Apple MacBook Air (2018)

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Apple MacBook Air (2018)

It has taken a while but Apple has finally given the MacBook Air a thorough update, with a new design and new internals. On the design front, its signature wedge-shape profile remains but thickness has been reduced from 17mm to 15.6mm, and weight is down from 1.34kg to 1.25kg. The total footprint has also been shaved thanks to thinner bezels around the display. Overall, the new MacBook Air is 17% smaller in volume compared to its predecessor. 

The new MacBook Air is also Apple’s greenest Mac ever thanks to its use of a custom Apple-formulated aluminum alloy made out of 100% recycled aluminum. Happily, this is done without comprising on strength or durability. 

One of the most notable updates is the inclusion of a Retina-class display with a 2,560 x 1,600 pixels resolution, 100% sRGB color space, and 50% thinner bezels. The display has nice, accurate colors, and is sharp and crisp. However, it isn’t quite as good as the MacBook Pro; it doesn’t support TrueTone technology or the wider DCI-P3 color space. Still, the new Retina display is a marked improvement over the old TN panel found on the past MacBook Air. 

As for ports, the new MacBook Air features two USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports on the left, which can handle power, data, and video. There’s also a headphone jack on the opposite side. 

Though the two Thunderbolt 3 ports are the fastest you can have right now, it does mean that you are going to need adapters if you want to use your old USB accessories with the new MacBook Air. 

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Apple’s third-generation butterfly mechanism makes an appearance in the keyboard, which people will either love or hate. It’s shallow and makes a clicky-clacky sound. I’m quite fond of it because the affirmative click action lets you know you have struck a key. Thankfully, the MacBook Air forgoes the superfluous Touch Bar for good old physical function keys. What it does have, however, is Touch ID, which is located in the top right of the keyboard. It makes logging into the MacBook Air a breeze. As for the trackpad, it is 20% larger and excellent - fluid, responsive, and accurate - exactly what you’d expect from Apple. 

Inside, you’ve got Intel’s newest 8th generation “Amber Lake” Core processor. Only a single CPU configuration will be offered this time with no upgrade option available. The CPU used is the Core i5-8210Y. Now, we all know that the Y-suffix denotes an efficient low-power unit, and deeper investigation reveals it to be a 7W part, a departure from the 15W CPUs that Apple normally uses for the MacBook Air. This would suggest that Apple is trading performance for efficiency. 

The new MacBook Air comes with 8GB of RAM and either a 128GB or 256GB super-fast PCIe SSD, upgradable to 16GB of RAM and 1.5TB of SSD storage, but mind you, Apple charges a pretty penny for memory and storage upgrades. 

Fortunately, despite the use of a low-power processor, performance was sprightly. Apps launched quickly and the MacBook Air held up even when I was typing this review on Pages and had my usual 20 or so tabs opened in Safari with iTunes and email running. The only time it felt sluggish was on more resource-intensive apps like Photoshop. Of course, if you find that you need a little more oomph, you can always hook it up to an external GPU like the Blackmagic eGPU Pro. 

Because of the efficient processor though, battery life was outstanding. In our intensive battery life test consisting of productivity workloads, video conferencing, and even light gaming, the new MacBook Air managed 5 hours and 10 minutes. To get an idea of just how good that is, consider that it lasted over an hour longer than the new Dell XPS 13 and nearly twice as long as the new HP Spectre - both comparable Windows ultraportable notebooks. 

For most macOS lovers then, the new MacBook Air is the notebook to get. Build quality remains class-leading, performance is good despite the low-power processor, battery life is exemplary, and it finally has a Retina display. In short, it is everything that most people want from a MacBook Air. I only wish they hadn’t taken so long. 

For most people, this is the Apple notebook they have been waiting for. 

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The Retina Display is sharp and crisp. Exactly what MacBook Air fans have been clamoring for. 

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The MacBook Air’s two USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports support data transfer rates of up to 40Gbps each. 

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