Field Testing Apple's New MacBook

So, I'm on a plane heading to San Francisco for a week of training with OSTraining. I picked up the new Macbook this week as I prepped for a trip to San Francisco. I spent about 30 minutes playing with Apple's newest ultra-light laptop a few weeks ago and wasn't quite convinced. The new keyboard is definitely an acquired taste and the new trackpad has a ton of hidden tricks that I wasn't sure I'd ever use. The computer feels under-powered for anything beyond basic presentations, email, web browsing and hand-coding CSS or websites.

Taking all that into consideration, and Apple's 14 day return policy, I decided to take one for a spin since it was (miraculously) in-stock and I'm a sucker for new technology. I picked up the silver base model and will try to use it exclusively this week.

First Impressions

This thing is light. I have said on a number of occasions that the MacBook Air is the best laptop I've ever owned (and I've had a bunch of them!), but if I can get my work done on this computer, I may have to update that statement! And therein lies the rub.

Macbook on a folding tray table in coach

It fits on an airplane tray really well. I'm sitting in the bulkhead seat, so the fold-out table is even smaller than the ones usually found in the seat back. The Macbook is sitting comfortably on the table, and I don't feel like I'm going to lose it off the tray. I even have a glass of water on the tray as well. Even the MacBook Air doesn't feel this "safe" on a plane.

It's really well designed. The keyboard is laid out really well. Nothing is out of place and even though the keys are basically flush with the rest of the computer, I've not noticed any difficulty in finding the keys when I'm typing. If just feels like a solid design.

The retina display is awesome. It's what we've come to expect from Apple.

The processor may be underpowered, but even with the base model, the RAM and graphics card keep it going pretty well. When I was setting the machine up, downloading and installing software, I noticed a little lag that wasn't internet related, so I'll see what kind of impact that has as I use it this week.

I'm already wondering what else I need to add/replace to make this a presentation and training platform. I need a bluetooth presentation clicker since I have no USB slots. The Apple store was out of the HDMI connector (another $79) so I'll be looking for one when I land. I usually carry an external HD with me full of movies and work related files. I have no way of transferring them to this computer without another adapter (since I didn't do it before I left and the HD on the Macbook is only 256G). Fortunately, all the important files are in the cloud, so that won't be an issue.

This Week's Tasks

While I'm in California this week, other than a browser, I'll be using the following software fairly rigorously:

  • Keynote - presentations
  • Acquia's Dev Desktop - a MAMP stack specific to Drupal
  • Airmail 2 - mail
  • Screenflow - desktop video capture software
  • GotoMeeting, Skype, Glip, and Podio - to keep in touch with the team

So far, the only one I'm anticipating any issues using is Screenflow. I imagine the recording won't be a problem, but the editing and rendering of the subsequent video will likely take a lot longer. I'll probably run some tests and post the results.

I DID install Command and Conquer - an older game that was finally updated to run on modern OSX variations. I'll be interested to see how it handles the graphics requirements for the game, which admittedly aren't that rigorous.

Stay Tuned for Updates

I know there are hundreds of reviews of the new Macbook on the web. Most of them will be far more technical than mine. My review will be based on putting it through its paces for a week in a real-life training / presentation / coding scenario. Feel free to post questions in the comments and I'll do my best to answer them!


I picked up the HDMI adapter at the first Apple store I found after arriving at the airport.  $79.00 for the USB/HDMI combo (solves both connectivity issues I mentioned above).  It's HUGE!  It will suffice for this week, but I'm thinking I'd almost rather carry an Apple TV with me.