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Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The New MacBook Air Might Kill Off The MacBook

Apple has a real crowd-pleaser on its hands with the long-overdue return of the MacBook Air. With modern processors and a new retina screen, plus a redesigned unibody and Touch ID, it’s definitely gathering some interest from fans of the original.

But what about the MacBook, the oddly in-between redesign that goes without an adjective? Introduced in 2015, this teeny-tiny 12-inch laptop was ostensibly the successor to the original Air, re-using the name of the old plastic entry-level Mac laptops for a sleek unibody design powered by Intel’s low-power Core M series. Apple still sells the 12-inch MacBook despite going more than a year without a hardware upgrade. But why?

Air Apparent

Let’s look at this from a purely technical perspective, and specifically at the entry models in both the MacBook and MacBook Air lines. Here are the specs for both. Note that, despite being a year older, the smaller MacBook is still $100 more expensive.

macbook vs macbook air, specs, 2015 macbook, 2018 macbook air, compare, comparison

As you can see, the only real advantage that the smaller MacBook has is a larger base SSD. That’s arguably offset by the MacBook Air’s new Touch ID feature, but those that really want more storage can upgrade to a 256GB M.2 for a hefty two hundred bucks. Even then, you’re getting a bigger, better screen, a much faster processor, better battery life, an extra USB-C/Thunderbolt port, and a more comfy keyboard, plus TouchID, for a hundred bucks more. It seems that, at just below or just above the current entry price, the Air beats the smaller MacBook in every way.

Let’s say you have the budget for a better Mac, but don’t want the bulk of one of the larger MacBook Pros or the questionable utility of that Touchbar. Here are a couple of upgraded MacBooks, both Air and non-Air, weighing in around the $1800 mark, boosting several key specs.

macbook vs macbook air, specs, 2015 macbook, 2018 macbook air, compare, comparison

Again, fairly similar on paper. The MacBook gets access to an i7 processor, but it’s last year’s model, and with a slower standard clock and an identical “turbo boost” speed to the new MacBook Air’s upgraded Core i5. For fifty bucks more, you get all the advantages of the refreshed MacBook Air design, plus double the storage. The smaller MacBook can’t be configured with anything bigger than that 256GB drive, while the Air can fit a capacious 1.5TB SSD inside… if you’re willing to pay an extra grand.

Who’s the MacBook For Now?

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