Apple

MacBook Air finally gets Retina display

The new MacBook Air looks the same as the old model, but is very different.
The new MacBook Air looks the same as the old model, but is very different.

The latest update not only boasts better resolution and more vibrant colour than its predecessors, but also produces great audio

For the longest time, many people - including me - have thought the Apple MacBook Air would be discontinued as it has not been refreshed since 2015.

The Cupertino giant finally updated the Air at the end of October and did it with the most requested feature from users - a Retina display.

For the first time since its inception, the MacBook Air has a high-resolution display of 2,560 x 1,600 pixels, instead of its predecessors' meagre 1,440 x 900 pixels with the same 13.3-inch screen size. This Retina display is also said to have 48 per cent more colour than before for more life-like images.

I own a 2014 MacBook Air and looking at the new Retina display makes me wonder how I have lived with the "low-res" screen for so long.

The colours of the Retina display look so much more vibrant, with sharp clear text. And I can finally watch a high-definition movie, which I cannot do on the 2014 Air. The new stereo speakers (which are lined up beside the keyboard) are also pretty loud for their small size and produce great audio with strong bass.

Design-wise, there are also some changes.

For a start, while the previous MacBook Air came in only silver, the new models are available in gold, silver and space-grey (the version tested).

Regardless of the colour, the silver bezels of the old model have been replaced by black ones that make the laptop look like a MacBook Pro when you open the lid.

  • SPECS

    PRICE: From $1,789

    DISPLAY: 13.3-inch, 2,560 x 1,600 pixels

    PROCESSOR: Intel Core i5 1.6GHz dual-core (Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz)

    SYSTEM MEMORY: From 8GB

    GRAPHICS: Intel UHD Graphics 617

    STORAGE: From 128GB SSD

    CONNECTIVITY: 2 x Thunderbolt 3

    WEIGHT: 1.25kg

    RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 5/5

    PERFORMANCE: 3/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 5/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 5/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

However, the Air's signature wedge-shaped aluminium unibody design remains. The new model is 15.6mm thick at its thickest point and only 1.6mm at its thinnest. It is 100g lighter than its predecessors.

But as with recent Apple laptops, the new Air has only Thunderbolt 3 ports - two on the left. But thankfully, it retains the headphone jack, which is sited on the right.

It also features the third-generation Apple-designed backlit keyboard that is said to be more precise and responsive. I certainly have no problems typing out this review on it, though it is too quiet for my liking.

That may perhaps be great on long-haul flights as I will not disturb my neighbours while writing my stories. Nonetheless, I prefer the loud, clicky tactile feel of my old Air's keyboard.

Another new feature is the Touch ID button on the top right-hand corner of the keyboard. It lets you unlock the laptop securely and make online payments via Apple Pay, as well as doubles as the power button.

Below the keyboard is the new Force Touch trackpad, which is 20 per cent bigger than the trackpads on previous MacBook Airs, allowing for easier and more intuitive drag-and-drop actions.

The new Air comes with an eighth-generation Intel Core i5 1.6-GHz dual-core processor, Intel UHD Graphics 617 graphics unit, up to 16GB of system memory and up to 1.5TB of flash storage.

But it is not a speed demon. In the Geekbench 4 benchmark tests, it scored 3,690 (single-core) and 7,831 (multi-core). In comparison, the latest 12.9-inch iPad Pro scored 5,014 (single-core) and 18,256 (multi-core).

That said, there was no visible lag when I used Pixelmator to edit photos or when I launched Final Cut Pro to edit videos. But do not expect to do video encoding quickly with this machine.

Battery life is excellent. In our video-loop battery test at maximum brightness and volume, it lasted 8hr 26 min.

•Verdict: It might not be the fastest or the cheapest laptop, but the Apple MacBook Air (2018) is all you need if you are looking for portable computing at a reasonable price.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 19, 2018, with the headline 'MacBook Air finally gets Retina display'. Print Edition | Subscribe