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Apple MacBook Air (2018) review: The Air we have been waiting for

By Kenny Yeo - 21 Nov 2018

Conclusion

So which Mac should I get?

That’s a very good question. To start, let’s look at prices first.

MacBook Air
Processor Memory Storage Price
Intel Core i5-8210Y 8GB 128GB $1,789
Intel Core i5-8210Y 8GB 256GB $2,079
13-inch MacBook Pro (non-Touch Bar)
Processor Memory Storage Price
Intel Core i5-7360U 8GB 128GB $1,898
Intel Core i5-7360U 8GB 256GB $2,188
13-inch MacBook Pro (Touch Bar)
Processor Memory Storage Price
Intel Core i5-8259U 8GB 256GB $2,588
Intel Core i5-8259U 8GB 512GB $2,878
MacBook
Processor Memory Storage Price
Intel Core m3-7Y32 8GB 256GB $1,898
Intel Core i5-7Y54 8GB 512GB $2,348
MacBook Air (2017)
Processor Memory Storage Price
Intel Core i5-5350U 8GB 128GB $1,328


As the table shows, if we disregard the old MacBook Air that Apple, for whatever reason, continues to sell, the new MacBook Air is currently the cheapest modern Mac notebook. That said, the non-Touch Bar 13-inch MacBook Pro and the thinner, lighter MacBook is within reach and comes with comparable specifications and might be tempting for some users so let’s compare them directly.

 

Against the non-Touch Bar 13-inch MacBook Pro…

The non-Touch Bar 13-inch MacBook Pro offers better performance, but at the cost of poorer battery life. It's also running on 7th generation Core processors.

For $100 more, what you will be getting is a faster processor and a better display. However, note that the non-Touch Bar models are still powered by 7th generation dual-core Intel Core processors, unlike the Touch Bar models which received an update earlier this year in the form of new 8th generation quad-core Intel Core processors.

In terms of dimensions and weight, the two are actually almost identical, which is a testament to the design of the MacBook Pro. That said, the MacBook Air offers significantly longer battery life. So pick the MacBook Pro if you value performance and the better display, and the MacBook Air if you want to save a bit of money and a longer battery life.

 

Against the Touch Bar 13-inch MacBook Pro...

If your wallet is up for it, the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar offers the best performance.

Not much of a comparison here because the Touch Bar 13-inch MacBook Pro notebooks cost considerably more. But for $799 more, you get the latest 8th generation quad-core Intel Core processors, a better display, double the storage, and double the USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports. It’s pricey but this is the highest performing 13-inch notebook that Apple currently sells. If your wallet is up for it and you need all the performance you can get from a 13-inch Mac notebook, this is it.

 

Against the MacBook…

The MacBook is the thinnest, lightest, and most portable notebook that Apple makes.

The MacBook remains Apple most portable notebook. It’s super thin and light and offers an impressive battery life. The tradeoff is lesser performance, a smaller display, and only one USB-C port, which, by the way, is only USB 3.1 Gen 1 and not Thunderbolt 3, mind you. For most users, the MacBook Air with its better performance, long battery life, and two USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports is the better all-rounder and the more sensible purchase. The MacBook is for users who demand portability above everything else.

 

So, was it worth the wait?

The new MacBook Air is a solid all-rounder but it isn't revolutionary or groundbreaking anymore.

For most people, the answer would be yes. Personally, I would have liked a brighter display, a thinner and lighter form factor, a more powerful processor, and while we are it, maybe Face ID too? Truth is, Windows notebooks have made significant strides in the past couple of years and there is no shortage of good Windows notebooks today. While the old MacBook Air of years ago was truly something to behold because of its design, thinness, and build quality, the MacBook Air of today is a solid notebook but not groundbreaking. You only have to look at Dell, they managed to cram a new quad-core processor into its XPS 13 and still have respectable battery life and a thin and light chassis. It makes you wonder why Apple didn't do the same too.

Nevertheless, if you must have a notebook that runs macOS - and I completely understand as a fellow macOS user - then the MacBook Air is the ideal pick for most users. Build quality remains class-leading, performance is good despite the low-power processor, and battery life is exemplary. With the new MacBook Air, Apple has given most users all the features that they requested for, namely a Retina Display, Touch ID, and two USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports. It is also more compact and lighter. In short, it is everything that most people want from a MacBook Air. I only wish they hadn’t taken so long.

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8.5
  • Design 8
  • Features 8.5
  • Performance 8.5
  • Value 8.5
  • Mobility 9
The Good
Excellent battery life
Two USB-C Thunderbolt ports
Large, responsive trackpad
Great speakers
Class-leading build quality
The Bad
Performance isn't the best
Display could be brighter
There are thinner, lighter notebooks around
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