MacBook Air 2018 Hands-on: All the Right Upgrades, But Pricey

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NEW YORK - Finally! Apple has unveiled an all-new MacBook Air with Retina Display. It's faster, thinner and lighter with narrower bezels. And there's Touch ID on board.

But it's not cheap.

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New MacBook Air Price and Availability

The new MacBook Air will be available Nov. 7 but is available for pre-order now. The starting configuration includes a Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. We'd prefer 256GB at this price.

Upgrade options include up to 16GB of RAM and up to a 1.5TB SSD. 

Design

Starting at $1,199, the MacBook Air features a 13.3-inch display with borders that are 50 percent narrower, and you get 4 million pixels of resolution. The FaceTime HD camera is still there at the top of the display, and you can conduct group FaceTime calls. 

The new Air is 17 percent smaller in terms of volume, it's 0.16 to 0.61 inches thick and it weighs 2.75 pounds, compared to 3 pounds for the previous Air. That's a quarter pound lighter than before, but it's definitely not the lightest 13-inch laptop. Apple says that the body is made of 100 percent recycled aluminum. 

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Up close the MacBook Air looks sleek and modern, but not stunningly thin. It’s just that Apple has caught up with the times. Still, the svelte profile is welcome, and the aluminum design feels as sturdy as before.

The MacBook Air will be available in three finishes: Gold, Silver and Space Gray.

Display and Audio

The 2560 x 1600-pixel display looked very colorful and rich when I fired up the Photos app, especially when I went full screen and zoomed in on images. However, this panel didn’t seem terribly bright. We will have to wait to do our lab tests to be sure, though.

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The MacBook Air comes with louder stereo sound and better dynamic range, and there's three mics on board. 

New MacBook Air Specs 

  MacBook Air
Starting Price $1,199 
Display  13.3-inch, 2560 x 1600-pixel
CPUs 8th Gen Y-Series i5 CPU 
Battery Life  12 hours (web surfing), 13 hours (movie playback)
Graphics Intel UHD Graphics 617
Storage  256GB, 512GB, 1.5TB SSD
RAM  8GB, 16GB
Cameras 720p
Weight (pounds) 2.75 pounds 
Thickness (inches)  0.6 inches
Face ID Yes 
Colors Gold, Silver, Space Gray
Ports  2 Thunderbolt 3, headphone

Keyboard and Touch ID

I actually like that Apple didn’t include a Touch Bar with this MacBook, as it mostly just gets in the way when I use my 13-inch MacBook Pro. The keys themselves have a nice tactile feel despite having little travel, but it will definitely take some adjustment for owners of the older MacBook Air.

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Apple has included a Touch ID button on the keyboard, complete with Apple's T2 security chip. This means you can log in with just a press of a finger, as well as enter passwords and pay for items in the Mac App Store.

Ports

Apple keeps things very simple with ports, as there’s just two Thunderbolt 3 ports on the left and a headphone jack on the right. No, there’s no full-size USB or card reader. So get ready for dongle life.

Battery Life

The new MacBook Air packs a 50.3-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery. Apple says to expect 12 hours of battery when web surfing and up to 13 hours of iTunes movie playback. 

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Outlook

The new MacBook Air delivers the biggest things Apple fans were hoping for—a sharper display, narrower bezels and more power with a modern processor. I just wish the price was closer to the original $999.

 

 

Author Bio
Mark Spoonauer
Mark Spoonauer, LAPTOP Editor in Chief
Responsible for the editorial vision for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.
Mark Spoonauer, LAPTOP Editor in Chief on
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