If it is true, that there is indeed a new slim, fair priced mainstream Apple laptop coming this week, almost everything about it is going to be a bombshell.
A product launch event will be hosted by Apple in Brooklyn on October 30, and while new iPad Pro models are almost for sure (thanks to the leaks and reports), a little is known about the long-rumored MacBook Air replacement that may also be introduced.
The infamous 13-inch MacBook Air is a bit behind compared to newer laptop designs. The aluminum body is bigger is heavier than other premium 13-inch laptops, the screen is marred by a low resolution and thick bezels, and the processor is at least 3 generations behind current models.
Surely everyone is waiting if there is indeed a new slim, reasonably priced mainstream Apple laptop coming this week, almost everything about it is going to be a surprise. Going into the October 30 event, here are some of the key questions on my mind.
Will the Air name stay?
The MacBook Air name has been there for a while now, started in 2008 and still describes pretty much the same laptop. The new model may keep this name, which has some historical cachet, or may follow the 12-inch MacBook model with a simpler name, or it may end up being something completely different (MacBook XR? MacBook SE?).
Will it be added with a Touch Bar or Fingerprint Reader?
Well, Apple is sticking with the Touch Bar in its higher-end MacBook Pro. It’s unlikely the slim OLED secondary display will filter down to a less-expensive laptop, but the most useful part of it, the fingerprint reader, might. However, that likely means adding the T2 chip, which controls disk encryption and other system-level functions — which might jack up the starting price beyond that $999 sweet spot.
What will be the screen size and resolution?
The MacBook Air’s screen is its weakest link compared to other 2018 laptops. The 13-inch display has a paltry 1,440×900 resolution, far below other laptops in the $999 range. It’s also surrounded by a thick silver bezel that looks especially dated compared to newer bezel-free models like the Dell XPS 13.
The 13-inch MacBook Pro has a full-on Retina screen with 2,560×1,600-pixel resolution. That would be ideal, but maybe Apple will take a page out of the iPhone XR’s book and give us a “good enough” resolution instead — perhaps full 1080p (1,920×1,080).
Will it be having USB-C ports only?
It’s a MacBook from any time in the past two years, it’s all-in on USB-C ports. Current Pro and 12-inch MacBooks use USB-C for everything, from power to data to networking, usually with the help of a dongle or docking station. One of the great things about an older design like the Air is that it still has USB-A and Thunderbolt ports (two and one, respectively), in addition to a separate power input (the late, great MagSafe 2). Recent history suggests a new Air would switch to USB-C, but it’s not an iron-clad case. And even if it does, I wouldn’t expect full Thunderbolt 3 support. That’s the sort of step-up feature that you’re paying for in the pricier Pro models.
How much will it cost?
For years, we’ve been willing to overlook the MacBook Air’s lack of new features and updated design because it hit the all-important price of $999 (sometimes even $100 or so less, from retailers). That put it within reach of college students, semi-starving artists and just about everyone else. And even if a grand still is definitely a big investment, the tough-as-nails aluminum MacBook Air could handle years of abuse and still do its job. This new system could stick with $999, could drop down a bit, or even add a bit, but it’ll probably stay out of the way of the $1,299 MacBook and entry-level MacBook Pro. (It’ll be interesting to see if which of these models is still around once the Apple Store comes back online after the event.)
You can watch the live video via Apple’s own event page. You’ll find that the video feed starts a few minutes before the event but also that it requires certain browsers to work, and we’ll all find out these answers together.