Edge of Innovation

5 technologies the new Apple MacBook consigns to the scrap heap


Apple’s recent MacBook model looks set to shake up the world of notebooks once again. But aside from just being thinner and lighter than its predecessor (and the MacBook Air), the newest MacBook incorporates a number of improvements that consign several old and familiar technologies to the computing scrap heap.

Goodbye USB 3 cables
Apple has a long history of being the first company to eliminate ports it feels are no longer necessary. The result can often be controversial, although it doesn’t usually take long before the rest of the industry concludes that Apple made the right call. With the new MacBook, Apple has eliminated all of the familiar ports except for the mandatory 3.5mm headphone jack and a single, smaller USB-C connector. The new interface acts as a power jack, data transfer port and a DisplayPort/VGA/HDMI-compatible video out combined.

USB-C and the MacBook
The new, smaller, reversible USB-C connector can provide power, data transfer capability and video out support in one port. Photo: Apple.

Farewell wobbly keys
A thinner design for the new MacBook means that its keys no longer jut out as much as they did previously. To accommodate for this, Apple has designed a new Butterfly mechanism for its keyboard, which replaces the traditional scissor mechanism that is used on the majority of today’s laptops. With the butterfly keyboard, says Apple, individual keys no longer wobble at the edges. It might take some getting used to, but it should improve your precision when typing.

Adieu noisy fan
Apple’s computers have long been quieter than those made by their competitors, but the new MacBook takes it one step further: eliminating the internal cooling fan and heat pipe altogether. This can only be achieved because the MacBook uses Intel’s fifth-gen, 14-nanometer Core M processor, which consumes just five watts of power. This results in the MacBook producing very little heat and, in practical terms, the machine operates in a state of total silence. All you’ll hear is the clickety-click of your own typing.

So long bulky battery
Arguably the biggest innovation in Apple’s new MacBook is its contoured batteries. Rather than use one bulky Lithium-Ion cell that doesn’t fit the tapered shape of the casing, Apple’s engineers manufactured multiple cells in thin sheets that can be stacked or ‘terraced’ and linked together. With the Core-M processor allowing the logic board to be 67 percent smaller than the board in the 11-inch MacBook Air, there’s more space for these battery cells, giving the MacBook all-day battery life.

Apple terraced battery cells
Apple’s innovative approach to battery design gives the new MacBook 35 percent more battery capacity than would be possible with a single cell. Photo: Apple.

Cheerio touchpad
OK, so the new MacBook doesn’t get rid of the touchpad. But Trackpad innovations are truly one of the most exciting parts of Apple’s new MacBook. Instead of physical buttons, the new MacBook Force Touch Trackpad uses a capacitive glass surface rather than a clickable button: meaning that it can act more intelligently.

The Trackpad can recognize different types of click, so that a light touch performs a clicking action like normal, but a harder press (a Force Touch) activates a contextual command – looking up the definition of a word you’ve highlighted or summoning an extra menu. Of course, physical buttons have their advantages too, which is why a built-in Taptic Engine simulates the sensation of physical movement; essentially tricking your brain into thinking the Trackpad is acting like a real button would.

These innovations are born of a desire to deliver a superior mobile experience, powered by the Intel Core-M and maintained by a clever approach to maximising current battery technology. – Luke Dormehl

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