There are tons of rumors about a new MacBook Pro headed to stores sometime this fall. The laptop is rumored to have OLED keycaps (replacing the function keys), numerous USB-C ports and a thinner, more tapered design that looks a bit more like the MacBook.
But what of the MacBook Air, Appleâs longstanding entry-level notebook? The MacBook Air hasnât had a major upgrade since early 2015 (the RAM was upgraded to 8GB across models in early 2016) and its still sporting the same physical design dating back to 2010.
Last month, there was a rumor of a minor MacBook Air refresh, but that didnât end up panning out.Â Moreover, since the introduction of the MacBook last year â plenty of pundits have predicted that the MacBook Air will probably never get a major refresh again.
Now, this doesnât mean that the MacBook Air is going away. Itâs still a great laptop â and a total workhorse â but if you look at Appleâs product line, the MacBook now occupies the place the MacBook Air once took (the most portable, lightest, thinnest notebook) and the MacBook Pro has become thinner over time in a way that sort of obviates the need for a laptop that is simply âthin.â
Still, given its low starting price of $899, I expect the MacBook Air to continue to be sold.
Apple’s lingering products
Apple has a history of keeping old products for sale for years after they last received hardware updates. In fact, it was just last month that the non-retina unibody MacBook Pro 13-inch finally left store shelves. That product hadnât had a hardware update since midâ2012.
So it stands to reason that as long as the MacBook Air still sells, Apple will continue to offer it. Who knows, maybe the company will even consider lowering the price.
Now, the age of the components (no Skylake for you!) might turn some budget-conscious buyers away, but anyone who has used a 2015 MacBook Air can attest to the fact that it is a very good machine. I frequently use a 2014 MacBook Air and rarely run into performance bottle necks. And I say that as someone whose daily driver tends to be a 15-inch MacBook Pro.
Plus, until the price of the MacBook comes down â the MacBook Air really is a solid entry-level Mac. It doesnât have the retina display of its peers but it’s a good performer with terrific battery life and super-fast SSD storage. Plus it has tons of ports (USB 3.0, Thunderbolt 2, SD card slots).
Do we still need a MacBook Air?
In fact, I said that I expected every laptop in the next five years to resemble the MacBook â the same way the MacBook Air continues to influence laptop designs today.
But given the price point of the MacBook (it starts at $1299) and its single USB-C port, I donât think that product is quite ready to replace the MacBook Air. The MacBook is a great secondary computer for business users â and I think itâs a great choice for many students â but for the money, the MacBook Pro is a better value.
The new MacBook Air is the iPad Pro
Interestingly, the new successor to the MacBook Air might just be the iPad Pro.
After all â that is the device Apple CEO Tim Cook seems to be targeting against the Chromebook. And although a fully-outfitted 12.9-inch iPad Pro with keyboard and Apple Pencil will actually cost more than a MacBook Air, the iPad Pro is an interesting take on the future of computing.
Plenty of apps on the iPad are remarkably full featured and the time when you couldnât do real work on an iPad has long since passed. Plenty of professionals use the iPad Pro as their primary machine.
We still need an entry-level Apple device, and thatâs long been the MacBook Air. But if the MacBook Air isnât going to get a significant update, the iPad Pro might be better for lots of users.
While I fully expect to see a fully-refreshed MacBook Pro this fall, I donât think weâll be seeing a major MacBook Air update again.
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