Embracing a wireless future: What it's like to use Apple's 12" MacBook as your main computer

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited June 2015
In writing our review for Apple's impressive new 12-inch MacBook, the reality of using the ultraportable notebook didn't fully set in until I realized I couldn't actually finish the publication of said review without turning to my MacBook Pro.




The new 12-inch MacBook is an impressive product. It's a great product. But it's also, at the moment, an aspirational product.

In AppleInsider's official review of the all-new MacBook published earlier this week, I noted that the entire review was typed on the device's redesigned, shallower, but perfectly usable keyboard. I didn't have any major setbacks with its power sipping Core M processor. The battery life was more than enough to get through the day.

But that doesn't tell the whole story.

Photos for the very same review were taken on my Sony compact digital camera. Those images were saved to an SD card, though they could also be transferred over to a computer via USB.

I do not own a USB-C to USB-A adapter, and the new MacBook does not have a traditional USB slot, nor an SD card slot.

Once I hit this roadblock, I had no choice. I had to turn to my MacBook Pro, and its available full-size USB ports and SD card slot, to finish the review.

When using the new MacBook as my main computer, I found myself with one foot in the future, and one foot in the past.


Living in limbo

This obstacle wasn't a surprise, of course. But it was harsh reality that highlights the interim struggles Apple faces as it looks toward an inevitable completely wireless future.

More than a few readers took issue with my review, even though it was overall a positive take on the machine. Though critics were likely focused more on the final score I gave (3.5 out of 5) than the actual content of the review, these readers were still quick to say they didn't mind the lack of ports, the new USB-C connector, or the end of the MagSafe magnetic charging cable, all of which were my biggest gripes.

And that's fine -- for some. While Apple supporters are undoubtedly the most likely to embrace Apple's vision of the future with the aspirational first-generation MacBook, the reality is that more traditional computer users today, in 2015, will be less forgiving.




The issues I ran into trying to finish the review were not uncommon tasks for the average computer user. The fact that that person would need to have a dongle handy in order to transfer over photos from their camera, whether via USB or an SD card reader, is likely too much of a sacrifice to make for a $1,300 ultraportable notebook.

This is not to say that the new 12-inch MacBook is a bad machine. It's quite outstanding, actually. Its thin design is an incredible achievement, and its shallow keyboard and relatively low-powered processor are, in my view, acceptable compromises made to achieve its ultra-thin fan-less design.

There is certainly a market for this notebook, today, in 2015. Users who almost never plug anything into their notebook, whether for charging or syncing, will be perfectly happy with this machine, if they can stomach the price. And certainly there are those who don't mind having to carry dongles -- they'll probably be content too.


Interconnected inevitability

Here's the thing about the MacBook being aspirational: It's a showcase for what Apple sees not only as the future of the notebook computer, but also the future of connected devices. We're not there yet.

Time will likely prove Apple correct. In a few years, nearly every device will feature Bluetooth, wireless USB, or some form of connectivity that will allow seamless transmission of files. Everything will be connected much easier than it is now, and wires and adapters will be a thing of the past.

And even before we achieve that wireless utopia, USB-C will gradually become the new standard, and more devices will be able to plug into the single port of the new MacBook (provided the user isn't charging at that moment, of course).

But until that day, here in the present, wires and adapters remain. The future hasn't arrived. When it does, Apple will be ready.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 222
    vfx2k4vfx2k4 Posts: 43member
    An EyeFI wireless SD card would have easily solved this "roadblock."
  • Reply 2 of 222
    hubelhubel Posts: 5member
    Who uses a camera anymore? Why not take the pictures with your phone?
  • Reply 3 of 222
    I'm sorry but this is retarded. The "harsh reality" is that you'd have to buy a USB-C to USB-A adapter. 19$ from Apple, cheaper elsewhere.

    http://store.apple.com/us/product/MJ1M2AM/A/usb-c-to-usb-adapter
    http://www.monoprice.com/Product?c_id=103&cp_id=10303&cs_id=1030319&p_id=13005&seq=1&format=2
  • Reply 4 of 222
    vfx2k4 wrote: »
    An EyeFI wireless SD card would have easily solved this "roadblock."

    The thing is...who uses SD cards anymore? Professional photographers, yes, but the MacBook Pro is targeted at them, and that has an SD card slot.

    Average Mac owners just let their iPhone upload the pics to iCloud. At worst they'll just sync their iPhone. (Is a USB-C to Lightning cable available yet?). I get the complaint, but I don't think it's a legitimate issue for the target market for this machine.
  • Reply 5 of 222
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,062member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post



    I do not own a USB-C to USB-A adapter, and the new MacBook does not have a traditional USB slot, nor an SD card slot.



    Once I hit this roadblock, I had no choice. I had to turn to my MacBook Pro, and its available full-size USB ports and SD card slot, to finish the review.

     

    Your “roadblock” is about as contrived as it gets. It is an inane statement to make. We see this kind of thinking on the Apple discussion boards when someone’s Apple TV needs to be restored using iTunes. When told that they will need a micro USB cable to complete the process they become enraged, demanding that Apple supply them with the necessary cable and lamenting their now “useless” device because they refuse to go down to the local Walgreens and buy the needed $4.99 cable, or rummage through their pile of cables from previous phones, cameras that use the same cable.

     

    My next question would be why doesn’t your Sony camera support WiFi file transfers? A whole lot of midrange and high end cameras have for years.

  • Reply 6 of 222

    These reviews are completely bizarre. This notebook is a high-end device for a specific market, targeted at those who are more interested in purchasing iPads, netbooks or chromebooks. Yet, you're analyzing it as a mass-market device. Why? You are obviously a pro-user, thus this device isn't for you.

     

    When the Ferrari 488 (a two seater) was released, no reviewer decremented it's rating because it's not family friendly or have a limited trunk space. Yet, in the tech industry, there's a tendency for analyst to view every devices as a mass market player. If you need a super fast processor, an SD card slot and thunderbolt ports, by all means buy a Macbook pro. Don't buy this notebook or an iPad and give them a bad reviews because it doesn't satisfy your pro-usage needs.

  • Reply 7 of 222
    thedbathedba Posts: 475member
    I'm sorry but this is retarded. The "harsh reality" is that you'd have to buy a USB-C to USB-A adapter. 19$ from Apple, cheaper elsewhere.

    http://store.apple.com/us/product/MJ1M2AM/A/usb-c-to-usb-adapter
    http://www.monoprice.com/Product?c_id=103&cp_id=10303&cs_id=1030319&p_id=13005&seq=1&format=2
    This is not a Macbook Pro. It is meant for light weight computing. Typically people who take pictures with their iPhone.
  • Reply 8 of 222
    2old4fun2old4fun Posts: 221member
    I find it incredible that an editor of AppleInsider has not moved forward with Apple technology. You are reviewing the latest in Apple laptop computers and resorting to out of date cameras. How can you review and understand the technology if you don't use it?

    Had your review been done in the Apple ecosystem, as it should have been done, your pictures would have been taken with your iPhone, loaded on the MacBook through iCloud and put into Pages to be sent to your office. Then there would have been no roadblocks.
  • Reply 9 of 222

    Not use a camera phone?

    Sure. Actually, I hardly ever use the camera on my phone.

    As a semi-pro Wildlife and Landscape Photographer using a camera phone for any serious work is just out of the question.

    There is more to photography than taking 'selfies' you know.

  • Reply 10 of 222

    The mental gymnastics reviewers like this are having to go through simply so they can criticise the new MacBook is just incredible. An SD card, seriously? That's the criticism??

     

    We get it, you don't like it, but we also think *you* just don't get it, and for the rest of us that do, despite what those of you in the wrong target market keep wrongly saying by using the wrong criteria to judge this machine, it is actually and truly quite a magnificent device.

  • Reply 11 of 222
    I've been waiting six months (to replace my travel notebook) for the 12" MB to be introduced and when I finally saw its port limitations I quickly got online & ordered an 11" MBA. Price was no object for me, but I was not willing to carry all of the adapters I'd need for travel (air card & smart card reader). I'm a Mac believer, but on this rendition they missed the boat. Should have at least included two USB-C ports.

    Maybe next year.
  • Reply 12 of 222
    mr omr o Posts: 1,046member



    Kasper! You should hand over the macbook to your dad ... he'll love it!

     

    (We'd like to hear his thoughts)

  • Reply 13 of 222
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by vfx2k4 View Post



    An EyeFI wireless SD card would have easily solved this "roadblock."



    so to is using it with some of the WiFi capable cameras, such as Sony RX100 and Nex-7

    I understand these methods may not suit the pro photographer - but a pro photog, in addition to carrying lots of stuff anyway, also would be better with MBpro

  • Reply 14 of 222
    palegolaspalegolas Posts: 1,277member
    Oh teh anger! Chill commenters.

    I'm eagerly awaiting the new MacBook Pro 2016 with this design. It'll probably still have Thunderbolt though, but possibly no SD reader ;-)
  • Reply 15 of 222

    This truly is a fairly lame review. Bring back DED.

  • Reply 16 of 222
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post



    Photos for the very same review were taken on my Sony compact digital camera. Those images were saved to an SD card, though they could also be transferred over to a computer via USB.



    I do not own a USB-C to USB-A adapter, and the new MacBook does not have a traditional USB slot, nor an SD card slot.



    Once I hit this roadblock, I had no choice. I had to turn to my MacBook Pro, and its available full-size USB ports and SD card slot, to finish the review.



    When using the new MacBook as my main computer, I found myself with one foot in the future, and one foot in the past.

     

    Yes, you do have one foot in "the future" (MacBook Retina) and one foot in the past (Sony Compact Camera).  Who uses a compact camera any more? I thought the smartphones had all but decimated their sales.

     

    In any case, your editorial is specific to your choices. I would, in your position, take those photos on an iPhone just because it's more convenient and the iPhone actually takes better photos than my old compact camera, a Nikon Coolpix (which the iPhone replaced). Otherwise, I'd use my new DSLR which has wifi and is paired with an app on my iPhone which can transfer photos directly into my iCloud account. That's not "the future" that's the present.

     

    I point this out because I think you are holding it against the MacBook retina in your review.

    And I would still give it a 4 out of 5, because what I've described (using an iPhone to take photos) is exactly how I think buyers of the MacBook will behave: they aren't going to miss the SD Card slot. You could have easily completed your article with photos using the MacBook Retina alone if you simply took one foot out of the past.

     

    But let's look at it another way. Perhaps you need the SD Card slot. I'm shooting 4K UHD video using H.264, and the files are enormous. I can transfer them to my iPhone or Mac via wifi, but it'd be quicker to grab the video off the SD Cards. Well guess what? I recognize that this is a "Pro-style" use case. So I wouldn't hold that against the MacBook Retina either, because Apple sells a Pro solution that meets my needs, i.e., the Retina MacBook Pro. I also have Thunderbolt RAID drives and legacy FireWire 800 drives, neither of which will work with the MacBook. But I wouldn't ding it for being a non-Pro solution.

  • Reply 17 of 222
    I 'm not so sure the original review was really off base. It comes down to "Why would you buy this over a current Macbook Air (cheaper, but no Retina), or a MacBook Pro?"

    Even with my light use of a Macbook Air, I do often move stuff around via SD or plug in a DVD. But then I also back up my device---which goes so much faster over a USB connection which I also need to keep power on during the backup.
  • Reply 18 of 222
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by joestory View Post

     

    This truly is a fairly lame review. Bring back DED.


    Where is Daniel?

  • Reply 19 of 222
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by lkrupp View Post

     

    Your “roadblock” is about as contrived as it gets. It is an inane statement to make. We see this kind of thinking on the Apple discussion boards when someone’s Apple TV needs to be restored using iTunes. When told that they will need a micro USB cable to complete the process they become enraged, demanding that Apple supply them with the necessary cable and lamenting their now “useless” device because they refuse to go down to the local Walgreens and buy the needed $4.99 cable, or rummage through their pile of cables from previous phones, cameras that use the same cable.

     

    My next question would be why doesn’t your Sony camera support WiFi file transfers? A whole lot of midrange and high end cameras have for years.


     

    It reminds me of when Apple switched from the iPod 30-pin Dock connector to the new Lightning connector. Boy was there "concern" and gnashing of teeth. But the Apple users got over it, and nobody whines about it now. You'd think the writers for AI would have some perspective from recent history. Most of the complaining is from people who resist change, but once the "new way" becomes normal, they'll fight to keep that status quo. (They finally stopped complaining about the lack of internal optical drives.) I can see Apple replacing USB-C with Wireless USB someday, and we'll go through the same thing again. Stay tuned.

  • Reply 20 of 222
    tekmtekm Posts: 14member
    I really have a hard time buying the whining about the Type-C port. This is bound to happen when changes are made. There isn't even enough room for a type A port on the new Macbook, and it would have ruined the appearance and slowed the adoption of Type-C. When you're dropping 1300-1800 on this rig, what is another $20 from Apple or $10 from Belkin for a simple adapter to keep in your bag? I didn't even think twice about it when I was adding to cart and threw the adapter in. Big deal?!

    How many more articles are you going to write complaining about not being able to get pictures off a digital camera? My phone takes better pictures than most digital cameras, and the pictures automatically appear on the Mac via photostream. Every other mid range digital camera Ive seen with minor exception also has wifi capability. Or, you simply need the adapter which, as previously stated, is a no brainer.

    One could make the argument that Apple should have provided the adapter, but that further slows the progress down... and there will be a whole lot of people that actually won't need it. Stop by an Apple store or online, or hit Amazon... the adapters on Amazon are as low as $7 and change.

    My rMacbook is arriving either tomorrow or Tuesday with the 1.3 processor en towe. I already have a custom made Waterfield designed bag for it with Type-A to Type-C adapter in the front pocket waiting for it.
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