Six days with the new retina MacBook

In 2013, as I was lugging my 15″ MacBook Pro around WordCamp Providence, I noticed that WordPress celebrities Andy Nacin and John James Jacoby were sporting new, tiny 11″ MacBook Airs.  Intrigued, I asked them about it, and the both raved about the diminutive laptops.

Always up for a new gadget, I ordered one as soon as I got home, and fell in love. My MacBook Pro never left my desk again.

Using an 11″ MacBook Air as my primary machine for the last year and a half, I’ve had plenty of incredulous feedback.  “That’s your computer?”, “You do work on that?”, etc.

Yep, it is.  And, while I enjoy my 3-monitor setup at my desk and it’s expansive space, I can do anything on my Lilliputian laptop that I can at my desk.  Photoshop, Illustrator, Aperture, and PHPStorm all worked just fine.  As fast as on an iMac or MacBook Pro?  Obviously not.  But the trade-off of having a computer the size of a small notepad and barely heavier than my first cell phone was totally worth it to me.

So, as you can imagine, I was really excited about the new MacBook.  In a smaller footprint than the 11″ Air, I could get a thinner laptop with a bigger, retina screen, which is pretty exciting.  I ordered one as soon as they were available, and it arrived this past Tuesday.

This thing is fan-friggin-tastic.

The screen is absolutely the killer feature of this laptop.  On a 12″ display, I have the equivalent of a 1440×900 screen.  This means that I have the same amount of screen real estate on this minuscule computer as I had on my 15″ MacBook Pro (which was twice as expensive and weighed three times as much) just over two years ago.

The only downside of this computer? The Keyboard.
I understand that things needed to change in order to get it into this form factor, but the new keyboard feels mushy, and contrary to Apple’s advertising, keypresses are occasionally missed. My accuracy and speed has improved, and, I assume that it will continue to do so, but I definitely prefer the key action on my air. On the flip side, the new key lighting is fantastic.

Have any questions? Got a new MacBook already? If so, what do you think of it?

About the author Sam Hotchkiss

Sam currently leads development on the widely used Jetpack plugin at Automattic, he's started and run multiple successful companies, and enjoys taking photos when he gets the chance. When they're not traveling, Sam and his wife, Becky, live in beautiful New Mexico, where he passes the time by talking about himself in third person.

All posts by Sam Hotchkiss →


  1. Ah, the keyboard turned me off. I guess 13 inch air it is for me. About 11 inch, were you able to use it comfortably on your desk? I have a desktop but my laptop is always my primary computer, even on top of the desk. Because 11 inch air has so small footprint, doesn’t it feel a bit cramped to work on it while on a desk (assuming you don’t plug in monitors)?



    1. I plug in an Apple Thunderbolt display and external keyboard/mouse at my desk 🙂



  2. Hey Sam, any follow up thoughts on the MB after 5 months? Seriously considering one, I know it would work for me, just worried about some of the “drawbacks” that may or may not be real.



    1. I just bought a MBP last week — I’m keeping the MB because it’s awesome for all the non-coding or photography things that I do (email, slack, etc), but it’s setting in that is really an ipad with a keyboard



      1. Those words will echo for quite a while…”that is really an ipad with a keyboard”. Looks like a rMBP13 it is! Thanks!


      2. Yeah, I think for those of us who really use our computers, the MB is a second laptop

        Liked by 1 person

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