The MacBook Air is in a precarious position in 2018. It features the same design it’s had since 2010 and a 5th-generation Intel processor – now three generations behind contemporaries like the MacBook Pro and MacBook. Still, the MacBook Air is compelling in that it’s the most inexpensive way to experience macOS High Sierra on a laptop.
Things could be changing, though. We’ve seen a mass of speculation revolving around either a cheaper MacBook Air, a 13-inch Retina MacBook or both that may come out later this year. And, while we were expecting it to launch in the second quarter of 2018, the fact that there wasn’t any hardware at WWDC 2018 puts the last nail in that rumor. Now we believe that the MacBook Air 2018 will release in the second half of 2018 instead – just in time for the holiday shopping rush.
However, the MacBook Air we reviewed here is still the best option for anyone to get into macOS without spending a fortune. Even if it’s in dire need of an upgrade – it should still serve you well.
Price and availability
While the model sent to us was a maxed out MacBook Air with the highest specs you could get at the time of its original writing, it currently comes in a wide range of different configurations.
It still starts at the comparatively humble amount of $999 (£949, AU$1,499), but now you’re looking at a 1.8GHz Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and 128GB of SSD space for that price. This means the MacBook Air is still the cheapest way to experience macOS on a laptop.
The expense is blunted by the fact that you can find it on sale often. For instance, at the time of writing, you can find it on Amazon in the US for $845 (about £636, AU$1,140).
Should you be interested in stepping its game up, you can upgrade the processor to a 2.2GHz Intel Core i7 CPU and 512GB of storage for a pretty penny more. For that, you’re looking at a price tag of $1,549 (£1,384, AU$2,339).
That’s a higher asking cost than an up to date MacBook Pro for a frankly older set of components (the MacBook Air uses a 5th-generation Intel processor as opposed to the MacBook Pro’s 7th-gen chip). Frankly, compared to most modern laptops, it’s out of date, but it might still tempt those who crave lots of storage and a longer battery life.
By and large, the MacBook Air generally looks the same as it has since 2010, and there don’t appear to be any changes in tow, either. That’s a shame, particularly because we’re now seeing virtually bezel-less laptops with smaller footprints and high resolution screens that dismally put the MacBook Air in its place.
Forget the Dell XPS 13's physics-defying InfinityEdge display, which is lightyears ahead – even Apple's 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina, once seen as slightly tubby compared to the Air, has a smaller footprint and takes up slightly less space on your lap.
Yet, the old ‘if it ain't broke’ mantra applies – at least to a point. The MacBook Air's aluminum unibody design, which supports the main enclosure and the display, is as durable as ever. Its lid can be easily raised with a single hand and doesn't droop in any position, and you have to press really hard to detect flex on the machine's base or lid.
It's also easy to clean with a damp cloth. If there's one drawback, it's that the aluminum body can scratch easily to leave permanent black marks, so you should consider buying a sleeve if you're going to sling it into a bag for transportation.
Gabe Carey has also contributed to this review