MacBook Air 2018 Review: a great computer for on the go

When Apple announced the MacBook Air at the last event, many Air users’ excitement was quelled by the price and the storage space.  All that seemed to change after the first reviewers got their hands on it.  

This was the MacBook Air; updated with modern Apple laptop technology and designs for the starting price of $1199.  While the specs are still one of the most talked about issues, my time with the Air teaches me not to judge a (mac)book by its numbers – sorry I had to.  

To complicate things, Apple announced the iPad Pro at the same time.  The iPad has more modern advances (FaceID and an Apple processor) for a cheaper price.  I bought both devices and have been using them both for a week.  You can read my latest entry here.

Space Gray MacBook Air 2018
Space Gray MacBook Air

So after using the MacBook Air for a week, what did I think about it?

The Redesigned MacBook Air

Apple’s redesign of the MacBook Air brought in a little of the old with a bit of the new.  If you see this laptop out in public, you’ll know that it is a MacBook Air without having to check to compare.  

It still has that wedge design and the four little feet on the bottom that are classic MacBook Air design.  You would be hard pressed to even tell what was different if you didn’t have the older version right next to the new one.

If you did though, you could see how Apple has changed the device.  It has managed to shrink an already slim computer.  The Air is not as wide or as long as the previous version.  

The laptop isn’t any thinner than the previous model, but it isn’t as thicker either. This helps trim the volume of the actual device.  The older model went from .68 inches to .11 inches thick, while the new model runs .61 to .16 inches.

By trimming all this volume, Apple was able to help the Air Go on a diet.  It changed from 2.96lbs to 2.75lbs.

Apple also added two new colors: Space Grey and Gold.

As far as the redesign goes, the only thing compromised is the glowing Apple logo on the back of the machine that lights up when in use.  It is replaced with a standard logo like all other devices.  While it was nice to see, you ever notice the light while using the computer.

Portability

All this shrinking and slimming adds up to a device that is very portable.  It’s not as portable or small as the 12 inch MacBook or iPad, but as far as laptops go, it is pretty nice.

iPad vs Air in my bag
The iPad and Air in my bag

I mentioned in my diary entry that I’ve been hauling around the Air and the iPad Pro in my backpack.  Both the devices together don’t feel very heavy in the bag.  

When I first opened the box and held the device, it felt heavier than I was expecting.  Years ago, I had an 11-inch MacBook Air, I currently have a 2013 MacBook Pro with Retina, and most of my mobile computing these days had been done on my 9.7 inch Pad Pro.  

So when I held the Air, I was expecting something that was going to fall somewhere in the middle of those device.  But reallyis falls closer to the MacBookPro. It was my expectations that set me up here.

After traveling with it and taking it to work though, I think the device really does travel well.  It doesn’t take up much space and it isn’t that heavy to carry around.

If you need a laptop that you take with you, this one makes a great travel companion.

Screen

For years, while the Air languished unchanged, people pleaded with Apple to just upgrade the screen.  Make it a Retina display and leave the rest alone, and we’ll be happy.

So Apple updated the screen.  

Like all modern Apple devices, the MacBook Air now boasts a Retina display.  Everything looks better on the display than the previous one.  The resolution makes it look nicer and it makes colors really pop off the screen.

This display doesn’t run the higher color grade that the iMacs, MacBook Pros with touchbar, iPhones, or iPad Pros have.  If you are looking for the top of the line device to edit photos and video and you need that high color density then you should look at one of those other devices.  However, the screen on this machine is still good enough for everything else.  You can still edit photos and video on this machine.

One of the benefits of slimming the machine was that the bezels around the screen got to slim down as well.  Now, the Air has slim black bezels that go around the screen.  It looks much nicer than the old Air with the giant silver bezels and even better than my MacBook Pro’s bezels as well.

Comparison between MacBooks
MacBook Pro 2013 and MacBook Air 2018

Specs

The biggest issue I had when the computer was announced was the CPU in the machine.  I felt that the cost for such a slow processor could be a mistake.

I should remember that specs don’t really mean anything.  

While the number is low, this machine was speedier and smoother than my current MacBook Pro.  Things zipped along and the screen refreshed faster and smoother than I expected.

There are plenty of videos and testimonials out there with people using the MacBook Air to edit videos.  The Air isn’t as speedy as the MacBook Pros, but it’s not supposed to be.  

The only real issues I ran into when using this computer and its speed came from Photos, and I’m not entirely sure it was the processors fault.  Photos on the machine, especially at first while it indexed everything, was slow and clunky.  

It eventually sped up, but it was still the slowest thing I used on the system.  I didn’t edit any video on it though.  I didn’t really push the system in any way other than setting it up.

But that was purposeful.  This machine will be fine for the majority of people that want a laptop.  You can surf, type, and edit photos with ease.  Zipping around the operating system is fast and fluid.  

This machine does have a better chip than the smaller MacBook and it requires a fan when things start to really pick up.  You might hear it spin up under a heavy load, but it’s not loud.

If you are looking for a device for rendering or intensive tasks, you need to check out the MacBook Pros, but I don’t think most people will need that much power.

I am curious about when we will see an Apple designed chip in a system like the Air though.  Apple’s chips in the latest phones and iPads fly and have great battery life, all without a fan.  There are too many gains for Apple and not enough cons, despite what I said a few weeks ago.

Keyboard and trackpad

It took me a little while to adjust to the newer trackpad on the machine, but once I did I really liked it.  Pro tip (which took me a while to remember since I hadn’t set up a Mac in a while): change the speed of the trackpad in settings to make it fit you better.  

The surface of the trackpad was sticky at first.  There wasn’t anything on it, but my finger would get caught as I tried to run it through it. I think it was a pressure issue, because once I used it for a while, I started to get used to it.  

The haptic clicks and ability to click anywhere on the trackpad is nice.  I did struggle with clicking and dragging things though.  I would much prefer a mouse or touchscreen for that.

The Keyboard was fine as well.  It does have the newer keys, so if you haven’t liked the swallow key travel, this wont change you mind.  Still, I adapted to it fairly quickly.  

trackpad to MacBook Air
MacBook Air trackpad

The one thing I didn’t like about it was how loud it was.  When I really got into the flow of writing, it sounded like I was so angry.  

Also, the verdict is still out on the reliability of the keyboard on this new version 3.  I never expereinced stuck or ineffective keys, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.  I think Apple has done a lot to improve this keyboards though.  

TouchID

The one thing that Apple added that really is a blessing is TouchID.  You just press your finger to the TouchID/power button and your computer authorizes whatever you were trying.  

It’s a great implementation of it, but I never really used it often.  

MacBook Air TouchID
The new TouchID

If you have an Apple Watch, you can set your Mac and Watch up to automatically log you in, bypassing TouchID.  

I have to wonder when the Mac will get FaceID as well.  It’s weird to me that the Air is only the second computer to get TouchID while the iPhone and iPad are moving on to a future technology.  

I know that people love TouchID, and I’m glad you have it.  I love FaceID because it breaks my workflow less.  The FaceID system on the iPad Pro is amazing.  I never have to have my hands leave what I’m doing to get things authorized.  

Bottom-line

I’m not going to say anything new or groundbreaking here.  

The MacBook Air is a great laptop.  

If you want a machine that travels well and can get some work done, I would say get this machine, if you can afford it.  

If you are someone that encodes lots of videos or audio, you might be better off looking at one of the Pro machines instead.  However, you can use the Air to do that as well, it just takes longer.

If you are someone that won’t need to push the system as hard as you can, or if you just need it for travel to get easy work done, if you can afford it, this is a great system.  

I imagine students still loving this machine.

I wish that Apple had managed to get the price lower for this machine.  If it started at $999 and let you upgrade the storage for the current price, I think this would be an immediate buy.  ` 

At this price though, I think you’ll have to judge if you want this, or something like the iPad Pro.  

Wrap Up

Sadly, I’m going to be taking the Air back.  I can’t justify the cost of upgrading my iPad and MacBook, and the Air doesn’t do enough better for me to spend the money.

I’d rather wait on the iMac update.

What did you think of the MacBook Air?  Did you buy one?  Do you want one?  What’s holding you back?

Hit me up on Twitter or Facebook and let me know what you think.

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