Apple‘s first major MacBook Air update in years is finally here, and it’s really great! Don’t get it twisted: I bought one of these bad boys and I’m all about it.
But is it perfect? No, of course not.
It’s not the first Apple product to include a few baffling design mistakes, and that’s certainly the case with the 2018 MacBook Air. Why, for instance, would anyone think USB-C is a suitable replacement for the MagSafe adaptor? Why would Apple only include 128 GB of storage in a $US1,200 laptop?
These are just two of my least favourite things about Apple’s best laptop in years.
1. The price.
At $US1,199 to start, the new MacBook Air costs $US200 more than the previous base model of the MacBook Air.
Why does it cost $US200 more? It’s certainly not a measure of the internal specs, or the new screen – it’s because Apple can.
There are comparable Windows-based laptops with great screens and more powerful internals than the new MacBook Air, and I could’ve bought those. I thought a lot about buying an HP x360 – they’re quite nice!
But my workflow is based around the Apple operating system, OS X, and I’ve been using Apple laptops for over 10 years. I have a PC at home and, frankly, I prefer OS X. So my options are slim.
I’m not saying the new MacBook Air isn’t worth the money – I’m beyond happy with my purchase. I’m saying that it’s worth the money to me emotionally, but on paper I know it’s a ripoff. Paying $US200 for 8 GB of RAM is highway robbery. Don’t even get me started on what Apple’s charging for more internal storage!
2. The limited built-in storage.
Charging $US1,200 for a laptop that comes with 128 GB of internal storage – 30 of which is taken up by the operating system – is ridiculous. As is offering to up that to 256 GB for $US200.
Apple could put a micro SD card reader in the Air and offer expandable storage. Apple could simply outfit the Air with more storage to start – a far more standard and acceptable 256 GB at minimum, if not 500 GB.
In September, I spent $US38 dollars on a 128 GB micro SD memory card for my Nintendo Switch. Thirty eight dollars. Charging $US200 for 128 GB of storage is ludicrous. It honestly almost stopped me from buying the laptop because I was so offended.
Why “offended”? Because Apple is intentionally limiting the base level storage as a means of incentivizing a very expensive storage upgrade. It’s something Apple did in the past with the iPhone, and it was just as offensive then. For a company that already charges a huge premium for its products, it’s bizarre that Apple nickels-and-dimes customers on storage.
3. Force Touch is a needless addition.
Apple touted “Force Touch” – a silly marketing term that somehow has nothing to do with “Star Wars” – as a big addition to the touchpad. I’m not sure if I’ll ever use it. It seemingly performs functions I never do, like preview all windows of an application before choosing one.
It’s perhaps too strong to say Force Touch is a bad feature; it just feels like a needless gimmick. Force Touch wasn’t super useful on the iPhone, and it doesn’t appear to be very useful on the MacBook, either.
There is one exception: Using Force Touch in Chrome to look up the definition of words is pretty sweet (but it’s something I could already do pretty quickly by right-clicking on a word).
4. There aren’t enough ports.
The MacBook Air I was using before this laptop had two USB ports, a mini display port, a headphone jack, and an SD card reader. It was like the Swiss Army knife of ports.
The new MacBook Air has two USB-C ports and a headphone jack. That isn’t enough!
I get it – Apple sells dongles and you’re supposed to buy a dongle that will bridge the gap between now, when only some stuff uses USB-C, and later, when presumably everything will.
It would also be OK if the Air simply had more ports. I would accept it being a bit thicker, even! This is still a device intended for utility first, but it seems like Apple prioritised aesthetics when it comes to ports – an unfortunate choice.
5. MagSafe was better than USB-C.
One of Apple’s best-ever designs was the MagSafe laptop charger, a magnetized plug so that if you ever happened to catch the wire while walking by, it would break away from the laptop without your expensive computer crashing to the floor.
It was one of the things that sold me on the MacBook way back in college, circa 2007. What a tremendously smart design! It magnetized to connect, then easily broke away without issue. Better still, it did what Apple’s Lightning port and USB-C ports do: no matter which way you plugged it in, you were doing it right. The design guided you into doing it correctly.
So why in the world did Apple remove it from the newest Apple laptops? And why would they replace it with an inferior port – USB-C – which doesn’t break away if someone trips on the wire?
No caveats – Apple took a massive step backwards by dropping MagSafe.
6. Touch ID still plays second fiddle to manual password entry.
Every time the new MacBook asks me to enter my password – and simultaneously offers Touch ID as an option instead – I’m delighted to quickly tap my finger on the Touch ID button.
It feels like the natural evolution of password entry.
Curiously, against all logic, there are times when the MacBook requires my password instead of my thumbprint. I have no idea why my password is somehow more powerful than my own fingerprint, and I kind of don’t care. It appears completely illogical from a user standpoint.
Thankfully, those cases are few and far between.
7. Siri is still bad.
Asking Siri to open apps? Can do! But asking her to close them? Not only is it impossible, but her instructions for how to do as much yourself are intended with iOS in mind.
Anyone who didn’t know that the MacBook Air isn’t a touchscreen could spend minutes dragging their finger all over that beautiful new Retina screen. Unlikely? Let’s hope, but it’s ridiculous nonetheless that Siri is still this bare-bones on Apple’s laptops. It can’t close a program by voice?
Admittedly, Siri is available on a variety of different Apple laptops – this is more of an OS X/Siri issue than anything else.
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