Apple MacBook (2016): Is it a worthwhile update?
Performance Benchmarking, Battery, and Portability
To evaluate the new MacBook, we installed Windows 10 on it using Bootcamp. This allowed us run our usual suite of benchmarks and let us peg its performance against comparable Windows notebooks that we have reviewed. One thing to note is that Apple has dropped Bootcamp support for Windows 7, so Mac users who wish to run Windows on their MacBooks will only be able to choose between Windows 8 and Windows 10.
For comparison, we have included results of last year’s MacBook as well as last year’s 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display and the 13-inch MacBook Air. As for Windows machines, we have included results of the Dell XPS 13, winner of the Ultrabook category in our last Tech Awards, along with the HP Envy and Microsoft Surface Pro 4.
This is the list of benchmarks used:
- Geekbench 3
- PCMark 8
- 3DMark 2013
- Tomb Raider
To get a sense of how the new MacBook stacks up against its predecessor and 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.
Unsurprisingly, the new MacBook posted higher scores than last year's model. In single-core operations, the new MacBook and its Skylake Core m3 processor was around 7% faster. But it was in multi-core mode that the new MacBook really impressed, racking up a score of 5023, which translated to 11% increase in performance and brought it close to the performance of the MacBook Air. The MacBook Pro was untouchable as the model we tested had a much more powerful Intel Core i5-5257U processor.
Moving on to PCMark 8, we can see that the new MacBook holds a steady and significant advantage over last year's MacBook in most workloads. On the Home, Work and Creative workloads, the new MacBook's scores were consistently over 20% greater than last year's MacBook, and was also quite close to the scores of the MacBook Air. However, the new MacBook still can't match up to the MacBook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pro 4, and also the more powerful UltraBooks like the Dell XPS 13 and HP Envy.
Apple claims that the new Intel HD Graphics 515 integrated GPU will offer much more performance, but its performance on 3DMark 2013 was a mixed bag. On Cloud Gate, the scores of the new MacBook and last year's model were almost identical. But on the more intensive Fire Strike scenario, the updated model posted a score of 634 which translated to a performance gain of around 24%. Despite the performance gain, the MacBook still offers significantly less graphics performance when compared to the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, and also others comparable Windows-based Ultrabooks.
On Tomb Raider, the new MacBook recorded significant graphics performance gains of over 10% when compared to its predecessor. While that's certainly good news, it unfortunately doesn't mean that Tomb Raider is playable on the new MacBook. In fact, as you can see from the graphs here, integrated graphics still have quite some ways to go before they can be used for gaming.
Battery Life and Power Consumption
According to Apple, the new MacBook will provide an additional hour of battery life when compared to last year's model. However, our battery test, which consists of tasks like video editing, web browsing and gaming, did not confirm their claims. In fact, the new MacBook recorded 293 minutes or 4 hours and 53 minutes, which is just 6 minutes longer than last year's model - in other words, negligible. In fact, because the new MacBook has a slightly larger battery (41.14Wh vs. 39.7Wh), its power consumption is actually slightly higher (8.48W vs. 8.3W). That said, 293 minutes still translates to nearly 5 hours, which is very decent. However, the MacBook was no match for the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, which easily managed over 5 hours.
Our Portability Index factors in battery life, weight and volume so you can see which notebook is the most worthwhile to carry around. Unsurprisingly, given the MacBook's extremely compact dimensions and lightweight, it was the runaway leader in this category. In fact, thanks to the slightly better battery life, the new MacBook actually managed a higher score than last year's model. What's more impressive to see is the difference in scores of the MacBook and the already very portable MacBook Air. The MacBook also scored significantly higher than other super portable Ultrabooks like the Dell XPS 13 and even the Microsoft Surface Pro 4.