Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has pushed the boundaries of laptop design with its new MacBook.
Weighing just 2 pounds, the machine offers a 12-inch Retina display with scalable resolution. At 13.1-millimeters thick the new laptop is 24% thinner than the current top-of-the-line 11-inch MacBook Air. The new MacBook also comes in gold, silver, and space gray finishes and is the first Apple laptop with an all-metal enclosure.
Delivering a device this thin and light required new technology, and Apple Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing Philip Schiller seemed pretty proud of what the company has created.
"Every component of the MacBook reveals a new innovation. From its fanless design, ultra-thin Retina display and full-size keyboard that's 34 percent thinner, to its all-new Force Touch trackpad, versatile USB-C port and breakthrough terraced battery design, the new MacBook is the future of the notebook," Schiller said in the launch press release.
Overall, the company has delivered a stunning device that also incorporates a number of new technologies. It's not an unqualified triumph, though, as some of the most exciting features could cause potential customers to pause.
There's only one port
Perhaps the most controversial feature of the new MacBook is that it only has a single USB-C port for data transfer, video output, and charging. That's a novel approach that helped restrict the device's size and weight, but it's also potentially limiting for consumers.,
Take, for example, someone who wants to use the laptop with an external monitor. It's possible to do that with the appropriate adapter, but it would not be possible to charge the MacBook while using the second screen.
It's possible to get around that by using various dongles and port extenders, but this could prove unwieldy. Apple is taking a major risk here by dropping USB, HDMI, and other traditional ports, but it's a bold move that has obvious positives if people are willing to deal with some of the inconveniences.
The keyboard is all new
The launch press release described "a comfortable keyboard" as "essential to the Mac experience." To accomplish that for the new MacBook Apple completely reengineered the way in which a notebook keyboard works, which the company described as follows:
The new keyboard is 34% thinner and uses an Apple-designed butterfly mechanism that is an amazing 40% thinner than a traditional keyboard scissor mechanism yet four times more stable, providing greater precision no matter where your finger strikes the key. New stainless steel dome switches located beneath each key deliver a crisp and responsive feel when typing, and every key on the new keyboard is individually backlit with its own single LED to deliver precisely calibrated, uniform brightness behind each keycap.
Using the keyboard, though, comes with a bit of a learning curve. In the brief time I spent with the device, it's fair to say the keys felt a bit different -- not bad, but different. Using it could very well prove an equal or even better experience than a traditional keyboard, but there will be a breaking-in period.
The new trackpad is pretty neat
Apple has also redesigned the touchpad. Called the "Force Touch" trackpad, the new input device is designed to bring "a new dimension of interactivity to the Mac." The company explained how it works in the release:
The new trackpad features built-in force sensors that allow you to click anywhere and haptic feedback that provides a responsive and uniform feel. You can even customize the feel of the trackpad by changing the amount of pressure needed to register each click. The Force Touch trackpad also enables a new gesture called Force Click, a click followed by a deeper press, for tasks like pulling up the definition of a word, quickly seeing a map or glancing at a preview of a file.
Like the keyboard, using the trackpad will require a learning curve, but it's well worth the trouble.
Apple has taken a device that has been stagnant for years and made it more useful. This isn't just engineering to make the laptop thinner, it's innovation that makes it more useful.
Daniel Kline owns shares of Apple. He can't imagine needing a laptop to be thinner than his MacBook Air. The Motley Fool recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.