It’s been a long time coming, but it’s finally here: On Oct. 30, 2018, Apple announced that a brand-new MacBook Air is on the horizon. Introduced by Apple CEO Tim Cook during a live event held at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the new Air makes good on the rumors that first began circulating over the summer — and we don’t even have that long to wait for it to arrive: It’s available to order now, and will be widely available starting next week.
Originally released in January of 2008, 2018 marks the MacBook Air’s 10th anniversary. Oddly, though, it’s been quite some time since it received any major updates: Although some small tweaks occurred in 2017, boosting the specs of the machine just a tad, it hasn’t seen any big changes since 2015. As Dan Ackerman at CNET described the 2017 model, “A lot about the MacBook Air still works,” but it was definitely starting to “show its age.” Two of the biggest downsides were the bezel and the display; the “wide silver border… may be the single most dated thing about the design,” wrote Ackerman, while the then-1440x900-pixel display simply didn’t have a high enough resolution to make the machine truly competitive anymore.
Clearly it was high time for the MacBook Air to see some revisions — and that’s exactly what we’ve just gotten: A new version of the 10-year-old machine that takes all the things that worked about the original and adds a ton of new bells and whistles to bring it more in line with the notebooks of today. As Apple’s Laura Lagrove, who took the stage on Tuesday to detail all the new and updated features we can expect to see on the new Air, put it, “Every part of the product has been re-designed and re-engineered” — from the 13.3-inch Retina display to the positioning of the FaceTime HD camera (right at the top of the screen, of course).
On the surface, this update might not look too exciting; indeed, Nilay Patel noted during The Verge’s live blog of the announcement that “it looks an awful lot… like a MacBook Air.” Fellow The Verge writer Dieter Bohn, however, saw that as a good thing: “It looks a lot like a MacBook Air. It tapers down like it should.” And even if the cosmetic design of the thing hasn’t changed much, the insides are a whole different story.
With an 8th generation Intel Core i5 dual processor, the new Air packs a lot more processing power than its predecessor did; there’s also double the memory capacity, two USB-C “Thunderbolt 3” ports which can, said Lagrove, “connect to just about anything.” Apple’s T2 security chip provides increased security — especially during the boot process — as well as the implementation of Hey Siri commands.
The new Air also has Touch ID capabilities; unlike the MacBook Pro, however, it lacks a Touch Bar — which will likely please a good number of people. (The Pro’s Touch Bar, although widely acknowledged as “well-implemented,” has been described just as widely a “serving no useful purpose,” as Apple Insider put it.) Instead, the sensor is built right into the keyboard — which, by the way, is also new: According to Laura Lagrove, the butterfly keys now have four times the stability of the previous Macbook Air generation; each key is also now backlit with its own, individual LED.
Battery life continues to be a selling point for the Air; known for its “all-day battery life,” the new version of the laptop still claims to support 12 hours of wireless web browsing. Additionally, it’s now capable of up to 13 hours of iTunes movie playback, per Lagrove. (We’ll have to wait until the reviews are out to see if that’s actually the case, but for what it’s worth, the 2017 model lasted for 10 hours — which is nothing to scoff at.)
In a move that should make anyone who felt the bezel and resolution were as outdated as dinosaurs quite happy indeed, major changes have come to the Air’s screen. The old, thick, aluminum bezel is gone; the new one is 50 percent narrower, and it’s black instead of silver. The pixels have also been quadrupled, giving the machine a resolution of four million pixel. Combined with 48 percent more color, the new Air boasts sharper text and images than any of its previous iterations. The speakers are also 25 percent louder, with two times more bass.
The unibody enclosure has seen some updates, too. It’s now made with an aluminum alloy developed specifically for use in Apple’s machines — meaning that the new MacBook Air’s enclosure is 100 percent recycled aluminum, reducing its carbon footprint by 50 percent and making it “the greenest Mac ever,” according to Lagrove. The whole machine is a lot more portable, as well — the volume has been reduced by 17 percent; at 15.6 millimeters, it’s 10 percent thinner; and at just 2.75 pounds in weight, it’s substantially lighter than the previous generation.
Oh, and there’s a headphone jack. That’s big news, given that none of the iPhones Apple currently sells have one. Not everyone has embraced the AirPod/wireless headphone lifestyle, so it’s a relief that the MacBook Air at least still lets us use wired headphones.
Prices start at $1,199, which Lagrove noted makes it “the most affordable Retina Mac ever offered.” (It’s still not cheap, but she’s not wrong.) The new MacBook Air is available to order starting today; the machine itself will be arriving on shelves next week. Head over to Apple’s website for the full specs.