Apple revitalizes MacBook Air with Retina screen and fresh internals

Apple finally updated one of its most-loved and most-neglected notebooks this morning. The latest MacBook Air gives fans of this iconic machine everything they've been asking for over many years: a Retina display, Touch ID, and a body that's 17% less voluminous and a quarter-pound lighter than its predecessor.

Apple powers the new MacBook Air with an eighth-gen Intel Core i5 dual-core CPU clocked at 1.6-GHz base and 3.6-GHz Turbo speeds (possibly from the Amber Lake family), paired with up to 16 GB of LPDDR3 memory running at 2133 MT/s. That memory speed and the chip's Intel UHD 617 graphics suggest it's not from the blue team's official roadmap, though, as we can't find a Core i5 chip in Intel's public documentation that's entirely conformant with these specifications. Apple will offer PCIe SSDs ranging from 128 GB all the way up to a whopping 1.5 TB in the Air.

The MacBook Air's Retina screen has a 2560x1600 resolution and uses IPS technology, although Apple only says the display is good for "millions of colors" worth of shades rather than stating conformance to any particular gamut. Around the edges of the notebook, prospective owners will find a pair of Thunderbolt 3 ports that double as power inputs, as well as a good old headphone jack.

The keyboard on this Apple slice is the company's much-maligned short-travel "butterfly" design, meaning it could still be subject to paralysis from grains of sand and errant specks of dust. The trackpad graduates to a Force Touch unit with no moving parts, at least, and it's much bigger than the outgoing model's input area.

To handle Touch ID, "Hey Siri," and on-the-fly encryption of user data, Apple includes one of its T2 platform-management chips in the new MacBook Air. The company says the 50.3-Wh battery is good for 12 hours of web browsing, too. A FaceTime HD web cam sits in its proper place above the display for pleasant video-chatting experiences.

The fully-refreshed MacBook Air starts at $1199 with 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage. A bump to 256 GB of storage raises the total to $1399. 512 GB of storage runs another $200, and the 1.5-TB drive ultimately adds $1200 to the machine's price tag. 16 GB of RAM is a bargain by comparison as a $200 build-to-order option. Apple will offer MacBook Airs in space gray, silver, and gold finishes. Orders are open now, and Apple expects to begin shipping the new machines starting November 7.

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