New MacBook Air threatens both MacBook and MacBook Pro with Function Keys

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited October 2018
This latest portable does not slot neatly into Apple's existing Mac portable range -- the mix of power and price mean we can expect to see other models change or even die. AppleInsider examines which of Apple's current products are most threatened by this machine.

Apple's new MacBook Air is unveiled
Apple's new MacBook Air is unveiled


Most of the time, Apple is very good at creating a new device to fill a gap in either the market or in its own range. Just occasionally, though, one new product can shake up everything and that's what is happening right now with the new MacBook Air. It was meant to replace to the old model but it's other MacBooks that look endangered.

It's true that the previous MacBook Air was an oddity in the mix, hanging on to life seemingly just through its being the cheapest model. There was nothing else that made the MacBook Air superior or more appealing than any other Apple portable. Perhaps as many people expected it to simply fade away as predicted it would be replaced.

Yet the analysts and supply-chain readers were wrong. That old MacBook Air still survives.

Long live the MacBook Air

At this moment, you can buy either the new or the old models on the online store. It's hard to imagine that this will continue for very much longer but for now both devices are available. The old MacBook Air may be a little hard to spot on the store -- you'll have to scroll down below the new model -- but it's there and it's still $999.

Apple's MacBook
Apple's MacBook


That's still the cheapest Mac portable you can get but in every other way it's the worst. You can improve on the base model in some respects but only marginally. There's no option to get more than the base device's 8GB RAM, for instance, and while you can increase its 128GB SSD storage, you can only take it 512GB.

Just doing that moves the price of the original MacBook Air to $1,399 which puts it above the new MacBook Air which is faster, lighter and able to be upgraded to 16GB RAM and 1.5TB SSD.

Plus the old MacBook Air has a non-Retina quality display which gives it the poorest screen of the entire lineup. For its $999 base price, you get that non-Retina display with a resolution of 1400x900. Whereas for the new MacBook Air's $1,199 you get Retina at 2560x1600.

Specifications tell you a lot but just a glance at the two displays tells you more: both have 13.3 inch screens yet if you see them together, you want the new MacBook Air.

It's such a difference that even as the new MacBook Air was being unveiled, we unthinkingly took it for granted that Apple would discontinue the old one.

Apple's Senior Product Manager Laura Metz unveils the new MacBook Air
Apple's Vice President of Hardware Engineering Laura Grove unveils the new MacBook Air


Even so, it's surely got to vanish from the lineup soon. Right now the sole benefit of having it around is that Apple can say it has a laptop for under a thousand dollars. Yet Apple never says that anywhere, it never sells on price.

And if the old MacBook Air is like the old friend you used to like but now can't get rid of, there are other MacBook models that will surely be shown the door soon.

MacBook hangs on in there

In terms of price, the new MacBook Air definitely collides with the MacBook. The MacBook is more expensive than the Air, starting at $1,299 and it has a slower processor, a smaller screen and somewhat more limited upgrade options.

The MacBook comes with the same 8GB RAM as the new Air but its base price includes greater storage: you get 256GB SSD instead of the Air's 128GB. That said, the MacBook can only be taken up to 512GB SSD whereas the Air has a ceiling of 1.5TB.

The screen difference isn't gigantic. The MacBook is a 12 inch display running at 2304x1440 resolution while the new Air is a 13 inch one with 2560x1600. Both are Retina so both look excellent.

Then the new MacBook Air comes with Touch ID which the MacBook lacks. It has a new generation of the keyboard and a second USB-C port for expansion.

These are significant differences and all of them make the new MacBook Air the better buy for the money. But, there is one area the MacBook still wins in -- while the new MacBook Air is 1.25kg (2.75lbs), the MacBook is 0.92kg (2.03lbs).

For this one reason alone, we think the MacBook will continue to be sold and it will continue to be bought as Apple's lightest. It's also a powerful machine in its own right and while nobody should buy it to edit video, you can edit video on it.

High end

It's for people who need to do substantial editing or any other very heavy-lifting work that Apple has its MacBook Pro models -- but this is where we are sure the most disruption is going to happen.

You won't see it at the highest end. If you're in need of a portable Mac that can do everything, then you're going to get a MacBook Pro 15in model and you'll put up with the fact that it comes with a Touch Bar.

Top of the range MacBook Pro
Top of the range MacBook Pro


The top-range MacBook Pro does come with specifications the Air cannot contend with. Its screen is 15.4 inches running at 2880x1800, for instance. The MacBook Pro 15in model starts with 16GB RAM and 512GB SSD storage but it can go to 32GB RAM and a startling 4TB SSD.

Add to that the faster processor and you're going to be paying a lot for your MacBook Pro but you'll be getting a lot. The base price is $2,399 or $1,299 more than the new MacBook Air: you could literally buy two Airs for the same price.

In the middle

It's in the middle of the price range where we think we're going to see the fallout from the MacBook Air launch. We would be very surprised if the MacBook Pro 13in model without Touch Bar survives for much longer.

We might not have found the Touch Bar to be particularly compelling -- but it is very well executed technically and it has its uses. If you want one, you're going to skip this middle ground and go to the top MacBook Pros automatically.

Apple's Function Key MacBook Pro
Apple's Function Key MacBook Pro


If you don't want one, you'll be comparing every other feature and here the new MacBook Air becomes remarkably compelling.

The base 13 inch MacBook Pro without Touch Bar costs $1,299 and it offers much that's identical to the new Air. You get the same screen size and resolution -- 13.3 inch at 2560x1600 -- and the same base 8GB RAM, the same 128GB SSD storage.

Then both machines can have up to 16GB RAM and for storage, the new MacBook Air actually exceeds the 13 inch MacBook Pro without Touch Bar. The newer machine can go up to 1.5TB compared to the older machine's maximum 1TB.

The MacBook Pro definitely has the advantage in terms of processor speed. At their base entry prices, the MacBook Air fields a 1.6GHZ Dual Core Intel i5 and the MacBook Pro has the same processor but at 2.3GHz. You'll unquestionably spot the difference in speed tests but it's enough that you'll also see it in regular use.

However, the MacBook Air has identical expansion options with two Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports and it adds Touch ID.

So there is that processor edge for the MacBook Pro but otherwise the new MacBook Air gets you everything that machine offers. Plus it's 0.12kg or 0.27lbs lighter -- and it costs a hundred bucks less.

Goodbye MacBook Pro without Touch Bar

We're sure that this Touch Bar-less MacBook Pro is going to fade away. It's harder to be so certain about how the MacBook will fare. Without question, the new MacBook Air is going to take business away from the MacBook so it's possible to imagine Apple simplifying the range.

It's possible to imagine Apple having the MacBook Air as the entry-level model and keeping the MacBook Pro 13 inch and 15 inch models with Touch Bar as the higher-end.

Still, the weight's the thing. If the new Air were lighter than the MacBooks than those older machines would be dead already. Their popularity and their weight advantage are key.

Whereas if you really want a 13-inch MacBook Pro without Touch Bar then, well, do re-read our arguments about why it's going to die, and then buy it before it vanishes.



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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 56
    tipootipoo Posts: 1,051member
    The 12" particularly seems on death row. Who would pay 100 dollars more, to lose Thunderbolt 3 and a port and have less power? All to save 0.75 pounds. 

    The 13" nTB Pro is a bit better positioned with more powerful processing, and I'm not sure if the Air screen has 500 nits and P3 like it? 
  • Reply 2 of 56
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,884member
    Somebody, maybe Steve, said something to the effect of "If you aren't cannibalizing your own sales, somebody else will".
    chasm
  • Reply 3 of 56
    dewmedewme Posts: 2,055member
    There will certainly be a lot of MacBook Pro users suffering from EKE (escape key envy) with the release of the new MacBook Air. I have high hopes for the new Air and will check it out in my local Apple Store. My current 2011 13" MBA i7 is still the most pleasant Mac I have ever used. The thin front edge coupled with a comfortable keyboard and fluid trackpad makes using it a pure joy. It's light enough to carry anywhere and use on your lap, totally quiet, and the battery life is superb. All the right ports for the point in time it hit the market. The MacBook Air forever ruined every Wintel notebook PC for me by being as close to perfect as I could imagine a notebook being.

    If the new Air can replicate the ergonomics of the last generation Air, Apple will have a major winner on its hands and continue the Air legacy as the most loved Mac for another decade. 
    baconstangwilliamlondon
  • Reply 4 of 56
    I thought so on the new MacBook Air. It competes with current MacBook and base MacBook Pro. It makes no sense. Also the name "Air" itself makes sense when it was first came out. Now it doesn't since all Mac laptops are as light as "Air". This new MacBook Air is an odd ball.
    chasm
  • Reply 5 of 56
    "There was nothing else that made the MacBook Air superior or more appealing than any other Apple portable."  
    "...
     but in every other way it's the worst."

    Seems a little harsh for the most popular laptop they ever made.  Many MBA owners might argue that MagSafe, the keyboard and the SD card reader are far from "the worst".
    anantksundaramirelandentropysraoulduke42ne1
  • Reply 6 of 56
    adbeadbe Posts: 17member
    Macbook hangs around with minor spec bumps until such time as Apple can switch it to an A series processor.  Air replaces the bottom end TouchBar-less 13" MBP and drives the ASP of the 13" MBP with TouchBar upwards.  

    The Macbook's place in the lineup is to be the smallest lightest Mac you can buy - if it's threatened by anything it's the iPad Pro.  The Air seems destined to be the general purpose laptop of the Mac line-up.  MBPs will just keep getting more expensive.  


    chasm
  • Reply 7 of 56
    The new MBA has such a weak CPU compared to the nTB Pro that I don't see it taking too many sales away.
    williamlondonbaconstang
  • Reply 8 of 56
    saareksaarek Posts: 1,127member
    So, apart from the low end CPU, it’s the MacBook Pro without Touch Bar refresh for 2018 that many hoped for.

    It’s a shame, most people do not want the Touch Bar yet Apple insists on stuffing it down people’s throats and making them pay for the privilege if they want a fast MacBook.

    I’ll be hanging onto my 2015 15” for another year, let’s see what happens next year.
  • Reply 9 of 56
    tipoo said:
    The 12" particularly seems on death row. Who would pay 100 dollars more, to lose Thunderbolt 3 and a port and have less power? All to save 0.75 pounds. 

    The 13" nTB Pro is a bit better positioned with more powerful processing, and I'm not sure if the Air screen has 500 nits and P3 like it? 
    That 0.75 pounds is something in an airplane or during a mountain trip. 12” is the most suited Mac to extreme conditions. Besides, it is fanless, so, battery life...

    The new MBA doesn’t have 500 nits and P3. But it has T2 chip, that makes it preferable over 13” nTB Pro in mission critical applications/jobs.
    edited October 2018 elijahg
  • Reply 10 of 56
    As a current MacBook user, I'd choose it over the Air again if: they get a similar processor, the MacBook gets TouchID or FaceID, the third gen keyboard or later, and maybe if they dropped the price. I mainly use Office and the like for writing and am out and about a lot with books and the like. The smaller form factor and weight is a big deal for me but the lower specs and higher price as at present mean I'd wait to see what Apple plan to do before making any change.
    chasm
  • Reply 11 of 56
    jibjib Posts: 8member
    The older MBA is available for $849 in both the education and government Apple Stores -- so it may attract people (e.g. students) on a strict budget.

    As for the MacBook, light weight is definitely a plus for many users.  I have the original MacBook (2015), and have looked at other MacBook options to upgrade.  The MBP 13 is a third heavier and definitely feels it -- I use my MacBook on my lap all day long and like the portability and lack of bulk and weight (and I have an iMac Pro for heavy work).

    I'm still hoping for an upgraded MacBook -- faster, multiple USB-C ports, and still about 2 pounds.  If that doesn't happen, I'd consider the new MacBook Air, but it is still heavier than I'd like.
    edited October 2018 likethesky
  • Reply 12 of 56
    saareksaarek Posts: 1,127member
    Apple has always operated in the premium space, and I love that they typically do not sell rubbish and have never had an issue buying or recommending Apple’s products.

    But every refresh now, for any product, seems to usher in a price increase. 

    The MacBook line used to be expensive, but justifiable. At £1200 starting price I’m not sure there is a single MacBook model for the average consumer anymore and that’s just sad.
    rogifan_newelijahg
  • Reply 13 of 56
    CSpace6CSpace6 Posts: 4unconfirmed, member
    Does anyone else see the next MacBook refresh re-positioning itself as the entry-level model within the notebook Mac lineup? I'm surprised they didn't drop the price of the current MacBook to $999, but Apple may be waiting to make changes to that machine for the time being as to not cannibalize sales of the newly released MacBook Air. Give it until next year, my guess is the second-generation MacBook Air will be out the door and the MacBook will likely either follow suit or re-position itself as the entry-level Mac.
    randominternetperson
  • Reply 14 of 56
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,806member
    tipoo said:
    The 12" particularly seems on death row. Who would pay 100 dollars more, to lose Thunderbolt 3 and a port and have less power? All to save 0.75 pounds.
    It's not for me (same as the MBA), but your question sounds like what people were saying about the MBA when it was first launched with a much higher entry-level price, a much slower system, and a considerable drop in the number of ports against the MacBook at the time with the same size display.

    For someone who is very mobile I think that smaller and lighter are important factors and if that was me I wouldn't scoff over $100 spread out over several years if it's going to suit my computing needs and be easier to carry.
    urashidchia
  • Reply 15 of 56
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 1,958member
    Stop this gibberish.. Do new Macbook Air replaces Macbook ? probably yes but not Function Keys Macbook Pro. New Macbook air under powered to replace FK Macbook Pro. Apple screwed up not upgrading 2018 Function Keys Macbook Pro and I hate it. Most Macbook Pro users agree that touchbar(useless !!) increased cost but not equivalent functionality that most care. So, there is no solution from Apple for replacing Function Keys Macbook Pro until it releases such non touchbar Macbook Pro.
    edited October 2018
  • Reply 16 of 56
    "There was nothing else that made the MacBook Air superior or more appealing than any other Apple portable."  
    "... but in every other way it's the worst."

    Seems a little harsh for the most popular laptop they ever made.  Many MBA owners might argue that MagSafe, the keyboard and the SD card reader are far from "the worst".

    I assumed reason most people were still buying an Air (aside from price) was USB-A, SC Card, MagSafe and the keyboard. The only thing of those that survived was the function keys though the keyboard is the new butterfly style.
    edited October 2018
  • Reply 17 of 56
    CSpace6 said:
    Does anyone else see the next MacBook refresh re-positioning itself as the entry-level model within the notebook Mac lineup? I'm surprised they didn't drop the price of the current MacBook to $999, but Apple may be waiting to make changes to that machine for the time being as to not cannibalize sales of the newly released MacBook Air. Give it until next year, my guess is the second-generation MacBook Air will be out the door and the MacBook will likely either follow suit or re-position itself as the entry-level Mac.
    I’m hoping the MacBook is the model they use to introduce an ARM Mac.
  • Reply 18 of 56
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,595member
    It seems to me the MB is irrelevant now. At least for the time being. With the smaller footprint of the MBA and the retina screen, why would you choose the MB? Having said that I still think the MB is the most beautiful laptop Apple has ever made and wouldn't be surprise if it resurfaces as a new iteration of the MBA. It makes good sense to keep the name MBA. Next year or the year after I hope the 'new' MBA will be that shape and size of the current MB, perhaps in two different sizes.
    dewmerandominternetperson
  • Reply 19 of 56
    scartart said:
    The new MBA has such a weak CPU compared to the nTB Pro that I don't see it taking too many sales away.
    Wait for the benchmarks. The 1.6 GHz vs 2.3 GHz clock difference may be already offset by 7 W vs 15 W TDP difference. 8th gen. vs 7th gen. difference may not be such easily ignored.

    There is also the T2 chip. With its lack of T2 security features nTB Pro is not suited to mission critical applications/jobs.
    edited October 2018 elijahgfastasleep
  • Reply 20 of 56
    irelandireland Posts: 17,584member
    The MBA, the old model they still sell, is the only keyboard left in Apple's lineup that I like. Lambast me for saying so, but it is how I feel.
    elijahgbaconstangEcky-Thump
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