Apple MacBook Air (2019) review

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How does 2019’s model fare?

MacBook Air 2019

OUR VERDICT

While an excellent entry with a stunning new screen, the 2019 MacBook Air’s dual-core processor still feels underwhelming. Even with a lower entry price, it’s still pricey considering its light starting specification and expensive upgrades.

FOR

  • Lovely design
  • Screen is great
  • Fantastic battery life
  • New lower price

AGAINST

  • Underpowered
  • Lack of storage space
  • Pricey to upgrade
  • Only two Thunderbolt 3 ports
  • Expensive

The refreshed MacBook Air (2019) is here after a turbulent few years for Apple’s thin and light MacBook. The MacBook Air used to be the most economical way to get a MacBook, but then it seemed to fall out of favor when Apple positioned the 12-inch MacBook as both the slimmest and cheapest of its laptops.

But then, in a rather surprising move, Apple abandoned its 12-inch MacBook line while rolling out a refreshed MacBook Air for 2019 at the same time.

With the MacBook Air back in what many people consider its rightful place as the most affordable Apple laptop, will this year’s model succeed in bringing Apple’s vaunted design and build quality to a new audience who are put off by the MacBook Pro’s lofty price?

Apple surprised us all with a new MacBook Air for 2019.

Price and availability

Apple’s announcement of a new MacBook Air (2019) was a terrific for several reasons. First of all, we weren’t really been expecting a refresh. And second, the entry-level MacBook Air (2019) not only got a refresh, but also a price cut to $1,099 (£1,099, AU$1,699).

Admittedly, that’s still far from budget territory. Nonetheless, this move makes the MacBook Air more affordable than ever, and seeing prices going down with updates – rather than up – is always a nice welcome. For comparison’s sake, the MacBook Air (2018) started at $1,199 (£1,199, AU$1,849) when it was released.

The base model of the MacBook Air (2019) comes with a 1.6GHz dual-core 8th-generation Intel Core i5 processor with Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz, 8GB of LPDDR3 RAM, 128GB storage and Intel UHD Graphics 617.

There’s also a model with the same specs, but with twice the storage at 256GB, which sets you back $1,299 (£1,299, AU$1,999).

That essentially means you’re getting 128GB more for $200/£200/AU$300, a pretty costly upgrade. It’s a bit frustrating that Apple has kept that big leap in price for a relatively small amount of additional storage space. Meanwhile, you can double your iPhone XR storage for another $50/£50.

It makes much more financial sense to get the 128GB version, and then either invest in an external hard drive (check out our pick of the best external hard drives for Macs for suggestions), or use cloud storage like iCloud to save your files.

As is unfortunately the case with Apple’s hardware, there’s no easy way to open up the MacBook Air yourself and upgrade the SSD.

Therefore, while we’re pleased to see the price drop for the MacBook Air, shipping a premium – and while the Air is the cheapest MacBook, at this price it’s still premium – laptop with just 128GB of storage seems pretty mean in 2019 – especially when Apple charges so much for a storage upgrade.

One of the main threats to the MacBook Air (2019) is that Windows laptops are now even thinner and more powerful than ever. Apple no longer has the monopoly on thin and light laptops, and there are a number of Windows-based Ultrabooks that offer similar (even better) specifications for the same price. And, you can guarantee that they all have bigger hard drives than 128GB. For example, the HP Spectre x360 (2019) is around the same price, but with 256GB storage and a much faster processor.

The lower entry price of the MacBook Air (2019) is definitely welcome if you’re set on purchasing a MacBook. However, some of Apple’s not so appealing habits are still evident, and with increased competition from Windows laptops, there are better value alternatives out there.

Design

Like with the new MacBook Pro (2019), Apple didn’t update the external design of the MacBook Air (2019) from last year’s model.

This is good news if you already love the design of the MacBook Air, but not so if you craved a more substantial change.

This also means that you get the same thin laptop with dimensions of 11.97 x 8.36 x 0.61 inches (30.41 x 21.24 x 1.56cm) and a weight of 2.75 pounds (1.25kg). It remains extraordinarily lightweight, and while it’s not as mind-blowingly light as competitors like the Acer Swift 7, the Apple MacBook Air (2019) is a device you can easily carry around in a bag or backpack.Advertisement

Despite being thin and lightweight, it does feel solid and durable, so you won’t have to worry about bends and dents. This is thanks to the MacBook Air being built out of an aluminum alloy that looks great and feels robust. By keeping the same design as last year’s model, the new MacBook Air (2019) is once again made out of 100% recycled aluminum, which means that no new metal has been mined to build this device.

That’s an excellent selling point for anyone who is environmentally-conscious, and something we commend Apple for.

However, by keeping the same design, it means this year’s model still has the same elements in the 2018 model that falls short of our expectations.

There are two Thunderbolt 3 ports on the left.
SPEC SHEET

Here is the MacBook Air (2019) configuration sent to TechRadar for review:

CPU: 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-8210Y (dual-core, 4 threads, 4MB cache, up to 3.6GHz)
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 617
RAM: 8GB (2,133MHz LPDDR3)
Screen: 13.3-inch, 2,560 x 1,600 Retina True Tone display (backlit LED, IPS)
Storage: 256GB PCIe SSD
Ports: 2x Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C), 3.5mm headphone jack
Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-F, Bluetooth 4.2
Camera: 720p FaceTime HD webcam
Weight: 2.75 pounds (1.25kg)
Size: 11.97 x 8.36 x 0.61 inches (30.41 x 21.24 x 1.56cm; W x D x H)

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