Tools of the Trade: Streamlining Your Workflow- Retina MacBook

Dan Bolton

I love technology. Technology helps me keep up with my workload and be productive on a much larger scale than I'd be able to without it. Clients and colleagues ask me all the time for advice about how to stay focused and productive, especially those with ADD. The most important thing is to have the right tool for the job. Essentially a computer, or any technology for that matter, is a tool. Looking at tech as a tool can change one's relationship to it. To combine my passion for technology as well as popular demand from clients and colleagues, I am going to publish my first installment on my blog: Tools of the Trade - Streamlining Your Workflow. 

Tools of the Trade: Streamlining Your Workflow- Retina MacBook

With the release of Apple's new late 2016 MacBook Pro line this is prime time to look at some of Apple's older line of computers. With Black Friday in our rearview mirrors the rest of the holiday season upon us this is the perfect time to grab technology that is only a few months old at the best discounts you can find. Released earlier this year the Early 2016 12" MacBook with Retina Display is a perfect example (currently discounted here). The 2015 12" MacBook with Retina Display is a good bet as well (available with great discounts as well). I've owned both and I can vouch for the performance of both machines.

Over the past year I have been using both the 2015 and the 2016 to run my psychotherapy practice. My day to day operations include email, text messaging, internet browsing, word processing for my blog, spreadsheets to keep track of accounting, and I use Keynote to make presentations for speaking events (yes it can run Microsoft Office, but I prefer Apple's iWork). I also edit HiDef videos for marketing, as well use it to run my full client management system. Don't be fooled by it's small profile, the MacBook is a workhorse! And, I prefer using this device over using an iPad. I love OS X and MacOS as well as the feel of a more traditional computer that has so many modern traits.


The MacBook's beautiful, slim, sleek design makes it one of the most, if not the most, portable computers out there. It's design screams portability! This laptop is only 2.03 lbs. That doesn't sound anywhere near as impressive on paper as it actually feels in hand. Yes, in hand. The MacBook is so light that it is easy to carry around whether under your arm like a notebook or using one hand to type while holding it in the other hand while multitasking. Having a computer that is so portable feels like the ultimate luxury. 

Throw it in a backpack and it feels almost like you're carrying nothing. In fact, it was so light I often worried I had forgotten my MacBook and had to double check it was still in there. The potential for portability was even greater than I thought, and I invested in an even smaller sling style back pack so I could travel even lighter with the Thule Crossover TCSP-213 Sling Pack for 13" MacBook Pro and Pro Retina Display.


For day to day use, the MacBook is perfect to take back and forth from home to the office. This is by far my favorite feature of this Mac, and the primary reason I decided to try this machine. As someone who travels back and forth everyday between home and the office portability is a must. If you're in the habit of carrying files back and forth to the office, the starkness of the portability in comparison alone will inspire you to make your office paperless. 

Battery Life

Apple has been pretty accurate in their statements that the Retina MacBook can muster up 10 hours of battery life. Real world conditions can impact that. For example, I got rid of Wifi in my office a while ago and now when I do have to connect to the internet I tether my computer to my iPhone using my Personal Hotspot (can be toggled on your iPhone via Settings->Personal Hotspot). This has saved me a lot of money per month on internet fees. I don't as much data each month as I expected, and can easily get away with tethering to the internet through my cell phone data plan. If you do tether with a lightning cable this will drain the battery significantly faster than connecting the iPhone to your Mac via Bluetooth to tether (but you should still get a full work day out of the MacBook). Connecting via a lightning cord provides faster internet speeds. So, it's a trade off. But, due to the introduction of USB-C this can now easily be rectified! USB-C allows enough power from portable batteries to transmit power to charge the MacBook (For example, this Anker Powercore+ 20100 with USB-C, which will help you battle back against battery drain.

The Screen

This MacBook is the first low-profile, MacBook Air- like Mac with a Retina Display. To me a Retina Display makes my whole computing experience better. It is easier to read the text because it is so sharp. In addition this is the first Mac notebook to include the color accuracy in the 5k iMac line. In addition to the default display settings the MacBook can activate a 1440-by-900 resolution in settings. 


Default screen setting vs. More Space option (above)


Apple's new butterfly keyboard has little to almost no travel. This will be a stark contrast for those coming from Apple's last generation MacBook Pros, MacBook Airs, or especially the more high travel, wobbly PC keyboards. The new butterfly design in contrast makes older keyboards seem rickety. For some I have read it takes a little getting used to, but then they get used to it within a couple hours of use. Initially, I thought it was going to force me into a larger learning curve, and that I may not use the MacBook for blogging or typing anything very long. I personally got the hang of the keyboard within 15-30 minutes of using it, and love it. I couldn't go back, and in fact I even felt the need to go so far as to replace my old Apple Wireless Keyboard with Apple's newly designed Magic Keyboard.


The stock speakers sound amazing. They project a fervent sound. They have received praise for all of the reputable tech reviews I've read. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Super Quiet

Despite the amazing sounding speakers in such a small package this Mac is quiet. The quietest out of the entire Mac lineup. The reason: No fan noise. This is Apple's first computer that cools itself without fans. The fanless cooling system makes it perfect for those of you who use their computers to do voiceovers or record audio (for podcasts, etc.), even under a heavy workload. This feature can be a valuable asset for video editors for this reason.

Can Edit Videos in Final Cut X

I have been impressed by this machine's ability to edit videos. I edited some videos for a musician recently as well as have been editing videos of my own to use on my website. I wouldn't; t count on editing any epic length video. After some time in my opinion the smaller workspace would feel cramped, and I don't think the MacBook could handle the load of rendering HiDef video , unless you were to apply some more advanced techniques I'll mention next. Likewise, if you want to edit 4K video, this is possible to do as well. It will be in your best interest to learn one workaround that is available natively in Final Cut Pro X using either proxy media or optimized media while editing.

Core M Processors Are No Joke

Some have complained that these machines are underpowered. Those are the complaints from the people who have never used the MacBook. 

This MacBook is way more than good enough for the vast majority of uses people will use this for on a day to day basis. If you use if for word processing, internet browsing, spreadsheets, email, iMessage/SMS this computer, in my opinion, is ultimately better than a larger (and heavier) MacBook Pro. The lightness and portability make the MacBook desirable the majority of day to day uses if you do any amount of your work on the go. purposes lite photo and video editing.


With USB-C comes a single cable solution, which provide both benefits as well as drawbacks. In addition to the benefit mentioned above with portable batteries, a single cable solution simplifies your set-up. Working with one cable definitely promotes less clutter around your workspace... and encourages portability. It really does. It makes me want to pick it up and carry it away from my desk and use it on the go... but that also means dongles. 

If you use peripherals, like an external drive, you are going to need dongles that help connect legacy adaptors like USB-A to your MacBook. Thunderbolt 2 will not be able to work with the MacBook. The Thunderbolt 2 to Thunderbolt 3 adaptor sold by Apple only works on Thunderbolt 3 supported devices. Though USB-C and Thunderbolt can now both be utilized through USB-C ports, this tech was not ready in time to be put into the Early 2016 MacBook. 

The main advantage is that this transition to USB-C allows you to charge your MacBook and give it even more battery life while on the go with affordable external batteries. In the past with the last generation notebooks from Apple it required special $300 devices to provide enough juice to charge them. USB-C allows enough throughput to transfer both data as well as transmitting power. No longer do you need different connections to serve these different functions. 

Ultimately USB-A is on the way out and it is time to make way for USB-C. Embracing the adapters is a small price to pay for what I believe will be an easier transition than most anticipate.

Final thoughts

This computer is a workhouse, but not a workhorse in the same way as a MacBook Pro is. It’s a functional tool that serves a every practical purpose of your daily use needs, some of the more specialized use cases for graphics type work like video editing, and a joy to use for every leisurely use case I can think of. If a computer that can handle heavy processing, editing in more complex programs like Photoshop, then a MacBook Pro may be a better choice. If portability is your priority, this is the computer for you.


Early 2016 12" MacBook with Retina Display

2015 12" MacBook with Retina Display

Thule Crossover TCSP-213 Sling Pack for 13" MacBook Pro and Pro Retina Display

Anker Powercore+ 20100 with USB-C

Apple Magic Keyboard