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Apple MacBook Air (2018)

Apple MacBook Air (2018)

from  $1199+
MacBook Air 2018 Review

MacBook Air 2018 Review

Posted   11.09.18
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84 Engadget Score
There's a lot to like about this in spite of a few flaws.
84

There's a lot to like about this in spite of a few flaws.

How we score

The Engadget Score is a unique ranking of products based on extensive independent research and analysis by our expert editorial and research teams. The Global Score is arrived at only after curating hundreds, sometimes thousands of weighted data points (such as critic and user reviews).

Engadget Review

The new Air is precisely the upgrade many users have been holding out for, with a slimmed-down body, sharper Retina display, long battery life and a useful Touch ID fingerprint sensor. Though it’s more than fast enough for common use cases, some might prefer to spend $100 on the entry-level MacBook Pro to get more processing power.

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Pros
  • Lighter
  • Slimmed-down design
  • Sharp Retina display
  • Long battery life
  • Spacious and reliable trackpad
  • It has Touch ID
Cons
  • Underpowered compared to a similarly priced MacBook Pro
  • No option to upgrade the processor
  • No more SD slot
  • Screen is dimmer than the Pro's
84 Engadget Score
There's a lot to like about this in spite of a few flaws.
84

There's a lot to like about this in spite of a few flaws.

How we score

The Engadget Score is a unique ranking of products based on extensive independent research and analysis by our expert editorial and research teams. The Global Score is arrived at only after curating hundreds, sometimes thousands of weighted data points (such as critic and user reviews).

Scores

Engadget

84
 

User Reviews

10
dontbeevil4
An awful product that should be avoided. You'll be sorry. - Engadget
90
forestdonkey
I like it a lot. It's my first Mac. I havent been using it for anything too...read more
80
Fateh
Been using the 2013 Macbook Air for quite some time and I'm sure impressed with...read more
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Score Breakdown

 
75
Average user Score
 
10
dontbeevil4
02.20.19
An awful product that should be avoided. You'll be sorry. - Engadget
 
90
forestdonkey
02.13.19
I like it a lot. It's my first Mac. I havent been using it for anything too strenuous so don't know how it would hold up under that pressure. Runs Korg Gadget without a hitch though and is great to have on the livingroom table for a quick internet checks, etc that would be too much of a hassle on a tablet. Turns on basically as fast a smartphone so no complaints there. Really good second computer to my gaming desktop. I'd give it a 9/10 having known that I was getting a computer without much 3D rendering capability that includes the premium Mac price (but you cant really run Korg Gadget or develop for iOS without one).
 
80
Fateh
02.13.19
Been using the 2013 Macbook Air for quite some time and I'm sure impressed with the new Macbook Air. Sure, the price could be lower and I do love the old keyboard, but this is a very, very good device.
 
80
Brent
02.13.19
Love everything about it. So far, it's been able to handle my day-to-day workload just fine, even with only 8GB of ram. Love touch ID and the keyboard. The camera could and should be a lot better by now, but I never really use it. I really just wish it had 3x Thunderbolt 3 ports, so I could use 1x for power, 1x for a hub for SD cards, external drives, none-Bluetooth keyboard and mouse (the market for Bluetooth ergonomic devices is really bad), and 1x for a 4K monitor (cheaper USB-C hubs only support 4K at 30hz which isn't ideal, to get 4K at 60hz you need DisplayPort, which isn't supported on USB-C but is on much more expensive Thunderbolt hubs). -- I know that is more of a "pro" scenario. Also, it would be nice to have the Thunderbolt ports on both sides, but not a huge problem. Even the 300 nits brightness display is perfect for me, I really don't notice it unless next to another MacBook Pro. The price is a little steep, but I feel like the next gen will start at a lower price point, and I got mine new on eBay for under $1,000. I have yet to hear the fan at all, which is a huge plus, coming from a 2011 15" MacBook Pro.
 
90
Stephen
02.13.19
The best in its category. We highly recommend it. - Engadget
 
80
Vlad
02.13.19
The performance of the 2018 Macbook Air is a mixed bag. On paper, although it seems underwhelming, the custom Intel chips optimized for short bursts of activity suggest that the laptop would perform well in everyday tasks, and for the most part it does so well. Problems arise for users who like to have several apps open, or are hoarders with many browser tabs. App performance may degrade noticeably in such circumstances, but it varies from app to app. The biggest problem with performance is switching between desktops. The transition animation drags on so slowly that the only way to make it bearable is to disable them entirely in Settings (under Accessibility). Overall, performance is adequate. As for features, MacOS continues to shine and compare very favourably with Windows in most domains. Key are ease of use, compatibility with apps and hardware, and a stellar backup system that can restore your entire system to exactly how it was. Speed & features: 8/10 (Performance alone is a 7/10). The design of the new Macbook Air is stellar and Apple’s track record doesn’t slow down here. The machine is very thin, with a huge trackpad and large, bright screen. It’s so light that you might not even notice it’s in your briefcase/bag. Design & form factor: 10/10. Battery life is a surprising disappointment as it was one of the key attractive points of the previous Macbook Air generation (excepting the very first version, of course). Apple’s claims of battery life do not bear out during average use. What “average” use means depends on the person. If someone is just browsing a few websites with medium brightness or writing a document while referencing online resources, the battery lasts for close to what Apple claims. However, for anything more substantial, including email (Apple’s Mail app is a surprising energy drain as shown in the very useful “Using Significant Energy” feature of the Activity Monitor), reading many PDFs and working on Word and Powerpoint documents simultaneously while editing images - e.g., in a typical business workflow - the battery percentage will tick down alarmingly quickly. A bout of a work session like this that lasts 30-60 minutes might drain the battery by a shocking 15%. The laptop can last a long transoceanic flight, to be sure, but don’t expect to be as productive as you would while plugged in. Perhaps the CPU is a double-edged sword here in that it can operate at high bursts of activity but at the cost of substantial battery drain. Or perhaps there are bugs in power management software and/or inefficiencies in the OS here. One big tip: you must cycle the battery when you first get the Macbook Air as it might seem at first that it drains incredibly quickly regardless of what you do. However, after a full drain and recharge cycle (to calibrate the OS’s readings of the battery), battery integrity will hold well unless you go ham on the machine. And by “going ham”, I mean noticeably less than what a typical power user would expect, but slightly more than casual use. Regarding power users, if you expect to edit videos or do substantial computational work (MATLAB number crunching, etc), it won’t be a pretty sight. To get around this, you will have to carry the power adapter with you. Luckily, it doesn’t weight much. Battery life: 6/10. The display is a breath of fresh air after the previous Macbook Air generations. The retina display is bright and rich in colours, with generous viewing angles and plenty of screen real estate. The top 2% of computer afficionados will undoubtedly find flaws that may be unforgivable for their use bracket, but for 98% of users it’s a joy to look at and use Display: 9/10. Durability is in line with the form factor and design category in that it’s one of Apple’s strong suits that holds up well with the new Macbook Air. Disregard the Youtube videos that go to extremes to “prove” that Apple’s products are shoddily built, with the funniest entry in this list being the variation on the “bendgate” pseudo-scandal where the video maker’s fingers turn white with how much sheer strength must be used to bend the iPhone/iPad/etc in question - an amount of force that would destroy *any* modern slim form factor electronics consumer product. The Macbook Air feels tough and durable, more so than current Thinkpads, surprisingly enough. It simply feels like a thin wedge of adamantium. Durability: 9/10 Expandability is another category where the de rigeur of complaints against Apple, including “donglegate”, are just plain wrong. First of all, Apple thankfully doesn’t follow in its own footsteps of the iPhone X variants in removing the headphone jack. Then there are *two* full-speed Thunderbolt 3 ports. This is huge. Many competitors, even with double the number of ports, either have only one full-speed Thunderbolt 3 port or one full and one half speed, or even just one half-speed. That Apple chose to incorporate two full-speed ports in the new Macbook Air is eyebrow-raising and frankly a bit of a head-scratcher considering that lack of power elsewhere. What is likely to be the reason is the desire to allow users to utilize either port for the power adapter, and still be able to have a full speed Thunderbolt 3 port available. In other words, to not burden owners with having to know which port is which, or to fall into a mistaken mindset that only one port is for “power” and the other for “data”. Whatever the case, full use of Thunderbolt 3 allows one to plug in an eGPU, external monitor, mouse, keyboard, external hard drives, and more. It turns the Macbook Air into a surprisingly decent gaming system or GPU programming terminal. Concerns of not having USB-A are entirely overblown. One dongle solves this problem handily, after which you absolutely forget about this non-issue (propagated by many reviews online). Instead, what you focus on is the remarkable flexibility of the machine. Thunderbolt 3 is the future of peripherals, period, and I’m happy that Apple is fully on board. Expandability: 10/10. Noise: for the most part, the system is silent, but as soon as you start using it more seriously, the fan kicks in and is quite noisy. To the point that a nearby coworker remarked on how loud it was. Overall, however, for casual use it’s completely silent. Noise: 7/10. Size, weight, and portability are very good. As written earlier in the review, you won’t even feel it in your bag. You can easily carry it around at work, like a notebook (of the paper kind). This aspect of the new Air is absolutely a premiere reason to own one, despite any potential performance or battery pitfalls. My previous laptop was a Dell XPS 15, and although it blew this Macbook out of the water in terms of power (and even the display), once I got the new Air, the Dell was instantly retired. Because let’s face it: an “underpowered” Macbook Air might be a problem for professional reviewers, but in reality, if you *really* need more power than what the new Air affords on a consistent basis, you’re simply better off getting a desktop. Portability: 10/10. Overall, I have no regrets getting the Macbook Air, despite the flaws with performance and battery life. It feels great to use, and is is yet another example of Steve Jobs’ old adage for Apple products: It Just Works. Total score: 8/10.
 
80
Sara
02.12.19
There's a lot to like about this in spite of a few flaws. - Engadget
 
90
Tory
02.12.19
Disclaimer: I upgraded from the 2011 base 13" MBP with a 2.3ghz C2D, 4GB Ram, 320gb 5400rpm hard drive. The battery wouldn't last more than an hour or two. . . SO any new purchase would be a massive upgrade in every measurable way. I held off buying the 12" MB because if there was only going to be one I/O, it needed to be Thunderbolt 3. The new MBA answered that request, and I don't regret it at all. I thought long and hard about what I wanted in a new laptop, and being someone that only consumes media, and surfs the web, I did not need a power house. That means CPU isn't a priority. Next "negative" is the screen brightness. In my 8 years with my previous MB, I can only think of a few times when I thought the screen needed to be brighter. The MBP no touchbar with same ram/SSD is $100 more than the MBA I bought. I placed touchID and $100 less, above the bright screen option. no ragrets.
 
70
Ori
02.12.19
Average performance and display. I was disappointed with the brightness. 2 usb-c are fine but I would prefer placing them one of each side for various flexibilites. I do notice battery improvement comparing to the MBP but far from what apple claims, especially when you have to lower the poor level of brightness to begin with. With that said the MBA is sufficient enough for every day use.
 
70
Ronald
02.12.19
A dependable product that doesn't really stand out from the competition. - Engadget