Apple Announces New 2016 MacBooks, Plus MacBook Air Update

Faster MacBook, Large Base Memory for 13-inch Air

2016 12-inch MacBook in Rose Gold color
2016 12-inch Retina MacBook in Rose Gold. Courtesy of Apple

Early today, Apple revealed the newest version of the 12-inch MacBook, along with a minor upgrade to the 13-inch MacBook Air.

2016 12-inch Retina MacBook

Apple has released the next-generation 12-inch Retina MacBook. The new 2016 version of the 12-inch MacBook receives faster CPUs in the form of Intel’s Skylake family of Core M processors, faster GPU using the new Intel HD Graphics 515, longer battery life, with some reports suggesting up to an additional hour of battery time, faster RAM, and faster flash storage.

I guess we can say the keyword for the new 12-inch MacBook is faster.

While we were expecting an update for the 12-inch Retina MacBook, there were a few features that many of us were hoping for that Apple decided not to address, specifically, an expansion from a single USB 3.1 Generation 1 Type-C port to a pair of the ports, allowing a lot more versatility in using the MacBook. Alas, it was not to be; a single USB-C port remains the only expansion option.

The other hoped for updates that didn’t happen were an upgrade to Thunderbolt 3, a jump to USB 3.1 Generation 2, which would have doubled the USB 3 speed from 5 Gbits/s to 10 Gbits/s, and a change to DDR4-based RAM, which would have provided a bit more memory bandwidth and reduced power consumption, adding to the MacBooks battery life. I assume that DDR4 RAM is still on the expensive side, and Apple chose to continue to use DDR3 for this version of the MacBook.

Overall, though, the 2016 MacBook looks to be a very nice update, which also includes a new Rose Gold color option.

2016 12-inch MacBook Specifications
Price:$1,299$1,599
Memory:8 GB RAM 8 GB RAM 
Storage:256 PCIe Flash storage512 PCIe Flash storage
Graphics:Intel HD Graphics 515Intel HD Graphics 515
Wi-Fi:802.11ac802.11ac
Bluetooth:4.04.0
Charging: USB-CUSB-C
Expansion:USB-CUSB-C
Display:DisplayPort 1.2 videoDisplayPort 1.2 video
 VGA*VGA*
 HDMI*HDMI*
Camera:FaceTime 480pFaceTime 480p
Audio:Stereo SpeakersStereo Speakers
 Dual microphoneDual microphone
 3.5 mm headphone jack3.5 mm headphone jack
Keyboard:Full-size LED backlitFull-size LED backlit
Trackpad:Force Touch trackpadForce Touch trackpad
Battery:11-hour (iTunes movie playback)11-hour (iTunes movie playback)
 30-day standby30-day standby
 41.4-watt hour lithium-polymer battery41.4-watt hour lithium-polymer battery
Options:1.3 GHz Dual-Core m7 ($250.00)1.3 GHz Dual-Core m7 ($150)

* VGA and HDMI video outputs require a separate USB-C to VGA or USB-C to HDMI adapter (sold separately).

2016 12-inch Retina MacBook Performance

It didn’t take long for Geekbench results to show up on our favorite benchmarking site. Christina Warren tweeted out her Geekbench results for the 1.2 GHz MacBook. The single-core overall results came in at 2894, besting the score of 2377 for the 2015 MacBook. The same was seen for the Multi-Core performance test, with the new MacBook receiving a score of 5845, and the 2015 MacBook topping out at 4678.

You can find a complete Geekbench comparison of the 2016 MacBook vs. the 2015 MacBook at the Geekbench Browser. (Note: The results shown are for the free 32-bit version of Geekbench.)

MacBook Air Gets Minor Update

In addition to the 12-inch MacBook released by Apple, the current models of the MacBook Air also saw a minor, but welcome, change. Specifically, the 13-inch MacBook Air saw its minimum RAM configuration jump from 4 GB to 8 GB.

I’ve always felt that for any of the Macs that have non-user replaceable memory, 8 GB should be considered the minimum. It’s one of the reasons I lower review scores for some Mac models, including the 2014 Mac mini.

I would have liked to see the 11-inch MacBook Air also receive the 8 GB RAM upgrade, but for whatever reason, Apple isn't making the update available for the smaller MacBook Air model. That puts the base model 11-inch MacBook Air in the predicament of costing the same as the base model of the 13-inch MacBook Air, once you add the $100 memory upgrade to the smaller MacBook Air model.

Unless you absolutely have to have the smaller footprint of the 11-inch MacBook Air, I would consider the larger MacBook Air as the preferred model. I’d even go so far as to say this failure to update the 11-inch MacBook Air could be an indication that Apple’s future plans do not include continuing the 11-inch model of the Air.