Product Listing

Apple MacBook: Is this the ultimate ultraportable notebook?

By Kenny Yeo - 12 May 2015
Launch SRP: S$1788

Performance Benchmarking

Performance Benchmarking

We have installed Windows 8 on the MacBook and tested it using our usual suite of benchmarks. This will allow us to peg its performances against comparable Windows notebooks that we have reviewed. At this point it is worth mentioning that the MacBook, just like the latest 13-inch MacBook Air and MacBook Pro with Retina display, will drop Bootcamp support for Windows 7 and will only support Windows 8. To get a sense of where the MacBook stands against the refreshed 13-inch MacBook Air and MacBook Pro with Retina display, we will also be running Geekbench 3 on these machines. For comparison, we have included results of other comparable notebooks such as the Dell XPS 13, ASUS Transformer Book T300 Chi and Microsoft Surface Pro 3.

You might wonder why Windows 8 and not 8.1, the reason is because we could not successfully update our Windows 8 installation. After much troubleshooting, we discovered that the problem is caused by a failure to reboot during the updating process. Further investigation revealed that users with partitioned hard drives often encounter this problem. However, because we were running Bootcamp, we were unable to solve the problem. Furthermore, installing Windows 8 and updating to 8.1 was not an issue on the MacBook Air nor MacBook Pro. Hence, we have concluded that this could be because of driver related issues pertaining to the MacBook’s new NVME-compatible SSD. That said, we don’t expect results to be affected significantly.

  • Geekbench 3
  • PCMark 8
  • 3DMark 2013
  • Tomb Raider
  • Far Cry 2

Test Notebooks Compared
  Apple MacBook (Early 2015) Apple MacBook Air 13-inch (Early 2015) Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch with Retina display (Early 2015) Dell XPS 13 (2015) ASUS Transformer Book T300 Chi Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro
  Apple MacBook (Early 2015) Apple MacBook Air 13-inch (Early 2015) Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch with Retina display (Early 2015) Dell XPS 13 (2015) ASUS Transformer Book T300 Chi Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro
Processor and Chipset
  • Intel Core M-5Y31 (1.1GHz, 4MB L3 cache)
  • Intel Core i5-5250U (1.6GHz, 3MB L3 cache)
  • Intel Core i5-5257U (2.7GHz, 3MB L3 cache)
  • Intel Core i7-5500U (2.4GHz, 4MB L3 cache)
  • Intel Core M-5Y71 Processor (1.2GHz, 4MB L3 cache)
  • Intel Core M-5Y70 (1.1GHz, 4MB L3 cache)
Operating System
  • Mac OS X Yosemite
  • Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite
  • Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite
  • Windows 8.1
  • Windows 8.1
  • Windows 8.1
System Memory
  • 8GB 1600MHz LPDDR3
  • 4GB 1600MHz LPDDR3
  • 8GB 1866MHz LPDDR3
  • 8GB
  • 8GB
  • 8GB
Video & Display
  • 12-inch Retina display (2304 x 1440 pixels)
  • Intel HD Graphics 5300
  • 13.3-inch (1440 x 900 pixels)
  • Intel HD Graphics 6000
  • 13.3-inch Retina display (2560 x 1600 pixels)
  • Intel Iris Graphics 6100
  • 13.3-inch (3200 x 1800 pixels) touchscreen
  • Intel HD Graphics 5500
  • 12.5-inch WQHD display (2560 x 1440 pixels)
  • Intel HD Graphics 5300
  • 13.3-inch 3200 x 1800 pixels resolution
  • Intel HD Graphics 5300
Storage
  • 256GB SSD
  • 256GB PCIe SSD
  • 256GB PCIe-based SSD
  • 256GB SSD
  • 128GB SSD
  • 256GB / 512GB
Optical Drive
  • None
  • None
  • None
  • None
  • None
  • None
Connectivity
  • 802.11 ac/b/g/n/a
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 802.11ac/b/g/n (2x2)
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 802.11 ac/b/g/n (3x3)
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 802.11ac/b/g/n/ (2x2)
  • Bluetooth
  • 802.11b/g/n/a
  • Bluetooth
  • Wireless-AC
  • Bluetooth 4.0
Audio
  • Built-in speakers
  • Stereo speakers
  • Dual microphones
  • Stereo speakers
  • Dual microphones
  • Built-in speakers
  • Built-in speakers
  • Integrated JBL speakers
I/O Ports
  • 1 x USB-C port
  • 1 x 3.5mm audio jack
  • 2 x USB 3.0 port
  • 1 x Thunderbolt 2.0 port
  • 1 x SDXC card slot
  • 1 x audio jack
  • 2 x USB 3.0 ports
  • 2 x Thunderbolt 2.0 ports
  • 1 x HDMI port
  • 1 x headphone jack
  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • 1 x Mini-DisplayPort
  • SD card reader
  • 1 x micro-USB 3.0
  • 1 x SD card reader
  • 1 x micro-HDMI
  • 1 x Bluetooth On/Off Switch
  • 1 x COMBO audio jack
  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • 4-in-1 card reader
  • Headphones jack
  • Micro-HDMI out
Miscellaneous
  • Force Touch trackpad
  • Force Touch trackpad
Battery Type
  • 39.7Wh lithium-ion battery
  • 54wH lithium-ion battery
  • 74.9wH lithium-ion battery
  • 52Whr lithium-ion
  • 32Wh battery
  • 44wH non-removable
Dimensions
  • 280.4 x 196.6 x 13.2 mm
  • 325 x 227 x 3 ~ 17mm
  • 314 x 219 x 18mm
  • 304 x 200 x 9~15mm
  • 317.8 x 191.6 x 7.6 ~ 16.5 mm
  • 330 mm x 228 mm x 12.8 mm
Weight
  • 920g
  • 1.35kg
  • 1.58kg
  • 1.26kg
  • 1.43kg (with keyboard dock)
  • 700g (tablet alone)
  • 1.19kg

 

Geekbench 3

To get a sense of how the Apple MacBook stacks up against Apple’s other notebooks, we decided to run Geekbench. Geekbench is a popular Mac benchmarking software that measures a Mac system’s performance by running a variety of tests that taxes individual components of a system such as the processor and memory and then gives an overall score of the system’s performance.

The Apple MacBook’s single-core score was about 16% off the pace when compared to the MacBook Air, and 30% lower than the more powerful MacBook Pro. Multi-core scores showed a even greater gulf in performance - 20% against the MacBook Air and almost 35% against the MacBook Pro. Clearly, the Core M processor in the MacBook will offer much reduced performance.

 

 

PCMark 8

The Apple MacBook’s PCMark 8 scores was disappointing overall. Obviously, it was no match for other notebooks like the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, but we were quite surprised to find that it struggled to keep pace with other similar Core M-powered notebooks like the ASUS Transformer Book T300 Chi and Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro. Our guess is that in altering the MacBook's Core M processor's base clock speeds, it might have altered the way the processor reacts in stepping up clock speeds to deal with applications. This could have explained the discrepancy in performance that we see here. We did not manage to get a score for the “Storage” workload, presumably because of driver issues with the MacBook’s newer NVME-compatible drive.

 

3DMark 2013

The Apple MacBook’s graphics performance on 3DMark 2013 was quite encouraging as it was a good match for the ASUS Transformer Book T300 Chi, despite having a less more powerful processor. In fact, its score on the more intensive Fire Strike benchmark was a good 27% better. This could mean that the MacBook is more adept at dissipating heat, allowing the Core M processor in it to maintain higher clock speeds for longer periods. However, the MacBook was no match for the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air, and their more powerful integrated GPUs.

 

Far Cry 2

Moving on to Far Cry 2, the Apple MacBook maintained its slight lead over the other two Core M-powered notebooks by ASUS and Lenovo. It also trailed the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 by a small margin. That said, it did not achieve playable frame rates even at the lower “Medium” graphics settings. In fact, the only machines to do so were the newer Broadwell-powered Apple MacBook Air and MacBook Pro and the Dell XPS 13. Still, the MacBook was never designed to be a gaming machine, but it is disappointing to see that it cannot convincingly run a game that’s seven years old.  

 

Tomb Raider

The Apple MacBook’s performance on Tomb Raider was even more abysmal, but it did manage to carve out a significant lead over the ASUS Transformer Book T300 Chi and Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro, and was about 35% faster overall. It was also faster than the Microsoft Surface Pro 3, which has a “Haswell” Core i5-4300U processor with Intel HD Graphics 4400. However, the MacBook was no match for the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. It also trailed the Dell XPS 13 by about 18%.

 

Battery Life & Power Consumption

Our battery test times the battery life of the notebook while it runs through a wide variety of different tasks, including video editing and gaming. So it was impressive to find that the Apple MacBook managed to last a very respectable 4 hours and 47 minutes - about half an hour less than the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. What’s even more amazing is that the MacBook has a significantly smaller battery compared to the other two 13-inch Apple notebooks. The MacBook’s battery is rated at 39.7Wh, whereas the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro’s batteries are rated at 54Wh and 74.9Wh respectively. The MacBook also lasted significantly longer than any other notebook here, with the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro closest to matching it.

Looking at the power consumption figure, we can see why the Apple MacBook lasted as long as it did, as its power consumption came up to just 8.3W - almost 20% less than the MacBook Air and a whopping 40% less than the MacBook Pro, Dell XPS 13 and Microsoft Surface 3 Pro. This figure was also lesser than the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro and about on a par with the ASUS Transformer Book T300 Chi. 

 

Portability Index

Our Portability Index factors in battery life, weight and volume so you can see which notebook is the most worthwhile to carry around. With its long battery life and super compact dimensions, is it any surprise that the Apple MacBook was the runaway leader in this benchmark? Its ratio of 7.452 is miles ahead of its competitors, and absolutely shames other supposed ultraportable notebooks such as the MacBook Air, Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro and Dell XPS 13. This is a clear indication of how thorough Apple was in designing their most portable notebook ever.

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8.0
  • Design 9.5
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7.5
  • Value 7.5
  • Mobility 9.5
The Good
Gorgeous design, comes in gold
Very thin, very light
Long battery life
Force Touch trackpad is cool
Awesome Retina display
Excellent build quality
The Bad
Less powerful than other Mac notebooks
Battery life shorter than MacBook Air
Force Touch trackpad requires more support
Only a single USB Type-C port
No dedicated jack/port for power
Keyboard needs getting used to
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