12” MacBook as a cheap thin client?

Is it ridiculous to think that a used 12” MacBook might make a decent thin client (Jump Desktop) for accessing my M1 Mac mini (always at home, always on, main work computer). I work from home so my Mac mini is how I pay for my shoes (bookkeeper).

I often use my wife’s M1 MacBook Air while travelling (e.g. weekend trips to a big city for kids birthday party’s etc, I’m not attending meetings) and pair it with my iPad (sidecar) and wireless inputs for a decent travel set up.

I’m tempted to acquire a used 12” MacBook (~150 USD equivalent) to use so that my wife always has her laptop available and so that I can do things like work from my home dining table occasionally without ALWAYS grabbing her device but I don’t know if it’s barking mad, or actually a reasonable idea.

  • Jump Desktop works better from macOS than iPadOS (keyboard shortcuts don’t use different combos) fwiw.
  • is a 12” MacBook in 2024 a silly choice?
    Edit: according to https://support.apple.com/en-nz/102597 I’d need either the 2016 or 2017 12” MacBook, but not the 2015 version in order to have sidecar available.
  • I’m comfortable with Open Core Legacy Patcher and might even find it useful being able to dual boot windows occasionally, but also aware that OCLP might stop being able to support latest macOS when macOS is inevitably only compiled for Apple silicon in a year or two.
  • is the keyboard trash? Does this even matter when I often have a Magic Keyboard, really I just want macOS when out of the house….
  • will possibly poor battery life be a killer? I don’t think so, because I’m always near a plug, and USB-C means I can just have a power bank in theory.
  • are these devices annoyingly slow if I’m just using it as a thin client?


I think it wounds like a pretty good idea. And you answered one of my questions in your post, which was going to be “why not iPad?”.

Here’s my question, though. How much do you think you’d need to remote in/Jump Desktop vs just using the MacBook’s native apps/OS? I think in some ways, that’s what intrigues me about your pitch. You don’t need to JumpDesktop for normal consumption/etc. But then you could remote in when you need more power.

As for battery/etc, that’s going to be specific to your use case. How long do you need the computer to be able to run? The battery life would be frustrating for me because I’ve now gotten used to Apple Silicon battery life.

I used to have the MacBook 2015 version, and really liked it. I never understood the complaints about the keyboard – it was perfectly acceptable – better than that, in fact. It was quick and responsive for touch typing, after a couple of days acclimatising to the short key travel.

I found it powerful enough to do everything I needed to do at the time (I used DT3, Scrivener, Tinderbox, Safari, mostly) and for most of the time, the limitations I came up across were screen size, not performance – and even my MacBook Pro M1 isn’t vastly better on screen size.

I could easily imagine using one now: it would be as a dedicated writing machine, and light browser, but it would better at that than, say, the 2014 Lenovo Thinkpad T440 that I currently use for this purpose.

I still have one of the first batch of 12”. The machine struggles for even basic work. Makes a great paperweight.

Any idea what the cost of this 12" MBA will be? If you’re JUST using remote desktop, I’d think that just about any laptop - Chromebook, cheapo Windows laptop, etc. - would be just fine.

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