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The new Apple MacBook Air: Hands-on

Sarah Tew / CNETIt's called MacBook Air but it's just an Air in name. This new version of the popular…

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Sarah Tew / CNET

It’s called MacBook Air but it’s just an Air in name. This new version of the popular laptop might as well be called the MacBook Pro Lite, because it’s essentially what it is.

The long, tapered air design with its thick screens, small keyboards, deep keys and several types of ports is gone, replaced by the familiar MacBook’s design after 201

6 ($ 1,279 on Amazon Marketplace) and MacBook Pro . If anything, the new air looks like a half-step between the 12-inch MacBook and the 13-inch MacBook Pro, rather than a development of the classic Air.  029-macbook-air-2018-nyc "data-original =" https://cnet3.cbsistatic.com/img/v5_TNIi9E_RsySPbVWkUMsLFq0g=/724x0/2018/10/30/40cd713a-980a-411d-9f4b-1e1a1ad13f59 /029-macbook-air-2018-nyc.jpg

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The new MacBook Air comes in space gray, silver and gold.


Sarah Tew / CNET

It was difficult to distinguish the new Air from Apple’s second laptops at first glance, as demonstrated during a hands-on demo session after October 30th of October . (An Apple rep misidentified a nearby new Air as Pro to us.) Picking up the new air felt immediately brighter and less than the current air, which – has had the same basic design since 2010 – many of us are intimately familiar with.

You get more screen and less body, thanks to a screen that slices the thick frame border by half and puts edge-to-edge glass over it. Now the air display looks like it on MacBook Pro, with the same True Tone color shift and wider color range.

At 2.7 kg (1.25 kg) and about 15 mm thick, its size and weight is actually very middle of the way when it comes to 13-inch laptops. The thinnest systems fall below 10 mm, but at the expense of battery, functions and processing power. If you want super thin and light, go up to the above-mentioned 12-inch MacBook for just $ 100 more – but know that you will lose great features and power.

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While size and weight are not very unusual compared to other laptops in this price range, the new MacBook Air feels significantly more solid than most of its competitors. Like the current Pro and 12-inch MacBook, the new air still feels as tough as a tank, with its one aluminum structure (now 100 percent recycled aluminum according to Apple). This is one of the reasons why MacBooks, both Air and Pro, has managed to charge premium prices for so long – because you make an investment in a product that will hopefully be for several years, as has often been the case with traditional MacBook Air.

It’s about the keyboard

As the only MacBook with a traditional Eastern Keyboard keyboard, MacBook Air was a haven for those who did not like the superlative butterfly mechanism keyboard in newer MacBooks. Now the new air is in the same camp as the other models.

Some may regret the loss of the older style of the keyboard. Personally, I have never found the remote keyboard as difficult as others, and I’ve really dealt with harder keyboard in more expensive products. (I acknowledge that this may be a minority ruling .)

It takes a period of adaptation to get used to the subtle tactile feedback, but once you get used to it, it’s good for even long form writes. But yes, you must never grow to love it.

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Sarah Tew / CNET

But the positive deviation is that the new air also contains a much larger touch pad. It is the same Force Touch style as on any other MacBooks, which means it does not have a dive pad hinge on the back, and instead uses four corner sensors to record clicks. The larger surface is genuinely more important than the mechanics behind it.

Will diehards take this change hard? Maybe, but the old keyboard was never as good as you remember, and the larger touchpad is a great addition.

Ports of conversation

If the keyboard changes bother you, the port’s situation will not get much better. MacBook Air not only complies with other laptops from Apple, but also many of the notebook laptops in the last two years, just USB-C. This means that any of your USB-A peripherals need a dreaded dongle.

It has got two USB-C ports, instead of the only 12-inch MacBook, so you can do more than one thing at a time, like connecting a peripheral and power cord . And these are Thunderbolt 3-enabled USB C ports, covering the full range of high-end data: high-speed data transfer, for example, or output to 4K and 5K screens. External GPU boxes ( eGPUs ) are also supported, but I have not yet tried one with the new Air. (These tests will soon follow.)

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<img src = “https://cnet3.cbsistatic.com/img/c5R9Hdn1YG7l3Z-OAWMPhz6ulXs=/724×0/ 2018/10/30 / 4f658af2-b7c0-432f-8385-7b82c8ebb0a2 / 016-macbook-air-2018-nyc.jpg “class =” http://www.cnet.com/ “alt =” 016-macbook-air -2018-nyc [19659024] Sarah Tew / CNET

But back to the power cable problem: The late, large MagSafe connector is gone, so one of the two USB-C ports will often be used for power. While it’s good to see Apple with USB-C ports that are common to the industry, you can invest in third-party USB-C power supplies (PD) – it still means you can be back to a single open port.

13-inch MacBook Pro has the same pair of Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports, but lacks the Touch ID fingerprint reader available here. The fingerprint reader is truly the best part of the Touch Bar experience, and it’s a great addition to MacBook Air. I was unable to register my own fingerprints and try it, but based on my use of the fingerprint reader in MacBook Pro (powered by the same T2 Security Chip ), it’s a system. It works fast and reliable.

Still the ultimate student laptop?

An area where the new MacBook Air can lose some ground is by default student laptop on many college campuses (and standard working laptop at many companies). Although this is a much better laptop in almost every respect, it loses a big advantage that the previous MacBook Air had – its price.

At $ 999 in the United States, MacBook Air was an affordable luxury for many students, artists, writers and all who wanted a premium experience at a lower price than what was high. The new air starts at $ 1,199 ($ ​​1,199, $ 1,849), which is a jump of 20 percent, although both old and new entry models have 8GB of RAM and 128GB of solid state storage. It puts it just under premium laptops like MacBook 1.299, which lacks a second USB C port and fingerprint reader, and the $ 1,299 13-inch MacBook Pro that lacks fingerprint reader.

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Sarah Tew / CNET

The overall design and usability, and the 5th generation of Intel’s 8th generation processors, make this much more than $ 200 better than the old MacBook Air. But it’s also about being so much more of a stretch for many owners.

Fortunately, the old-school Air is still available at least for now, just like the old 13-inch MacBook Pro was for more than a year after the latest design debuted in 2016. If you’re stuck In your need of USB-A or HDMI ports, or a keyboard in the eastern style, pick up a thing now, as no-one knows how long it will go. But note that it’s hard to recommend the classic model right now based on the last few years of concern we’ve had about the low-res screen, thick bezel and outdated CPU.

We hope to be able to test and review the new MacBook Air soon, so stay up to date for our comparisons and full review.

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