On the Retina MacBook Air

Retina MacBook Air.

Retina. MacBook Air.

Retina. MacBook. Air.

It’s a thing, and it comes in silver, space gray and gold. It’s on Apple’s website and everything:

The most loved Mac is about to make you fall in love all over again. Available in silver, space gray, and gold, the new thinner and lighter MacBook Air features a brilliant Retina display, Touch ID, the latest-generation keyboard, and a Force Touch trackpad. The iconic wedge is created from 100 percent recycled aluminum, making it the greenest Mac ever. And with all-day battery life, MacBook Air is your perfectly portable, do-it-all notebook.

The formula hasn’t changed all that much. The new MacBook Air retains its iconic wedge shaped chassis, wrapped around a 13.3-inch screen. It’s still lightweight, now weighing in at just 2.75 pounds. Like the new Mac mini, it’s built from 100% recycled aluminum.

However, it’s a bit of a sleeper. The Air may look old, but if you peek under the covers, it’s a whole new machine.

It’s powered by dual-core 8th-generation Intel Core i5 processors. In fact, both SKUs are clocked at 1.6GHz with Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz. The machine supports up to 16 GB of RAM, and up to 1.5 TB of SSD storage, made extra speedy and secure by Apple’s T2 chip, which seems to be spreading to all new Macs.

Update: It seems that this CPU may be a 5W chipset, like found in the 12-inch MacBook. That is a bummer, and I guess it helps explain the two-port MacBook Pro sticking around.

The new internals are betrayed on the outside by a pair of Thunderbolt 3 ports,1 meaning the MacBook Air has the same IO as that weird Touch Bar-less 13-inch MacBook Pro. Unlike that machine, the new Air does have a Touch ID sensor, the first time we have seen it divorced from the Touch Bar. I like it.

The headlining feature, of course, is the Retina display. The ancient panel on the old MacBook Air was its worst feature, and now it’s gone. The Air’s display doesn’t include features like True Tone of the P3 color gamut, but most people don’t care about that sort of thing. The big news is the resolution, and it’s good news with a 2560-by-1600 native resolution, same as the 13-inch MacBook Pros.

The new Air uses the same third-generation butterfly keyboard found on the 2018 MacBook Pros. It seems like the reliability is better with these machines, but I would have liked to see a truly revised keyboard show up today. Oh well. Below it is a new, larger Force Touch Trackpad, and the keyboard is flanked by a pair of louder speakers.

The new MacBook Air starts at $1,199. In a way, Apple has made the the low end of its notebook line more confusing now:

  • $1,199: 13-inch Retina MacBook Air with 2 Thunderbolt 3 ports and Touch ID
  • $1,299: 12-inch Retina MacBook with 1 USB-C port and no Touch ID or Touch Bar
  • $1,299: 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro with 2 Thunderbolt 3 ports and no Touch ID or Touch Bar

I think the default machine for consumers and students should be the new Air, and getting rid of that cheap MacBook Pro would help clear the air a little.

This is Tim Cook’s Apple, so the old MacBook Air is still for sale at $999, which drives me crazy. I’d rather they lose that price point than still offer such an old machine.

Pricing confusion aside, I think this machine is going to do well, and it’s a welcome addition to the line from where I sit.

  1. Sadly, there’s no SD card slot in sight. Also, RIP, MagSafe.