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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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)

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.