Apple: New Design & Retina display for the MacBook Air 2018 (Update)
The Apple MacBook Air is one of the most successful laptops of the past decade. The first MacBook Air was introduced in 2008 at a time when its ultra-thin chassis was seen as radical and revolutionary. Today, it is known that it would go on to become the paragon for a whole generation of Ultrabooks that revolutionized the laptop market since 2011.
Considering this success story, its weird that Apple has neglected the MacBook Air for so many years. The last huge design-update was in 2010 and the last time the CPU was updated to a current model was in 2015. Since then, Apple has continued to sell the MacBook Air with outdated components.
This stagnation ends today, as Apple introduced a new MacBook Air right at the start of its special event in New York. The new MacBook Air 2018 is not just another CPU update, its a major redesign.
Central to this is the new chassis, which is still made out of Aluminium. Changes start at the thickness: While the old MacBook Air was the thinnest laptop at the time it was designed, it has since long been surpassed by other Ultrabooks. Of course, the model is thinner by 10 %, it just 15.6 mm thick at its thickest point. Even more important than the thickness maybe is the fact that Apple finally embraces the trend towards thinner display bezels – the old MacBook Air looked rather antiquated with its wide display-bezels.
Thats not the only change in regards to the display. Apple now puts a glass-cover in front of the screen, which means that the display-bezel is now black instead of silver. The display itself is also finally updated: Instead of the low-res WXGA (1,440 x 900) TN panel, the new MacBook Air 2018 utilizes a Retina screen (2,560 x 1,600 pixel) based on IPS technology. The screen size stays the same at 13.3 inches.
While this change will undoubtedly be celebrated by most everyone, the new keyboard might be a little bit more controversial: The old MacBook Air was the last MacBook without a Butterfly keyboard. The new model of course now also includes the Butterfly keyboard that is known for its shallow key-travel. Apple uses the 3rd generation of this keyboard, which should be quieter and supposedly less sensitive when it comes to dust.
Also included is TouchID – the Touchbar on the other hand stays exclusive with the MacBook Pro. This means that the new MacBook Air 2018 still has dedicated function-keys as well as a dedicated Escape-key. Additionally, Apple has put in a much larger Force-trackpad without a mechanical click.
When it comes to ports, Apple modernizes the new MacBook Air 2018 in the style of the recent MacBook Pro models: MagSafe, USB A and the SD card-slot are gone in favor of two Thunderbolt 3 ports. The array of ports is thus identical with the cheaper MacBook Pro 13 without Touchbar and better than the smaller MacBook 12, which just has a single USB C port without Thunderbolt.
On the inside, the MacBook Air 2018 can be configured with up to 16 GB RAM and 1.5 TB SSD-storage. Its unclear at the moment which processor is used: Apple says its a "dual core i5 of the 8th Intel Core i generation". This potentially means that Apple uses the extremely energy-saving Core i5-8200Y, an Amber Lake processor, with cTDP up to 7 Watt and therefore 1.6 GHz base speed. If this is the case, the new MacBook Air 2018 won't be much of a performance upgrade compared with the older model, although this CPU may guarantee a quiet operation as well as very good endurance.
The MacBook Air 2018 will be available in November with a starting price of $1,199. It will be available in silver, grey and gold.
Update, 10-31-18: Today, Intel announced the Core i5-8210Y, the corresponding CPU for the MacBook Air. While it is also based on Amber-Lake, its TDP is slightly higher (7 W instead of 5 W). This higher power consumption allows slightly better CPU and GPU clock-rates.