The brand new Apple MacBook is an ultraportable wonder: It weighs just 2 pounds, has a 12-inch Retina display, a newly redesigned keyboard, and a new trackpad with Apple’s Force Touch feature that lets you press down harder to create new responses in apps that support it.

And it only has one port.

Its USB-3 type port is a new connectivity standard that can power a device as well as attach peripherals like external displays or storage — all through the same port . . . but to attach power as well as an external display, for example, you’ll need an adapter or USB-3 hub.

Inside the MacBook, Apple is using a fifth-generation Intel Core M “Broadwell” processor — a 1.1 GHz dual-core Intel Core M processor with Turbo Boost speeds up to 2.4 GHz. While it’s highly energy efficient and doesn’t require a fan, the actual processing power seems to be a step down from recent — and the newly updated — MacBook Airs that use 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processors with Turbo Boost speeds up to 2.7 GHz.

The MacBook graphics use the integrated Intel HD Graphics 5300 while the updated MacBook Airs use Intel HD Graphics 6000. While the “6000” is more capable in the Airs, you’re still getting a standard, traditional display. The new MacBook, of course, uses a super sharp Retina display, so the overall look and feel for most people in most situations will still seem better on the MacBook.

The new MacBook ships with 8GB of memory — which is good — while the MacBook Airs only have 4GB (see, “Is 4GB of Memory Enough?”). At 256GB of flash storage, the base storage in the new MacBook is more useful now, too, which is twice the base storage in a MacBook Air. The battery will deliver about 9 hours of wireless web usage, which is about the same as the 11-inch MacBook Air.

The New MacBook: Portability Over Power

If you’re looking for a powerful new MacBook, this isn’t it. The new MacBook is all about portability. It’s about the size of an 11-inch MacBook air but lighter. Starting at $1,299, the new MacBook is also $400 more than the $899 11-inch MacBook Air.

So then what’s so cool about it?

Everything has been redesigned. The new all-metal enclosure (no plastic around the antennas at the rear anymore) comes in Apple’s standard device colors — Gold, Space Gray, and Silver. For anyone tired of silver MacBooks, the additional colors are a welcome change.

The keyboard has larger keys and a supposedly more consistent feel across each key as you type, but the travel is slightly less, and early reviews of the keyboard say it’s not better than the already great MacBook Air keyboard — but not appreciably worse, either. (The design change was necessary help shave the thickness down to 13.1 millimeters.)

The trackpad has the new Force Touch system, which will let you do things like press harder to fast forward faster or press on a date in an email to launch a calendar entry for that date. It also includes a vibration system that can provide haptic feedback to create a subtle feel to your interactions. Now you can click anywhere on the trackpad and feel a “click” whereas traditional hinged trackpads only provide the click on the mid-to-bottom portions of trackpad.

The Retina display has a 16:10 aspect ratio and is the thinnest display ever on a Mac. It has larger apertures for each pixel and uses 30 percent less energy than existing Mac notebook Retina displays. The resolution is 2304 x 1440, but it’s actually scaled for most standard app work — but it also means you can view Full HD video pixel-by-pixel through Apple’s Retina display ninjutsu.

All-in-all, if you want an ultraportable MacBook — with a wicked-sharp Retina display — the new MacBook is for you. If you favor all-around power over portability, choose a MacBook Pro with Retina display. If you favor the best overall value, choose a MacBook Air.

The New MacBook Core Options

The base level MacBook comes with a 1.1 GHz dual-core Intel Core M processor with Turbo Boost speeds up to 2.4 GHz, 8GB of memory, 256GB of flash storage and Intel HD Graphics 5300 at $1,299. A slightly more powerful option comes with a 1.2 GHz dual-core Intel Core M processor with Turbo Boost speeds up to 2.6GHz, 8GB of memory, 512GB of flash storage and Intel HD Graphics 5300 for a whopping $1,599.

About the author

Chris Maxcer

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I’ve been writing about the tech industry since the birth of the email newsletter, and I still remember the clacking Mac keyboards from high school — Apple’s seed-planting strategy at work. I’m a big fan of elegant gear and great tech, but there’s something to be said for turning it all off — or most of it — to go outside. Online I like to call out cool stuff on Wicked Cool Bite and blog with my buddies at Man Makes Fire. To catch me, take a “firstnamelastname” guess at the url of this site.