Apple, you broke my heart with the MacBook Air redesign

A line of Apple MacBook Air laptops
(Image credit: Apple)

The Apple MacBook Air 2022 is finally here, at long last, and to say I have mixed feelings about it is an understatement.

The computer is beautiful in many ways, especially in adopting the more squared off edges and rounded corners of the MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021), though in a thinner form factor and a more lightweight all-aluminum chassis (it weighs just 2.7 pounds).

The new Liquid Retina Display on the MacBook Air looks stunning, according to our Managing Editor Matt Hanson, who goes on to say that the redesign of the new MacBook Air is the most dramatic change ever for the MacBook Air. To which I can only say "damn."

Again, I find a lot to like about the MacBook Air, and I think that moving away from the clamshell curves on the chassis was absolutely the right move, and I'm honestly not even bothered by the notch, especially if it means we get a major camera upgrade as a result.

But my god, we're going to be saddled with these colors for years, and if this is the future of the MacBook Air, color me as depressed as the malaise these colors evoke.

MacBook Air (M2, 2022) in Apple Park, Cupertino

(Image credit: Future)

Where is the brightly colored future we were promised?

For nearly a year, rumors have been swirling around the possible new design of the MacBook Air with the introduction of the Apple M2 chip. It turns out those rumors weren't wrong, but they weren't right either.

After the launch of the 24-inch iMac back in 2021 with its kaleidoscope of colors, I really thought Apple had turned a corner in its design. It would embrace a more vibrant vision of what their best-selling laptops could be, and truly find a way to set itself apart, again, from its competition.

Now it somehow has managed to do what I never thought I'd say about Apple: it is following a design trend rather than leading one. The move to muted, neutral colorways has long been a mainstay of the laptop market, with everyone from Lenovo to Asus adopting a palette for their laptops ranging from gray to black with only rare breaks from this pattern.

In so many ways, Apple defined this movement when it released its first MacBook Air and MacBook Pro laptops, introducing the gray slab of computing power with the iconic LED logo on the lid, and we'll be damned if every laptop manufacturer chased that trend into the currently uninspired haze of laptop color options.

But where other manufacturers actually moved in slightly new, if conservative, directions, Apple stayed the Space Gray and Silver course, only seemingly introducing a Rose Gold option (but only for the MacBook Air) begrudgingly. We started to see Windows Ultrabooks that sported blue, white, and khaki colored designs, some of them even had fabric detailing like the upholstery of an old 1970s Ford sedan or intriguing ceramic finishes. Even then, there was still nothing truly bold about any of this, and so everything has remained plain, and everyone's laptops look the same as everyone else's, even when they're different.

Apple used to have the ability to make other computers look out-of-style and old-fashioned, which is actually totally absurd when you think about it, but it's the truth.

Rather than continue this tradition of daring design with laptops in lime green, coral red, tangerine, or lilac – as Apple has already done with its iMac 24-inch all-in-one – which could have blazed a whole new trail in laptop design for the next decade at least, Apple decided that its bold design choice was going to be introducing what is effectively Navy Blue and Tin color options.

Oh, and it was sticking with the stale, boring Space Gray and Silver that has been its mainstay color options for as long as anyone can remember. I never thought I'd see the day when I looked at an Apple product and thought "how boring," but here we are.

MacBook Air (M2, 2022) in Apple Park, Cupertino

(Image credit: Future)

It will be years before another redesign

The worst part of this for me is that these kinds of design decisions are hard to change. Supply chains being what they are, businesses like Apple have to have predictability and reliability in order to make the kinds of profits that Apple has been raking in, and Apple seems to have decided that it would very much like to take all that money.

Doing major redesigns takes time, money, and most of all, risk. Risk can reward you handsomely, but it can also ruin you, and so businesses pursue the path of least risk to the promised land of profit, even if that promised land is as drab as a crypt – that's not being fair to a crypt honestly, crypts at least have character. 

Even as people will undoubtably gush over the new MacBook Air (which, again, has some excellent design elements worth celebrating), I will never be able to look at a MacBook Air and not think about the incredible opportunity that Apple clearly saw in its own iMacs but turned to their new MacBook Air and said, "Nah, let's go with Navy. And keep the Space Gray and Silver, those sell really well." 

Of course they do. Nobody bought Model Ts from Ford because they loved the color black, they bought it because they had no other options. Apple decided, with this latest redesign which it will ride for another five to 10 years to stratospheric profits no doubt, that there wasn't any point in going with something bold, ditching what they'd been doing for too long now, and trusting in itself that it could deliver to its customers what they didn't even realize they'd wanted all along. 

I never thought about buying a purple laptop before because a purple laptop doesn't exist, but Apple showed a flash of inspiration with the iMac and showed me that such a world was possible, and once I saw it it could not be unseen. It's almost criminal that Apple chose instead to close its eyes entirely.

John Loeffler
Components Editor

John (He/Him) is the Components Editor here at TechRadar and he is also a programmer, gamer, activist, and Brooklyn College alum currently living in Brooklyn, NY. 

Named by the CTA as a CES 2020 Media Trailblazer for his science and technology reporting, John specializes in all areas of computer science, including industry news, hardware reviews, PC gaming, as well as general science writing and the social impact of the tech industry.

You can find him online on Threads @johnloeffler.

Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 (just like everyone else).