This is one of 5 articles dedicated to Apple’s Macbooks:
1. How you can choose the best Apple Macbook 12″ (this article)
2. How to choose the best Apple Macbook Air 11
3. How to choose the best Apple Macbook Air 13
4. How to choose the best Apple Macbook Pro 13
5. How to choose the best Apple Macbook Pro 15
Who is the 12″ Macbook ideal for?
Anyone who wants a laptop that’s as lightweight as possible, with a long battery life.
What is the Macbook 12″ good for?
- Web browsing
- Office work (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc.)
- Listening to music
- Watching TV/movies from local files or streaming. Note that you’ll need an adapter to connect a monitor or HDTV.
Why do you want the 12″ Macbook: Pros
- Incredibly thin and lightweight: Only 2lbs and 0.11-0.52″ thick. Perfect if you’re traveling and often on the move.
- It’s an Apple computer: Mac OS X, Time Machine backup (automatically backs up system data to an external hard drive), many built-in apps, highly reliable, excellent customer service
- 2304 x 1440 (16×10 ratio, 226 pixels per inch) high resolution Retina 12″ IPS display. 178° wide viewing angle, great contrast and accurate, vibrant colors.
- Outstanding out of the box grey scale and color accuracy
- Excellent keyboard, with new butterfly switches: More stable and they have the same feel to them no matter where on the key you press.
- Backlit keyboard: Each key is individually lit. The LEDs are calibrated for uniform brightness, so every key and character looks clear and sharp with minimal light around the keycap.
- High-end performance storage makes your computer feel more responsive.
- Silent: The use of the low power Core processor allows the Macbook to be fanless. It contains no motorized parts and the only moving parts are the keyboard keys, the trackpad, and the screen hinge.
- USB-C port is reversible: Type-C connector is a clear improvement over Type-A if you’ve ever struggled with getting a device plugged in the first place. Either way is the right way, making it much easier to plug in USB devices.
- Long battery life: 10 hours of web browsing, 12 hours of Itunes movie playback.
- Solid chassis: All-aluminum unibody
- Solid screen hinge
- Force Touch trackpad: Excellent trackpad, with great multi-touch support
- Bluetooth 4.0
- Latest generation 802.11ac WiFi
Why you might not want the 12″ Macbook: Cons
- Limited amount of ports: Only a single USB-C port and a combo audio jack. The Macbook 12″ uses its single USB 3.1 Type-C port for charging with the AC adapter too. If you plan on docking it to a screen, keyboard, mouse, etc., you’ll need an adapter or a dock. See the recommended adapters/dock section at the end of the article.
- Limited CPU performance: In sustained workloads (30+ minutes) the CPU will lower its frequency (and performance) to keep heat under control. Not ideal for heavy photo/video editing, heavy multitasking or demanding programs where high sustained CPU performance is required.
- Limited GPU (graphic card) performance. Forget playing modern video games or 3D rendering: you want a dedicated video card for that.
- No LAN port
- No optical drive
- No Numpad
- The Macbook cannot be serviced: RAM and storage cannot be upgraded, the battery is only replaceable by Apple.
How to Choose your Macbook 12″
What you need to know:
All models have this in common:
Dimensions: Height: 0.11-0.52″/0.35-1.31cm, Width: 11.04″/28.05cm, Depth: 7.74″/19.65cm
Weight: 2.03 lbs (0.92kg)
Screen: Retina 12″, resolution: 2304 x 1440 (226 pixels per inch (ppi)), type of panel: IPS (178° wide viewing angle, great contrast and accurate, vibrant colors!)
Ports: 1 x USB 3.1 (Gen 1) Type-C, 3.5mm combo jack
Networking: 2×2:2 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0
Mid 2017 models compared to the Early 2016 models:
Apple updated the Macbook 12″ in June 2017.
I refer to those updated models as the Mid 2017 models through this article.
Compared to the older models, referred as Early 2016, there are four changes.
1. Higher performance CPU
The Intel 6th generation Skylake CPUs are replaced by the newer, higher performance, 7th generation Intel Core CPU architecture, Kaby Lake.
The base frequency is 100MHz higher on all CPU models, while the Boost frequency gets a significant bump, with the Core m3 getting a massive upgrade with a 800MHz higher Turbo frequency. The Core i5 as well as the Core i7 CPUs have a Turbo frequency that can go up an additional 500MHz!
In simple terms, the much higher Turbo frequency will greatly increase performance in short bursts, such as web browsing or Office work, with 15 to 35% more performance. For sustained performance, expect 10 to 20% more performance compared to the older models.
2. Upgraded Graphics
While the Early 2016 models included an Intel HD 515 integrated graphics, the 2017 models include the faster Intel HD 615 GPU. On average, you can expect a 20 to 30% boost in performance. You also get H.265/HEVC Main10 10 bit colors and Googles VP9 codec hardware decoding, reducing power consumption thus increasing battery life.
3. Faster Storage:
According to Apple, the flash drive storage is now 50% faster.
4. 16GB of RAM option is now available
The Macbook 12″ is now available with a 16GB configuration.
The 4 differences between all models
What you have to choose:
1. Choose your level of CPU performance:
All models featured dual-core CPUs, with Hyper-Threading (4 threads). The difference is in the base and Turbo clock frequencies (speed). Higher frequencies (GHz) = higher performance.
Intel Core 7th generation ‘Kaby Lake’
Intel Core m3 1.2-3.0GHz
Intel Core i5 1.3-3.2GHz
Intel Core i7 1.4-3.6GHz
2. Choose between 8GB or 16GB of memory (RAM)
Is 8GB of RAM enough for you or do you want 16GB?
It depends on what you intend to do with your Macbook.
If you only use your MacBook to run a few basic programs at once, like email, some Excel, Word, a web browser, and iTunes, 8GB is plenty of memory.
On the other hand, if you run multiple programs at once, run heavier programs (audio/photo/video/3D), like to multitask and have no time to lose, 16 GB is the wiser option.
If you intend on keeping your Macbook for many years, going with 16GB is a good idea, seeing as memory usage keeps increasing, with newer versions of programs using more and more memory.
Keep in mind that the memory is soldered in the Macbook computer, so you cannot add memory to upgrade your computer.
3. Two storage capacities:
256GB or 512GB
Are you unsure about how whether you want 256GB or 512GB of storage capacity?
Read our article on How to choose the right SSD storage capacity and pay less for your computer.
4. Choose between 4 colors:
You have the choice between four different colors:
1. Space Grey
4. Rose Gold
Apple Macbook 12
The 9 recommended configurations
1. Intel Core m3, 8GB RAM, 256GB storage (Early 2016)
This is the Early 2016 entry-level model:
Equipped with the previous 6th generation Intel Core m3 Skylake, Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 1.1-2.2GHz CPU, the lowest performance CPU available in a Macbook.
You also get 8GB of RAM and the older Intel HD 515 graphic card.
You get 256GB of storage capacity, but it’s 50% slower than the flash drive found in the Mid 2017 models.
Simply put, this is the lowest performance Macbook 12″. I only recommend it if you are on a limited budget, that you have a light usage that’s ins’t very demanding and don’t mind a slightly slower Macbook in order to save money.
2. Intel Core m3, 8GB RAM, 256GB storage (Mid 2017)
This is the Mid 2017 entry-level model:
Equipped with the Intel Core m3 Kaby Lake, Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 1.2-3.0GHz CPU.
You get 8GB of RAM as well as 256GB of storage.
Compared to the model above, you get a 10-30% faster CPU, 20-30% faster graphics and 50% faster storage.
Simply put, you get a significantly faster Macbook than the Early 2016 model. I’d say that this is the best value
3. Intel Core m5, 8GB RAM, 512GB storage (Early 2016)
This is the Early 2016 mid-range model:
It’s equipped with the previous 6th generation Intel Core m5 Skylake, Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 1.2-2.7GHz CPU and 8GB of RAM.
Compared to the model above, CPU performance is very slightly lower, and compared to any Mid 2017 model, graphics are 20-30% slower and storage is 50% slower.
I basically recommend this model only if you want a Macbook with 512GB of storage at the lowest price possible.
If you want 512GB of storage as well as the higher performance of the Mid 2017 models, see my other recommendations below.
4. Intel Core m3, 16GB RAM, 256GB storage (Mid 2017)
Compared to the previous recommendations, this is the least expensive Macbook 12″ where you get 16GB of RAM instead of 8GB. This means this model can handle a larger workload and is more future-proof.
It’s equipped with the entry-level Intel Core m3 1.2-3GHz CPU. More powerful options are available below.
You also get 256GB of storage capacity. 512GB options are available below.
5. Intel Core i5, 8GB RAM, 512GB storage (Mid 2017)
– $1,599.00 at B&H
This is a mid-range model:
It’s equipped with the Intel Core i5 1.3-3.2GHz CPU.
Compared to the Intel m3 CPU, it has a base frequency that’s 100MHz higher and a Turbo frequency that’s 200MHz higher.
You also get 512GB of storage capacity.
It’s basically the least expensive Mid 2017 model with 512GB of storage.
The model below offers the same CPU, with twice the RAM but half the storage, at the same price.
6. Intel Core i5, 16GB RAM, 256GB storage (Mid 2017)
– $1,599.00 at B&H
This is a mid-range model:
It’s also equipped with the Intel Core i5 1.3-3.2GHz CPU.
This models offers 16GB of RAM, but 256GB of storage capacity.
Compared to the model above, you get the same CPU, twice the RAM but half the storage, at the same price.
7. Intel Core i7 1.4-3.6GHz CPU, 8GB RAM, 256GB storage (Mid 2017)
You get the fastest CPU available in a Macbook 12: The Intel Core i7 Kabylake, Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 1.4-3.6GHz.
It’s equipped with 8GB of RAM. See the options below if you want 16GB of RAM with the Core i7 CPU.
You get 256GB of storage capacity with that. See the options below if you want 512GB of storage with the Core i7 CPU.
8. Intel Core i7 1.4-3.6GHz CPU, 8GB RAM, 512GB storage (Mid 2017)
Compared to the model above, you get twice the amount of storage, 512GB
You get the Intel Core i7 1.4-3.6GHz CPU
You also get 8GB of RAM. If you want the Core i7 CPU, 512GB of storage and 16GB of RAM, see the model below.
9. Intel Core i7 1.4-3.6GHz CPU, 16GB RAM, 512GB storage (Mid 2017)
This is the highest end configuration that you can get for the Macbook 12″.
Compared to my recommendation above, you get 16GB of RAM instead of 8GB, this means this model can handle larger workloads more efficiently.
You get the Intel Core i7 1.4-3.6GHz CPU, 16GB of RAM as well as 512GB of storage.
Adapters for the Macbook 12″ USB-C port:
Apple USB-C to USB-A Adapter
OWC 13 Port Thunderbolt 3 Dock:
Love the Macbook portability but need a lot more ports?
This is a dock with 2 x Thunderbolt 3 (USB Type-C), 5 x USB 3.0 Type-A, 1 x FireWire 800, 1 x Mini DisplayPort, 1 x Gigabit Ethernet, 1 x 3.5mm Audio In/Out, 1 x S/PDIF Out and SD Card Reader
– $279.00 at B&H (International Shipping)
Apple USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter: Power, HDMI and USB port
Apple USB-C VGA Multiport Adapter: Power, VGA and USB port
Kanex USB C to VGA Adapter
Kanex USB C to HDMI 4K Adapter
Kanex USB C to Gigabit Ethernet Adapter
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this article on how you can choose the ideal Macbook 12″.
Do you have any feedback or any questions?
Please leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.