Apple updates MacBook Air with Retina display, Touch ID

  • The new MacBook Air.Apple
  • Its design resembles the 12-inch MacBook or new MacBook Pros more than the classic Air design.Apple
  • Apple says it can connect to an external GPU if desired.Apple
  • Apple says the new Air takes up 17% less volume than the past model.Apple

NEW YORK–The wait is over: Apple on Tuesday unveiled a revamped MacBook Air at an event in Brooklyn, New York. The device is available for pre-order today and will begin shipping on November 7. It will start at £1,199, which is a slight jump from the £999 starting price of the older MacBook Air.

The updated notebook is still called the MacBook Air and still features a 13.3-inch display, but the borders surrounding that screen are dramatically smaller–“50% narrower,” according to Apple–and the aluminum bezels that adorned the last MacBook Air are gone. Apple says the display now contains “over 4 million pixels” and “48% more color” compared to the prior model. That “Retina” display should be a massive leap from the 1440×900 display of the past MacBook Air, which was simply outdated for a £1,000 laptop in 2018.

There’s no Touch Bar on the new MacBook Air, but there is Touch ID functionality for signing into the laptop more quickly. It also uses Apple’s T2 security chip, a three-mic array, and side-mounted speakers that Apple says are “25% louder” than those of the prior model. There’s an “HD” front-facing camera above the display, too.

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The new MacBook Air

Apple says the device will run on an 8th-generation dual-core Intel Core i5 chip and support up to 16GB of RAM.

The device is configurable with up to 1.5TB of SSD storage, too. The entry-level model will come with a 1.6GHz Core i5 chip, 8GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD. While those specs are standard for a new laptop today, they should result in much improved performance compared to the old MacBook Air, which languished with an ancient 5th-generation Core i5 chip from 2015.

The company says the device will get 12 hours of battery life through Web browsing. There are two Thunderbolt 3 ports and a 3.5mm headphone jack on the notebook’s sides, but that’s it, so those using accessories reliant on USB-A, DisplayPort, or an SD card slot will need to get an adapter of some sort. The device can hook up to an eGPU external graphics enclosure and power a 5K external display, according to Apple.

The revamp does mean Apple is fully doing away with the traditional chiclet keyboard that came with the previous MacBook Air. Instead, the new model comes with the latest-generation edition of Apple’s ultra-thin “butterfly” keyboard, which is available on the company’s latest MacBook Pro models and shouldn’t suffer from the reliability issues of earlier iterations. Similarly, the notebook will use the thinner “force touch” trackpad of newer MacBooks; Apple says that will have 20% more surface area than the classic MacBook Air.

Apple says the new MacBook Air weighs 2.75 pounds and measures 15.6mm thin. That’s a quarter-pound lighter and “10% thinner” than the previous Air model, according to Apple. Notably, the company says each new MacBook Air’s enclosure will be made from “100% recycled aluminum,” and that it’s “significantly” increased the use of recycled plastic in the device.

The higher price, thinner keyboard, and exclusive use of USB-C may disappoint those who simply wanted Apple to add a Retina display and updated specs to the classic MacBook Air’s design, but the update don’t come as much of a surprise given the changes the company has made to its other MacBook models in recent years. In essence, the new MacBook looks to be a thinner, entry-level version of the latest MacBook Pros. We’ll be sure to get our hands on the notebook in the near future and figure out whether that makes it worth buying.

This story is developing since Apple’s event is still in progress. We’ll add more details as they become available. For the most up-to-date information, follow all the updates as they happen in our liveblog.

Listing image by Apple

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