Without fail when someone tells me they are going to buy a MacBook Air, I will cringe and reach for them — begging them not to make such a poor decision. The MacBook Air is a decrepit dinosaur — a relic of another time — and when Apple announces a new wave of devices Tuesday in Brooklyn, it will hopefully, finally, kill the Air. Or at least refresh the damn thing.
Personally, I’d like to see it killed. We’ve been beating the drum for the MacBook Air’s demise for quite a while here at Gizmodo. It’s not because we hate cheaper laptops built for budget instead of power. It’s because we hate that an outdated bad deal like the MacBook Air continues to exist alongside much nicer machines.
Take for example the MacBook Air’s size. When the original MacBook Air launched it was one of the thinnest and lightest laptops made. It fits inside a paper envelope! Yet now multiple companies, including Apple, have laptops lighter and thinner than the Air, making its name an extreme misnomer.
The MacBook (which is due for a much-needed refresh as well) weighs 420g less than the 1.34kg MacBook Air, and while the MacBook Air is technically thinner at its thinnest point (2.8mm to 17.3mm) the MacBook is skinnier overall (3.6mm to 13.2mm).
But the MacBook isn’t just a more Air-like product due to its size and weight. It has a 12-inch 2304×1440 resolution display that’s unusual, but mainly for being so high resolution — 12-inch displays are usually 1080p or lower.
The MacBook Air, meanwhile, may start for under $1499, but it’s outfitted like a budget Windows laptop. It has a 1440×900 resolution display, which, OK, that is actually a little better than the 1366×768 resolution found in the majority of budget laptops. But the MacBook Air starts at $1499, not $800!
I’m pretty certain that at this point the Air might be the only 13-inch $1499 laptop with a resolution under 1080p (if you can think of another please mention it in the comments). Its display, surrounded by that enormous bezel, makes it look comically old-fashioned next to similarly priced devices like the Dell XPS 13 or HP’s Elitebook 735 G5.
You know what else those devices have besides better displays and thinner bezels? They have processors made in 2018. The MacBook Air was refreshed in 2017, but it’s still only available with processors made in 2015. It comes with either an i5-5350U or i7-5650U CPU. Those are 5th-gen products!
We are currently on the 8th generation, and Intel just started announcing CPUs from the 9th generation earlier this month. Even HP, Dell, and Lenovo’s cheapest Intel Core i laptops are on the 7th generation. If you really hunt around you might find a 6th generation product still for sale, but it will also, likely, be much, much, much cheaper than the current laptops made by the same company.
But not if it’s sold by Apple! It currently charges just $400 less for the MacBook Air than the MacBook (which comes with 7th-gen Intel CPUs). The MacBook Air is such a poor buy compared to other laptops right now that when we did a best $1499 laptop Battlemodo last year we had to exclude it entirely.
Back in 2016, we suggested the Air was dead due to the release of the MacBook Pro Retina without a Touch Bar. Since its release, that device has supplanted the Air as the de facto machine new employees receive in many offices. It’s more powerful, weighs the same, has a better display, and a more modern design.
It’s also, like the MacBook, just $400 more. But if Apple wants more laptops out in the world it needs a device that sells for $1499 or under.
Laptop makers have repeatedly told me in this year that the laptops they sell aren’t the big $3000 luxury devices, but the $1499 and under ones. If Apple wants to reach that market it needs to make a quality device that hits that price point.
And not an iPad. At the last iPad event in March, Apple tried to make it seem as though an iPad, which is a touch-first mobile device using its phone operating system, was every bit as good as a laptop for many functions. And no doubt it will make an even stronger case Tuesday when it is expected to announce a new iPad Pro with a new keyboard case.
But tablet-first 2-in-1s like the iPad Pro are not laptops — just as a laptop-first 2-in-1 like the Lenovo Yoga C930 is not a tablet. Some people don’t want a hybrid, they just want a laptop.
Apple will reportedly announce a couple of laptop refreshes on Tuesday as well, including a lower cost device that will either be a MacBook refresh or a MacBook Air replacement. And hopefully, it will retail for under $1499. Though if it does, it will be something only technically lower than $1499 — like $1399.
And finally, maybe, we will be able to say goodbye to the MacBook Air. It might have changed the laptop landscape, but it’s time for it to go.