agreed that the original model was underpowered and overpriced, but I've talked to a number of owners (and almost was one myself before the iPad Pro came along) and they all love it. Obviously they use very little of even the paltry (by Mac standards) storage included, but they work and live mostly on iCloud, Google Drive/Docs/etc, or OneDrive. The battery life was amazing, and the lack of all but one port (and a headphone jack) was simply a non-issue.

    This was probably not most people's main machine unless you were a very casual user or constant traveler, but for those people (especially those who prized lightness as a priority) it was just perfect. Likewise, it was the first (IIRC) of the multi-colour Macs since the days of the black -- or white -- original MacBook, so it did open up some new audiences.

    I'm more of an MBP kind of person typically, but I really wanted one of the 2017 updated ones as a travel Mac. I've since settled on an iPad Pro with a keyboard to fill that role, as I suspect many have. I've long maintained that dropping the price sub-$1K and upgrading the USB-C port to at least 3.2 (or better yet, one TB3 port) and a ever-so-slightly beefier processor/graphics would have done the trick for it, but now we'll carry on and wait to see if there is to be a third, ARM-based incarnation of the MacBook someday ...
    I think the only limitation it has was the performance, considering how Intel was doing these years, the core m didn’t take off.  If everything goes on plan, we might see those passively-cooled ultraportable replace ultrabooks as mainstream laptops.
    edited July 9 macpluspluswatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 68
    firelockfirelock Posts: 161member
    I bought my daughter a 2016 rose gold MacBook her sophomore year at college, after her old MacBook Air’s HD died. (I replaced the Air’s drive and gave it to my wife.) She just graduated and it got her through all of her years at college and she uses it everyday now. Never had any keyboard problems and she uses it a lot. She loves the color and has gotten a lot of compliments on it. As other have mentioned, lack of ports has never been a problem. Between Dropbox, email, iMessage, and Airdrop she has never had to use a flash drive for any reason. Now as the guy who wrote the check, there is absolutely no doubt that this laptop was way overpriced. I think it was something like $1,300 retail, and with tax and Apple Care it came to around $1,600 out of pocket! That said she loves it and it works great. The lightness was a huge help with her having to schlep it and a bunch of books around campus.
    AppleExposedroadracerkevcaladanianStrangeDayswatto_cobraphilboogie
  • Reply 8 of 68
    Apple never showed it any love though. In its last few months of life, it was priced higher than the new MacBook Air, thus nobody bought it. 
    caladanianwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 68
    macplusplusmacplusplus Posts: 1,888member
    Apple never showed it any love though. In its last few months of life, it was priced higher than the new MacBook Air, thus nobody bought it. 
    Priced higher because of 256 SSD.
    edited July 9 caladanianwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 68
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,675member
    McJobs said:
    Maybe, just maybe this is one of the reasons why Jony Ive has decided to leave the company. The 12-inch MacBook was his baby and vision of a perfect consumer laptop of the future.
    Then again, maybe not.
    AppleExposedJapheypaxmanwilliamlondonmatrix077watto_cobraphilboogie
  • Reply 11 of 68
    macplusplusmacplusplus Posts: 1,888member
    That machine was great for those who wanted macOS power in an iPad footprint.

    If Intel has caused this then that may justify an ARM version.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 68
    firelockfirelock Posts: 161member
    Apple never showed it any love though. In its last few months of life, it was priced higher than the new MacBook Air, thus nobody bought it. 
    Because of 256 SSD.
    That is the main reason why I chose the MacBook over the MacBook Pro for my daughter, actually. She needed the extra storage for music and movies, and while a MacBook Pro 13” was about the same price, it had less storage.
    caladanianwatto_cobraphilboogie
  • Reply 13 of 68
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 1,988member
    I am still baffled why less than 14" screen laptops still exist. It is hard to do much work on smaller screen. I am glad Apple got rid of 12" MB and 4" SE iphone. 
    williamlondon
  • Reply 14 of 68
    AppleExposedAppleExposed Posts: 1,381unconfirmed, member
    It's thinner than the Air? Strange.

    wood1208 said:
    I am still baffled why less than 14" screen laptops still exist. It is hard to do much work on smaller screen. I am glad Apple got rid of 12" MB and 4" SE iphone. 

    Portability.

    McJobs said:
    Maybe, just maybe this is one of the reasons why Jony Ive has decided to leave the company. The 12-inch MacBook was his baby and vision of a perfect consumer laptop of the future.

    I hope you're kidding. These Jony Ive stories are getting more and more ridiculous.
    JapheymacplusplusfastasleepStrangeDaystoysandmewatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 68
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,790member
    Well, now I can no longer say that my iPad Pro 12.9 2018 is heavier and thicker than the Macbook when I add a keyboard case.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 68
    It was under powered, keyboard sucks, requires a dongle for everything. But it was so thin and light and it actually fits in my Travelon passport bag when I travel and I don't need to reach my carry-on to put it away.
    hammeroftruthwilliamlondon
  • Reply 17 of 68
    Apple never showed it any love though. In its last few months of life, it was priced higher than the new MacBook Air, thus nobody bought it. 
    Priced higher because of 256 SSD.
    Yes, but Apple has already benefitted from lower cost components so reducing the price would have sold more units and possibly kept that
    model alive. 
    Compare it to Apple still selling the iPod touch in new configurations. 


    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 68
    neilmneilm Posts: 634member
    I measure popularity by what I notice people using in airports and on planes:
    #1  MacBook Air (all generations), masses and masses of them.
    #2  MacBook Pro (current form factor), quite a few.
    ...
    ...
    ...
    #237  12" MacBook. Well, outside of a store I've never seen a 12" MB in the wild. Not one. Not Ever.

    So "adorable"? Apparently not by many.
    edited July 9 entropyswilliamlondon
  • Reply 19 of 68
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,608member
    I’ve written three novels on mine, and it’s been the perfect companion. For writing, I demand the tiniest, lowest-specced laptop I can get, stripped down to only writing-related software. Granted, my needs are pretty uncommon, but I’ve loved my MacBook. Now I guess I’ll be keeping it until it quits on me, because I’m not about to upsize to a hulking 13-inch lummox. (Kidding … but seriously.)
    You could actually get an iPad with your requirements :), More fiddly with all the 'bits' but still a damn fine machine :smile: 

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 68
    Eric_WVGGEric_WVGG Posts: 642member
    neilm said:

    #237  12" MacBook. Well, outside of a store I've never seen a 12" MB in the wild. Not one. Not Ever.

    So "adorable"? Apparently not by many.
    Sorry man, I see them all over NYC. Huge with sales, marketing, executives. 

    I've been thinking about getting one for my significant other, who suffers from ME/CFS and finds her 13" Pro a bit too much to haul around. Just wondering what the best way to work out a trade with someone might be, or if she should just be on an iPad Pro.
    caladanianwilliamlondonne1watto_cobra
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