Everything you need to know about the new 13-inch 2018 MacBook Air

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited October 2018
It's been 10 years since Steve Jobs revealed the original MacBook Air, a laptop so thin he introduced it by pulling it out of an envelope. In those 10 years, Apple hasn't changed the iconic large bezel design of the MacBook Air at all -- until now.




The new design of the MacBook Air is basically the same as the 12-inch MacBook, except it's a little bit thicker, and heavier. The display is one inch larger, so the speakers are on the left and right sides of the keyboard. In another move similar to the 12-inch MacBook, you can choose between Space Gray, Silver or Gold casing options.

There are also two Thunderbolt 3 ports instead of the slower USB 3.1 type C, like the single port on the 12-inch MacBook. This means you can connect an external GPU or even a 5K external display to the MacBook Air, the same way that you can to a MacBook Pro.

User input

Perhaps controversially, the new MacBook Air has Apple's third-generation butterfly keyboard. The keys are also individually backlit, which is a nice touch. If the new third-generation is more reliable than previous models isn't clear yet, but we'll keep looking into it.

There's also a Touch ID sensor which can be used instead of entering a password, and it makes online shopping with Apple Pay more secure. It's also packing Apple's T2 chip, which we think is a pretty big deal.





The Force Touch trackpad on the Air is practically identical to the 12-inch MacBook's version.

Audio and video

Apple also said during the announcement that the speakers are 25-percent louder with twice as much bass, something that will need to be tested once it is released.

The display is finally packing a Retina display, just like the rest of Apple's MacBook line. It's got the same resolution as the 13-inch MacBook Pro's display, but while the Pro's screen supports P3 wide color gamut and 500 nits of brightness, the Air's does not.

Processor performance and GPU

Moving onto performance, the new MacBook Air is packing Intel's recently-released Core i5-8210Y processor, with clock speeds similar to Apple's $1299 13-inch MacBook Pro's i5 processor. It has a thermal envelope of 7 watts of power, less than half the Pro's 15 watts. The new processor is more efficient, and at the same time won't draw as much power when needed.

Apple VP of hardware engineering Laura Lagrove introduces MacBook Air.
Apple VP of hardware engineering Laura Lagrove introduces MacBook Air.


The new MacBook Air has integrated graphics that is slightly faster than the 12-inch MacBook's graphics, but the 13-inch MacBook Pro's graphical performance is over 50% faster than the MacBook Air. Considering that you can get a 13-inch MacBook Pro for just $50 more at assorted vendors, it's hard to justify buying the MacBook Air if you're thinking in terms of GPU performance.

Even so, people don't generally buy the MacBook Air for the best possible performance from a Mac. They buy it because it's the cheapest way to get an Apple laptop, one that's thin, light, has great battery life, and lots of ports.

Pricing

The issue here is that the price just went up by $200, making it only slightly cheaper than a MacBook Pro. Not only that, but the port selection that everyone loved are now gone and replaced with two Thunderbolt 3 ports that require adapters for legacy devices.

2018 MacBook Air


With the price point so close to the 13-inch MacBook Pro, it's a toss-up whether to choose the new MacBook Air or the MacBook Pro with Function Keys. The MacBook air is overall thinner and lighter, it has Touch ID, the T2 chip, and new keyboard technology, but the MacBook Pro has it beat in performance.

For a lot of people, they just need a reliable Apple laptop that can surf the web and occasionally do a little bit more. If that's you, then you'll love the new MacBook Air, apart from needing adapters for the USB-C ports.

Where to buy

The new MacBook Air can be preordered from Apple authorized reseller Adorama with no tax collected on orders shipped outside New York and New Jersey. Prices start at $1,199.00 with free shipping for the new models.

Prefer the 13-inch MacBook Pro with function keys? Shoppers can save $50 to $100 on the Pro models with prices starting at $1,199.00 as well. A full list of discounts can be found in our 13-inch MacBook Pro Price Guide.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated MacBook Air is a fan-less design.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 30
    Yes  and it fits original manilla envelope again as used by Jobs. At last. 13 inch with large bezels did not and we are not looking into taking large envelopes and pretend it is good size. It has to be smaller than regular laptops.
  • Reply 2 of 30
    entropysentropys Posts: 1,850member
    I was originally very happy with the MBA announcement. My daughters’ MBAs are old and due for replacement at Christmas.
    Would have preferred a “U” processor so the MBA better competes with an XPS or Spectre. It Sure doesn’t compete on price reasons once you spec up the MBA to match, say the spectre ( in fact the price difference is Atlantic Ocean sized to put the same amount of storage in). But then of course, if you put the ‘U’ chip in you would need a fan and it might no longer match the XPS and Spectre on battery life. Also, who would buy the function key MBP if the MBA had a competitive chip?

    Apple seems to be getting the future on iPads, yet without giving it the functionality of laptops, and that goal seems to be reflected in problematic laptop strategies. 
    edited October 2018 1983mocseg
  • Reply 3 of 30
    T2 is just their name for the old SMC, not a big deal at all.
  • Reply 4 of 30
    anomeanome Posts: 1,297member

    It's sad to say that in a presentation that was full of win, the Macbook Air was the least exciting of the announcements.

    Sad, because it's really unfair on the actual device. The new Macbook Air looks lovely, and seems like it's a perfectly good machine (time will tell with the Y series processors, that some commentators don't seem to be too fond of). I think it's a fine successor to the old Macbook Air, it's just compared to the Mac mini, and the iPad Pro updates, it comes out kind of "meh".

    I like that it has two TB3 ports, and TouchID (although, why not FaceID? Probably cost of adding the TrueDepth sensor.) and everyone's been after a Retina display for ages. It looks really good, and now matches the aesthetic of the other Macbooks. As far as I can tell at this stage, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. (I know someone's going to complain about not having some ancient port that they can't live without, but we've had that argument over everything.) It's just that it was the third most interesting announcement in a batch of three.

    It's position as the first announcement wasn't an accident, either. I suspect Apple felt the same way, and wanted to show it off before moving on to the big news. Not to say they aren't proud of it, or were hoping to bury it, just that they knew more people would be excited by the mini, and the iPad.

    Maybe there are people more excited about it than the Mac mini, in which case go for it. It might just be my perspective - I'm not looking for a Macbook just now, but I've been waiting for a Mac mini.

    lolliver
  • Reply 5 of 30
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 2,011member
    I rather have a 2018 13" function keys Macbook Pro of spec similar it's touchbar(useless!!) Macbook Pro. Thank God Apple didn't innovate and put touchbar in the new Macook Air but it will always be underpowered comapred to Macbook Pro. Apple, give us Function keys Macbook Pro and bit lower price due to no touchbar.
    1983
  • Reply 6 of 30
    saareksaarek Posts: 1,144member
    wood1208 said:
    I rather have a 2018 13" function keys Macbook Pro of spec similar it's touchbar(useless!!) Macbook Pro. Thank God Apple didn't innovate and put touchbar in the new Macook Air but it will always be underpowered comapred to Macbook Pro. Apple, give us Function keys Macbook Pro and bit lower price due to no touchbar.
    The main problem with the touch bar, apart from the most unwelcome price increase, is that it is not a standard across the line. They either need to kill it or roll it out to every computer that they sell.

    I also feel that a bit of haptic feedback would be a welcome addition as would the option to lock it down to the old F Key layout as a standard, none of that set it in every app nonsense.
  • Reply 7 of 30
    T2 is just their name for the old SMC, not a big deal at all.
    Let's see, the T2 chip does replace the SMC chip.

    • It also adds the secure enclave that makes TouchID possible.
    • It also adds better audio processing that makes "Hey Siri" possible.
    • It also adds on-the-fly processor-independent encryption to the Flash so your data is protected from someone harvesting the chips off the motherboard. That encryption isn't defeatable, btw. FileVault only controls mounting of the drive with a password on Macs with the T2.
    • It also adds video processing that allows the cheap-ass camera to not look so horrible.
    • It also adds secure booting, preventing someone from booting your computer from a USB key and harvesting your data THAT way.
    • It also adds a hardware disconnect for the microphone when the lid is closed.

    So, yeah, it's the same old SMC chip. But not really.
    edited October 2018 StrangeDaysanomeMisterKitchia1983MacPro
  • Reply 8 of 30
    tipootipoo Posts: 1,058member
    Right in the graphic above where the article says it's fanless, there's a clear fan in the graphic ;) 

    Apple VP of hardware engineering Laura Lagrove introduces MacBook Air
    edited October 2018
  • Reply 9 of 30
    tipoo said:
    Right in the graphic above where the article says it's fanless, there's a clear fan in the graphic ;) 

    Apple VP of hardware engineering Laura Lagrove introduces MacBook Air
    So clear I don’t even see it. Can you circle the fan, please?
  • Reply 10 of 30
    tipootipoo Posts: 1,058member
    tipoo said:
    Right in the graphic above where the article says it's fanless, there's a clear fan in the graphic ;) 

    Apple VP of hardware engineering Laura Lagrove introduces MacBook Air
    So clear I don’t even see it. Can you circle the fan, please?


    Go to 1:54 here and it's brighter as it flys in. Upper left corner. 






    It's that metal disk like this one 

    Image result for macbook pro teardown



    Edit: Here, for the lazy 

    edited October 2018 thtanantksundaram
  • Reply 11 of 30
    anomeanome Posts: 1,297member
    saarek said:
    wood1208 said:
    I rather have a 2018 13" function keys Macbook Pro of spec similar it's touchbar(useless!!) Macbook Pro. Thank God Apple didn't innovate and put touchbar in the new Macook Air but it will always be underpowered comapred to Macbook Pro. Apple, give us Function keys Macbook Pro and bit lower price due to no touchbar.
    The main problem with the touch bar, apart from the most unwelcome price increase, is that it is not a standard across the line. They either need to kill it or roll it out to every computer that they sell.

    I also feel that a bit of haptic feedback would be a welcome addition as would the option to lock it down to the old F Key layout as a standard, none of that set it in every app nonsense.
    I'm coming round to the idea that the TouchBar may get killed off, but only when the next phase is ready. Whether that's dynamic key assignments, or an OLED display built into the trackpad, or something else I don't know. It's definitely the first stage of something, just not sure what at this point. Maybe it will end up going nowhere, but I really think there's something else they're working on (such as the virtual keyboard I've speculated about in the past) which will build on what they've done with the TouchBar. Certainly the T Series chips are going to be an increasingly important part of future Macs. A key problem with the TouchBar at present is that it's not on everything, but the T series are getting there.
  • Reply 12 of 30
    tipoo said:
    tipoo said:
    Right in the graphic above where the article says it's fanless, there's a clear fan in the graphic ;) 

    Apple VP of hardware engineering Laura Lagrove introduces MacBook Air
    So clear I don’t even see it. Can you circle the fan, please?


    Edit: Here, for the lazy 

    Lazy FTW. Interesting. guess they got it wrong.
  • Reply 13 of 30
    entropysentropys Posts: 1,850member
    So if there is a fan, why downgrade th MBA  to a lower powered “Y” series Chip? The integrated 617 GPU seems lower performance than the 620 integrated GPU in the “U” chipped ultrabook products the MBA would be compared with (eg base XPS and Spectre).
    edited October 2018
  • Reply 14 of 30
    thttht Posts: 3,249member
    tipoo said:


    Hmm... strange. The image is looking at bottom or back of the case (keyboard would be behind the image), so that big ribbon cable goes to the audio port? There’s likely an analog to digital chip on that little board on the left, but uh, it doesn’t require that much board space.

    Wonder if it has a heat pipe and heat sink in there, just not illustrated in this graphic. We will know soon enough.

    Still wondering why the MBP13FN wasn’t just retired, or the MB12 either retired or an 128 GB, Kaby Lake Y SKU at $1000 available. Either the Amber Lake SKUs Apple wants isn’t available or Apple is waiting until after the holidays to minimally retired the MBP13FN. There’s no reason to keep it around as this new MBA looks like it can run a 15 W chip just fine with a fan already in the 2018 MBA.
  • Reply 15 of 30
    entropys said:
    So if there is a fan, why downgrade th MBA  to a lower powered “Y” series Chip? The integrated 617 GPU seems lower performance than the 620 integrated GPU in the “U” chipped ultrabook products the MBA would be compared with (eg base XPS and Spectre).
    So Apple can save a few $$$ and improve their margins.
  • Reply 16 of 30
    tipootipoo Posts: 1,058member
    tht said:
    tipoo said:


    Hmm... strange. The image is looking at bottom or back of the case (keyboard would be behind the image), so that big ribbon cable goes to the audio port? There’s likely an analog to digital chip on that little board on the left, but uh, it doesn’t require that much board space.

    Wonder if it has a heat pipe and heat sink in there, just not illustrated in this graphic. We will know soon enough.

    Still wondering why the MBP13FN wasn’t just retired, or the MB12 either retired or an 128 GB, Kaby Lake Y SKU at $1000 available. Either the Amber Lake SKUs Apple wants isn’t available or Apple is waiting until after the holidays to minimally retired the MBP13FN. There’s no reason to keep it around as this new MBA looks like it can run a 15 W chip just fine with a fan already in the 2018 MBA.


    Yeah, it's further towards the back if you compare with my other image of the Pro, I wonder if it's doing the Matebook X Pro thing where the processor is mostly passively cooled by the chassis contact, but there's a system fan not blowing directly through fins in case the passive cooling reaches its limits. 

    As for the non-touchbar Pro, if it gets an update with T2 and Butterfly 3 soon, that'll still be more appealing to me than the Air, with the P3 and 500 nits and Iris Plus. Only problem is Intel didn't pair a 15 watt chip with Iris Plus this round, but if it loses that for four cores, I'd also be good with that. In fact that would make the Air the awkward one.

    But it's the 12" that looks like a particularly raw deal right now, unless someone is really hurting for 0.75 pounds and will pay extra for less functionality for it.  
    Image result for matebook x pro teardown
    edited October 2018
  • Reply 17 of 30
    It seems that this new MacBook Air has the same shallow keyboard as the rest of the current MacBooks. That’s so sad! I noticed that nearly every reviewer on YouTube was either lukewarm or negative about this keyboard, saying things like ‘it won’t be to everyone’s taste’ or ‘it will take some getting used to’ and ‘it’s OK but not as satisfying to type on as the previous generation MacBook Air’. 

    I know that many people like the new butterfly keyboards, but I suspect that few people really love them, like the older keyboards. It perplexes me that Apple stubbornly pursues this path of shallow keyboards when they detract from the user experience. Perhaps they are hoping that, over time, their customers will forget just how good the older keyboards were. Amnesia marketing. 
    1983
  • Reply 18 of 30
    T2 is just their name for the old SMC, not a big deal at all.
    What?

    Get enlightened:

    https://www.apple.com/mac/docs/Apple_T2_Security_Chip_Overview.pdf
  • Reply 19 of 30
    entropys said:
    So if there is a fan, why downgrade th MBA  to a lower powered “Y” series Chip? The integrated 617 GPU seems lower performance than the 620 integrated GPU in the “U” chipped ultrabook products the MBA would be compared with (eg base XPS and Spectre).
    The 640 GPU in the nTB 13” MBP differ only by its 64 MB of eDRAM from the 617 GPU, all other specs are identical.

    7 W TDP vs. 15 W TDP of the 7th generation. Benchmarks will reveal whether that generation difference may be easily ignored or not. The fan is not a miraculous solution, if it is a solution at all. The whole architecture matters. I believe Apple has sound technical reasons to choose a Y series chip.

    Besides, pushing a tightly integrated laptop such as MBP or MBA to its thermal limits is not the best kind of ownership. Would you? I don’t think so.
    edited October 2018 chia
  • Reply 20 of 30
    entropysentropys Posts: 1,850member
    we will just have to see when the benchmarks come out, both against the old MBA, and against competitor dark side products like the spectre and XPS.  If they are in the ball park of those, sure, I would take a minor hit for lower power budget, but if there is a big difference, it makes it hard to justify a price premium over those admittedly good ultrabooks.
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