New MacBook Air: Familiar Design, updated specs and a new keyboard

Apple unveiled a refreshed version of its MacBook Air laptop on Wednesday (March 18). The everyday computer got new specs and a new keyboard.

The MacBook Air was Apple’s star, thin and light machine from the moment Steve Jobs brought it out on stage in an envelope. It had a great keyboard, excellent screen for the time and a premium aluminium design. It was the MacBook for everyday tasks. However, Apple seemed to disregard the MacBook Air for a couple of years.  In that time, the competition caught up.

The design got dated, and the screen resolution was soon surpassed by brands like Dell with their XPS line-up. Apple struck back in 2018 with a fresh design to the MacBook Air. It had a better screen, updated specs, a new “butterfly” keyboard design and a higher price tag. But their new keyboard mechanism failed on many MacBooks. However, Apple’s upgrades bring many changes that customers wanted. It seemed Apple listened.

The new keyboard should provide a better typing experience. (Image: Apple)

Firstly, the price is back down to US$999. That’s US$200 less than the previous, redesigned model. So, what do you get for your money?

Well, the specs are improved. Apple’s gone with Intel’s 10th generation Core processors and doubled the base 128GB storage capacity. The US$999 base model MacBook Air comes with a 1.1GHz dual-core Core i3 processor, 8GB RAM, and 256GB storage. Storage goes all the way up to 2TB.

The 13.3-inch Retina display returns on the new MacBook. (Image: Apple)

You can also upgrade to a quad-core processor, a first for the MacBook Air laptops. A quad-core 1.1GHz i5 can be yours for US$100 more. The new processors deliver up to two times more performance. On the graphics front, Apple claims Intel’s Iris Plus Graphics boots performance up to 80 per cent.

If 8GB RAM is not enough, try doubling it to 16GB. More RAM means more memory for more tasks. But It’ll cost an extra US$200.

The dreaded butterfly keyboard is gone and replaced with the Magic Keyboard that debuted on the 16-inch MacBook Pro. The scissor mechanism has 1mm key travel that should feel much better than the dust prone butterfly switches of old. Apple also equipped the new MacBook Air with inverted T-shaped arrow keys. That might seem trivial, but cramped arrow keys always lead to typing errors.

The T2 Security Chip makes another appearance inside the new MacBook Air. It ensures secure booting and encrypts all SSD data. The chip also handles all the Touch ID information so you can use your fingerprint to unlock the Mac as well as avoid typing passwords while online.

Overall, Apple did an excellent job in returning the MacBook Air to its former glory. It’s right back in recommendation territory for those who want a premium laptop for everyday tasks.

Apple’s MacBook Air comes in either Space Grey, Gold, or Silver.

Pre-orders started yesterday (March 19) and the units will begin shipping next week.