If there was one product that had been begging for an upgrade for years, it was the MacBook Air. Since 2015, the laptop has not changed significantly, while the price also remained the same. If you recently bought the 2017 model, you were treated to a low-resolution tn screen and a processor from 2015. It is clear that it was time for something new and that is what came with it. 2018 model of the MacBook Air.
The new model goes along with the styling of other Apple products and, for example, the last product with a glowing Apple logo disappears in the back of the screen and the light gray color disappears in favor of Space Gray, silver and gold. The laptop has also become thinner and the weight has slightly decreased. The 2015 model, the last MacBook Air we reviewed, weighed 1348 grams and the new one weighs 1239 grams. That is nice and light, but it is still more than 300 grams heavier than the 12 “MacBook.
As we are used to from Apple, the housing of the new MacBook is made of metal and features a minimalist design. The screen opens smoothly and closes nicely under damp, and there are no points on the housing that yield easily under pressure. Apple knows how to build sturdy laptops and how to finish neatly. The new Air is a good example of this.
The minimalist design is also reflected in the connections, because there is only twice USB-C present, just like on the MacBook Pro. The USB-C ports support Thunderbolt 3, so you can connect a lot of different peripherals to it, but since there are still few USB-C peripherals on the market, in most cases you will be sentenced to using an adapter cable . The included USB-C charger supports USB Power Delivery at voltages of 5, 9, 15 and 20 volts, and the laptop can also be charged at all those voltages. So if you only have a phone charger at hand, you can still charge the Air slowly.
Keyboard and touchpad
The keyboard has also undergone a change compared to the old Air and here too it has been chosen to equalize that with the other MacBooks. The Air is therefore also transferred to the keyboard with the ‘butterfly’ switches, which take up very little space, making the laptop thinner. This also means that the keys have almost no travel and although the keys have a small hole, so that you can feel the difference between the keys, we find it difficult to tap and you have to keep your attention to avoid typos to make. There are users with the opposite opinion, but we still cannot get used to it.
The reverse is true for the touchpad, something that Apple has been familiar with for years, thanks to the use of a glass touchpad and the excellent integration with macOS. The Air now also has a touchpad with Force Touch, allowing you to make a mouse click anywhere on the surface and, if you press harder, even make a ‘deep’ click, which in some software has an extra function.
Finally, the Air is equipped with a fingerprint scanner and we are happy with that, because that makes logging in a lot faster. You can also give permission to install software with the fingerprint scanner and, if you can, also pay with Apple Pay, if you already use it.
We screwed the Air open. As with many Apple laptops in recent years, the hardware looks great, but there is nothing easy to replace. That is partly a matter of safety. As long as there is nothing to replace, hardware that has been tampered with cannot be installed. In addition, Apple has equipped the Air with the T2 security chip. This ensures secure boot, image processing of the webcam and authentication via Touch ID, but also keeps an eye on whether certified parts are used. If not, the chip can block the laptop from starting.
Screen and battery life
The part in the old MacBook Air that needed the hardest replacement was the screen. For a laptop of a thousand euros, you can expect at least a screen with an ips panel and full HD resolution. Instead, the Air was equipped with a TN screen, with moderate viewing angles and a resolution of 1440 × 900 pixels.
The new model is the last MacBook to get a Retina display, which stands for a resolution of 2560 × 1600 pixels in this case. This gives the Air the same resolution as the Pro, but not the same panel. There is no support for the P3 color space, so the Air sticks to srgb. That is not a problem in itself, because the wider color space is hardly used at the moment. True Tone, Apple’s function to adjust the color temperature of the screen to the temperature of the ambient light, is also not built in; that remains reserved for the MacBooks with Touch Bar. The screen also has a glossy finish, as with all Apple laptops.
The 2015 model of the MacBook Air excelled in battery life and that was probably related to the screen. The lower resolution means that the GPU has less pixels to drive and TN panels are generally more economical than IPS screens. The 2018 model got thinner. This left less space for the battery and the resolution also went up.
A battery life of ten and a half hours while browsing is therefore not wrong, but it is two hours shorter than the old model and also shorter than the MacBook Pro. That is striking, because in the past the Air had a longer battery life than the Pro, but that is not the case with the new model. In the video test, the MacBook Air lasts an hour longer than the Pro.
For charging the battery, Apple supplies a 30-watt USB-C charger, but you can also charge the battery faster with a 45-watt USB-C charger. That works in any case with chargers that are USB power delivery compatible and saves you about half an hour of charging time.
Apple has finally upgraded the MacBook Air, which has led to a laptop that lasts in the style of the latest MacBooks and iPads, and has become thinner and slightly lighter. The processor has also had an update, but the main improvement is the screen. Instead of a low-resolution TN screen, the Air has a Retina screen, which gives a much nicer image than its predecessor.
Still, Apple has restrained the screen, for example, it does not support p3 color space, nor does it have the contrast and high brightness that the MacBook Pro screens have. And although the processor is three generations newer, the speed increase is small, because an economical 7-watt processor has been chosen, which is clearly slower than the 15-watt in the cheapest MacBook Pro.
The price has also gone up and instead of a Euro or 1000 the new Air costs 1350 Euro if you order it from Apple. There, the cheapest MacBook Pro costs 1500 euros. The Air has always been the significantly cheaper entry-level MacBook, but it is no longer with this price increase. You may even wonder if the Air has a right to exist, because the relatively small price difference makes the temptation to save for a MacBook Pro with a faster processor, better screen and comparable battery life very big.
Does that make the Air a bad laptop? In itself not, because it is firmly put together, has a nice touchpad and a good battery life, and does not weigh much. Considering the hardware you get for it, the price is high and that high price certainly applies to the upgrades. On the other hand, a Mac is the only way to run macOS. If you want that and you accept the high price, then the 2018 model is not bad in itself, but a very good reason to save for a MacBook Pro.