Julie’s gadget diary – I have finally found my perfect travel computer


After years of trying and failing to force an iPad or Android tablet to work like a laptop when I travel, I have finally found what I think is going to be my perfect travel computer. The 12″ MacBook. I ordered a refurbished unit from Amazon last Friday and it was delivered Saturday morning. I’ve been using it since then and I am almost giddy about how much I like this laptop!

If you have been following my gadget diary posts for any length of time, you’ve probably grown tired of my whining every time I travel. I either moan about how my laptop is too bulky to carry through an airport or I cry about how my tablet won’t do Gmail the way I want in full desktop mode.

I’ve even annoyed myself year after year when I complain about the same issues. But it looks like I can move on thanks to Dave Rees and a some of you who have told me to check out the 12″ MacBook. I decided not to splurge for a brand new one but did like Dave had done and bought a refurb. He bought his through Swappa and I opted to order through Amazon’s Warehouse Deals.

With refurbs, you can end up with some scratches, dents or other wear and tear, but the one I ordered is perfect as far as I can tell.

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Compared to the early 2015 13″ MacBook Pro that I’ve been using for over a year, the 12″ MacBook feels like an iPad when it comes to weight and size. The MacBook only weighs 2 lbs compared to the almost 3.5 lb MacBook Pro. 1.5 lb doesn’t sound like a lot, but it really makes a big difference to me.

I was concerned that the display and especially the keyboard would feel too tiny, but that hasn’t been the case at all. I’m completely happy with the display. It is a retina display after all.

The keyboard and trackpad feel very roomy. More so than I had anticipated. The keys on the keyboard are even a little larger than the keys on my MBP, but they don’t stick up as high. That took a little getting used to, but it didn’t bother me for more than an hour or so. Now I can touch type as fast as I do on other keyboards.

Yesterday I decided to order a Type-C dock adapter with HDMI, pass-through charging, and a USB-A port so I could hook the MB up to my 29″ LG monitor like I’ve done with the 13″ MBP using a LandingZone Dock. You might be thinking “Julie, why are you connecting this laptop up to a monitor when you’re just going to use it when you travel?” Good question! It’s because I am about 90% sure I’m going to make the 12″ MacBook my main/only computer. That’s right. I like it so much that I don’t think I even need my 13″ MBP any longer.

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The Travel Inspira USB-C to HDMI Hub works great! It only offers HDMI and one USB-A port, but that’s fine. I don’t really plug that many USB devices into my computer anyway.

The HDMI output with this adapter is fantastic and looks better/sharper than my 13″ MBP using the LandingZone Dock’s HDMI connection.

I’ve installed almost all of the apps that I use on a regular basis: Photoshop, Chrome, iMovie, Garageband, Wondershare Filmora, OpenOffice, FileZilla, Canon EOS Utility, TypeIt4Me and more. So far I’ve not noticed any real lag or sluggishness from the MacBook’s mobile processor.  I haven’t done any video editing yet though…

I’m really happy with the 12″ MacBook and plan to use it for the next couple of weeks to see if there’s any reason why it can’t be my main computer. If it succeeds which I think it will, I’ll be selling my MBP.

Now I need to find a new bag to carry the 12″ MacBook. It’s kind of like when you get new rugs or carpet in your house and all of a sudden your couch looks shabby 😉 It’s time for a new bag too.

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23 comments… add one
  • Lee Moon April 10, 2017, 6:34 pm

    I picked up a 2016 MacBook with the m5 processor, 512 GB SSD, and 8 GB RAM. It’s a wonderful small and light laptop. I traded in my old 2013 MacBook Air. The new MacBook holds up well against the MacBook Air performance-wise. It’s awesome to have the fanless design. When I’m rendering 3D graphics or exporting video, the MacBook remains completely silent. It is a gorgeous piece of engineering.

    The MacBook is certainly capable beyond what the specs might imply. I researched the differences between the m3, m5, and optional m7 processors before deciding on the m5 variant. Here’s a link to the website with tests of all 3 CPU versions:

    https://www.notebookcheck.net/Face-Off-Apple-MacBook-12-Core-m3-Core-m5-and-Core-m7.172046.0.html

    I also grabbed an appfrom Apple’s App store called “Display Menu” to access the other display resolutions. It works quite well and is useful to set the display to its full 2304×1440 resolution for those rare times when I want it.

    The single USB-C port is not a bother for me. I have a short Belkin USB-C to USB cable that I use for connecting thumb drives, portable USB hard drives, Apple’s USB SuperDrive, etc. I also have the Apple Multiport Digital USB-C adapter that allows me to charge and use a USB device simultaneously (and connect to an HDMI monitor.) Have used that adapter twice just to make sure it works and to perform a full Time Machine backup. Battery life is sufficient for me to rely on the simple Belkin adapter without needing to charge.

    I truly love this little laptop for its awesome portability, style, and performance. It’s much better than I thought it would be.

    • Julie Strietelmeier April 10, 2017, 9:19 pm

      I have one with the m3 processor and it seems fine for the work I do which is about 80% in a browser.

      I didn’t know they had the 12″ MacBook with an m7.

      The MB is MUCH better than I thought it would be too. I’m really happy I took the jump.

  • Jackie Cheng April 10, 2017, 8:13 pm

    You finally went for it! Told you it was a great laptop for it’s size. I use it daily! It’s so light to carry it around! If you want a sturdy case for it then I suggest the one made by UAG. The plastic used for that is stronger than the other no-brand cases. And the 4 plastic raisers are molded plastic instead of stick-on raisers which always falls off.
    Try Photoshop…you’ll be surprised with this little computer. iMovie works great as well.
    If you do want Windows OS on it then best do it with Boot Camp. Using it with Parallels or Virtual Box isn’t quite a good experience. It’s just slow enough to be annoying. Plus it really taxes the CPU and drains the battery that way.

    • Julie Strietelmeier April 10, 2017, 9:20 pm

      I don’t want to put Windows on it. Eck. 😉 If I need Windows, I’ll just use my Dell XPS 13″

  • Andy Chen April 10, 2017, 8:24 pm

    I would have jumped on this laptop the first time it came out if not for the keyboard. That is, reports of keys getting “stuck” due to debris. I’m very curious to hear tales from others on how their 12″ rMB keys hold up.

    • Jackie Cheng April 10, 2017, 8:45 pm

      Been using the 1st gen version since it came out. No problems at all. Loving the keyboard!

    • Julie Strietelmeier April 10, 2017, 9:21 pm

      No trouble with mine. I’m typing on it for the past 2 days and am typing on it now. I haven’t had one stuck key yet.

  • Margaret April 10, 2017, 8:40 pm

    I love my MacBook 12″. I’ve never had trouble with the keys sticking, and it does everything I need it to do. That 2 lbs in my backpack feels like nothing. Amazing.

  • Brian April 10, 2017, 11:57 pm

    Idk I think. MacBook Air with a i5 CPU is a much better choice. The only difference is the Air is an older unit. But you can still purchase new and get much better performance and cheaper over any new MacBook. PLUS, you don’t need to drag around all those extra docks, which adds weight. But, whatever works. Just my opinion.

    • Julie Strietelmeier April 11, 2017, 6:11 am

      The Air is a nice machine (I had one for years), but it doesn’t have a Retina display and it weighs almost 1 pound more than the MacBook.

      When the MacBook was first announced I was annoyed about the lack of ports but very rarely use them. I only use one USB-A port on a regular basis for tethering my Canon 70D when I take product shots for reviews. That’s about all I do. So I’m fine with just one port. I will need an adapter, unless I can find a mini USB to Type-C cable.

  • Mark Rosengarten April 11, 2017, 8:32 am

    Congratulations on your new travel buddy!!! I tried really hard to like the 12″ MacBook but I found it too sluggish for my use case. On the other hand, I got a loaded-out 13″ MacBook Pro with TouchBar and use it for just about everything. Nice and light, swift and sure and even though the touch bar is more or less a gimmick, it sometimes comes in handy.

    • Julie Strietelmeier April 11, 2017, 9:14 am

      I’ve been happy with my 13″ MacBook Pro except when I travel. Having something much lighter will be really nice. 🙂

  • Aphoid April 11, 2017, 11:59 am

    Work bought me a 13″ MBP with TouchBar in December and I use it in clamshell closed mode with an external display and keyboard 95% of the time. My wife has a Gen 2 12″ Macbook, and she feels like she doesn’t use it as much as she should, but then again she has a 15″ previous-gen MBP for work and a 9.7″ iPad Pro.

    Per the previous post, I bought a Lenovo Yoga 700 11″ (m5, 8GB/250GB) as a toy/travel “craptop,” and I’ve been surprised at how much I like it and even windows 10. The convertible functionality makes it really great for travel: it makes a nice Netflix station if you flip it over. For travel it’s also less of a risk than the MacBook as it was about half the price of a similar vintage MacBook. Don’t get me wrong, the MacBook has a much better screen (1440p vs 1080p) and the trackpad is vastly superior, but the Yoga has advantages too.

    That said, I’m typing this on my personal 15″ MBP….

    • Julie Strietelmeier April 11, 2017, 12:05 pm

      I decided to just go with what I know I like and be done with it. macOS. I wish I could love Windows, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

  • Michael April 11, 2017, 3:28 pm

    I have this bag for my similar-size laptop:
    https://www.casecrown.com/product/campus-north-messenger/

    It has a nice padded compartment for the laptop, plus room for papers up to 9×12. And a bunch of other little pockets.

    I also have the “poly” version, which is lighter but less padded. I prefer the Campus version.

  • Michael ODonnell April 15, 2017, 9:41 am

    Congratulations. I have been researching a replacement for my aging iPad, as I travel a LOT and on occasion take only my iPad with a keyboard (quite effective for IOS). The iPad Pro seemed like a natural transition, but I realized I’d have a more powerful IOS device (snappier, lighter, etc.) but still not the ideal (for me) operating environment. When I concluded comparing different devices, I too settled on the 12″ Macbook (256GB model). For just a few dollars more, the Macbook provided me OSX (the display technology on these devices is far exceeding the capability of my aging eyes to see much difference any more!). And the superior operating environment (OSX vs. IOS) far offsets the absent tablet form factor. I never had limitations of the singular iPad port and don’t expect the Macbook will present issues either. But now the gadget search begins for case(s) and other accessories.

    Remember Julie, it’s a travel laptop, not a “1.21 jigawatt” desktop replacement and I think you’ll be just fine.

    • Julie Strietelmeier April 15, 2017, 10:33 am

      I’m looking for a new bag too because I have to have something to obsess about now that it’s not a travel computer 🙂

      But I like the 12″ MB so much that I think it’s going to become my main / only laptop. So far it’s working fine for usual workflow. I have yet to do any video editing though. But I have some to do this weekend, so we’ll see how that works out.

  • Margaret April 15, 2017, 5:36 pm

    This is my must-have travel backpack: https://www.ospreypacks.com/us/en/product/nova-NOVANEW_102.html.

    It’s extremely light, it fits me better because it is made for a woman’s proportions, and it holds a bunch of stuff. It is also TSA-compliant, so I don’t have to take the computer out of the backpack for inspection.

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