MacBook Air (2018) full analysis
We could consider the original MacBook Air as a clear example of an Apple-ideological product. Controversial in its release, ahead of its time, devised with firm purposes and far from the usual, but that in the end ends up being one of the references of its category. However, the most interesting MacBook Air stories are undoubtedly that of its users.
I’ll start with mine. I bought my MacBook Air in 2011, when the market and product had reached a degree of maturity aligned between the two worlds. The original model stirred up many consciousnesses by achieving an extreme degree of thinness in a laptop completely redesigning the interior and practically being built to measure. The battery was not interchangeable, it had only one USB port and any trace of DVD drive had disappeared. You probably won’t remember all that anymore, but many were screaming in the sky, because traditional laptops – apparently – had to be «something else.»
When I got that Mac, coming from a MacBook Pro, I found it ridiculously thin and comfortable. I was worried about the size of the screen, as the MacBook Pro where it came from was 15″, and my new computer was 13″. I immediately got used to those dimensions and within a few days I was surprised by the speed of the hard drive that extended to the rest of the operating system – the daily work was very comfortable – and the battery that practically lasted all day. I have to admit that I bought the external Super Drive, the DVD drive that was connected by USB, although I finally used it a couple of times.
MacBook Air’s personal stories have made this model very popular with users
That was the best Mac I’d ever had. Over the years I’ve also heard many stories from these years that talk about MacBook Air with another of the hallmarks of Apple products: with closeness and passion. Everyone seemed delighted with a product that captivated people over several generations – where it was noticeable how Apple was using the experience it gained on iOS devices at the level of miniaturization and efficiency in products like The Air. Steve Jobs sent us on the day of his presentation a message to the future: «Someday, all computers will be like this.»
So when the keynote started and we saw the first images on the screen of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, there were real cries of joy among the attendees. The MacBook Air had returned, making its way into a completely different world than the one it met ten years later. I smiled, like the one who meets an old friend.
The soul of MacBook Air is still here
The design for this new generation respects in an almost ceremonial way one of the most characteristic features of the original model: the wedge shape that begins in the hinge part and ends in the opening area of the lid. This same design and the same angle is still there, and it still makes the difference between what macbook and MacBook Pro offers. In fact, it’s almost a middle ground in the design that fits a lot between the two models: it’s not the thinness at all points of the MacBook, but neither is the square design of the Pro’s Unibody body.
The keyboard has been updated to the new generation that already has the rest of the family and that we already talked about in the analysis of the MacBook Pro: a softer impact keyboard thanks to the silicone membrane that also protects it from dust and very comfortable to update. The trackpad also updates to the sheer size Apple has gotten us used to since the 2016 MacBook Pro, which features Force Touch and different pressure sensitivities to interact with macOS.
The input ports are two Thunderbolt 3 swithing with USB-C interface, capable of managing both up to 40 Gb/s of bandwidth and allowing you to connect external accessories or charge the laptop from either. This small laptop allows with this update to connect an external monitor to 5120×2880 or two external monitors at 4096×2304 each, in all cases running up to 60 Hz. We will also find on the opposite side a conventional headphone port, which resists as a brave over the years.
The thickness at its largest end is only 1.56 cm, and has a weight of only 1.25, slightly less than the macBook Air of the previous generation. It has much less wingspan because it has reduced the screen frames and keyboard outline (although the keyboard has not been reduced in size, of course). On a day-to-day basis, the transport of the device is comfortable and practical, really in many ways at the size level is like carrying almost a tablet more than a computer.
The Retina display was another big change that everyone expected to arrive at MacBook Air one day. The Retina display was another big change that everyone expected to arrive at MacBook Air one day. It was even rumored that pre-generation models could be updated only by the screen, one of the points where users most called for change. It was even rumored that pre-generation models could be updated only by the screen, one of the points where users most called for change. Apple has waited for the complete renewal of the product in this generation to offer us a traditional Retina 13.3″ LED display with IPS technology and a native resolution at 2560×1600 (227 pixels per inch density), with the quality we already know of other Apple has waited for the complete renewal of the product in this generation to offer us a traditional Retina 13.3″ LED display with IPS technology and a native resolution at 2560×1600 (227 pixels per inch density), with the quality we already know of other Ranges.Ranges.
One of the points I value most when working with a mobility screen is viewing angles and color fidelity. This Retina display behaves perfectly in airports, train stations, brightly lit offices or in dimly lit rooms – even if we work with the laptop at a high table or on our knees. Perhaps the only thing I don’t like about the screen is the FaceTime HD camera, which is still at 720p and in my opinion, it is insufficient for a video conferencing at least FullHD in a world where fiber optic connections are the order of the day.
A 100% recycled design for the first time on a Mac
Of course when we talk about that Dna Apple brand, with this feature becomes more evident than ever. Few brands advertise that their laptop has been created in a special aluminum alloy, without extracting a single gram from the earth. The company has developed a process by which it converts these materials to 6000 series aluminum alloy, sturdy and moldable, perfect for molding the unibody body of the MacBook Air.
In contact with the laptop, there is no appreciable difference from the rest of the range: neither in touch, nor in weight, nor in resistance, so it seems that this process in addition to being environmentally friendly, also maintains the quality line of material it’s from previous generations.
Touch ID is here, but the important thing is the T2 chip
Using Touch ID for biometric credential validation of certain aspects of the operating system, passwords, and purchasing is an important step in gaining convenience, speed of use, and security. However, the real advantage of bringing this to your Mac is not this functionality in itself, but the chip that makes it possible.
The T2 chip is without a doubt one of the most important points of this new generation of MacBook Air. It’s also taken care of by MacBook Pro, and it handles key aspects that previously had to be managed by the CPU or directly, not checked at the security level. This chip is where the Secure Enclave is located, the safe place where our biometric data is stored (which I remind you that Apple does not send or store out of the device anywhere).
-The incredible T2 chip is an improvement in security, image and sound management beyond the CPU-
However, this «small» ingenuity is also responsible for encrypting real-time data, so all information stored on the SSD is encrypted using a secure cryptographic key – but it is not the CPU that is responsible for doing this operation on every record or access so, it’s the T2 chip. This frees the primary processor from calculations and speeds up access to hard drive data.
Another of the most important user changes that a MacBook Air with T2 chip has is the Secure Boot. This chip stores a cryptographic signature of each boot item on your computer and prevents any operating system that is not properly signed or has modified any boot sector from working. This prevents malware or modified operating systems with backdoors from being used on a Mac… and on a Windows, as it also includes Microsoft certified signature to make use of Secure Boot. If you want to use Linux, there will be no problem installing it on your Mac, but Secure Boot won’t protect it as at the moment, no signature is available.
However, the advantages of this little wonder do not end here: this T2 improves over the T1 the inclusion of a digital image processor and audio controller. Thanks to the new image processor, image capture is improved with FaceTime HD camera, white control, exposure in skin tones… The audio driver improves how the Mac receives and processes sound from the – by the way – three microphones that surround the entire device. It is this chip that decides when to turn the microphone off or on and improve voice detection between louder patterns.
This has seemed especially useful with the «Hey, Siri», but also to record audio for example directly on the computer without headphones or for conferences (in my tests, I was pleasantly surprised by this last point). All these tasks are released to the CPU, so daily performance improves and with the T2, it is much more secure as well.
At the processor level, we only have one configuration available, the Intel Core i5 to 1.6Ghz octave generation, which we cannot update under any circumstances. The company has chosen this processor for its energy performance and power-to-consumption ratio, which also fits with the design philosophy of this new MacBook Air when seeking maximum efficiency. Performance can be explored in my tests with Geekbench.
This i5 is based on the Coffee Lake micro architecture, the latest generation of this family launched by Intel. Achieve a 30% improvement over Kaby Lake on paper. The raw performance as you see in the table is discrete in part also that we have two cores, not four, although it does not limit the use of some video or audio editing tasks. The graph it includes is a UHD Graphics 617, whose performance is quite decent even comparing it with other more powerful alternatives in theory as you can see in this test with Cinebench R15:
Day-to-day power level is perfect for connecting for example an external 5K monitor (I tried it with an LG UltraFine 5K), where the whole system continues to run normally without slowing down slains of any kind. Lightroom, iMovie, Final Cut Pro, are perfectly usable as long as we don’t have 4K streams, where some frames are lost and it’s not comfortable to work. If you want to work with 4K, you should target a MacBook Pro as a more professional option.
However, even for operating system virtualization with VMWare (I tried a version of Windows 10 and the Office 2019 suite) it performs smoothly. Editing podcasts, videos and photos are perfectly viable with this machine, although if you are going to use it for it, I recommend that you raise the RAM to 16Gb.
However, thanks to the optimization of the i5 Coffee Lake, the T2 chip, macOS Mojave and the ultra-fast SSD hard drives, this MacBook Air is 12 hours of battery life, which is appreciated when we take the laptop out of the house or the office. If we use the «native» macOS software (Safari, iTunes) we can still scratch for a few more minutes. The computer’s start-up is 10 seconds, so you’ll always have it set in time and energy when you need it.
MacBook Air is back
This new reinvention of one of the most beloved laptops is positioned as a link between the MacBook and MacBook Pro within the Apple family. As advantages over the MacBook, the Air has better battery, more screen, more power and improvements such as Touch ID or the inclusion of the T2 chip for security and as a parallel improvement to the CPU. MacBook Pro obviously beats power and expansion and expansion options with its four USB-C ports.
-This new MacBook Air is located as an option between MacBook and MacBook Pro: a balance between them with plenty of day-to-day performance designed for portability-
The sum of the macBook Air parts bring us a compact, lightweight laptop, with plenty of power for everyday life and interesting expansion possibilities thanks to the two Thunderbolt 3 ports available. The update on the retina display, the novel recycled manufacturing process devised by Apple and the significant improvement in safety thanks to the T2 chip also differentiate it and present us with a good intermediate machine for anyone who wants more than a MacBook but not they need a MacBook Pro.
Although some option to improve the base configuration (a better processor, for example) is a very good machine for everyday life, wherever our days take us whether it’s outside or inside the house, with the soul of the authentic original MacBook Air – a product well-contained, square and balanced, designed specifically for portability and performance.