Apple MacBook Air review: The best Mac for you

Daniel Howley
Technology Editor
Apple's latest MacBook Air brings a drastically improved keyboard that makes it the best buy for Apple fans. (Image: Apple)

Apple’s MacBook Air is its top-selling laptop, and it’s no wonder. The 13-inch notebook is slim, sleek, and just about one of the best computers you can buy. The company’s most recent iteration of the Air, however, had one key flaw: its keyboard.

The loud, clacking noise of the keys, and responsiveness issues that plagued the butterfly keyboard design, were a bear for Apple’s laptop line for some time, and even led to a proposed class action lawsuit.

But the new Air. My God. This notebook’s keyboard is buttery smooth and far quieter than anything Apple has put out in years, save for the 16-inch MacBook Pro that sports the same board.

Priced at $999, and available now, this MacBook Air is a return to form for Apple’s best all-around laptop.

No more clickity-clack

Apple’s (AAPL) laptops started experiencing issues with their keyboards in 2015 when the company introduced a new style of butterfly key to help make the firm’s computers thinner. But the keys were loud, and would often become unresponsive because of the new mechanism.

Apple offered keyboard replacements for impacted laptops, and tried to address the issue with subsequent updates, but it never was able to really fix the problem.

That changed when Apple released its 16-inch MacBook Pro with the new scissor-style keyboard last year. Now the Air is getting that same setup, and it is a godsend of a change.

The Air also gets a larger touchpad for improved nagivation. (Image: Apple)

I have a MacBook Pro with a butterfly keyboard, and I can attest to the issues many consumers have raised. My tab and directional keys frequently malfunction, forcing me to mash them to get them to respond. The keys also felt shallow, and were surprisingly loud when pressed.

The Air, so far, has none of those issues thanks to its new keyboard. I find typing worlds more comfortable. The keys haven’t gotten stuck, though I’ve only been using it for a week, and the sound has been, mercifully, reduced.

It sounds strange to go on about a keyboard so much considering we put so much stock into performance and display quality. But you use the keyboard constantly, and one that isn’t up to snuff can ruin your overall experience.

The Air’s keyboard is fantastic, though, and truly makes a major difference for the better.

What else is new?

Okay, so the MacBook Air has a vastly improved keyboard. What else is new? Well, there’s a 20% larger trackpad that makes navigating far easier and using multi-touch gestures more natural.

Perhaps most importantly, though, is the fact that the new Air gets Intel’s latest 10th-generation Core processors. The base model gets Intel’s Core i3 chip, but can be upgraded with i5 or i7 processors. That power boost is certainly welcome, too.

I’ve been using the Core i3 model with 8GB of RAM, and haven’t noticed a lick of slowdown. Apple also lowered the price on the base model by $100 to $999, making it a solid buy right out of the gate. But if you’re already spending $1,000, I’d recommend opting for the Core i5 version of the Air with 16GB of RAM.

The MacBook Air now packs Intel's 10th-generation Core line of processors, and up to 2TB of storage. (Image: Apple)

The idea is that with a little more performance headroom, you won’t have to worry about the system slowing down as much as the base model may in the long term.

The new Air also starts with 256GB of storage, double the previous generation’s base drive. For most people, that should be enough space, especially if you’re mostly using the notebook for word processing and web browsing.

If you make the jump to the Core i5 model with 16GB of RAM, you’ll end up paying $1,299. Upgrade the storage to 512GB, and you’ll pay $1,499. If you’re in need of even more space, you can go all out and move up to 2TB of storage, but you likely won’t need that much space.

As for battery life, I’ve been able to use my Air test unit to get me through my work day without issue. Your mileage will vary depending on what you’re doing, but if you’re browsing the web and streaming video for the short term, you’ll have plenty of power.

What’s the same?

Well, the design of the Air is exactly what you’ve seen from previous generations of the Air, with its industrial look and feel thanks to its all-aluminum chassis. And the bezels around its gorgeous Retina display are far thinner than they were on much earlier Airs, something that Apple introduced in 2018’s version of the notebook.

The Air also rocks the combination fingerprint scanner and power button, introduced in the previous iteration of the Air, as well as two USB C ports.

That last bit is a bit of a letdown, as one of those ports is taken up when charging the Air, meaning you get one USB C port for peripherals. Sure, you can get a splitter that lets you plug in multiple devices using that single port, but it’s one more dongle that you’ll need to use.

Should you get it?

The MacBook Air is easily Apple’s best laptop for most people. While the company certainly has more powerful notebooks, like the MacBook Pro line, the Air is the go-to for anyone looking for an Apple device that can handle their needs in a stunning package.

If you’re in the market for a MacBook, get the Air. It’s a return to form for the company’s champion workhorse.

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Got a tip? Email Daniel Howley at danielphowley@protonmail.com or dhowley@yahoofinance.com, and follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.

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