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 2560×1600 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.

Comments closed
    • tipoo
    • 1 year ago

    It appears they took an Amber Lake CPU from the fanless class, but added a fan to it (not sure if the fan directly blows over heatsink fins yet), for this weird 8th gen CPU with two cores.

    [url<]https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Dq3kYkVU0AAbR37.jpg:large[/url<] Notably absent compared to the non-touchbar Pro are P3 gamut, 500 nits screen, and Iris Plus. Its...Ok. For me, if the nTB got an update to Butterfly 3 and T2 soon, I'd still go with that for not much more. If it went to a quad core, well, no contest at all and the Air seems awkwardly placed.

    • riviera74
    • 1 year ago

    This is the first MacBook Air that is actually worth buying in at least three years. Same for the Mac Mini. Either would make a nice Christmas present for that Mac lover who is stuck with an ancient Mac/PC notebook from 2013 or earlier.

    • Laykun
    • 1 year ago

    Is this really a revitalized Macbook Air? Seems more like a Macbook with a Air-ified chasis.

      • davidbowser
      • 1 year ago

      Is there some distinction? The Air was always just a thinner/lighter Macbook from my perspective (I have owned a few). There was little difference to me other than the form factor.

      EDIT – hit submit before I finished.

    • christos_thski
    • 1 year ago

    Only thing there missing from -several- PC laptops is the fingerprint reader. And that’s a shame too. Windows 10 provides the framework for biometric identification so PC laptop makers should get off their asses and embed the technology. I have a 20 dollars chinese usb dongle thingy that does the job on my desktop. No excuse for this not being standard fare on PC laptops (and even desktop gaming keyboard while we’re at it. why not?)

    But as I said, a 20 dollar usb thingy will fix that, even if as an addon. Other than that no reason to cage myself within Apple’s walled gardens. I even left IOS when they screwed the pooch with valve’s steam link, and that’s on smartphones where they have a much more competitive offering.

    No way am I ever going to go apple with computers… This is a company that glues friggin non upgradable RAM on their systems.

      • Usacomp2k3
      • 1 year ago

      I’m surprised they haven’t thrown FaceID on there to be honest. All of their PC’s (except the mini) have front camera’s.

        • UberGerbil
        • 1 year ago

        FaceID also uses the IR depth sensors, so they’d have to add that to the PCs as well. (Windows Hello has a similar requirement, which is why just having a webcam in a PC isn’t enough to enable Hello even on Microsoft’s own earlier Surfaces)

    • blastdoor
    • 1 year ago

    So…. what’s the rationale for there being both a MacBook Air and a MacBook?

      • DancinJack
      • 1 year ago

      Apple making more $$$$$$

      • cygnus1
      • 1 year ago

      My wife has the Retina Macbook. The screen on the Air is marginally larger, and the Air’s guts are a little higher end for the CPU and TB3. With how similar this new chassis is, I’d say they’re basically the same. They should’ve just dropped the Air tag on this and called it the 13″ Retina Macbook.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 1 year ago

      It’s a cheaper way to get 256 GB of storage instead of 128 since it’s only $100 more instead of $200. Or something.

      • UberGerbil
      • 1 year ago

      I wouldn’t be surprised if they focus-grouped it and discovered there were people who would only buy an “Air”. Show these people this machine and call it a Macbook, and they’re not interested; hide it behind your back for a second and then bring it out saying “Behold, the new Air!” and they pull out their wallets.

      I could be wrong, but “Air” seems to have a cachet among a certain segment for whom it’s a lifestyle brand. I think Apple bought Beats for the same reason.

      • tipoo
      • 1 year ago

      Imo, the universe will make sense again if the non-touchbar pro gets an update to Butterfly 3 and T2 soon, and then the Macbook 12 either dies or moves to $999. Otherwise, you’re paying more to do less with the 12, all for 0.75 pounds.

    • Chrispy_
    • 1 year ago

    Hahaha.
    Apple and their $2600 dual-core laptop again.

    I’ll take one of the 4K ultra-thin premium Zenbooks thanks, swap out the user-replaceable M.2 gumstick drive for a 2TB Intel 660p NVMe drive and just have a vastly nicer everything.

    The best part won’t be the $900 I’ve saved, it’ll be the keyboard that isn’t a total disaster to use.

      • Airmantharp
      • 1 year ago

      At 13″, the lack of a quad-core is pretty much unforgivable. Compare to an XPS13; you’ll pay more for the privilege of running OSX on slower hardware. I type this on a 13″ folder that Apple has no alternative to, with competitive specs to said XPS13- and surpassing this ‘new’ Air.

        • End User
        • 1 year ago

        Be careful what you wish for. I went for 8th gen quad cores in both my 13″ MBP and my 14″ T480. Both the 8559U and the 8650U run warm at idle. Once you start pushing things they really heat up.

      • mikehodges2
      • 1 year ago

      By premium Zenbooks, are you talking about the Pro? Any model in particular that offers best bang for buck? Do you know how the higher spec ones temps fare under heavy load? And fan noise under normal/light use (browsing, youtube etc). I’m always wary of high spec thin laptops..

      I’m thinking about replacing my 2012 15″ rMBP before it dies, as they’re still selling for ~£700 with my spec – one of the reasons I paid extra for apple was for the resale potential. Honestly, i love this machine. Keyboard and trackpad are spot on, feels as snappy as day 1 despite no reinstalls after 6 years.

      If they hadn’t gimped the inputs, I’d probably stick with apple; again for resale value, and I do like OSx, but no HDMI and USB3, or card reader are a bit of a deal breaker.

        • Chrispy_
        • 1 year ago

        Bought my sister a UX390UA (12.5″) last year. It’s not the highest spec (SATA M.2, i5-7200U, only 1080p screen) but it really is so much nicer to use than the Macbook in many ways.

        Ignoring Windows vs OSx arguments for a second, it’s nicer to look at, the keyboard is better, the trackpad is nicer, the speakers are significantly better than the awful ones on the 12″ macbook. The 1080p gorilla-glass IPS screen is gorgeous, though I wouldn’t want that particular option as business laptop for daytime work on the go (reflections). Also, the 16:9 1080p is a better aspect ratio for pretty much all media content and gaming. Not that you can game on a Macbook at all, or anything intensive with the Intel HD620 anyway.

        I think it’s physically lighter and smaller than the 12″ Macbook because the bezels are way smaller and less obvious – and as for performance/noise it’s silent under casual use but the fan ramps up after about 3 minutes of full load and the performance nosedives. That’s not an Asus-specific problem, that’s just the nature of Intel’s U-series 15W TDP chips. That particular problem manifests across all laptops and it’s a tradeoff you have to make for something so thin and light.

          • Chrispy_
          • 1 year ago

          I should also add that the next step up is probably the XPS 13, which isn’t hobbled by the stupid “hey let’s copy Apple and only include 1 USB-C port” issue.

          The XPS is a bit chunkier but it’s still light (thanks, carbon-fiber chassis) and that extra z-height allows a 27W CPU to actually run without throttling much (if at all) – something the X1 carbon or any equivalent Apple can’t do. The battery life is amazing and there are 3x USB-C ports, including TB3 support. The only downsides are the webcam placement and that the trackpad is only averagely responsive.

          • tipoo
          • 1 year ago

          Not that I don’t believe your impressions, but there’s some strange ones, as at launch the Macbook 12 speakers rated better than 99% of laptops tested by notebookcheck, and even now they rate better than all but 4% (and those above it are often Macbook pros, lol).

          [url<]https://www.notebookcheck.net/Apple-MacBook-12-2017-Laptop-Review.230656.0.html#toc-emissions[/url<] And...The trackpad is nicer on the Zenbook? Bigger, maybe, but I've tried a lot of laptops and even the best Precision ones aren't up to Apples old trackpad magic.

      • End User
      • 1 year ago

      Lack of macOS kills it for me. That and a crap trackpad.

        • Wonders
        • 1 year ago

        Seriously. I hate to indulge in hyperbole… but what I hate even more is [engage hyperbole mode] feeling locked into the MacBook line for want of a trackpad that isn’t a Fisher-Price inspired insult to the past 50 years of computer input advancements.

        When absolutely any PC laptop manufacturer acquires whatever patents are necessary for a real trackpad — and by that I mean, a real trackpad — to become a reality on Linux/Windows, oh man. There will be a sonic booms around the world as wallets flap open.

        [/end hyperbole mode]

    • jesuscat
    • 1 year ago

    I am suddenly so much happier about my XPS-13.

      • oldog
      • 1 year ago

      Yeah, but that janky trackpad has sent me back to my ancient MacBook Air.

    • UberGerbil
    • 1 year ago

    Is that a new orange-gold color instead of rose-gold, or are the pictures kind of off? It looks… like a color I would not want to have on anything I own.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 1 year ago

      I think it’s regular gold (meaning the pictures are a little off). The only options on Apple’s site are gold, silver, and spaaaaaace graaaaaayyyy. /halloweenVoice

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