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Some thoughts on the heart of the new MacBook

My first thought today when I saw the new MacBook was “damn, that’s thin!” The second was some fleeting thought about how nice the Space Gray version looked, and the third thought was about the speed of the new laptop. I did a quick search for information on the Intel Core M SoC (System on a Chip) used in the new device and it actually looks pretty good despite the slow clock speed. Remember, it’s not all about clock speed…

Although it’s not clear from Apple’s web page about the new MacBook, it appears that it is using the Intel Core M-5Y70 Broadwell SoC. It generally putters along at about 1.1 GHz (1.3 GHz available), but can spike up to 2.4 GHz (2.9 on the top end model) in Turbo Boost mode. The graphics chip of this system is the Intel HD Graphics 5300.

The new MacBook Air starts off with a 1.6 GHz Intel Core i5 SoC, also from the 14nm Broadwell family. It will also Turbo Boost up to 2.4 GHz, and uses the Intel HD Graphics 6000 GPU. So how do those two families compare? Once again, although it’s not in the Apple specs, I’d venture that this is the Intel Core i5 5250U SoC being used…

Even on sites that allow direct comparisons, it’s impossible to find a head-to-head comparison of the two Intel products in terms of raw speed. That’s something that usually requires actual hands-on use of a laptop containing that specific SoC and running performance benchmarks like Geekbench. Since we won’t see the new MacBook until April 10, it’s unlikely that those benchmarks will become available soon.

But the big takeaway is that the MacBook SoC runs much cooler, has much more cache on board, and it uses much less power than the MacBook Air SoC.  On the other hand, the 11-inch MacBook Air and the new MacBook both are billed at 9 hours of battery life. The MacBook comes with 8GB of memory standard, while the MacBook Air has 4GB standard (8GB available as an upgrade). 

Remember that the display of the MacBook will be Retina-quality at 2340 by 1440 resolution at 226 dpi, while the MacBook Air still slogs along with a 1440 by 900 (13-inch) or 1366 by 768 (11-inch) display. If you do a lot of FaceTime calls, realize that the MacBook only has a 480p built-in camera, while that of the MacBook Air (both models) is 720p. 

Finally, you do have a choice of ports on the MacBook Air — Thunderbolt 2, USB 3.0 (two), and on the 13-inch MBA, an SDXC slot. Not so much on the new MacBook — just that one USB-C adapter…

The bottom line? Well, as with any purchasing decision, you may want to wait until the new MacBook is actually out and see how it compares speed-wise with the newly-updated MacBook Air. You’ll also need to consider whether the lack of ports makes a difference for you, or if you rarely need additional connections to accessories.

What are your thoughts about the new MacBook? Are you considering buying one? Leave your comments below!


Steve Sande
the authorSteve Sande
Steve is the founder and former publisher of Apple World Today and has authored a number of books about Apple products. He's an avid photographer, an FAA-licensed drone pilot, and a really bad guitarist. Steve and his wife Barb love to travel everywhere!