You might be able to get your hands on a Retina MacBook Air by next month.
The current MacBook Air is the only Apple laptop without a Retina display, and the hope worldwide is that Apple will soon announce a Retina version of the MacBook Air. Although Apple hasn't confirmed anything, it's been long-rumoured to be working on a MacBook Air refresh. Most speculation point to a WWDC unveiling as well, but the new machine could instead appear at Apple's "Spring forward" event set for 9 March.
All we know is that the company is reportedly developing a 12-inch MacBook that's even thinner than the current MacBook Air. The MacBook likely features a Retina display, fan-less design, low-power Intel Broadwell Core M processor, and a revamped buttonless trackpad, among other things. Oh, and similar to the latest iPhones and iPads, it might launch with Silver, Gold, and Space Gray colour options.
What'll it have to beat?
Apple last updated the MacBook Air in 2014 with faster processors and a cheaper price overall. It was not quite the refresh we’d been hoping for, but at least it was something. That said, while consumers have been waiting for a more impressive update, Apple's competition hasn't slowed down; many rWindows-powered Ultrabooks are considered quite good for the price.
Thus, if the new Retina MacBook Air wants to standout, it'll have to offer impressive specs at a decent price tag. It doesn't necessarily have to be thinner or lighter than the current MacBook Air lineup. It just has to be powerful, portable, and relatively affordable. In other words, it'll have to beat the following rival machines already available...
Dell XPS 13
The XPS 13 is described as the "smallest 13-inch laptop on the planet" with a "virtually borderless infinity display." It features an optional UltraSharp Quad+ infinity display with 5.7 million pixels and just 5.2mm-thin bezels - and it weighs only 2.6 pounds. Other features include a 15-hour battery life, fifth-generation Intel Core processors, and solid state drives. Pricing starts at $799.
Lenovo LaVie Z
This one is a bit of a cheat because it won't be available until May, but it's super thin and light and deserves love. The Lenovo LaVie Z weighs 1.72 pounds (that's even lighter than the Microsoft Surface Pro 3) and has a 16.8mm-thin body. It features fifth-generation Intel Core i5 processor, 6-hour battery life, and a 13.3-inch display that can be configured up to 2560x1440 resolution. Pricing starts at $1,299.
Asus ZenBook UX305
The Asus ZenBook UX205 is described as an Air alternative and one of the most affordable Ultrabooks available right now. It's very thin, measuring 12.7mm-thick and weighing 2.6 pounds, making the Zenbook a tiny bit lighter than the equally-thin Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro. It also features a 13.3-inch auto IPS full HD display (upgradable to IPS QHD+), Intel Core M processor, and 6-hour battery life. Pricing starts at $699.
HP Spectre 13
It won't break speed records, but the HP Spectre 13 can still give Apple's MacBook Air a run for its money. Despite average looks, the machine does come with a 1080p display, Intel Core i5 processor, 128GB solid state drive, 9-hour battery life, and a Gorilla Glass-covered back lid. It also measures 15.2mm-thick and weighs 3.2 pounds, making it svelte but a bit heavy compared to other Ultrabooks. Pricing starts at $999.
Acer Aspire S7
This Ultrabook has gone quad HD. The 3-pound Acer Aspire S7 is less than 12.9mm-thick and features a fourth-generation Intel Haswell processor (a fifth-generation Intel Core Series-powered version of the S7 is also launching in early 2015), 9-hour battery life, and a new super-sharp 13-inch screen that packs 2560 x 1440 pixels. You can even upgrade to touch, though you'll lose the WQHD display. Pricing starts at $1,399.
Toshiba's 2014 Kira features a sleek chassis, impressive WQHD+ display with 10-point multi-touch, and improved battery life. Apple hasn't yet launched its MacBook Air with Retina, but if it did, it'd probably look a bit like the Kira. Toshiba's machine measures 23mm at its thickest point, but its body tapers toward the bottom, making it appear thinner. The Kira looks every bit its expensive price tag, which starts at $1,879.
Razer upgraded last year's Blade laptop by unveiling a new model that looks nearly identical to its predecessor but with more brawny specs. The new Razer Blade measures 17.7mm-thick and weighs roughly 4.5 pounds. It also features a 14-inch 3200×1800 IGZO touchscreen display at 262ppi and a quad-core 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-4720HQ processor. Unfortunately, it only has a 4-hour battery. Pricing starts at $2,200.
Microsoft Surface Pro 3
The Surface Pro 3 plants a 12-inch display in a 292mm x 200mm frame that's 9.1mm-thick. To put that in perspective: it's slimmer than the latest Nokia Lumia 930 smartphone. Also, even though it looks like an oversized tablet, its Intel Core i processor architecture is on a level with laptops. In resolution terms that 12-inch panel isn't messing around as well, delivering 2160 x 1440 pixels of quality. Pricing starts at £639.
Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus
Samsung updated its Windows 8.1-powered Ativ Book 9 ahead of CES 2015 with a more compact 12.2-inch screen. It shed some weight too, coming in at 2.1 pounds. The display, although smaller this year, packs impressive specs such as a 2560x1600-pixel resolution and a brightness level of 700 nits. The machine also has Intel's Broadwell Core M processor and a 10.5-hour battery life. Pricing starts at $1,199.99.
Is that it?
There are many high-definition, high-specced notebooks on the market, some of which have already begun to surpass the current MacBook Air lineup. Let us know in the comments below if you've played with a different machine worth including in this round-up.
What does the MacBook Air 13-Inch (2014) feature?
Just for comparison, we thought we'd remind you what the latest 13-inch MacBook Air offers: The aluminum unibody design is 17.2mm at the thickest point - a once-amazing feat that has lost some allure, since a few Windows competitors have gone slimmer. It also weighs weighs 2.91 pounds and features a 13.3-inch, LED-backlit display with a 1,440-by-900 resolution.
Apple upgraded the machine's internal hardware to start with a 1.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM, and Intel HD Graphics 5000. And finally, the MacBook Air has always offered excellent battery life, with most tests putting it around 16 hours. Pricing starts at $999.