The MacBook Air is a positively wonderful computer. One of the best! Its design and build-quality are unrivalled and oft-imitated. It pioneered the ultra-super-slim space. But by today’s standards its screen is seriously lacking. And there doesn’t seem to be much relief in sight.
A retina MacBook Air has been on virtually every Mac-fan’s wishlist for ages. Why wouldn’t it be? It’s the one blemish on an otherwise near-perfect machine, and as Retina MacBook Pro after retina MacBook Pro after Retina MacBook Pro comes marching down the pike, the sheet of green envy is really starting to settle in.
When the MBA first came out — even when the Retina MacBook Pro debuted — asking for such a high-res screen seemed like a reach. It made sense not to have it there. A retina screen’s worth of pixels to push puts a lot more stress on your laptop’s innards, but even more troublingly, it can suck your battery dry like nobody’s business.
But things have changed. Intel’s new (well, sorta new) Haswell processors — the ones that are already showing up in MacBook Airs, mind you — bring a power efficiency to the table that makes it possible, even trivial, to run a Retina-grade screen on a Macbook Air-sized battery.
That’s not just conjecture; there are plenty of laptops already doing this — many of them Macbook Air-sized — and every single one of them runs Windows. Pretty much every laptop maker has one. Here’s a small list:
- Lenovo Yoga Pro 2: QHD+ 3200 x 1800 (October 2013)
- Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus: QHD+ 3200 x 1800 (September 2013)
- ASUS Zenbook UX301LA: WQHD 2560 x 1440 (November 2013)
- Toshiba Kirabook: WQHD 2560 x 1440 (May 2013)
- Acer Aspire S7: WQHD 2560 x 1440 (August 2013)
The Surface Pro 3, which is explicitly trying to eat the MacBook Air’s lunch, has a 2160 x 1440 resolution touch panel. It’s a little under “retina” but it’s tablet, and that still beats the hell out of a MacBook Air’s pitiful max of 1440 x 900 on the 13-inch version.
There’s some hope on the horizon. Then again, we’ve been saying that for over a year now. Rumours are constantly swirling; just has to be coming soon. Yes, Apple might be waiting for the delivery of Intel’s next-generation Broadwell chips. But every event that goes by makes the absence of a Retina Air all the more painful.
And until it shows up, upgrading to a new MacBook Air is a gambler’s purchase. What if the next one has Retina? It must. So come on Apple, please. As it stands, the MacBook Air, otherwise the best laptop you can buy, can’t help but feel a little ancient.