Apple’s updated MacBook Air is a very solid upgrade with more of what more people want from their laptop — extra storage, a slightly better keyboard and a cheaper entry-level model.
I’ve had the machine for 24 hours now and the initial impression is very good. I chop and change laptops a bit, but my go-to Mac has been a 2015 MacBook Pro, considered up until recently the best Apple laptop.
The new MacBook Air now includes a notably better keyboard than its predecessor, which had the sometimes-critcised ‘Butterfly’ keyboard. Apple calls the updated one a ‘Magic’ keyboard and it’s basically the same construction as that on the high-end 16-inch MacBook Pro.
That includes 1mm of ‘keyboard travel’ and a general feeling of satisfying solidity, whichApple puts down to its scissor mechanism that “locks into the keycap at the top of travel to mitigate wobble and provide a stable key feel”.
It may be a small thing, but its inverted-T arrangement for arrow keys are also somewhat helpful for navigation.
It has the same high-definition Retina screen as the previous model, but this time can support a 6K display if you want to hook it up.
It uses two USB-C ports for just about everything, including charging. That’s it for the ports, other than a 3.5mm jack for headphones.
For these stay-at-home work days, the webcam seems more than adequate, at 720p, while a three-mic array means you’re heard loud and clear.
The speakers appear to be fairly excellent, too. I’ve been blasting Netflix and YouTube on it, and it sounds very decent. They’ll definitely do for any video calls or online conferencing.
As always, I have found the design and tactile finish on the MacBook Air to be a high point, with matt aluminium in a choice of silver, ‘space grey’ or gold.
The price is a bonus. MacBooks are never at the cheaper end of the market and this one isn’t either. But €1,229 is a lot better than the €1,329 the last one cost. Personally, I’d pay another €50, which gets you a quadcore Intel i5 processor rather than the i3 processor.
Otherwise, the power specs on this are great for the everyday user. It’s configurable up to 2TB of internal storage, an Intel i7 processor and 16GB of Ram.
One of my first takeaways from using this for a day is — why would I get a MacBook Pro now?
The quick answer seems to be that Apple appears to be differentiating ‘pro’ use on the display size. The MacBook Air only comes with a 13-inch screen. For most, that’s a sweet spot. But for someone who needs a laptop for heavier duty needs, like video editing, graphics or other data-intensive applications, it’s likely that extra screen real estate is prized.
I’ll come back with a more extensive review in the next week or so. For now, though, this may be Apple’s best laptop launch in years.