Intel Core M lets new MacBook go light and fanless, but with sacrifices

“At the heart of Apple’s 12-inch MacBook is the Intel Core M, a processor series launched late last year and meant to power extremely light notebooks and tablets,” Roger Fingas writes for AppleInsider. “But the new chips come with their own set of benefits and sacrifices, particularly for people considering other MacBook models.”

“At the moment there are seven models of Core M available, ranging in speed from 800 MHz to 1.2 GHz. All of them are dual-core, have a 4 MB cache, and are paired with the same integrated graphics chip, Intel’s HD Graphics 5300,” Fingas writes. “Apple has chosen to go with the two fastest speeds — 1.1 and 1.2 GHz — for its stock configurations. The company is also promising a 1.3 GHz upgrade option, though no such chip is (yet) listed on Intel’s website or even when browsing MacBooks at Apple’s online store.”

“Less power also means less heat, allowing Core M machines to run fanless as long as they have proper ventilation channels. This contributes to the tiny dimensions of the MacBook, and should effectively eliminate noise,” Fingas writes. “There is one major drawback to Core M, and that’s performance. Even the upcoming 1.3 GHz chip will still be clocked below the slowest current MacBook Air processor, which is a 1.6 GHz dual-core Core i5. ”

Much more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: As we wrote recently:

This is why Apple offers a range of portable Macs. Everyone has different needs and priorities.

Before the MacBook Air, we were outfitted with 17-inch MacBook Pros. One Mac for everything. On the desktop, it wasn’t optimal – wired everywhere, powering monitors, external drives, speakers, etc. On the road, it was a nightmare of weight and size – it wouldn’t fit on tray tables – and it sucked power that we didn’t need it to have while mobile.

What we have today is much better for our needs: 27-inch iMacs alongside 27-inch external monitors on our desks and 11-inch MacBook Airs in our backpacks. Perfect. Until now. We never use any of our MacBook Airs ports except for recharging, so those can go. We long for Retina displays on the road. The new 12-inch MacBook is a third of a pound lighter than our 11-inch MacBook Air units. The MB offers a 2304×1440 pixel retina display vs. the MBA’s 1366×768 pixel display. The MB offers a Force Touch trackpad and a better keyboard, plus we can even get them in a range of colors.

Can you guess what our next mobile Macs are going to be? It’s like Apple made the new MacBook specifically for us!

Obviously, for anyone doing the “one Mac for everything” thing, their choices are going to be completely different.

Related article:
MacBook vs. MacBook Air vs. MacBook Pro: Which is the best value? – March 18, 2015

36 Comments

    1. I remember the time when my nuts got nearly fried every evening as I watched TV with one eye and did some useful work on my white iBook G4.
      A good thing MacBooks run a lot cooler today.

      1. I have an iMac with 16 gig ram and all the programs I need, and I’ll always have a truck but for quickie things ….. 12″ MacBook with retenia will be lovely!

  1. I question the importance of clock speed comparisons when the chips are not from the same chip family. With the M chips being 14nm, you can’t really compare them to a Core i5 just on clock speed and draw reasonable conclusions. Real-world benchmarking is needed.

    1. I do not believe Intel has implemented a major shift (tick) in its CPU architecture recently, so it is fair to estimate performance by taking into account the clock speed, number of cores, and feature size. The shift to 14nm appears to have been utilized primarily to reduce power consumption and thermal output for fanless ultraportables. So, it is reasonable to assume that there will be a modest hit in performance going from 1.6 GHz to 1.3 GHz, which is probably why Apple did not group it with the MBA lineup. Apple is trying (probably without much success) to position the new MacBook as a separate lineup rather than as a “reduced performance” version of the MBA.

      As MDN points out, this is not a deal breaker for people who value a retina display combined with compact size, low weight, and good battery life. I believe that Apple made a very good compromise in the design of the new MacBook. Eventually, as the performance of the new low-power Intel CPUs increase, I believe that this design will replace the MBA entirely. In the longer term, the CPU performance/power ratio will continue to improve and I suspect that the Apple laptop design might converge down to a single lineup.

    2. I have spoken to many Windows users and even Mac users who don’t care about those kind of details. As long as the knobs go up to 11, they have the best computer. Few people can distinguish between clock cycles and performance. They just know that one number is bigger than another.

      1. Fair enough. I know quite a few people who just look at superficial numbers (or even less informative information) to decide on a purchase. And many people would not benefit from additional technical detail, anyway. They don’t have a working knowledge of CPU design and the interaction with the OS and application software, so they go for the familiar product with the biggest numbers. If these people ever switch to the Mac, it is generally for one of two reasons:

        1) They get so pissed off at Windows that they buy a Mac in desperation (and to punish Microsoft)

        2) They get to try a Mac for a while – often a used Mac loaned or gifted by a friend or family member. After a few weeks the awkwardness goes away and they begin to appreciate the Mac on its own merits.

        People are the same way about cars, trucks, and motorcycles. For example, they don’t know the difference between horsepower and torque, or why a flatter torque curve with a lower peak is generally far preferable to a peakier torque profile that manifests the magic “maximum torque” only at high RPM.

        As the saying goes, it takes all kinds. Personally, I like to know how my stuff works.

    1. I am not so sure about that. The people who buy MBAs are already willing to compromise on performance to achieve maximum portability. The new 12″ MB is even lighter than the 11″ MBA, but includes a retina display. And the performance delta is likely to be fairly small.

      I think that the new 12″ MB poses a significant threat to the current MBA lineup. And the low-power mobile processors will only get better.

  2. I love what Apple has done with the new MacBook and MacBook Airs, but I’m going to continue to stick with the MacBook Pro. I’ve had my late 2013 15inch MacBook Pro for a little over a year, and it works great for everything I do. I definitely need the 16GB of RAM and the quad core i7. If Apple offered a 13inch model with a dedicated GPU and a quad core i7, I would have bought one. The extra pound on the 15inch isn’t so bad, but the 13inch model would have been awesome. My only problem with the retina displays is that they viewable area on the 15inch is the same as 1440×900 pixels, and the viewable area on the 13inch model is 1280×800. In a way, I feel cheated. I can set the resolution to a scaled resolution, but there’s a warning about degraded performance. That’s stupid. Why would there be degraded performance? The Intel Iris Pro gives me 1.5GB of shared video memory, and the built in GPU gives me 2GB of dedicated video memory. Both should be able to easily drive the display at 1920×1200 without any problems.

  3. “Core M, meant to power extremely light notebooks and tablets.”

    The convergence of products; where the Macbook will be more like an iPad running OS X or a iPad Pro is inevitable.

  4. I wish people would actually look at the benchmarks instead of talking crap with no knowledge. The core m in the MB is actually a hair faster then the i5 in the air.

    1. Back in the 70’s, Ohio Scientific sold a three processor computer; 6502, 8080, and PDP 11. It was quite nice, but it just didn’t sell. And the extra logic required to support the 3 made it expensive.

      A more interesting project (for me, anyway :lol:) would be iOS running on a Raspberry Pi. A $35 iPad/iPhone clone would be great fun!

  5. These idiots all seem to act like Apple is going to drop all their other laptops and only manufacture the MacBook. If that were true I could see getting bent about slower performance and only one USB-C port, but it’s not. If it doesn’t meet your needs no one is forcing you to buy one.

    1. I’ll second that. If you don’t like it don’t buy it. Plenty of options. Simples, end of story.

      FWIW, though, this machine will be heaps fast enough for non-geeks everywhere and – being elegant, light and a natural companion for iPhones, Applewatches etc. – will sell a motza !

    2. You mean like Apple would continue making rack-mounted servers?

      And how Apple would keep making workstations with significant internal expansion and user customization?

      And how Apple would make a Mac mini that it could perform as well as an iMac for people who wanted/needed other display options?

      Sorry, Mr. Grief, but Apple’s shitty track record lately of continuing to support Mac configurations that pros want and need is absolutely atrocious. With the new MacBook, Cook again reminds us that he cares only about the luxury consumer market.

  6. This is a very selective/slanted review. For starters, the Yoga3 is a dated and horrible comparison. Dell has a faster laptop and then Asus topped it, both with the Core M. Apple is likely to do even better than those toy builders.

    Then there is comparing it to Air products, which weigh a lot more, and have no retina display.

    Lastly, there is the question of price, when a Mac Pro with retina can be had for the same price, which is a half truth… Same price yes, but only 128GB storage. Another $200 must be forked out to get up to 256GB of storage like the entry MacBook comes with.

  7. They aren’t serving everyone. I want the MacBook Air 13″ form factor with it’s ports, although I’d gladly take two USB-C ports in exchange for the current two USB 3 port and the magsafe. But I’d like to keep the Thunderbolt and SD-Card slot. And I’d like a retina display. I’m most disappointed about not having a 13″ Retina display on the MBA.

  8. Can you actually get work done on this new laptop? I’m not talking about email and web, but say graphics and more intensive programs? Or is this really going to be the ‘netbook’ as it has been described as? If it is just for email and web, why not just get an iPad? Unless you want the gold.

    1. The 2015 MacBook is a netbook only. For those who do lots of typing, it’s vastly better than an iPad due to a real keypad and a better display. And of course it’s orders of magnitude better than an iPad because it has a real operating system, OS X.

      So essentially this machine stands in as an iPad Pro, the best thing about it is that Apple didn’t dumb it down to run only iOS. You can (slowly) run any Intel apps, and you can emulate iOS. See Derek’s note above if you feel the need to run hobbled iOS apps on it.

  9. The New MacBook is really a nice piece of engineering,

    it only lacks the performance you need,

    if you want to be creative.

     turns into Toys-R-Us

    A tamagotchi watch and a very expensive sub-notebook.

    Is that the result of pairing Art and Engineering ?

    All the insiders are telling the same story theses days. It is the end of  we loved, it is the beginning of Toys
    -R-Us.

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