Last week, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced the newest iPad and Mac updates at 2018’s final keynote Apple Event at Brooklyn Academy of Music. The most exciting part of the event (second only, of course, to Lana Del Rey’s surprise performance) was the unveiling of the new MacBook Air, which, I’m here to tell you, is really, really good.
It’s been a minute since we’ve seen a MacBook Air update — until now, it has remained largely unchanged since its initial release in 2010, and was majorly due for a fresh look. Enter, major facelift: In addition to a thinner, lighter, and more compact shell, the new MacBook Air has a revamped keyboard, a new Retina screen, a bigger trackpad, Touch ID, and much more. So after a day spent FaceTiming, watching Netflix, writing emails, and editing photos on the new MacBook Air, here are my initial reactions. (TL;DR I am buying this computer.)
I should note, I’m picky when it comes to how crunchy my keys are. (Thinking of the labor that was required to press down on the very tall and stubborn QUERTY keys of my desktop from 10 years ago literally sends a shiver down my spine.) But the new MacBook Air has the shallowest keys I’ve ever typed with. They don’t require a lot of pressure (just a light tap, really), and they don’t give a lot of bounce either. The crunch is a very nice, ASMR-like tactile tap sound.
The first thing I noticed is size: The Force Touch Trackpad on this MacBook Air has 20% more surface area than that of the last MacBook Air. And to engage it, you can click anywhere on the pad with the same amount of force, rather than just on the bottom half.
It responds well to multi-touch shortcuts, too. But if you don’t want to use your hands, the voice-activated Hey Siri feature is pretty good for executing short commands hands-free. When I set up the computer, it prompted me to say “Hey Siri” followed by a variety of commands in order to become familiar with my voice and inflections. Afterwards, it did a solid job of deciphering my words and acting on them.
The Display & Sound
I’ll admit, this was the moment of truth for me. I’m a big TV watcher, and often prefer to watch shows on my laptop in bed over watching them on TV. So I chose a show that would really test this new MacBook’s purportedly improved display and audio capabilities — Netflix’s The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, a show known for its saturated and moody dark colors — and it seriously impressed.
The widescreen display spanning right to the edges of the monitor made for a real movie-like experience, with rich colors and crystal clear, textured definition. And the audio — with twice the amount of bass as the last version — made for more of an immersive experience than I’ve ever had on a laptop, thanks especially to its speakers on either side of the keyboard.
In addition to having 48% more colors, this new Retina display has over four million pixels, which means, in addition to vibrant photo and video, text is super sharp. This makes for a smooth reading experience — an absolute must for those of us who spend all day reading and writing on a computer.
The Overall Feel
The hardware is lighter — weighing in at just 2.75 pounds, which is a quarter-pound lighter than its predecessor — and it’s only 0.61 inch thick at its thickest point, which is 10% thinner than the last model. It’s narrower in width than its predecessor, too, and yet no screen surface area is lost, since the screen goes right to the edges, making for a much more economical display.
Notably absent from the sides of the computer is a USB-A port. I’ll go on the record and say I don’t miss this port, but users who like plugging in non-Apple devices will. In its place are two Thunderbolt ports — otherwise known as USB-C ports — which means the power for this MacBook Air is now integrated with Thunderbolt 3. We got to keep the 3.5 mm headphone jack, though.
In addition to the hardware, the MacBook Air works beautifully with the new macOS Mojave, only enhancing its featured capabilities like Group FaceTime, which I tried and, unsurprisingly, looked really sharp on the Retina display. It also looks really good with Mojave’s new Dark Mode, which uses a dark color scheme instead of the traditional light scheme and reduces glare, eye fatigue, and contrast. The battery life is no joke either — and can support up to 12 hours of continued use.
For $1,199, you can get the 128 GB model. If this isn’t enough storage for you (and it isn’t for me), you can get double the storage for $200 more — the 256 GB model is $1,399. The new MacBook Air is available for pre-orders now, and in stores on November 7.
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