The MacBook Air in 2018. Sounds strange? Well, it should. As there’s no sign of Apple launching a new MacBook Air this year. So, we have to tolerate the design, time-ported straight from 2010. If you are a tech enthusiast, upon reading the spec sheet of the MacBook Air, it isn’t strange if you aren’t impressed. I mean, who would want a processor launched in 2015, in 2018? And on the top of it, it only clocks at 1.8Ghz for the 2017 variant. That’s pretty low, or at least it does sound low.
Doesn’t it? And on top of it, it features a TN panel. Well, the MacBook Air isn’t what the specs say and I am here to dissect it for you. So, shall we?
Build and Design
Straight from 2010? Hell yeah, the design, for the most part, has been consistent with the one that Apple launched 8 years ago. On hearing this, you may curse Apple for being outdated or you may even praise Apple for thinking of a design, which despite being freakin’ 8 years old still preserves the MacBook-ish aesthetic which doesn’t feel old yet. The MacBook Air is a feast to behold. Every aspect of it, be its slender and minimalistic design or its comfy size or the glowing apple logo. It’s carved out of a single block of aluminum, so as to say it features an aluminum unibody design. Everything except its keyboard is wrapped in aluminum which looks fantastic.
The best part is that it just weighs around 1.35 KGs. I mean, coming from a Dell and HP laptop which used to weigh 2+ KGs, the weight difference is something that you can’t help but notice. It’s absolutely carryable in a single hand and you don’t feel its weight in your backpack. It presents you with what I’d call, “Truly Portable Machine”. I mean, at times you will even forget if you have it in your backpack or not, trust me. And if you are planning on using the laptop on your lap while lazing on your cozy bed, it won’t be an issue at all.
The trackpad on this thing is absolutely love. I mean, once you use this you will not find yourself using a regular trackpad over this one. If you are coming from a mid-range Windows pc like I was, this trackpad will seriously amaze you with nothing you have ever used before. Covered in sheen glass, the functionality that it packs is unmatchable. Your finger literally glides over it and you feel no obstruction. The gestures that macOS has built-in are a delight. Three fingers, two fingers, etcetera gestures are so intuitive that you will learn them in no time. I was familiar with them in just over a day of usage.
People still love this keyboard over the current Butterfly-2 mechanism equipped ones that Apple ships with the latest generation MacBook and MacBook Pro machines. This has adequate key travel and feels mildly tactile.
Overall, it’s satisfying to type on. On the top of that, it is backlit as well so that you can wake up in the middle of the night and work on some crazy project of yours. It does not come with a num-pad though, but that fact will not bother you once you get to know it better and with the exception of having a num-pad also ensures adequate spacing between the keys.
The i5 5th gen processor it packs won’t turn many heads. Yet, it does its job pretty well and even more, than you’d expect from a three-year-old processor. My needs include using it to code, i.e running apps like Android Studio, Visual Studio Code, etc are what I usually do. It is often coupled with chrome running in the background and other apps like a telegram, VLC, etc opened too. It runs just fine despite all those programs running in the background. I have never experienced even a single application lag. Gradle sync times in Android Studio range from 1s to 7s. That’s fair, considering that it packs in a three-year-old processor. It has 8 Gigabytes of RAM and a 128GB SSD. Sure thing, the SSD is small but it is a lot faster than any generic mechanical hard drive.
Most of the performance on this machine is attributed to the SSD built into it. Also, macOS is highly optimized and as a result of that, it runs fluidly. Performance won’t be an issue for lighter tasks like coding and stuff. But I have no idea as to how it’ll behave under heavy loads like video editing and stuff. You should probably even be able to run an emulator in Android Studio and expect smooth performance. This machine is buttery smooth.
Macbooks are known for their awesome battery life. Somehow apple finds the sweet spot between build quality, performance and battery life. In that slim body, Apple has managed to cram a whopping 7330mAh battery. The battery life on this thing is like none other. If working on light to moderate tasks, you can expect it to run for a day or nearly a day of work without needing the charger again. macOS manages battery like a beast. Battery life is one of the plus points of buying a Mac computer. And to add to that, it charges with the provided 45W charger which apple calls MagSafe 2. It can top up your mac from 0 to 100 in about 2hrs which is fast. In about 30 to 40 minutes, it’d charge enough to do regular tasks for quite a while.
The charger connector snaps onto your mac via magnets, so you don’t worry about your laptop falling off the desk in case you accidentally trip the cable while it is plugged in. You even get a fairly long cable. TLDR, you won’t have any problem with battery life and charging time on this machine.
Storage and memory
The MacBook Air comes equipped with only 128GB of internal SSD which in terms of performance is far better than any regular hard disk drives that you get with laptops. The onboard storage is pretty low, but it is FAST, blazin’ FAST. Well, if this is your only PC then I guess you’d be well off buying an external hard disk for storage purposes.
I come from a laptop having a 1366×768 resolution display. So to me, the MacBook Air’s resolution felt rather pleasing. The MacBook Air packs in a 1440×900 resolution display with a PPI of 127 pixels. If you put it next to a MacBook Pro or a laptop with a 1920×1080 display you surely would notice the average display quality but it isn’t much of an issue. What’s an issue though is it’s viewing angles and the washed out colors. Hear me on this. The MacBook Air’s viewing angles are BAD. You would have to set the display at a particular angle wrt your face for you to somewhat see the right colors. If you deviate from that angle, the colors disappear badly. Surely poses a threat to people who are gonna use this laptop to do video editing and graphics related stuff. To those peeps, if you are not planning to attach an external monitor to it then you might as well start thinking of alternatives.
But if you are gonna attach an external monitor, you need a ThunderBolt 2 cable as the MacBook Air doesn’t have an HDMI or VGA port but instead, it has a Thunderbolt 2 port. It is better as compared to HDMI or VGA but you might need to buy a separate adapter. For me, the onboard display is fine because all I use it for is staring at a text editor mostly. That being said, movies look fine if you aren’t a big display freak and won’t push your face into the screen to find pixels. The onboard display is about average.
TLDR, boy oh boy, it is friggin awesome :D. macOS. The smoothness, the transitions, the perfect blend of everything and all the tools you need all built in. macOS is seriously a game changer. Starting from the very login screen itself, you will find yourself adoring it for its looks. It stunned me for the first time and it’s really lovely to look at. The UI will stay undoubtedly different from that of Windows. You will always have a persistent status bar up top and you would have a dock at the bottom, unless and until you maximize your window in which case it fills up all of your screen real-estate. macOS has Finder which is analogous to Windows Explorer. There’s this tiny problem, you might not feel it, you just can’t divide and manage your hard disk partition here like that of Windows.
Apple started designing the Mac computers keeping in mind that the software and hardware would sew it together, and they do. No fiddling around with drivers to get various component(s) to work, no struggling to turn on Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, no freaking out at a Blue Screen Of Death, no waiting 10 minutes for your computer to boot up and no need to reinstall the Operating System every 6 months or so to ensure that your computer works as fast as new. macOS is so ergonomic and optimized that you just need to lift up your lid and work, no worrying about anything because Apple has your back.
Before coming to macOS, I had heard a lot of good things about macOS and now when I get to experience it, they all turned out to be true. macOS is based on Unix. It has good RAM management and manages all running processes efficiently. Overall, macOS is a worth-it experience.
Should anyone buy a MacBook Air today? Is that old hardware still worth shelling out 700-800$? Well, the answer might depend on your requirement. If you are planning on buying this for stuff like coding and stuff, and have a budget of around 700-750$, look no further. (Unless you aren’t planning on training a Tensorflow model on it xD). Also, video editing on this machine will be not as fluid as on a MacBook Pro or a Windows laptop in that price bracket.
If you were to ask me if I am happy with it or not, I am. I’m planning on investing on an external monitor for this thing so that I can experience the full power of Mac on my desk. All in all, it was a good buy for me.