Held your breath years for some fresh Air?
Join the club. Having used a MacBook Air for a solid 5.5 years straight to slay tasks I’ve brought upon myself, I’ll humbly admit holding out for a worthy successor. Longer than I’d hoped for, but not long enough for Apple apparently, who hesitantly unveiled the everyman’s hero in its squad dressed in 2018 threads. In the shadow of the new iPad Pro of course.
Design, hardware, software all received significant upgrades but what were most excited to find out was if it had the whiff of greatness its predecessor was bursting with the moment it slid out of its discreet envelope. Is it just hot air or like a cool breeze in the Bombay summer? Oh boy, have we waited forever. No time to waste then…
DESIGN & BUILD: APPLE TO THE CORE
It’s only right that the Air celebrates its tenth anniversary in style, and style it has in abundance. The iconic wedged silhouette is apparent instantly with neat colour upgrades that resemble the 12in MacBook: space grey, gold and silver. Machined from a single block of recycled aluminium, it slips into even tablet pockets of backpacks. Diet goals, these.
At 1.25kg, it’s no backbreaker. Yet, it doesn’t quite rock its Air tag as confidently anymore sandwiched in size between the oddly similar MacBook Pro and even smaller 12in MacBook Air. A bit of a minefield this current MacBook lineup is. Conveniently however, the Air sets itself apart in many meaningful new ways.
A TouchID button resides in the top right corner of the keyboard so you can now use your digit to get in. The old MagSafe adaptor has been swapped out for dual USB-Cs. These fast charge smartphones like the Pixel directly via the phone’s bundled cable, rather conveniently. Feel forsaken iPhone user? Well, you should. The SD card reader’s gone AWOL but what’s still intact is the seemingly extinct headphone jack, thankfully.
APPLE MACBOOK AIR (2018) DISPLAY & SOUND: READY FOR RETINA
The old Air’s 1440x900 resolution felt a bit long in the tooth, to put it mildly. It’s finally been brought up to speed with a 2560x1600 Retina upgrade which seems like the sweet spot given its spec sheet. The chunky bezels have received a much-needed trim too. Pictures appear perfectly pin-sharp but there’s caveats critical for professionals.
Pick Air over Pro and you’re stuck with 300 nits of brightness as opposed to the full fat 500. This seems trivial indoors but could be critical in brighter spots. Video editors will also be better off aware of its sRGB skills rather than the wider DCI-P3 gamut of colours. Nitpicking for most users but points worth noting nonetheless.
Audio is truly astounding from its modest dimensions delivering an impressive degree of stereo separation and plenty of volume. For plenty of old Air owners, their laptop is their only device for watching movies and streaming video; this new model more than delivers when it comes to multimedia.
KEYBOARD & TOUCHPAD: Butterfly Effect
Gear up for the new Air’s third gen butterfly keyboard that offer fars less travel than the previous model within its slimmer profile. A new silicon barrier should keep dirt and grime from getting underneath the keys, and hopefully prevent some of the issues MacBook Pro owners have reported.
They do get a bit loud at full throttle but i’ll pick speed over sound any day, and these can keep up with my furious typing habits no problem. The all-glass touchpad brings Force Touch to the Air for the first time, letting you apply a bit of extra pressure to activate new menu options or shortcuts. The huge pad is perfect for zipping around, and is still the most accurate and responsive you'll find on any laptop.
PERFORMANCE: A FAMILIAR FORMULA
In trying to nudge potential buyers towards the new iPad Pro, Apple’s limited the new Air’s processing powers to an adequate 8th gen i5 ticking along at 1.6GHz. The CPU tops out at 16 gigs but our 8GB review sample fared rather well when sticking to the simpler stuff. There’s enough grunt for browsing, media and the occasional Adobe software.
Surprisingly, you can chuck a bit of gaming at it without any laughable results. Fortnite is playable at best, with the fans underneath kicking in to keep up with acceptable framerates. Serious gamers will feel like they’re pitting gramma against Usain Bolt in full sprint so avoid any sustained sessions.
BATTERY: 24 hour party sequel
Its stamina is less Bolt and more Mo Farah if i’m honest. And that’s just as impressive in my books. Apple rates it for 13 hours of video playback and that’s plenty more than you’ll get from a Pro or a 12in MacBook even. Working untethered all day is a joy few devices offer these days so we’ll embrace this one with nothing but excitement.
OS & SOFTWARE: MEET MOJAVE
Right out the box, you’re greeted by Apple’s latest and greatest MacOS and it’s a Dark themed dynamite. Part of the package includes a redesigned Mac App store that makes finding new apps that much easier, desktop stacks for quickly organising your messy files and folders, and the improved gallery view for Finder.
Just so Siri isn’t sorely missed, we’ll mention here that you can technically talk to your Air but she’s best left behind, asleep in oblivion and out of your way to get any meaningful work done. Apart from that, there are no major new apps to get your head around in Mojave, so anyone coming from an older MacBook should feel right at home here.
Apple MacBook Air (2018) verdict
WIthout further ado, we’ll say it too, it’s the best Air yet. The age-old Air has finally found a worthy successor in 2018 and it has much to celebrate in its attributes. It does things the 12in MacBook never could, and still retains its Airy ways if only barely so at this point.
You could demand more grunt from its guts but for that, there’s the 13in Pro for your taking. For everyone else, it’s the Air to the throne we’ve all been waiting for. This new avatar isn’t ridiculously almighty, but it’s the Mac for the majority and that’s fine by us.