MacBook Air review

Following the iPad Pro reviews, the MacBook Air review embargo has lifted today – and they make for surprising reading.

I fully expected the reviews to grumble about the $200 price hike over the old MacBook Air, and over how long it took Apple to update the machine, but conclude that this is clearly the best choice for a typical MacBook user. Some did reach that conclusion, but a surprising number said that you might be better off instead paying the extra $100 for the base model 13-inch MacBook Pro without Touch Bar.

The tone of almost every MacBook Air review is muted. Most feel this is the machine Apple should have launched years ago, and that where Apple once led the ultra-portable market, today it’s merely keeping pace with it …

Because as much as the MacBook Air is night-and-day better than the old one, we no longer live in a world where the Air is the small and light machine, and the Pro the powerful but heavy one. As The Verge’s Dieter Bohn put it:

When I started testing the new MacBook Air, I spent a lot of time thinking about what I should compare it to. For $100 more, you could get a 13-inch MacBook Pro with a more powerful processor and brighter screen that only weighs 0.27 pounds more […]

Is it […] like a 13-inch MacBook Pro (sans Touch Bar), just with cheaper parts? After all, if you set the latter down next to this new Air, you can barely tell them apart.

So before you rush out and replace your old MacBook Air with the new one, you might want to think about what’s important to you.

With that caveat, let’s get into the reviews …


CNBC says this is the machine MacBook Air fans have been waiting for, but not a Pro.

It’s speedy. I tested a unit with Intel’s Core i5 processor, which is sold in the entry-level model. I once bought and returned the smaller MacBook, because it comes with a less powerful processor that slugged when I had too many browser tabs and apps open. The MacBook Air doesn’t have that issue. However, if you want to do professional video editing, you may want to consider Apple’s MacBook Pros which have more muscle under the hood […]

People like me have been turned off by the lower-powered, small and more expensive MacBook. And I don’t need the power or want to pay the higher price of the MacBook Pro. This sits right in the middle, and gives consumers almost everything they loved about earlier MacBook Airs, but with a beautiful new display and improved performance.


CNET says that the new form factor and screen are welcome, but you’re paying a significant premium now for a machine with a still-limited processor.

The MacBook is now smaller, lighter, with a better display, faster processors and a bigger touchpad [but] the starting price has shot up significantly, despite sticking with dual-core CPUs […]

Do you get better performance than before? Yes. Should you expect more CPU power from a $1,199 laptop that weighs 2.7 pounds and has some serious fans? Also yes.

For an extra $100, the basic 13-inch MacBook Pro really is much more powerful in CPU performance terms.


Macworld sees it as a slightly upgraded 12-inch MacBook, rather than a whole new MacBook Air.

The MacBook Air has finally been brought up to modern Mac laptop standards, skipping forward three generations of Intel processors, adding a Retina display and Thunderbolt 3 ports, and giving us three color options, among other things. But it feels a bit like Apple threw out the baby with the bathwater, jettisoning some features of the MacBook Air that make it so well-loved [like the keyboard, SD card slot and MagSafe] […]

Retina and Touch ID are wonderful additions, but everything else seems like it’s just playing catch-up on a product that had fallen way behind the times despite holding on to its thousand-dollar price tag […]

If you’re familiar with the 12-inch MacBook, using the new MacBook Air makes it immediately obvious that this is a slightly updated and scaled-up version of that model, with the “Air” name attached. If you’ve been waiting for years for Apple to finally re-imagine the MacBook Air in a way that will once again revolutionize the thin-and-light laptop market, you’re going to be disappointed to find that it has only been brought up to the standards of other modern Mac laptops, with all the good and bad that goes with that.


Mashable’s MacBook Air review concludes the new machine is good but not great.

Why aren’t I excited? When Apple finally did it — yes, “finally” is totally called for here — and, at long last, updated the MacBook Air with a Retina display and streamlined design, I felt like the new laptop wasn’t just a much-needed refresh of the company’s entry-level Mac. I thought I was looking at my next laptop […]

I put the MacBook Air in point position in a typical workday, running my typical suite of apps: Slack, Trello, TweetDeck, Skype, a handful of Apple apps (Calendar, Reminders, Apple News, Messages, and Maps), and two Chrome profiles running 2-4 windows, each with ~12 tabs on average, with Amazon Music streaming music in the background.

That’s almost never too heavy a lift for my quad-core MacBook Pro, but it was a definite workout for the dual-core Air. About an hour into the day, as my Chrome tabs started multiplying, I heard the cooling fan kick in […] Most of the time the MacBook Air managed to keep up with my actions, but here and there you could tell it was struggling: an extra second to switch between apps, a touch more confusion about the resolution of an external monitor, a spinning beach ball lasting longer than usual. Not deal-breakers, by any means, but as they add up, they get more noticeable […]

If the new MacBook Air came in at the same price as the old one, it would be a steal. Sure, you pay for the privilege of being able to use macOS on the Apple ecosystem. But in years past that also meant access to cutting-edge features and design. As pretty as the MacBook Air is, there’s nothing that innovative about it. In today’s Apple, it seems, privilege amounts to just staying current.


SixColors sees the new machine as the default choice for MacBook buyers.

I think the MacBook Air does simplify the Mac laptop buying process, in that it feels like the best starting point, the center of the Venn Diagram of MacBooks.

If you’re shopping for a Mac laptop, start with the MacBook Air. Want a cheaper model? The old Air is there for as long as it lasts. Want something even smaller and lighter, and are willing to trade some power, port flexibility, and money for it? The MacBook is for you. Want something more powerful, and are willing to take on a slightly heavier and more expensive device? The 13-inch MacBook Pro without Touch Bar is for you. Want even more power? The 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pros offer numerous opportunities to upgrade specs and spend more money.

If there’s any place where the MacBook Air has regressed (beyond the $200 increase in base price), it’s in its status as a consumer laptop that could have its specs boosted into something resembling a pro laptop. That’s how I used my MacBook Air, and I’m a little disappointed that it’s no longer built for that use case—but for $100 more I can buy a MacBook Pro that still fits that scenario.

Still, Apple has placed the MacBook Air back where it spent the first part of this decade: firmly at the center of the Apple laptop universe. It’s not the cheapest or fastest or lightest laptop, but it’s the lowest-priced Retina Mac and it’s powerful and flexible enough to serve the needs of the broad audience for consumer Macs. The new geographic center of the Mac is once again where it’s been for most of this decade: It’s the MacBook Air.


TechCrunch said in its MacBook Air review that the one thing this machine does do is render the 12-inch MacBook obsolete – but not the entry-level MacBook Pro.

A nice spec (and price bump) over the previous Air renders the 12-inch MacBook a non-starter […]

A quick glance at the above graphic really highlights the gulf between the Air and Pro, though the new chips do mark an upgrade over the 2017 MacBook’s single- and multi-core scores of 3,527 and 6,654. The new silicon is plenty zippy for most users’ daily tasks, but if you need more out of your system — be it for gaming or resource-intensive tasks like video edit — it’s worth the jump to the Pro.


TechRadar’s angle is that the new MacBook Air is the cheapest way to get a Retina display.

The MacBook Air 2018 is Apple’s entry-level laptop reinvented, thanks to a modern design and upgraded performance. The new ‘Air’ has a thinner and lighter profile to better reflect its name, and it still includes that familiar 13.3-inch display size. Best of all, the resolution is finally brought it in line with Apple’s other, more expensive MacBooks. The MacBook Air isn’t as cheap as it was before, but it’s the best value for a Retina MacBook […]

Okay, it’s not the $999 MacBook Air you were hoping for, but the MacBook Air 2018 price makes this technically Apple’s most affordable laptop at $1,119 (£1,199). It starts at $200 (£200) more than before […]

The new MacBook Air 2018 is smaller, lighter and more powerful, fitting into the modern computing landscape just as neatly. And it still comes at a fairly affordable price – for a MacBook.

The Verge

The Verge, as mentioned in the intro, raised the question of whether you should buy this or the base model MacBook Pro for $100 more. If you do decide to get this, it’s a very capable machine, but it’s not a Pro.

So let me just bottom line it: this new MacBook Air is faster than the old MacBook Air, but not by the kind of margin you’d expect after three years (or even one, if you happened to buy the 2017 model). You can do all of the same stuff you can do on your current Air. I have been running a half-dozen apps at a time along with more than a dozen tabs in Chrome, and everything is pretty okay. I think for what most people will do with this laptop, it’s fine. The base $1,199 model comes with 8GB of RAM (which is enough for most people) and 128GB of storage (which is not).

If you’re hoping you’ll be able to upgrade and get way faster video editing or process a ton of RAW photos at once, get a MacBook Pro. Those kinds of tasks will bring this Air to a chug and spin up those fans. I have found it to be more capable and powerful than the 12-inch MacBook, but, again, the difference is not as big as I’d hoped […]

But if you were hoping that lightning would strike twice and this new MacBook Air would be as revolutionary as the old MacBook Air, well, it’s not. It’s basically a MacBook that finally includes all of the stuff that has been happening with laptops for the past few years. It is on par with the rest of the laptop world, but it hasn’t moved beyond it. Sometimes that means the fan is going to spin up on you.

Wall Street Journal

The WSJ says that the update is three years late, and has turned the MacBook Air from a leader to a follower.

With the redesign, the MacBook Air remains the best choice of all of Apple’s laptops. The MacBook, released in 2015, is svelte but slow with sad battery life. The MacBook Pros, refreshed in 2016, have the speed, but they’re bigger and only run 10 hours on a charge—not 13 like the old Air. The new MacBook Air is as balanced as its predecessor, in a more modern design.

The bad news? It’s three years late. Once the leader, the Air is now the follower, and the competition is pulling ahead in features, ergonomics and battery life. While there’s a lot to love about the Air, there is still a lot to be desired […]

Hate is the right word to describe my feelings on the 128GB of storage that comes with the $1,199 entry-level model of the Air. Not only does the laptop cost $200 more than its predecessor, but it starts with an amount of storage that was paltry even four years ago. It’s a blatant upsell, just like iCloud storage and 16GB iPhones.

If you’re in search of a new Mac, the Air is [however] the best choice. I’ve ordered one already. If you need more power, go on up to a higher-level Pro—the entry-level model doesn’t have Touch ID or the improved keyboard.


Wired echoed the view that the new MacBook Air is a catch-up model, not one that leaps ahead of the market.

That’s the thing: A lot of the components in the brand new MacBook Air are not actually new. Like the display—I have stared at some version of this Retina display for a long time now. But for true MacBook Air lovers, that won’t matter. This is a machine that grew stale and cruised solely on its reputation for a long time. Now, it’s ready for reinvention. Well, sort of. It’s more accurate to say that it has caught up with the times […]

The computer is not particularly innovative. Its chiseled build, high-resolution display, eighth-generational Core i5 processor, long-ish battery life, quiet keyboard, larger trackpad, and fingerprint sensor are not breaking any new ground. They’re not new on Apple products, and they’re not new on laptops in general […]

Apple has heard the calls for a newer, better MacBook Air, and it has answered. Thank goodness for that. But one might get the sneaking suspicion, as she stares at the gorgeous, liquid-looking display of this new machine, that such a laptop could have arrived two years ago. Or more. The new MacBook Air is not pure innovation; it’s an incantation composed to make you think it is.

Check out also a test of how the new MacBook Air handles 4K video editing.

Once you’ve read a MacBook Air review or three, let us know in the comments whether any of them have changed your view of the machine.

Photo: Zlata Ivleva/Mashable

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About the Author

Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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