Fresh Air: The 2018 MacBook Air Review
Friday, November 16, 2018 at 8:35AM
Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla in Apple, Apple Beat, Apps & Launches, Breaking news, Buyers Guide, Canada, Gadjo Sevilla, Lifestyle, MacBook Air, Product launch, Public service, Review, Reviews

Using the new MacBook Air, finding my way around macOS Mojave, and seeing my favourite apps and productivity tools again, has sparked a renewed faith that this is an ecosystem worth staying in.

By Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla

For 2018 Apple has listened to its users and delivered refreshes on not one but two of its most beloved products. The venerable MacBook Air and the plucky Mac mini both got a new lease on life after years of languishing at the back of Apple’s product catalog.

The MacBook Air defined what modern laptops are all about. Its iconic wedge-shaped and slim and light design has been cloned ad nauseam, and it was the genesis of the ultrabook segment. 

Before the MacBook Air, PC notebooks were either bricks or cheap netbooks. When Steve Jobs pulled the first MacBook Air out of a Manila envelope, he presented the industry with a blueprint of what laptops should look and feel like. That was ten years ago.

The MacBook Air has become like the VW Beetle of the laptop world. It’s become the go to workhorse for students, mobile workers and anyone who wants a great Mac laptop but who doesn’t need the complication, power or the expense of the MacBook Pro. If there’s ever been a Mac with a rabid fan base, the MacBook Air is it. So it only made sense for Apple, like VW, to bring it back.

For 2018, the MacBook Air is recognizable as an updated version of the original. Apple’s kept the silhouette, the wedge design, and the tapered corners.

It is still a thin laptop and lighter than the model it replaces. The silver colour is now joined by a tasteful gold and an elegant space grey finish.

The new Airs are also the greenest, they are made out of 100 per-cent recycled aluminum from the shavings and leftovers of other Apple products. That’s just amazing and impressive. In an industry that can create a lot of pollutants and by-products, the new MacBook Air puts the environment front and centre.

MacBook Family Values

The MacBook Air benefits from a number of features and innovations coming from the 12-inch MacBook such as two USB Type C Thunderbolt enabled ports, the third generation Butterfly Keyboard, now quieter and engineered for stability, and a Retina Display which puts the Air on par with the rest of the Mac line. 

From the MacBook Pro, the MacBook Air inherits louder stereo speakers with enhanced bass, a larger trackpad with Apple’s Force Touch functionality, as well as Touch ID on the power button for fingerprint security.

Evolving an Iconic product

I’ve owned every generation of MacBook Air and even two generations of the 12-inch MacBook.

The new MacBook Air has that familiar look and feel and capitalizes on the features that matter most to MacBook Air users. Stellar battery life (good for 12 hours), a roomy keyboard and reliable hinge (now even better that it is metal and not plastic). The MacBook Air DNA is instantly recognizable.

What’s different is that the competition has clearly stepped up and there are now thinner, and definitely lighter ultrabooks in the market. Many offer touch functionality and 2-in-1 or convertible features. That’s not what the Mac has ever been about, and like it or not, the new MacBook Air continues in this track. There are some things worth getting used to. 

MacBook Air diehards will likely miss the MagSafe adapter, that magical and magnetic charging port that has saved countless laptops from crashing to the ground when their cords are inadvertently pulled. 

Gone, too, is the full-sized SD Card slot and the old school USB port. Granted, the USB Type C Thunderbolt are versatile and can be used to power monitors, external GPUs and thousands of devices, dongles and adaptors are now unavoidable if you need to connect to any USB device. 

Life has changed for many users. In my case I don’t use SD Cards as much as I used to because I take 80 per cent of my photos on my smartphone. Apple makes it easier than ever to use an iPhone and send the images to a Mac for editing. 

That said, most people living in the real world are just starting to incorporate USB Type C into their lives. The hassle of not being able to plug in a thumb drive in your new MacBook Air will be a real struggle for students.

A better Butterfly keyboard

The butterfly keyboard on the MacBook Air is better than previous versions. It is quieter, and it feels more stable and is easy to type on. Key travel is still short, but the keys feel more secure and a rubber membrane dampens the typing sound a little bit. I can say that this is the best implementation of the new Butterfly Keyboard design so far.

The larger trackpad is features Force Touch and it is one of the best trackpads on any device out there today.

Having Touch ID on the MacBook Air is transformative upgrade. Why jog your memory for passwords when your fingerprint is good enough. This also means quicker check outs for online sales for stores that accept Apple Pay. Simply touch to pay. Brilliant.

T2’s got your back 


Another big feature the MacBook Air inherits from MacBook Pros is the T2 coprocessor. This Apple-made System on a Chip manages security as well as the acts as gatekeeper for passwords and the hard drive as well as provides boot-level privacy. This custom chip also handles the audio controller as well as the camera.

A sign of great things to come, the T2 hints at a future where Apple no longer has to dance to the cadence of Intel’s processor release cycle and will run MacOS on bespoke Apple silicon.

I’ve been away from Mac computers as my main computing device for close to two years now. This is mostly because I disliked the new keyboards,which is what I interact with the most.  I’ve shuffled between a Surface Pro 4 and a Surface Laptop running Windows 10 and most recently a Google Pixelbook running Chrome with Android and Linux apps on tap. It hasn’t been an easy transition but I like that I have a wide choice of hardware on these other computing platforms.

Air Apparent

Using the new MacBook Air, finding my way around macOS Mojave and seeing my favourite apps and productivity tools again has sparked a renewed faith that this is an ecosystem worth staying in provided I can justify the cost.

The down side is that all this innovation comes at a price. The new MacBook Air costs $1,499 for the entry-level model with 8GB of RAM and 128 GB of SSD storage. Now, those RAM and storage specs would have been impressive ten years ago, but they are rather pedestrian in 2018.

The old MacBook Air is still available for $1,199 but has 2015 specs. That’s not even worth considering at this point.

Conclusion

MacBook Air fans can rejoice because Apple has listened and delivered a superb laptop which brings a Retina Display, USB Type C and Thunderbolt 3 ports, faster storage, faster RAM and a bespoke Intel processor capable of delivering 12-hours of use.

Performance for most computing tasks is above average. I was able to edit and render HD video on iMovie quickly and was able to multitask freely.

All Apple products seem to have received a price increase and the MacBook Air gets pricier as well, so there’s that.If you're looking at the smaller, slower and less capable 12-inch MacBook, save yourself some money and get the 2018 MacBook Air instead.

Still, for anyone immersed in macOS who needs a modern and general-purpose lightweight notebook, the new MacBook Air remains the best choice.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Article originally appeared on Reviews, News and Opinion with a Canadian Perspective (http://www.canadianreviewer.com/).
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