MacBook Line Gets Faster Chips, Battery Boost

Apple updated its ultra-thin MacBook laptops with improved processors, graphics, storage, and battery life.
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Apple has given its line of portable computers a boost with new components and colors. The Tuesday update comes mid-cycle for the machines and makes them a bit more competitive with new entrants from other PC manufacturers. The MacBook earned a decent upgrade, but the new MacBook Air's upgrade is more modest.

The MacBook now includes the latest Skylake processors from Intel. The sixth-generation dual-core Intel Core M chips are clocked up to 1.3 GHz, with Apple's Turbo Boost pushing speeds up to 3.1 GHz. The entry-level MacBook ships with a 1.1 GHz processor and 2.2 GHz Turbo Boost. All variants gain faster 1866 MHz memory and Intel HD Graphics 515 modules, which improve graphics performance by 25%, according to Apple. Apple installed faster PCIe-based flash storage, too.

Power users will be most happy to learn that Apple has improved the MacBook's battery life. The refreshed MacBook bumps wireless Web browsing from nine hours to ten, and iTunes Movie playback to eleven hours.

All other specs of the device remain unchanged. The MacBook features a 12-inch Retina display, a full-sized keyboard, a Force Touch trackpad, and the single USB Type-C port. Some hoped Apple would add a second USB-C port, but that would have required a redesign of the circuit board and chassis. Maybe next time.

The MacBook weighs two pounds and is 13.1mm thick. It now comes in silver, space gray, gold, and, for the first time, rose gold.

The entry-level model ships with 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage for $1,299. The mid-range model improves storage to 512 GB and costs $1,599. These two are available in Apple Stores starting today. Users who want the high-end model need to configure the device on Apple's website.

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"MacBook is the thinnest and lightest Mac we have ever made and it's our vision for the future of the notebook," said Philip Schiller, Apple's SVP of Worldwide Marketing in a statement. "Customers are going to love this update to MacBook, with the latest processors, faster graphics, faster flash storage, longer battery life and a beautiful rose gold finish."

The 13-inch MacBook Air now ships with 8GB of RAM standard, rather than 4GB of RAM. Previously, customers had to pay $100 to upgrade the RAM to 8GB. The 11-inch MacBook Air continues to ship with 4GB of RAM. The larger MacBook Air starts at $999; the smaller version starts at $899.

All Macs ship with OS X El Capitan and applications such as iTunes, iMovie, GarageBand, and iWork.

The new Macs arrive as the worldwide market for PCs continues to decline. PC shipments totaled 64.8 million during the first quarter of the 2016, according to Gartner, a 9.6% drop compared to the first quarter of 2015. It marked the sixth consecutive decline in PC shipments. Apple's machines typically outperform the larger market.