Just when we thought that the MacBook Air had reached the end of its disruptive life, Apple announced a new model, with a 2018 twist.
It feels like a long time since we last had a new MacBook Air to be excited about and it is. So rather than tell you what's different, let's start with what's the same.
What's the same on the new MacBook Air and the old MacBook Air?
The MacBook Air was one of Apple's big moves that changed the status quo - it removed the Ethernet port at a time when Wi-Fi wasn't so widely available in public and tethering was a lot more difficult.
It was all about saving space, it was about portability, it was about working on the move. The world has changed, with compact power being a lot more common, but the new MacBook Air offers a similar design to the previous version - which is still available - and it's still that iconic wedge shape, tapering to a point at the leading edge.
It still offers a 13.3-inch display which is 300 nits, but that's about where the similarity ends.
What's different between the new MacBook Air and the old MacBook Air?
While the idea behind of the MacBook Air remains the same, pretty much all the technical details have changed. We'll keep it brief and give you a run-down of why this all matters.
- New MacBook Air: 0.41-1.56cm thickness, 1.25kg, Touch ID
- Old MacBook Air: 0.3-1.7cm thickness, 1.35kg
Still aluminium, the new MacBook Air is available in three colours - gold, silver and space grey - compared to just silver before. The new model is lighter, but not quite is thin at the leading edge, but slimmer overall.
However, the bigger change in chassis design sees the new MacBook Air with a smaller overall footprint, with Apple saying it has a 17 per cent smaller volume. So it's lighter, smaller and thinner overall.
Both have a full backlit keyboard and touch pad, but the new model has a 20 per cent larger Force Touch trackpad and a newer generation keyboard with more stable keys. It also has Touch ID nestled in the corner to enable Apple Pay and easy unlocking.
- New MacBook Air: Edge-to-edge glass, Retina display, 2560 x 1600 pixels
- Old MacBook Air: Giant silver bezel, 1440 x 900 pixels
While the 13.3-inch display remains the same, the new MacBook Air adopts MacBook Pro design, moving on from the rather dated silver bezel of the old Air for a cleaner finish. Those bezels are now smaller, which helps reduce the overall footprint of this notebook.
The display also takes a resolution bump to 2560 x 1600 pixels, which is a health increase over the detail of the old Air. That's quite a reason to consider an upgrade, as it's a better display in all areas.
- New MacBook Air: 2x Thunderbolt 3
- Old MacBook Air: 2x USB 2, SDXC slot
While the wireless connectivity of these devices is similar, there's a big change on the physical connections that matches what Apple is doing elsewhere. Previously there was a MagSafe charging connector, SD card reader and USB ports. Yes, both have a 3.5mm headphone socket.
The new MacBook Air has just two Thunderbolt 3 ports on the left hand side. Thunderbolt 3 occupies the same physical shape as USB Type-C, offering a whole range of connectivity. It basically covers the full USB Type-C spec, while also offering everything that DisplayPort offered and the Ethernet connection. It's basically a do-it-all port, including charging - but it does mean it won't be compatible with legacy connections, without adapters or new cables.
We feel the loss of the SD card slot - because for those going from camera to laptop, you can just move the card, you'll need a card reader or cable to the camera instead.
Power and hardware
- New MacBook Air: 1.6GHz 8-gen Intel Core i5, 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD (base)
- Old MacBook Air: 1.8GHz 5-gen Intel Core i5, 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD (base)
The positioning of the MacBook Air remains similar, sitting under the MacBook Pro and lacking the degree of options to power it up. However, there's parity between old and new MacBook Air, except that everything has moved on a lot - through many generations of hardware progress.
The new MacBook Air can be specced up to 16GB RAM and up to 1.5TB of storage (although that's really expensive - it puts £1000 on the price).
The MacBook Air also sticks to embedded graphics, Intel UHD Graphics 617 on the new MacBook Air. Again, generations have passed since the previous MacBook Air (which you can still buy), so in terms of power, it's going to be more efficient and more powerful in all areas.
That said, the battery life is pretty similar - but now gets a 30W USB Type-C charger, rather than the old 45W MagSafe 2 charger.
Comparing a notebook as old as the previous MacBook Air to the new 2018 model isn't really fair. For many of us who were using that previous version, you've probably moved to something else in the interim.
This has been an update that's been a long time coming, and with Apple bumping up the MacBook Pro and thrusting the iPad Pro in the middle of things, it was questionable whether we'd ever see this MacBook Air.
It's a very welcome to a laptop that fundamentally sits in the same space. We'll miss the SD card reader (we use them a lot), but the boosted display, larger trackpad and lighter overall build make this an attractive option for those working on the go.