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The new Apple MacBook Air: Hands-on


Sarah Tew / CNET

It's called MacBook Air but it's just an Air Name. This new version of the popular laptop can also be called MacBook Pro Lite because it's really what it is.

The long-lasting conical air design with its thick screen inserts, small keyboards, deep keys and multiple types of ports has been replaced by the known MacBook MacBook Designers after 201

6 ] ($ 1,279 at Amazon Marketplace) and MacBook Pro . If anything looks, the new air looks and feels like a half step between the 12-inch MacBook and 13-inch MacBook Pro, instead of a classic Air development.

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

Sarah Tew / CNET

It was difficult to distinguish this new Air from Apple's other laptops at first glance, as it was seen during a hands-on demo session after Apple's Oct. 30-Arrangement . (An Apple rep misidentified a nearby Air as Pro to us.) To pick up the new air, it felt immediately easier and less than the current Air, which – after having the same basic design since 2010 – many of us are intimate familiar with.

You get more screen and less body, thanks to a screen that cuts the thick border with half and adds edge to edge glass over it. Now, the Air Screen looks like it on the MacBook Pro, with the same True Tone color shift and wider color range.

At 2.7 kg (1.25 kg) and approx. 15mm thick, the size and weight is actually very mediocre with regard to 13-inch laptops. The narrowest systems come below 10mm, but at the expense of battery, features and processing power. If you want super thin and light, go up to the mentioned 12-inch MacBook for just $ 100 more – but know that you will lose significant features and power.

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Although size and weight are not particularly uncommon compared to other laptops in this price range, the new MacBook Air feels significantly more solidly designed than most of the competition. Like the current Pro and 12-inch MacBook, the new air feels still as tough as a tank, with its single aluminum construction (now 100 percent recycled aluminum, according to Apple). That's why MacBooks, both Air and Pro, have managed to give premium prices for so long – because you invest in a product that will last for several years, which has often been the case for traditional MacBook Air.

It's about the keyboard

MacBook Air was the only MacBook with a traditional eyepiece keyboard and MacBook Air was a haven for those who did not like the super bright butterfly mechanism keyboards in newer MacBooks. Now the new Air is stuck in the same camp as the other models.

Someone may regret the wallpaper of the older style on the keyboard. Personally, I have never found the butterfly keyboard as troublesome as others, and I have probably worked with more difficult keyboards in more expensive products. (I admit that this may be a minority perspective .)

It takes a period of adjustment to turn to the subtle tactile feedback, but when you get used to it, it's okay for a single long form writing. But yes, you can never grow to love it.

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Sarah Tew / CNET

But the positive decline 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 that it does not have a door-bracket on the backside, and instead uses four corner sensors to record clicks. Larger area is genuinely more important than the mechanics behind it.

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


If the keyboard change interferes with you, the port situation will not get much better. Following not only other portable Apple monitors, but also many of the portable Windows laptops from the last two years, MacBook Air is now just USB-C. That means that any of your USB-A devices will need a feared dongle.

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

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Sarah Tew / CNET

But back to the power cable issue: The central MagSafe connector is gone, so one of the two USB-C ports will often be used for power. While it's great to see Apple using industry-standard USB-C ports for it – you can invest in third party USB-C power (PD) battery packs, for example – it still means you can be back down to a single open port.

13-inch MacBook Pro has a similar pair of Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports, but lacks the Touch ID fingerprint reader found here. The fingerprint reader is truly the best part of the Touch Bar experience, and it's a great addition to MacBook Air. I did not have the ability to register my own fingerprints and try it in action, but based on my fingerprint reader usage in MacBook Pro systems (powered by the same T2 Security ), it's a system that works fast and reliable.

Still the ultimate student?

An area where the new MacBook Air may lose some basis, is by default student library at many colleges (and standard workable at many companies). Although this is a much better laptop in almost all respects, it loses a great advantage 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 anyone who wanted a premium experience at a less than premium price. The new Air starts at $ 1,199 (£ 1,199, AU $ 1,849), which is a 20 percent jump, although both the old and new entry-level models have 8GB of RAM and 128GB of solid state storage. It puts it under premium laptops like MacBook 1.299, which lacks another USB C port and fingerprint reader, and the $ 1,299 13-inch MacBook Pro, which is missing the fingerprint reader.

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Sarah Tew / CNET

The overall design and ease of use, and the jump from fifth-gent Intel processors to eighth genes, certainly make it better than $ 200 better than the old MacBook Air. But it also moves to be 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 was debuted in 2016. If you Is stuck in your need for USB-A or HDMI ports, or an island-style keyboard, choose it now, because nobody knows how long it will last. But keep in mind that it's hard to recommend the classic model right now, based on recent years of concerns we've had about the low-end screen, thick bezel and outdated CPU.

We hope to test and fully review the new MacBook Air soon, so stay updated for our reference results and full review.

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