Hardware

Apple's MacBook Air 2018 update: Cheat sheet

The new MacBook Air features a retina display, Touch ID, and an 8th-gen Intel dual core processor.

The updated MacBook Air is Apple's latest slim notebook laptop, with a retina display and Touch ID, running on macOS Mojave. It includes a number of features that could be useful for business users, including all-day battery life, a T2 security chip, and a weight of only 2.75 lbs.

"The MacBook Air has become the most beloved notebook ever," said Apple CEO Tim Cook during an Apple event in New York City on Oct. 30. "It's time for a new MacBook Air—one that takes the MacBook Air experience even further in the areas that are most important to our customers."

This MacBook Air cheat sheet has the details you need to know to determine whether this laptop is right for you. We'll update the guide periodically as new information about the notebook is available.

SEE: Mobile device computing policy (Tech Pro Research)

What is the MacBook Air?

The updated 2018 MacBook Air is the latest version of Apple's slimmest notebook. "Every part of the product has been redesigned and reengineered," said Laura Lagrove, vice president of hardware engineering at Apple, during the Apple event.

The no. 1 feature customers asked for in a MacBook Air and have received in this version is a retina display, Lagrove said. But along with the retina screen, "we've made the display better in every way," she added. The new MacBook Air has a 13.3-inch screen. It does not include the aluminum bezel of the previous version, with the display glass now coming to the edge of the enclosure. The border is 50% more narrow.

The MacBook Air has 4x the resolution of the previous version, for over 4 million pixels and 48% more color, so images are more lifelike, Lagrove said.

The laptop also includes Touch ID, which users can use to unlock the device, make purchases on Apple Pay, or use with third-party apps. The Touch ID sensor is built into the keyboard in the upper right corner, and its durable sapphire crystal surface covers a T2 security chip. The T2 chip protects the information needed for Touch ID, and ensures that software loaded on the machine isn't tampered with, for the most secure boot process of any notebook, Lagrove said.

The MacBook Air also includes the most secure storage of any notebook, Lagrove said, with a AES-256 crypto engine.

A third-generation keyboard features a butterfly mechanism, and 4x more stable keys over the previous generation. Each key is backlit with an individual LED. The Force Touch trackpad has a 20% larger surface area to extend the functionality of multi-touch gestures. Pressure-sensing capabilities and haptic feedback also make the keyboard quieter and more capable.

The audio system also received an upgrade, as the new MacBook Air has 25% louder stereo speakers, 3x more base, and wide stereo sound, along with a three microphone array.

The notebook has two Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports for connectivity.

This MacBook Air is the most environmentally friendly Mac on the market, Lagrove said: The logic board is made from 100% recycled tin, while the internal components are made from 25% post-consumer recycled plastic. Every MacBook Air is now made from 100% recycled aluminum, reducing its carbon footprint by 50%.

The MacBook Air is available in silver, space gray, and gold.

Additional resources

Who is the target audience for the MacBook Air?

Apple fans and power users are the target audience for the MacBook Air, though it has several features that may interest business professionals as well. Touch ID and the T2 security chip make for a more secure computing experience, and the retina display will be particularly useful for creative work.

The target audience may be a business person or executive who primarily need to access information, as opposed to create content, Ray Wang, principal analyst and founder of Constellation Research, told TechRepublic. The MacBook Air can also serve as an entry point for people who want to use a Mac versus an iPad Pro, according to Wang.

SEE: All of TechRepublic's cheat sheets and smart person's guides

How different is the new MacBook Air from the previous version?

The new MacBook Air represents the first significant overhaul that the MacBook Air has received since it was first introduced as "the world's thinnest notebook" in 2008. Unlike the previous versions, this notebook includes a retina display, Touch ID, and a T2 security chip.

The previous update to the MacBook Air, released in 2017, included 128 GB of storage in the 13-inch version and 256 GB in the 15-inch version (both configurable to 512GB SSD). These machines included 8GB of 1600MHz LPDDR3 onboard memory, up to 12 hours of battery life, and a 720p FaceTime HD camera.

In comparison, the new MacBook Air also includes 128 GB of storage in the 13.3-inch version, but supports up to 1.5TB SSD. Both machines have 12 hours of battery life for web browsing, but the new notebook can get up to 13 hours of battery life for iTunes and playback. As mentioned above, the new MacBook Air also features a larger screen, more pixels, and improved stereo speakers and keyboard.

The new MacBook Air has 17% less volume and is 10% thinner than its predecessor. At 2.75 lbs, it is a quarter pound lighter than the previous version.

That most recent previous model started at $999 for a 13-inch machine, and $1,199 for a 15-inch. The new MacBook Air will start at $1,199 for the 13.3-inch machine.

Additional resources

What is the battery size of the MacBook Air?

The MacBook Air features 12 hours of battery life for wireless web browsing, and 13 hours of battery life for iTunes and playback.

SEE: IT hardware procurement policy (Tech Pro Research)

How much does the MacBook Air cost?

The MacBook Air will cost $1,199 to start.

The current entry-level MacBook Air with 128GB of hard drive capacity starts at $999, while the 2565GB version cost $1,199.

What are the major competitors to the MacBook Air?

The MacBook Air will face competition from a number of more affordable Chromebooks, including the Samsung Chromebook Pro (which starts at $599), the Google Pixelbook (priced around $999), the Acer Chromebook 15 (around $250), and the Asus Chromebook Flip (around $400). Convertibles including the Lenovo Yoga 920 and the HP Spectre x360 13 could also be competitors.

Professional users will also have to decide if they want to go for the MacBook Air or the MacBook Pro laptop, updated in 2018 with 8th-generation Intel processors and improved RAM, storage, and battery. The MacBook Pro starts at $1,799.

SEE: New equipment budget policy (Tech Pro Research)

Where and when can I buy the MacBook Air?

You can order the MacBook Air through the Apple Store starting today, and the laptops will be available in stores on November 7, 2018.

What are the specifications of the MacBook Air?

The MacBook Air features:

  • 8th-gen Intel dual core i5 CPU
  • Supports up to 16 GB of faster memory
  • SSDs up to 1.5 TB in capacity
  • 12 hours of battery for wireless web browsing, 13 hours for iTunes and playback
  • 13.3-inch display, 15.6mm thin, weighs 2.75 lbs
  • 8GB memory
  • 1.6 GHz / 3.6 GHz Core i5 processor
  • 128GB storage
  • Two Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports

Additional resources

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Image: Apple

About Alison DeNisco Rayome

Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.

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