Most people prefer a MacBook Air

Why I'll miss the 12-inch Macbook

Leif Johnson, Peter Müller

Apple rejected a product introduced in 2015 and updated in the following two years because its time has come. Our Macworld colleague Leif Johnson regrets this. Here is his swan song.

Apple has officially withdrawn the outdated 12-inch Macbook and I wallow in grief. The laptop was certainly not for everyone, but it was the perfect Macbook for me and people like me - namely authors without a car who want quick access to a laptop in order to create or edit texts in the shortest possible time, no matter where they are to stay. I waited for a new model to be bought, preferably with the membrane-padded keyboards we find in the latest Macbooks. But now I have to be content with a 2017 model with the best processor from the remaining stock in order to get as much use as possible from the device.

The 12-inch Macbook was not the right device for video editors or photographers - and certainly not for gamers. But it was the Macbook for those of us who value portability above all else. Weighing only one kilogram and a profile that was slimmer than some pads, it practically disappeared into my pocket. (I was sometimes afraid I'd accidentally left it at home.) Even the slightly heavier and slightly larger dimensions of the new Macbook Air are enough to make me aware of its presence in my pocket, and that makes you Difference when, like me, you drag a laptop (and other rubbish) up the steep hills of San Francisco in the afternoon. I took my 12-inch Macbook with me on occasions when I would have left a laptop at home, and I was always glad I had it with me.

The slim profile required some sacrifices, but I never found them to be as annoying as some people had imagined. Take the single USB-C port on the side. In theory, it was a nuisance as you had to use the same port for charging and for all peripherals, adapters, or connecting to an external monitor. For example, if you wanted to download files from an SD card, you could no longer charge the Macbook.

EnlargeI am always confused by the fact that it is so hard to find a USB-C hub that has different USB-C ports.

In practice this has rarely been a problem. Again, I mainly used it for writing - and I should say I have more powerful machines when I need more power - so there wasn't much reason to hook up anything else anyway. I usually carry Apple's ultra-slim Magic Mouse 2 with me, so I didn't even have to connect a mouse by cable. And without the additional processing power of other Macbook models, the battery seemed to last forever, so I could store my cinema display as a second monitor in the office for over half a day without worrying about the battery running out. (Even with that underperformance, the 2017 Macbook could handle World of Warcraft tolerably.) I liked that it delivered much of the experience people associate with Chromebooks, but with the convenience and versatility of a full version of macOS.

At this point I could get a little headwind from the readers: It was the only model of the Macbook where I really loved the Apple butterfly keyboard, which has been so criticized by many (apart from its loud clatter when typing), because of the slight incline of the keyboard and the thin case of the Macbook, which almost merges with the table, seemed to fit the design perfectly. The buttons were perfectly arranged for my fingers, and even the palm rests and trackpad were nicer sized than what we find in Apple's larger laptops. That made it a perfect writing instrument for me. Hell, I even loved that it didn't have a Touch Bar, the least important of Apple's recent "innovations".


I hope that one day we will see something like the divorced Macbook again, because no current Apple laptop fulfills this role so well. Both the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pros are powerful devices, but they feel annoying when worn for long periods of time. The new Macbook Air has an extra port, an upgraded keyboard, and even Touch ID, but like I said, it's still big enough to feel like a small load. The rest of Apple's Macbooks seem like desktop-class machines designed to be easy to move around, while the humble Macbook was made for use on the road. It was a minimalist machine from a company known for its minimalist design, and I'd even like to say that leaving out all the bells and whistles helped me achieve a clear focus that I can't get with the MacBook's bigger brothers.

It could be argued that Apple hasn't entirely given up on that philosophy because I believe Apple would like those of us who prefer this type of experience to switch to the iPad now. To this end, the upcoming iPadOS 13 introduces a variety of changes that make Apple's tablet function more like a Mac, including better file management, improved multitasking, and the ability to connect all peripheral devices through the single port. Like the Macbook, the mere iPads are so slim and light that you will hardly notice them in your pocket. Apple isn't just pointing us in that direction - with the end of the Macbook, it feels like a huge nudge.

But I'll stick with it: the iPad is not a Macbook. It's much better suited to complex tasks than it used to be, but it still lacks the kind of straightforward, multi-window support we have on the Mac, and the new mouse support has a significant drawback. Typing with a keyboard on an iPad requires the purchase of a keyboard case, and once it's in place, you see the iPad transformed into a device more technically complex than the Macbook ever was. Seldom does a keyboard cover give you such a comfortable typing experience as you are used to from a real Macbook. (But, hey, at least they're quieter.)

Apple had big plans for the 12-inch Macbook, as the name suggests: It should be the perfect Macbook for most people. As it turned out, it was just really perfect for writers on the go - and then even some of us preferred other options. On some level, its disappearance is good news as Apple's line of products has gradually become cluttered again, especially given rumors that a 16-inch Macbook Pro will be dropping later this year. I'm under no illusions that it was a popular device.

The fact is, however, that no other Macbook will give me exactly what I want. As soon as I get my new Macbook, I'll be like one of those people who stuck to the pre-Butterfly Macbooks Pro for years, out of quiet protest and a penchant for the tried and true paths. And right now I can understand her well.