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Macbook 2016 vs Macbook 2015: What's the difference?



12-inch Macbook 2016 vs 12-inch Macbook 2015: Apple has announced a new 12-inch Macbook for 2016, which comes with several upgrades over last year's model. We look at how the two compare.

2015 saw the re-launch of Apple's Macbook line. Smaller and lighter than the Macbook Air range, these slimmed-down 12-inch notebooks caused somewhat of a stir among Apple fans due to them coming with just a single USB Type-C port in terms of connectivity.

Now Apple has launced an updated version of last year's ultra-thin Macbook (12-inch, 2015), and although the connectivity situation hasn't changed, the 2016 model is about more than just the new Rose Gold finish.

The latest iteration is packed with hardware upgrades, which should result in a noticeable difference in performance.

Let's take a look at exactly how this year's model compares to last year's.

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Macbook 2016 vs Macbook 2015: Design

Despite the lack of connectivity options, the 2015 Macbook was undoubtedly a great looking device. It's unsurprising then, that Apple hasn't changed anything; the 2016 Macbook matches the 2015 model in every way. It's still 13.1mm thick and weighs 0.92kg, meaning both this year and last year's Macbooks are slimmer and lighter than the Macbook Air range.

If you're looking for a portable notebook then, both models represent Apple's best efforts in this department.

BUY NOW: 12-inch Macbook 2016 at Apple.com from £1,049

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2016 12in Macbook

Likewise, the backlit keyboard and trackpad remain untouched. The 'butterfly' mechanism on the keyboard returns from last year, meaning the keys will feel flat and even, but the travel will remain remarkably shallow.

Force Touch, Apple's pressure sensitive touch feature, has also been retained for the trackpad and uses a haptic engine tucked under the glass to mimic the feel of a click.

Related: MacBook (2015) vs MacBook Air (2015)


The most significant change is the addition of a Rose Gold finish. The new hue means you can get the 2016 Macbook in the same colours as the iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus, iPhone SE, and 9.7-inch iPad Pro: Silver, Space Grey, Gold, and Rose Gold.

Macbook 2016 vs Macbook 2015: Display

Sticking with the whole 'if it ain't broke' philosophy, Apple has also retained the same display from last year's model for the Macbook 2016. That means both the 2015 and 2016 model feature a 12-inch 'Retina' screen, with a 2,304 x 1,440 resolution.

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Related: 2015 13-inch MacBook Pro


The resulting 226ppi density makes for a very sharp picture, and the LCD IPS panel means you get rich yet natural looking colours.

Macbook 2016 vs Macbook 2015: Hardware

This is where Apple has made the most significant changes to its ultra-thin notebook. For starters, the 2016 model comes with a wider range of more powerful and more efficient Intel Core M processors. The previous version featured either a 1.1GHz, 1.2GHz, or 1.3GHz dual-core Intel Core M processor (4MB Cache, up to 2.4GHz), making it less powerful than the Macbook Air range, which used the superior Core i5 and i7 chips.

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This year, Apple has decided to stick with the Core M range, and has loaded the 2016 Macbook with the second generation of Intel's chips. These latest processors are part of the Skylake range, and still come in 1.1GHz, 1.2GHz and 1.3GHz versions.The new 1.3GHz chip is capable of being boosted to an impressive 3.1GHz, while last year's 1.3GHz Core M Broadwell only managed 2.9GHz when turbo boosted.

According to The Verge, the new chips should result in a 20 per cent power boost over the original device. That's in line with Geekbench results which surfaced online following the 2016 model's announcement. The early benchmark scores seem to show the new model will have around 15 to 18 per cent faster CPU performance compared to the 2015 version.

One advantage of the Core M chips is that they are fanless, meaning that both last year and this year's models are incredibly quiet.

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On paper, the biggest improvement seems to be the disk write speed. The new model reportedly offers an 80-90 per cent improvement over its predecessor. Considering the 2015 Macbook's PCIe flash storage was blisteringly fast, you can expect the new model to be a nippy device to say the least.

We'll have to wait until we get our hands on a review model before we can confirm any of these figures, but it's a promising early indication of how much more powerful the 2016 Macbook will be.

RAM speed has also been given a boost, too, jumping from 1600MHz on last year's model to 1866MHz on the new version. This might not have a huge impact, and probably won't result in any noticeable change for the average user, but should definitely help improve overall performance.

Both the 2015 and 2016 12-inch Macbook come with 8GB of RAM as standard, but unfortunately we still haven't been gifted with an upgrade to DDR4, with both the 2015 and 2016 Macbook featuring DDR3 memory.

New MacBook 43

On the plus side, there's the new Intel 515 integrated graphics on the 2016 Macbook, which replaces last year's HD Graphics 5300. Apple claims the new card is 25 per cent faster. In practice, if you invest in the new model, you won't be running the latest games with ease, but video performance should certainly see a boost.

Macbook 2016 vs Macbook 2015: Battery Life

The latest generation of Intel processors are certainly more powerful than last year's, but they're also more efficient. Combine that with a new 41.4-watt-hour lithium-polymer batter, and Apple's claim that you'll get an extra hour of battery life on the new Macbook model seems legit. The 2015 version came with a slightly less powerful 39.7-watt-hour battery.

Apple claimed the 2015 Macbook could last nine hours when used for web browsing and 10 hours when used to watch video on iTunes. That put it below the Macbook Air and pretty much in line with the last year's Macbook Pro. In our review, we found that the 2015 Macbook could last around eight hours when used constantly, meaning it would just about get you through a day at work on a single charge. We also found Apple's video playback claim stood up, with the 2015 Macbook lasting around 10 hours when streaming video at 60 per cent brightness.


Of course, we'll have to wait until we get our hands on the new model to test Apple's claims this year. But if the extra hour of battery story checks out, you can expect around nine to 10 hours of constant use from the 2016 Macbook, and up to 11 hours when streaming video.

Macbook 2016 vs Macbook 2015: Some things stay the same

Interestingly, Apple has opted to keep the less than impressive 480p Facetime camera from last year for its latest effort. This low-res sensor was somewhat of a surprise even last year, and the fact that it's made a return on the updated model is laughable, especially considering the 2015 Macbook Air and most iPhones, with their 720p Facetime cameras, still trump this year's Macbook.

Other similarities include the internal storage options. Both the 2015 and 2016 models come in 256GB and 512GB options, and both use PCIe-based flash storage. Again, the write speed has reportedly been improved for the 2016 version but we'll have to wait until we can review the new model to confirm this.

New MacBook 27

The other big feature which remains untouched is the single USB Type-C port. Apple has chosen to follow the same approach for the 2016 Macbook with a single connection that serves as both power input and external interface.

There's no doubt that USB Type-C is the future and more and more manufacturers are starting to adopt it, but for many, the idea of always needing an adaptor remains hard to swallow.

Macbook 2016 vs Macbook 2015: Cost and where to buy

The new Macbook is available now and starts at £1,049 for the 256GB version with a 1.1GHz Core M3 processor. If you want to upgrade to a 1.3GHz chip, which can be boosted up to an impressive 3.1GHz, it'll cost you £1,249.

Those looking to pick up the more capacious 512GB model will have to hand over £1,299 for the 1.2GHz processor version, and £1,419 for the 1.3GHz version.

New MacBook 15

Early verdict

Although very little has changed in terms of design, the 2016 Macbook looks set to improve over its predecessor quite considerably when it comes to performance.

Early benchmark scores look promising, and there's no doubt that the new processors, upgraded graphics, and longer battery life will make for a superior machine.

Until we get our hands on a review unit however, we're unable to confirm just how much of an improvement you can expect. Still, we're confident in saying that if you invested in last year's version, it's probably not worth picking up Apple's latest offering. If, however, you've been holding out for a more powerful 12-inch Macbook, the 2016 model might just be for you.

We'll update this article once we've managed to go hands-on with the 2016 Macbook.

Let us know what you think of Apple's latest Macbook refresh in the comments.


April 20, 2016, 2:12 pm

So a very long article to say that it's moved to skylake and is available in rose gold - not really a dramatic refresh... Regarding the camera I bet there's hardly anyone who's bought these who doesn't own an iPhone - which is what they'll be using for FaceTime...


April 20, 2016, 3:11 pm

"One advantage of the Core M chips is that they are fanless, meaning that both last year and this year's models are incredibly quiet." Surely, with solid state storage and no fan, they are completely and permanently silent, like an iPad, rather than (just) very quiet?

"...the idea of always needing an adaptor remains hard to swallow". Why does it *always* need an adapter? For USB sticks? These come in double-ended USB-C and -A versions now. Mice are bluetooth. Most printers support wireless printing. AC wireless is fast enough (certainly at close range) for almost any use. AirPlay supports video streaming at 1080p to (AppleTV equipped) displays. Also, the battery lasts pretty much all day, so it doesn't need to be kept plugged in like many laptops, keeping the port free.


April 22, 2016, 12:31 pm

so still only one port and no full SD card slot. unless they come up with a retina Air or revamp the Pro line, I need to start looking at windows 10 ultrabooks. I have been holding off buying one hoping for just one more port and an SD card slot (neither should really effect the thinness).


April 22, 2016, 7:57 pm

A retina Air won't happen. The only reason the Air is still around is because it's so much cheaper. The MacBook won't get an SD card slot either because the idea is wireless transfer. Maybe it will get two ports at some point. Who knows?


April 22, 2016, 9:03 pm

unfortunately wireless can never replace the transfer speeds of a 90mb/s SD card.


April 23, 2016, 1:36 am

And probably isn't going to be the main machine of an user, so I think they only need to lower the prices (if possible)


April 23, 2016, 10:10 am

Yeah, well, you always pay for miniaturisation. In all areas of electronics, you can get bigger boxes that have more performance for less cash.


May 13, 2016, 8:58 pm

No but quite possibly, something like the USB-C HyperDrive hub can - for all the times when you need to access an SD card. $50 on amazon.


May 13, 2016, 9:10 pm

if you want to carry it with you all times. I'm just saying that unfortunately this new Macbook is still not fit for my purpose. i want an SD card slot built in.


May 14, 2016, 12:16 am

Agreed, it isn't for everyone. I gave it much thought before buying it recently for an extended trip. Bought it purely for its lightness but I find myself using it more and more at home too. I did NOT buy a HyperDrive hub though because my camera plugs into it directly via USB without removing the SD card. Yes, I had to buy the Apple display adapter but the solution is good enough for when I need it. That may work for you as well. Lovely traveller Mac!


May 14, 2016, 9:33 pm

choose between an Apple refurbished 2015 macbook 1.3GHz version @1319 vs 2016 macbook 1.1GHz @ 1299, which one is a better deal?

Blair Slavin

May 16, 2016, 6:10 am

They have cameras that are wifi and bluetooth capable - even some camera cards that will transfer easily to the laptop. But if you are needing something built in then you need a computer with some power behind it, and the Macbook is simply an iPad with a keyboard and no touch screen. And damb geek sexy looking. That you want to just go and upgrade to a completely different platform is odd... Since you were looking to pay $1300 -$1500 for the macbook, pay the comparable price for a macbook pro then. Much more power, and a camera card built in.


June 27, 2016, 1:38 pm

Go for the 2016 model! Get new, costs less, more efficient chip, and you can get it in rose gold!


June 27, 2016, 3:58 pm

thanks. i actually picked up the 2015 1.3GHz one, thinking top of the line model last year is a better deal than the full price new lowend model. in reality, suspect they are quite comparable. ;-)


July 3, 2016, 6:22 pm

How do you like it? How's the battery life? You wouldn't happen to run Excel on it?

In any event, with the now $300 discounts on last year's lower end models, I'm tempted! Although, I'd have to give up getting rose gold and following my own advice! :-)


July 3, 2016, 6:25 pm

Not so long an article! And, you left out the purported increase in battery life!

Say, Trusted Reviews, did you ever get back to testing this-- I.e., battery life and flash storage speeds? Are the new models that much better?


July 14, 2016, 4:56 am

actually it's for my wife and my daughter. they like it a lot. screen is incredible. speaker is unbelievable. it's snappy, very portable and long battery life. i have not installed excel on it yet. cannot go wrong.

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