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12-inch MacBook hands-on: Great keyboard and trackpad, but only one port

Susie Ochs | March 11, 2015
OK, there are two ports—if you count the headphone jack. But the new 12-inch MacBook didn't get so thin and light without making tradeoffs.

For example, you can Force Click a Mail attachment to Quick Look at it instead of clicking to select it, and then tapping the space bar. You can Force Click an address to see it on a map. You can Force Click a date and time to create a new calendar event. And you can Force Click a word to look it up on Wikipedia. I found this to be super handy--and faster than right-clicking and digging through contextual menus. It'll save MacBook owners a lot of time.

Just one port
Think of all the ports you've used on your Apple laptops through the years: MagSafe and its little brother MagSafe 2. FireWire 400 back in the day. USB 2 and USB 3 (which was only added to the Mac lineup in June 2012). And Thunderbolt. Oh, poor Thunderbolt. Those are all gone. The new MacBook doesn't even have an SD card slot. It's only got one port. One. Port.

OK, OK, two ports. You can plug in your headphones.

But the single port you'll use for everything else is called USB-C, and it holds some impressive technology--we'll have a deeper dive as we can get our (many) questions answered. What we know so far is that it replaces MagSafe for charging, USB for connecting peripherals, and HDMI, VGA, and DisplayPort for connecting external screens. What's missing from that list? Yup, Thunderbolt. Every single other Mac has a Thunderbolt port, so if you've made the investment in Thunderbolt devices, this may not be the MacBook for you.

Obviously, you'll need an adapter--you can't shove a big honkin' HDMI cable into the tiny USB-C port. Apple is selling a USB adapter for $19 so you can plug in exactly one USB device. Two Multiport adapters are also on offer for $79 each. The USB-C VGA Multiport Adapter has a pass-through USB-C port for your charging cable, plus standard USB 3.1 and VGA. The USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter has USB-C passthrough for charging, plus HDMI and standard USB 3.1. A DisplayPort adapter is coming later.

If that sounds confusing...well, this MacBook is meant to fly solo. Free as a bird. Unencumbered by wires. I use my trusty 13-inch MacBook Air as my everyday machine, and almost all of its ports see daily use. I connect to a Thunderbolt Display, a USB hard drive for Time Machine, and even a four-port USB hub to keep all my gadgets charged. The MacBook is better suited for people who want the lightest machine possible--and who can mostly lean on wireless connection methods like AirPlay, AirDrop, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi. Need more ports? Look to the other machines. (Or perhaps a third-party dock--sounds like Henge has plans to build one.)


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