Apple MacBook Air (2019) review

How does 2019’s MacBook Air model fare?

MacBook Air 2019
Is the MacBook Air (2019) good enough investment for those discouraged by the MacBook Pro’s lofty price?
(Image: © Future)

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Here’s how the MacBook Air (2019) performed in our suite of benchmark tests:

Cinebench CPU: 277 points; Graphics: 35 fps
Geekbench 4 Single-Core: 4,303; Multi-Core: 7,927
TechRadar Battery Life Test: 10 hours 

Because the MacBook Air 2019 is equipped with the exact same specifications as the 2018 model, you can see that there won’t be a significant uptick in performance.

That’s a little disappointing – especially since the MacBook Air (2019) is fitted the same dual-core 1.6GHz, Intel Core i5-8210Y, which can Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz. As with last year’s model, this – backed by 8GB of RAM – is suitable enough for day-to-day tasks, and macOS (Apple’s operating system) runs nice and smooth.

However, in 2019, a dual-core processor in such an expensive machine leaves the MacBook Air feeling underpowered and overpriced – and the new price cut doesn’t do that much to fix that.

In addition, not long after Apple launched the MacBook Air (2019), Intel unveiled its Ice Lake processors, which deliver performance improvements – and quad-core offerings for the first time in Intel’s Y-Series of processors, which are fanless CPUs created for thin laptops like the MacBook Air.

MacBook Air 2019

Performance is good, but there are faster laptops out there. (Image credit: Future)

We can’t help but wonder, if Apple had held off on rolling out the MacBook Air (2019) until later in the year, we may have gotten one configuration with a new quad-core CPU, giving the laptop a huge performance bump and making it a much more exciting upgrade.

However, we may have to wait until next year to see that.

In other words, the MacBook Air (2019)’s performance is adequate, but a little uninspiring compared to the increasingly more powerful competition. A dual-core processor, limit of 16GB of RAM (if you pay to upgrade) and a small SSD leaves the MacBook Air (2019) feeling a little wanting in the performance stakes.

MacBook Air 2019

Battery life was very impressive. (Image credit: Future)

Battery life

One place that the MacBook Air (2019) particularly shines in – and easily beats many Windows 10 rivals at this price point – is battery life, with this year’s model lasting spot on 10 hours in our battery life tests.

This involves running a looped 1080p video with the screen set to 50% brightness. Reaching 10 hours is a great achievement, and depending on how you use the MacBook Air (2019), you might easily squeeze more than a whole work day’s use out of it without charging. This makes it an ideal choice for students who require a laptop with a battery that can last over several lectures.

The low powered internals are mainly to thank here, along with Apple’s more energy-efficient software. If battery life is of the highest importance, you may find that it’s worth compromising on performance.

The MacBook Air (2019) also does a good job of holding its charge when it’s placed into sleep mode (where you just close the lid of the MacBook Air, instead of fully shutting down macOS.) Apple claims up to 30 days of standby time, and while we didn’t have time to verify that, we were once again blown away by how well the MacBook Air (2019) holds onto its battery when not in use.

Many Windows laptops, in our experience, keep draining battery even while in sleep mode. That’s often ended in us picking up a laptop after a day or so without use, only to find the battery completely drained. That didn’t happen with the MacBook Air (2019).

Battery life is the one place – outside of design – where the MacBook Air (2019) really shines.

MacBook Air 2019

Overall, if you like previous MacBook Airs, you'll like this year's model. (Image credit: Future)

Final verdict

Apple’s refresh of the MacBook Air (2019) is a bit puzzling. It hasn’t been that long since the release of the MacBook Air (2018), and this new model only adds a few new enhancements. While True Tone is a nice feature to have, it’s far from critical ­– though Apple’s continued improvement of the keyboard’s reliability is definitely welcome.

The thing we like most about the MacBook Air (2019) is the new price. This makes it cheaper than ever to get a MacBook. However, despite the price cut, this is still a very pricey laptop, and the low powered components pale in comparison with modern Windows 10 laptops at the same price. With Apple continuing to add new features to macOS, you might find the MacBook Air (2019) start to feel a bit slow and outdated far too soon.

The timing of this release also means the MacBook Air (2019) doesn’t take advantage of Intel’s new Ice Lake processors, some of which seem ideal for a thin and light laptop such as the MacBook Air. This leads us to think that next year will see a more substantial update. So unless you’re pining for the latest version, we’d recommend waiting until 2020 – or seeing if prices start to drop for the 2018 model.

Matt Hanson
Managing Editor, Core Tech

Matt is TechRadar's Managing Editor for Core Tech, looking after computing and mobile technology. Having written for a number of publications such as PC Plus, PC Format, T3 and Linux Format, there's no aspect of technology that Matt isn't passionate about, especially computing and PC gaming. Ever since he got an Amiga A500+ for Christmas in 1991, he's loved using (and playing on) computers, and will talk endlessly about how The Secret of Monkey Island is the best game ever made.