Apple has announced an updated version of the entry-level MacBook Air laptop, a thin and light notebook computer that previously started at $1,099. The new version starts at only $999 and has been internally updated with new components, but it looks substantially like its predecessor.
Most significantly, the new machine includes Apple’s Magic Keyboard, which replaces the prior-generation model’s troubled butterfly keys with scissor-style keys. The butterfly keyboards have experienced unprecedented reliability issues, requiring the company to offer extended warranties.
Apple says the new machine offers up to 80% faster graphics performance and twice the CPU performance of its predecessor, while starting with 256GB of SSD storage — all major improvements, especially given its lower starting price. Educational customers can purchase the new model for $899, a discount of $100.
CPU performance in the new machine is somewhat different this time. Apple has switched to 10th-generation Intel Core CPUs, but the entry-level model is a dual-core Core i3 with a 1.1GHz base speed and 3.2GHz Turbo Boost mode — the improved performance of this version relative to its predecessor isn’t as pronounced. Regardless of the CPU specs, each new MacBook Air’s GPU is now an Intel Iris Plus chip, and RAM has been upgraded to LPDDR4X, running at 3733MHz. Users get 8GB to start but can upgrade to 16GB of RAM for $200 more.
To get the major speed boost Apple promises, however, you need to opt for a quad-core i7 chip at 1.2GHz, with Turbo Boost up to 3.8GHz, at a $250 premium over the base model. A lower-end 1.1GHz quad-core i5 is only $100, with Turbo Boost up to 3.8GHz. Apple uses this chip in a $1,299 stock configuration that includes a 512GB SSD as well, with the option to customize to the highest-end i7 for $1,449. Users can also opt for 1TB or 2TB SSDs at $400 to $800 premiums.
By comparison, the prior-generation MacBook Air included an 8th-generation Intel Core i5 running at 1.6GHz with the ability to Turbo Boost to 3.6GHz, plus an Intel UHD Graphics 617 GPU. At $1,099, it included a 128GB SSD and 8GB of LPDDR3 RAM. A model with a 256GB SSD version went for $1,299, with 512GB (+$200) and 1TB (+$400) options, along with a 16GB RAM (+$200) upgrade.
The new MacBook Air includes support for the 6K resolution of Apple’s Pro Display XDR, “advanced stereo speakers” with wide stereo sound and Dolby Atmos support, a three-mic array for FaceTime call voice clarity, and two Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports with USB 3.1 Gen 2 support. Wireless remains at Wi-Fi 5 and Bluetooth 5.0.
Apple continues to sell the new MacBook in three colors: silver, gold, and space gray. Each comes with a USB-C charging cable and 30-Watt USB-C power adapter. They’ll be available for delivery from Apple’s website between March 23 and 25.
In smaller news, the company has also doubled the storage capacity of the late 2018 Mac mini, offering 256GB of SSD storage for $799, and 512GB at $1,099, with up to 2TB of storage as a customization option. The machines appear otherwise unchanged.