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Our first look at Apple's new 12-inch MacBook: Hands-on photos

Apple's new 12-inch MacBook looks identical to last year's debut model, but packs some additional punch under the hood.

Justin Yu
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Apple MacBook 2016

Apple's most portable MacBook gets a 2016 refresh, with faster Intel chips and longer battery life. But that single USB-C port remains.

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The 2016 update to the 12-inch MacBook is now available to buy, but note that it's more of a spec bump than anything else.

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The new MacBook retains the same chassis as the previous version. It's already been a year since that one came out and now CNET editor Dan Ackerman has seriously warmed up to the size -- it's become his default go-to for instances when he needs a laptop that's quick and easy to use.

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The new 12-inch MacBook makes for a perfect living room couch device, as it's lightweight, springs to life the moment you lift the lid, and is small enough that it doesn't get in the way.

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One year later, a handful of laptops and hybrids have followed in the 12-inch MacBook's footsteps, with Core M processors and USB-C ports. Examples run from the Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi to the brand new Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro S.

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One thing you might miss if you're switching over from a Windows laptop is the lack of a touchscreen, although Apple's intuitive multitouch touchpad gestures make up for a least some of that missing functionality.

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The very shallow keyboard isn't the most comfortable for long-form typing, but also not as clacky as the shallow keys on a Surface Pro keyboard.

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The touchpad remains excellent, and still miles beyond any Windows system touchpad, thanks to Apple's multitouch gesture support.

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According to Dan's review of the original 12-inch MacBook last year, you probably won't fall in love with the keyboard right away (which remains unchanged on this update), but over time he grew to like it more than he expected.

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The keyboard uses a new butterfly mechanism for keys that's thinner and more stable than some other mechanical keyboards.

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The nearly edge-to-edge keyboard has larger key faces than you're used to with legacy models, but the keys are also shallow, barely popping up above the keyboard tray and depressing into the chassis only slightly.

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It takes some getting used to, especially if you're accustomed to the deep, clicky physical feedback of the older MacBooks or the similar island-style keyboards of most other modern laptops.

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The first time we tried the keyboard, we couldn't get through a few sample sentences without making mistakes because of the shallow keys and their lower level of tactile feedback.

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Here's the new MacBook next to a 13-inch MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro.

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The overall shape and industrial design is familiar, based on the past seven-plus years of MacBook design, but with the same super-thin design that we saw debut in the last model. Here it is sitting on a MacBook Air.

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Another comparison with the MacBook on top, the Pro in the middle and the Air on the bottom.

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Notice there's only a single USB-C port on the side, compared to the various ports on the other MacBooks.

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Over time, and with some practice, typing became easier and more intuitive.

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The new MacBook starts with a current-gen Intel Core M3 processor, the step-up chip from the first-generation Intel Core M in the 2015 model. While faster, it's not as muscular as Intel's full-fledged Core-i processors found in all Apple's other Macs.

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With this 2016 update, Apple has addressed some, but not all, of the issues with the original. Based on our CNET Labs testing in other computers with the second generation of Core M processors (confusingly part of Intel's sixth generation of Core chips, also known by the code name Skylake).

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Most importantly, the new MacBooks don't add any extra ports. There's still just a single USB-C port.

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It's still certainly a limitation to have only a single USB-C port for all your connection needs (with the exception of a standard audio jack that also made the cut), so be prepared to arm yourself with a pocketful of dongles and adaptors.

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The $1,599/£1,299 step-up Core M5 version still features 8GB RAM and a 512GB SSD, too. But the MacBooks get improved Intel HD Graphics 515, faster PCIe flash storage and an optional extra upgrade to a 1.3GHz Core M7 processor.

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The MacBook uses Intel's new Core M processor, designed for slim, light laptops, hybrids and tablets with premium prices.

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We'll have more in-depth coverage of the 12-inch MacBook later today.

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