First look: Apple MacBook Air gets a new lease of life

By David Flynn, October 31 2018

With a sharper screen, faster processors, a thinner profile and lighter weight, Apple has given its MacBook Air a new lease of life – and nudges it back into the heartland of the business travellers who made the original model such a staggering success.

Over a decade since Steve Jobs famously launched the first super-skinny MacBook Air in January 2008 by pulling it out out of a manila envelope, Apple's leanest laptop has been overhauled in almost every dimension.

About all that stays the same is the screen size, which remains at the 13-inches sweet spot – but it's now the same higher-resolution Retina display as its MacBook Pro siblings, and framed by a much thinner bezel which slightly shrinks the device’s overall footprint.

From the outside, MacBook Air's tapered 'flying wedge' profile – which measures just 1.56cm at its thickest point –  and two USB-C ports makes it more clearly a member of the modern MacBook Pro family, although at a bantam-weight 1.25kg it's easily the most travel-friendly.

Inside is a solid tech spec-set built around Intel's latest 8th-gen Core i5 processor, faster RAM (to 16GB) and a zippier solid state drive (to a capacious 1.5TB).

Battery life remains pegged at 12 hours, although Apple has yet to adopt fast-charge technology which could add a few hours to the tank after just 15-30 minutes drinking deeply from the nearest AC socket.

The new MacBook Pro-style keyboard now incorporates a Touch ID fingerprint scanner for security log-in, with an over-sized trackpad up front and beefier speakers beneath.

It's worth reflecting that the MacBook Air redefined the 'thin and light' laptop into a machine for the mainstream, leading a movement away from CD/DVD slots and mechanical hard drives and sparking a competing wave of Windows 'ultrabooks' which have now become the norm.

Apple's overdue revamp has once again made the MacBook Air a serious contender and could swing some buyers away from the entry-level 13 inch MacBook Pro when the 2018 MacBook Air his the streets this week with a starting price of $1,849. 

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Ian_from_HKG

Ian_from_HKG

CX

05 Jun 2012

Total posts 114

You say "two USB-C ports makes it more clearly a member of the modern MacBook Pro family, although at a bantam-weight 1.25kg it's easily the most travel-friendly", and of course that is technically correct - but for me the most travel-friendly of all is the MacBook (note the lack of a "Pro" suffix) - which is smaller (its footprint is slightly less than a sheet of A4) and lighter (0.92 kg). It's a lot easier to use on a 'plane too, due to its smaller size.

I just bought the Memsahib a MacBook Air and she did suggest that I got the newer machine and she would take on my MacBook (which I have had for four or five years now). I declined - I love my MacBook, and I'm using it to write this!

David

David

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2332

That's true, the non-Pro MacBook is smaller and lighter, but I find the 12 inch screen and single USB-C port work against it – I actually just last year bought a 13in MacBook Pro (non-Touchbar) and if I had faced the same buying-a-new-machine situation today I'd probably go for the MacBook Air. Your MacBook must be doing great on battery life for you to keep with it after 4-5 years!

Ian_from_HKG

Ian_from_HKG

CX

05 Jun 2012

Total posts 114

I understand your comment about the 12-inch screen, and the deal with the Memsahib is that if I have to work remotely on documents for any period of time we will do a temporary swap, but most of the time it's fine.

I haven't (crossed fingers!) had any issue with battery life. I use it just about every day on the battery and then recharge it, which apparently helps to keep the battery "active". For example, I have been using it today for about 45 minutes and am still at 94%!

As for the single USB-C - IMHO the main drawback is really having no other ports (which means that for virtually all accessories you need to use some sort of adapter) rather than whether there is one or two. After all, if you need an adapter, given that so many have multiple sockets, it doesn't really make much difference (at least as far as my own usage is concerned) that there is only one USB-C socket to put an adapter into.

If you want to upgrade a MacBook Air, btw, you might consider one of these (I hasten to add I have no connection with this company, and haven't tried the product, but I do find it intriguing!), which turns the screen into a touchscreen!

Packetman21

Packetman21

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Jul 2016

Total posts 108

My MacBook Air 2013 model is still working perfectly and couldn’t ask more from it, it’s durable, practical, versatile and light. I would imagine this new one would be awesome!

mo

mo

22 Dec 2012

Total posts 37

The new Macbook Air looks fantastic. They've always been well built machines and the unibody aluminium design is timeless. I love the oversized glass trackpad - best on the market. I'm grateful that it has at least two USB-C ports. The single port on the Macbook is frankly ridiculous. Power users will appreciate the physical function keys on the top row, the Touch Bar on the pro has always been an expensive gimmick.

My main complaint would be the price. At $1850 it's simply too expensive for an entry level laptop. The cheapest Macbook Pro is $1900. Both laptops are jostling for space in the same price range.


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