The top seven MacBook Air features that make the 2018 model great

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited January 20
The 2018 MacBook Air has been around for a few months, and it has turned out to be a great notebook in its own right. AppleInsider lists some of the important changes Apple added to make it one of the best portable Macs in the company's entire MacBook product family.

The 2018 MacBook Air
The 2018 MacBook Air


When the 2018 MacBook Air was announced, it seemed to be a bit of a disappointment to me. Sluggish performance, limited ports, a dim display, and a price tag $100 more than I expected it to be.






However, after a couple of months, I've come to realize I was looking at it through the lens of my own demanding workflows instead of through the eyes of the vast majority of Apple's Mac user base, who just want a reliable MacBook with great battery life for everyday tasks.

Now, I'm 100 percent certain that the 2018 MacBook Air is the perfect MacBook for most consumers, and there's seven good reasons why this is the case.

Retina Display

You don't have to be a prosumer to see that the old MacBook Air's display was extremely outdated, and substantially worse quality than many of the more recent iPhone generation screens.

The refreshed display in the 2018 MacBook Air
The refreshed display in the 2018 MacBook Air


The new Retina MacBook Air's display has triple the pixels as the old one, and it now uses IPS technology instead of TN, so it doesn't change colors or get very dim when viewing from an angle. Everything just looks sharp in general.

The only downside to the new display is that it doesn't get very bright compared to other MacBooks, like with the 2017 MacBook Pro. It may be a big deal for some, but it's definitely not enough to be a deal breaker.

One thing for sure is that a dimmer display will lead to a reduction in power consumption.

Battery Life

Out of Apple's current early-2019 MacBook lineup, the new MacBook Air is the only one that is rated for longer than 10 hours of battery life, hitting 12 hours at maximum. This is a huge deal for a lot of people who want to take their MacBook on the go and avoid having to plug in their charger for as long as possible.

Not only that but because of the processor's low 7-Watt thermal design point (TDP,) it's going to drain less power during heavy workloads than a 2017 13-inch MacBook Pro's 15-Watt processor.

No matter what task you're doing, the new MacBook Air is the way to go if you want the best battery life.

Updated Keyboard

You may have heard of Apple's butterfly keyboard having issues with broken keys due to small debris affecting the mechanism. This MacBook Air is packing the third-generation butterfly keyboard, which features a silicon membrane barrier that makes for a quieter typing experience, and potentially improving its reliability at the same time.

The 2018 MacBook Air has an updated keyboard mechanism
The 2018 MacBook Air has an updated keyboard mechanism


The issues haven't yet been proven to go away with the new keyboard, but it's definitely an upgrade over the 2016 and 2017 MacBook versions, including the 13-inch MacBook Pro which is a direct competitor to the new MacBook Air.

On top of that, it features individually backlit keys that look a lot better than the old MacBook Air's keyboard that seemed to have more light bleeding around the outside of the keys.

Backlighting on the 2018 MacBook Air keyboard
Backlighting on the 2018 MacBook Air keyboard

Force Touch Trackpad

If you've never experienced the difference between the Force Touch trackpad and the old MacBooks Airs trackpad, you really should take a trip to the Apple store and try it out.

It feels worlds better because it doesn't actually click. It just vibrates to simulate a click, similar to how the solid state home button on iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 works. This means that you get an even clicking feel even in the corners of the trackpad.

The trackpad of the 2018 MacBook Air
The trackpad of the 2018 MacBook Air


You can also customize everything about it in the settings to make it function just how you want.

Not to mention that it's also quite a bit larger than the old trackpad, making it much more comfortable to use.

The larger trackpad of the new MacBook Air against an older model
The larger trackpad of the new MacBook Air against an older model

Audio Quality

The speakers have greatly been upgraded from the last MacBook Air, which actually housed them underneath the keyboard, lacking any type of grilles. The new Air has speaker grilles on both sides of the keyboard, which certainly helps make it sound considerably better.

They're louder, pack much more bass, have a wider dynamic range that sounds more full, and also have brighter highs as well.

The 2018 MacBook Air has side speaker grilles
The 2018 MacBook Air has side speaker grilles


These speakers are now easily loud enough to watch a show on Netflix even if there's some noise in the background, without resorting to headphones, which is a big deal for me personally.

T2 Security Chip

The T2 chip has both obvious and hidden benefits. The main benefits are things like the addition of Touch ID for authentication and the "Hey Siri" feature, bringing the MacBook Air closer to the iPhone and iPad for its use of Apple's digital assistant.

Touch ID is a welcome addition to the MacBook Air
Touch ID is a welcome addition to the MacBook Air


For the hidden benefits, the T2 chip makes everything from the microphones and FaceTime camera to internal storage more secure and perform better. Another benefit that isn't talked about very often is Secure Boot, which can disallow booting from external devices and ensure that only a trusted operating system can run, an addition that the security conscious will find extremely useful.

Years down the road, Apple could release a new operating system that requires the T2 chip to run, so 2018 MacBooks including the MacBook Air could run the latest macOS versions for many more years.

Thunderbolt 3

The 2018 MacBook Air's Thunderbolt 3 ports
The 2018 MacBook Air's Thunderbolt 3 ports


Finally, the MacBook Air features two Thunderbolt 3 ports. While it remains to be seen how many people will actually put the ports to their full potential, it really opens up the possibilities for those who actually will.

You can easily connect to a 5K display for a desktop setup, or connect an external GPU to play graphics-intensive games at good frame rates without having to buy a full desktop PC.

While more ports would be nice, what is offered is highly useful, especially when used with a dock, and is more than enough for the majority of its users.

Where to buy

Apple authorized resellers are currently discounting 2018 MacBook Airs by up to $150 and offering additional perks. Adorama, for instance, will not collect sales tax on orders shipped outside New York and New Jersey, while B&H Photo is tacking on free expedited shipping on orders shipped within the contiguous U.S.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 39
    Well said. Another benefit of the T2 chip is auto-login for Apple Watch users, right?
    sirozha
  • Reply 2 of 39
    ksecksec Posts: 1,543member
    The One MacBook Air problem that makes the 2018 not worth buying.

    Butterfly Keyboard.

    ( And non active cooling, making this a 7W TDP machine vs the old 15W )
    henrybaysremickairnerd
  • Reply 3 of 39
    Good points, but for me the screen quality of the Air was so much less than the basic MacBook Pro 13" that I opted for the MacBook Pro in a recent purchase. The brightness difference as well as P3 'wide-colour' screen on the Pro makes it a much better screen. I used the new Air and the Pro side-by-side in an Apple Store and the difference in screen quality was huge. But as you say, for a lot of casual users, this may not be such a major deciding factor for them.
    entropysradarthekat
  • Reply 4 of 39
    ksec said:
    The One MacBook Air problem that makes the 2018 not worth buying.

    Butterfly Keyboard.

    ( And non active cooling, making this a 7W TDP machine vs the old 15W )
    Nonsense.  I use my MacBook Pro with first-gen butterfly keyboard every day and it feels and works great and reliably.  I don't doubt the assertion that it has proven more troublesome than earlier designs, but a) I believe the failure rate is still very low (something can be 4 times less reliable than something else and still be very reliable) and b) Apple has taken steps to address the issues.
  • Reply 5 of 39
    gbdocgbdoc Posts: 51member
    I'm probably going to get a new Mac laptop sometime soon, but I think I'll wait for the new MacBooks to come out, sometime this year, I think, and see how they compare with this new Air. I was a bit disappointed with the new Air because I was expecting a more capable CPU, faster graphics, and even more RAM.
  • Reply 6 of 39
    I remain torn. I'm still using my mid-2009 MBP 13 inch, chiefly while reporting on meetings. I want a new laptop. The MB seems ideal from weight standpoint, but I'm concerned it's narrow enough that I would have to keep my legs smooshed together. The Air adds some weight but also some of the width I want; the 15-inch MBP would be ideal width-wise, but then I'm within a half pound of my current computer. (Then there's iPad Pro with keyboard factor.)

    I would appreciate any brilliant advice!
  • Reply 7 of 39
    I remain torn. I'm still using my mid-2009 MBP 13 inch, chiefly while reporting on meetings. I want a new laptop. The MB seems ideal from weight standpoint, but I'm concerned it's narrow enough that I would have to keep my legs smooshed together. The Air adds some weight but also some of the width I want; the 15-inch MBP would be ideal width-wise, but then I'm within a half pound of my current computer. (Then there's iPad Pro with keyboard factor.)

    I would appreciate any brilliant advice!
    Someone who actually uses a laptop on their lap on a regular basis?
    king editor the gratefastasleepmuthuk_vanalingamairnerd
  • Reply 8 of 39
    thttht Posts: 3,036member
    ksec said:
    ...
    ( And non active cooling, making this a 7W TDP machine vs the old 15W )
    It has active cooling.

    Maybe a future iteration will have a 15W CPU with the typical heat transfer system with a heatpipe siphoning CPU heat to a heatsink in front of the blower, but the current design has active cooling with a blower drawing air flow across a heat sink mounted on top of the CPU.
  • Reply 9 of 39
    It's an awesome machine, no question. The only thing that it is missing for me is the True Tone display. I never had that on a laptop but love it on my iPhone, that's why I want to have it in my next laptop as well. Unfortunately, only the pro models with the Touch Bar have it.
  • Reply 10 of 39
    linkmanlinkman Posts: 874member
    Here's hoping that Apple comes out with a 15" version of the MBA. I currently can't stomach the $2400 minimum price for a 15" Mac laptop. 
  • Reply 11 of 39
    Well said. Another benefit of the T2 chip is auto-login for Apple Watch users, right?
    The T2 isn't required for that. 802.11ac is what Macs need to support in order for auto-login for the Apple Watch to work. 
    edited January 18 fastasleep
  • Reply 12 of 39
    entropysentropys Posts: 1,493member
    USD$200 too high a price. The MBA’s core problem. There would not be the screen and value comparisons with the MBP if it was more realistically priced for its capabilities.
  • Reply 13 of 39
    You forgot to mention the one feature that makes the new MacBook Air unuseable for many people. 

    The keyboard. It’s attrocious. It offers so little keytravel that it’s like typing on a flat surface. There is insufficient feedback to provide a satisfying typing experience. You need an external keyboard (with decent key travel) to make the MacBook Air a useful tool. Which defeats the whole purpose of thin and light. 

    Apple please replace these ridiculously flat, unresponsive keyboards! They are ruining your MacBook products. 
    sremickairnerd
  • Reply 14 of 39
    henrybay said:
    You forgot to mention the one feature that makes the new MacBook Air unuseable for many people. 

    The keyboard. It’s attrocious. It offers so little keytravel that it’s like typing on a flat surface. There is insufficient feedback to provide a satisfying typing experience. You need an external keyboard (with decent key travel) to make the MacBook Air a useful tool. Which defeats the whole purpose of thin and light. 

    Apple please replace these ridiculously flat, unresponsive keyboards! They are ruining your MacBook products. 
    The keyboard on the 2018 MBA is AMAZING. I have it and can type on it 30% faster than on the Apple scissor-style keyboard. I also like the more pronounced sound that comes from typing on this keyboard. 
    fastasleep
  • Reply 15 of 39
    ksec said:
    The One MacBook Air problem that makes the 2018 not worth buying.

    Butterfly Keyboard.

    ( And non active cooling, making this a 7W TDP machine vs the old 15W )
    Second problem: 13" Pro sans Touch Bar is superior in nearly every way.
    radarthekathenrybaysremick
  • Reply 16 of 39
    Eric_WVGG said:
    ksec said:
    The One MacBook Air problem that makes the 2018 not worth buying.

    Butterfly Keyboard.

    ( And non active cooling, making this a 7W TDP machine vs the old 15W )
    Second problem: 13" Pro sans Touch Bar is superior in nearly every way.
    Not the 2017 model. The keyboard on the 13”
    non-Touch-Bar 2017 MacBook Pro is pretty awful. 
    edited January 18
  • Reply 17 of 39
    It's an awesome machine, no question. The only thing that it is missing for me is the True Tone display. I never had that on a laptop but love it on my iPhone, that's why I want to have it in my next laptop as well. Unfortunately, only the pro models with the Touch Bar have it.
    Funny. True Tone is the first thing I turn off when I get any Apple device that has it. I find its tone looks like faded/yellowed paper. I prefer the slightly bluish tint!
    king editor the grateairnerd
  • Reply 18 of 39
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 2,926moderator
    Eric_WVGG said:
    ksec said:
    The One MacBook Air problem that makes the 2018 not worth buying.

    Butterfly Keyboard.

    ( And non active cooling, making this a 7W TDP machine vs the old 15W )
    Second problem: 13" Pro sans Touch Bar is superior in nearly every way.
    I recently did the comparison and night the 2017 MBP i5 2.3Ghz model (it’s half GHz faster clock speed and much brighter display alone were enough to sway me).  Got the 256GB storage option which is also twice as fast as the 128GB SSD.  Twice the storage and twice the speed for that extra $200.  Sweet.  
  • Reply 19 of 39
    1) for reasons I can't get into, I can attest that the butterfly keyboard definitely has an exponentially higher failure rate than the earlier keyboards where the keys actually moved and didn't suck. Yes you will get people on here with their anecdotal experiences claiming the keyboards have no problems, but that is absolutely not true at scale. Scale it up to hundreds or thousands so that you can compare statistically, talk to people in the know who hear back from large numbers of users complaining (even about the feel when the keyboard is working), and you'll learn the truth. People even experiencing it again after having the topcase replaced once already.

    2) Learn the difference between "silicon" and "silicone", and get better editors.




  • Reply 20 of 39
    My main beef with the MBA is the "new" butterfly keyboard. I will not buy any Mac sporting that keyboard. It's absolutely horrible to type with, notwithstanding other deficiencies. Apple has lost its mojo. BTW, butterfly keyboards are still failing even with the new membrane to keep out dust etc. I'm surprised Apple has not brought back the hockey puck mouse to accommodate the keyboard.
    sremick
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