For the first time in years, Apple has made major updates to its beloved MacBook Air line of laptops. The new MacBook Air has a better screen, a larger trackpad, and more horsepower than ever before.
The 2018 MacBook Air is available now, starts at $US1,200, and is already getting glowing praise from critics.
“The new MacBook Air is as balanced as its predecessor, in a more modern design,” The Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern says in her review.
But there’s one refrain that’s common among nearly every review: This is a long overdue upgrade that doesn’t feel innovative as much as it feels requisite.
1. The new Retina display
WSJ: “The old Air’s display was like looking through an old screen door; the new Air’s 13.3-inch ‘Retina’ display is like peering through just-Windexed glass, with a crisp, vibrant view.”
Engadget: “Gone are those thick bezels that once surrounded the screen. What remains is the thinnest of borders, with an expansive screen in between. That 13.3-inch panel can, at last, call itself a Retina Display … Both of these upgrades will absolutely be noticeable if you’re upgrading from an older Air.”
The Verge: “More than any other upgrade on the MacBook Air, this is the one you’re going to love. It’s a Retina Display, which, in this case, equates to a resolution of 2560 x 1600 pixels. It’s sharp and beautiful under a glossy pane of glass, with much smaller bezels. “
Wired: “The display on the new MacBook Air is what stands out most … It’s not a touchscreen – Apple appears to believe putting a touchscreen on a laptop will summon the devil – but the display is so rich-looking that you kind of want to touch it anyway.”
2. More horsepower
WSJ: “If you’re in search of a new Mac, the Air is the best choice. I’ve ordered one already. If you need more power, go on up to a higher-level Pro.”
Engadget: “Since I’ve begun my work week, I’ve noticed the machine has stayed quiet and reasonably cool even when I take long Google Hangouts calls from a Chrome browser tab, a task that regularly sends my older Air into a noisy, overheated tizzy.”
CNET: “To demystify the issue as much as possible, the new MacBook Air is a tad faster than the still-available previous model … It’s also faster than the current 12-inch MacBook, which is still running 2017 Intel chips, but it’s slower than some comparable Windows laptops in its price class and the base 13-inch MacBook Pro.
Do you get better performance than before? Yes. Should you expect more CPU power from a $US1,199 laptop that weighs 2.7 pounds and has some serious fans? Also yes.”
The Verge: “This new MacBook Air is faster than the old MacBook Air, but not by the kind of margin you’d expect after three years (or even one, if you happened to buy the 2017 model). You can do all of the same stuff you can do on your current Air. I have been running a half-dozen apps at a time along with more than a dozen tabs in Chrome, and everything is pretty ok. I think for what most people will do with this laptop, it’s fine.”
Wired: “If you’re someone who builds graphics, edits 4K videos, or processes large photos for a living, the Air isn’t going to cut it. It will, however, handle 15 to 20 browser tabs at once, let you edit photos in Lightroom without any hiccups, and keep ten apps running smoothly at once.”
3. Daily use: The new keyboard, battery life, and #donglelife
WSJ: “Hate is a strong word for the keyboard so I’ll just say I strongly dislike it. You’ll get used to the Air’s flatter keys – which don’t press down much – the way you get used to a crammed middle seat. This summer Apple made some improvements to this new keyboard design, but I’d still rather have a slightly fatter laptop and keys that move like keys.”
Engadget: “These backlit keys are the third iteration of Apple’s ‘Butterfly’ keyboard design, which claims to be more stable and precise than the cushier buttons used on the older Air (not to mention previous Butterfly keys). They’re flat, as you’re probably well aware, which has presented a learning curve every time I’ve set aside my old Air to work on a review of a newer MacBook.”
CNET: “It takes a period of adjustment to get used to the subtle tactile feedback, but once you do get used to it, it’s fine for even long-form typing. But yes, you may never grow to love it. The payoff is that the new Air also includes a much bigger touchpad, of the same Force Touch style as on other MacBooks.”
The Verge: “As for battery life, I am not getting Apple’s claimed 12 hours of web browsing time … I’d say I’m safely getting seven hours of fairly active use: a mix of browsing, email, Slack, Twitter, some photo editing, and some more intense testing from time to time.”
Wired: “I know, I know: By now, we’re supposed to be used to this cruel, port-less computing world. It’s the future. But I’m still allowed to miss other useful ports. And I do.”
4. Worth it?
WSJ: “With the redesign, the MacBook Air remains the best choice of all of Apple’s laptops.”
CNET: “The new model has such sweeping overall design, usability and component upgrades that it’s certainly worth at least $US200 more than the old one. It’s just a shame that right as the MacBook Air is again one of the most universally useful laptops you can buy, it’s that much more of a reach for potential owners.”
The Verge: “Is all of this worth $US1,200? Yes. The performance and quality of this MacBook Air justify its price. Do I wish that Apple had found a way to make a slightly less expensive laptop? My answer is also yes.”
Wired: “Apple has heard the calls for a newer, better MacBook Air, and it has answered. Thank goodness for that. But one might get the sneaking suspicion, as she stares at the gorgeous, liquid-looking display of this new machine, that such a laptop could have arrived two years ago. Or more.”