Technology

Hands on with Apple's new MacBook

Apple's surprise unveiling of the MacBook was the show-stealer of its special event Monday

SAN FRANCISCO -- Apple's surprise unveiling of a new notebook category, the MacBook, was the show-stealer of its special event Monday.

I got some hands-on time with the MacBook in the Apple demo area after the event and was impressed by the thinness and lightness of the device. To recap, the MacBook weighs 2 pounds and is 13.1 millimeters thin; the panel is just 0.88 millimeters, the thinnest ever on a Mac.

It comes with that super-crisp Retina display, which Apple has yet to roll out on the MacBook Air line (and by the looks of it, won't be doing any time soon).

Apple is offering the MacBook in the same three colors as the iPhone: space gray, silver and gold, which in hindsight seems like an obvious move for Apple, which has seen huge success with its gold phones.

Starting price: $1,299, which puts it between the MacBook Air -- now considered the "budget" offering by Apple, if there is such a thing -- and the MacBook Pro. The MacBook has all-day battery life and begins to ship April 10.

I'm predicting the most controversial part of the new notebook will be its completely redesigned keyboard. Apple had to re-engineer how a notebook keyboard works in order to fit it into the thin form factor. What that means is the new keyboard is 34% thinner and uses a butterfly mechanism to stabilize the keys. 

What that translates to in real-life usage is an extremely shallow keyboard that almost lies flush with the base of the notebook. That being said, I didn't mind the redesigned keyboard and managed to type as quickly and as accurately on it as I do on my MacBook Air. Other tech reporters have already complained that the keys feel too stiff and insubstantial; I don't think it's that bad but I do agree that it's definitely not as satisfying as typing on the Air (or on an actual keyboard with fat keys, for that matter).

As for the new Force Touch trackpad, which responds according to how hard you press on it, it took some getting used to. An Apple employee pulled up a video for me to watch and told me to press down lightly on the fast forward button, which caused the video to speed up to about 3X as fast. As I pushed harder, the video began to zoom by at even faster rates.

The choice for many people looking for a basic but solid Apple notebook will clearly be between the MacBook and the Air, which starts at $999 and comes in an 11-inch version or a 13-inch.

The MacBook has the thin-and-light wow effect, Retina screen and the added bonus of the cool new USB-C port for data transfer, video out and charging in a single connector.

That being said, I'd gladly trade a Retina screen for the extra inch of screen space on my 13-inch MacBook Air plus a more comfortable keyboard.

Now if only Apple would make the Air in gold. 

Follow Andrea Chang on Twitter.

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