MacBook Air refresh delivers most affordable mass-market notebooks in Apple history

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited May 2014
While Apple's MacBook Air update was issued on Tuesday with little fanfare, the refreshed machines represent something of a milestone for the company, which is now offering a mass-market $899 notebook for the first time ever. AppleInsider offers a brief history of Mac notebook pricing, from the very first Macintosh Portable until today.




In a change perhaps more significant than their improved processors, Apple's latest MacBook Airs come with a price cut from their predecessors, with the entry-level 11-inch model starting at $899, while the 13-inch variety is now just under $1,000. The $899 model in particular represents the lowest-ever original U.S. price for a newly released Mac notebook.

The closest available comparison would be Apple's 2011 discontinuation of the white polycarbonate MacBook, which at the time was replaced by the $999 11-inch MacBook Air. Apple continued to sell the polycarbonate model for $899, but only for education institutions, and not traditional buyers.


Macintosh Portable, via Wikipedia.


Beyond that, Apple's notebooks have a long history of being priced well above $1,000. Apple's first-ever stab at a battery-powered portable computer was the short-lived Macintosh Portable, which boasted an active matrix panel and a hefty $6,500 starting price when it launched in 1989.

Apple found more success in the portable realm with its PowerBook lineup. The very first PowerBook 100 debuted back in 1991 with a starting price of $2500, and the PowerBook lineup continued until 2006, when it was replaced by the Intel-based MacBook lineup.

Over the long history of the PowerBook, its cheapest model, according to EveryMac, was the 145b from 1993, which had an entry-level model available for $1,150. The closest the PowerBook lineup would ever get to that price again came in 2005, when the PowerBook G4 1.5 12-inch had a base model of $1,499.


Macintosh PowerBook 140, via Wikipedia.


It should be noted that during Apple's darkest days, the company dabbled in the low-end of the portable computing market with an education-focused, keyboard equipped device dubbed the eMate 300. Though it was priced starting at $799, this device was not a Mac -- it ran the same Newton operating system found on the company's similarly ill-fated personal digital assistant, and featured a tiny 6.8-inch black-and-white display.

Although it didn't run the Mac OS, the eMate 300 is a somewhat noteworthy milestone in Mac history, as the machine's design would go on to influence the look of the first-generation iBook. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs unceremoniously killed off both the eMate and Newton after he returned to the company in 1997.


Clamshell iBook G3, via Wikipedia.


Apple's Mac lineup first officially flirted with the sub-$1,000 threshold with the more aggressively priced iBook lineup, which debuted in 1999 targeting education and consumer markets. The iBook G3/700, released in late 2002, has the distinction of being the first $999 Apple notebook, while other models, including the 2005 12-inch iBook G4, would hit the same price point.

The successor to both the PowerBook and iBook, the MacBook, wouldn't again crack the sub-$1,000 price level until 2009, with the launch of the Intel Core 2 Duo model. The white polycarbonate MacBook held the $999 price point alone until late 2010, when a new 11-inch MacBook Air began to share the same spot on the company's lineup.

MacBook
Apple's 2009 polycarbonate unibody MacBook.


That move signaled the last days for the polycarbonate MacBook, and since its discontinuation in 2011, Apple's notebook lineup has been comprised solely of the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. Until Tuesday, the 11-inch MacBook Air had remained at the $999 price point, just barely staying under $1,000.

The MacBook Pro lineup, however, has never been priced so aggressively. The very first MacBook Pro was a 15-inch model that debuted in early 2006 and hit a low-end price point of $1,999 in May of that year.

The nadir of MacBook Pro pricing was first reached in 2009, when a Core 2 Duo equipped model was released for $1,199. Various MacBook Pro models have reached that same price point over the years, but never gone below it for the suggested retail price.

MacBook Pro
Apple's 13" non-Retina MacBook Pro.


Currently, Apple occupies the $1,199 price point with its legacy 13-inch MacBook Pro, which lacks a Retina display and continues to feature an integrated disc drive and 5400-rpm spinning hard drive. The thinner MacBook Pro with Retina display, sporting faster and more reliable flash memory, has a starting price of $1,299.

Which brings us to the new MacBook Air models, two of which are available for under $1,000. The 11-inch $899 model, Apple's most affordable notebook ever, features a 1.4-gigahertz Intel Core i5 CPU with integrated HD Graphics 5000, 4 gigabytes of memory, and 128 gigabytes of PCIe-based flash storage. Users can double the internal storage for an additional $200.




And the $999 13-inch MacBook Air features the same specifications as the 11-inch model, but obviously boasts more screen real estate. It too is offered with 256 gigabytes of flash memory for a $200 premium.

A full list of current MacBook pricing from Apple, as well as discounted offers from authorized third-party resellers, is available in the AppleInsider Mac Price Guide, which is also embedded below:



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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 64
    I wish Apple still did sell the white poly-carbonate MacBook. It was beautiful in a way that the black and grey aluminum MacBooks aren't.
  • Reply 2 of 64
    pmzpmz Posts: 3,433member
    These are nice, and good prices. Too bad 4 GB of RAM isn't good enough for anyone anymore, or they would be REALLY good prices.
  • Reply 3 of 64
    bahrbahr Posts: 3member

    4GB Ram isn't good enough for anyone?

     

    Maybe with Mavericks, but before I ran 2 VM's simultaneously on my 2011 13" macbook air w/ 4GB of RAM without a hitch. Mavericks has killed it though. Still run one but the fan sounds like a hurricane. Using it as we speak and waiting for the Retina Refresh, hopefully without fan. 

     

    I feel that this doesn't even apply to 90% of Mac users. Short of VM's, I've never had issues on a Mac with RAM, at least with 4GB. 

  • Reply 4 of 64

    4 gig of RAM is plenty for most users.  Granted I would never buy a machine with less than 16 gig...but I am not most users.

  • Reply 5 of 64
    tzterritzterri Posts: 97member
    An 11" screen is so last century.

    Where's a 17" model?

    Some of us like a laptop with a bigger screen and it isn't like we can just go buy one from another manufacturer if we want to run OSX.
  • Reply 6 of 64
    pmzpmz Posts: 3,433member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by TechProd1gy View Post

     

    4 gig of RAM is plenty for most users.  Granted I would never buy a machine with less than 16 gig...but I am not most users.


     

    I doubt that. While many can "get by" with it, I doubt it is really plenty. I am not the average user either, and likewise can't deal with anything less than 16 GB....but even for light computer usage, I find the Mac very sluggish with 4 GB of RAM.

     

    The average user is going to use more than just 1 app at a time....and If you've ever noticed how much RAM Safari and iTunes will use alone, 4 GB is not a lot anymore.

  • Reply 7 of 64
    test
  • Reply 8 of 64
    I have a MBPr with 4GB and it is plenty fast. Granted, I would like more, but 4 is likely plenty fast for most people. Most people on AI? No. Most people in the population? Yes. The fact that there is no lag in accessing data is the biggest key. The SSD helps that.
  • Reply 8 of 64
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    Originally Posted by sog35 View Post

    swap it out. RAM is cheap now days

     

    Uh…

  • Reply 10 of 64
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    tzterri wrote: »
    An 11" screen is so last century.

    Where's a 17" model?

    Some of us like a laptop with a bigger screen and it isn't like we can just go buy one from another manufacturer if we want to run OSX.

    "Some of us" clearly wasn't enough to keep the 17" on the market. I'm sure there are "some of us" that a 19" or 21" MBP but I would guess those "somes of us's" are even fewer in numbers.

    pmz wrote: »
    I doubt that. While many can "get by" with it, I doubt it is really plenty. I am not the average user either, and likewise can't deal with anything less than 16 GB....but even for light computer usage, I find the Mac very sluggish with 4 GB of RAM.

    The average user is going to use more than just 1 app at a time....and If you've ever noticed how much RAM Safari and iTunes will use alone, 4 GB is not a lot anymore.

    It is plenty. You need to consider what most users do with a "PC", especially those that want a 11" notebook. For me, 11" is more of a deal breaker than 4GiB RAM but I will max out my RAM given the opportunity.
  • Reply 11 of 64
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,011member
    runner7775 wrote: »
    I wish Apple still did sell the white poly-carbonate MacBook. It was beautiful in a way that the black and grey aluminum MacBooks aren't.

    I've got a white iBook G4 sitting here next to me in perfect condition, make me an offer ;)
  • Reply 12 of 64
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,591member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by pmz View Post

     

     

    I doubt that. While many can "get by" with it, I doubt it is really plenty. I am not the average user either, and likewise can't deal with anything less than 16 GB....but even for light computer usage, I find the Mac very sluggish with 4 GB of RAM.

     

    The average user is going to use more than just 1 app at a time....and If you've ever noticed how much RAM Safari and iTunes will use alone, 4 GB is not a lot anymore.


    I disagree. I think 4gb is fine for most users. My daughter has an 11" mba with 4gb ram and whenever I borrow it never crosses my mind that it is sluggish. She uses mail, Safari and sometimes Word or Powerpoint, and iTunes, mostly and rarely quits any of them. I think she is a much more typical user than anybody here. Most users don't use powerful graphics or media software on a regular basis.

     

    Somebody with better technical understanding of OSX may be able to answer this but with better memory management isn't 4gb in OSX much more capable than a few years ago? I seem to remember this was a key feature covered at a fairly recent OSX roll-out.

  • Reply 13 of 64
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,011member
    starbird73 wrote: »
    I have a MBPr with 4GB and it is plenty fast. Granted, I would like more, but 4 is likely plenty fast for most people. Most people on AI? No. Most people in the population? Yes. The fact that there is no lag in accessing data is the biggest key. The SSD helps that.

    I can vouch for the fact that that the SSD is the most effective upgrade (assuming 'enough' RAM to start with which IMHO is 8 GIGs for Mavericks but then I use CS6 and FCPro X so for office work 4 GIGs may well suffice). I had two 8 GIG MBPros and in one I added an SSD in the other 16 GIGs if RAM and did a ton of comparison tests. The SSD equipped MBPro trounced the other every time. The difference was astronomical.
  • Reply 14 of 64
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,011member
    pmz wrote: »
    I doubt that. While many can "get by" with it, I doubt it is really plenty. I am not the average user either, and likewise can't deal with anything less than 16 GB....but even for light computer usage, I find the Mac very sluggish with 4 GB of RAM.

    The average user is going to use more than just 1 app at a time....and If you've ever noticed how much RAM Safari and iTunes will use alone, 4 GB is not a lot anymore.

    To be fair, now with the new nap mode and other efficiencies, Mavericks is pretty darn good at using lower RAM. That said it depends on your needs and obviously for the likes of Photoshop and other graphics and video related work more is always better not to mention a new Mac Pro.
  • Reply 15 of 64
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,591member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post



    I can vouch for the fact that that the SSD is the most effective upgrade (assuming 'enough' RAM to start with which IMHO is 8 GIGs for Mavericks but then I use CS6 and FCPro X so for office work 4 GIGs may well suffice). I had two 8 GIG MBPros and in one I added an SSD in the other 16 GIGs if RAM and did a ton of comparison tests. The SSD equipped MBPro trounced the other every time. The difference was astronomical.

    This is my experience, too. My primary office computer is a 2008 mb with 8gb RAM and 256 gb SSD. I upgraded to ssd more out of interest to see if I could extend the life of the computer and really, I see no reason to change it now. The SSD upgrade was amazing and it is even fine for basic PS6 work (24" screen attached). For heavier lifting I use my new iMac at home. The iMac is an amazing machine and very powerful but even with the old 2008 mb I never find my self twiddling my thumbs or even thinking about its lack of power. Pretty amazing when you think about it.

  • Reply 16 of 64
    So as usual, Australians get screwed. It's the same A$1099 as the outgoing model. No price cuts here.
  • Reply 17 of 64
    I can vouch for the fact that that the SSD is the most effective upgrade (assuming 'enough' RAM to start with which IMHO is 8 GIGs for Mavericks but then I use CS6 and FCPro X so for office work 4 GIGs may well suffice). I had two 8 GIG MBPros and in one I added an SSD in the other 16 GIGs if RAM and did a ton of comparison tests. The SSD equipped MBPro trounced the other every time. The difference was astronomical.

    paxman wrote: »
    This is my experience, too. My primary office computer is a 2008 mb with 8gb RAM and 256 gb SSD. I upgraded to ssd more out of interest to see if I could extend the life of the computer and really, I see no reason to change it now. The SSD upgrade was amazing and it is even fine for basic PS6 work (24" screen attached). For heavier lifting I use my new iMac at home. The iMac is an amazing machine and very powerful but even with the old 2008 mb I never find my self twiddling my thumbs or even thinking about its lack of power. Pretty amazing when you think about it.

    My primary machine is a 2008 iMac. Just picked up the MBPr. This will be our primary daily use machine, while the iMac remains as our iTunes server, iPhoto/Apeture machine. Will replace this one in a couple years with a new iMac. Thinking that swapping out to an SSD might extend the life even more.
  • Reply 18 of 64
    negafoxnegafox Posts: 480member

    Seeing the clamshell iBook pic makes me miss the translucent candy-colored Macs.

  • Reply 19 of 64
    In all my life I have never used a computer as wonderful as my 2012 MacBook Air and I WILL be buying another in the future. I would recommend it to any casual user who is looking for something that just works and does anything you ask it to without having to think about how to make it do that. After years of suffering through Windows machines and countless yelling sessions and endless frustration, my Mac is like a beacon shining brightly in the murk and shadows that is the squalor of the general PC world. I would pay $900 bucks for that a million times over!
  • Reply 20 of 64
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    In all my life I have never used a computer as wonderful as my 2012 MacBook Air and I WILL be buying another in the future.

    Then you're in for a treat once it gets both Retina and an IPS panel.
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