For three years, the MacBook Air was conspicuously absent. The ultraportable never left Apple’s site, of course, but we finished keynote after keynote wondering why Apple continued to neglect one of its most popular products, all while overhauling the rest of the MacBook line.
At an event last month in Brooklyn, however, Apple finally acquiesced, delivering the largest single update since the product was introduced ten and a half years prior. In an event stuffed to the gills with an enthusiastic audience, the Air got what was easily the biggest applause break — more than the iPad Pro and certainly more than the Mac Mini.
The fan base was clearly ready for a new Air.
Getting the Air right is a tricky proposition. Not only is it the slimmest model in the line, it’s also the cheapest, a combination that’s made it a popular selection for frequent travelers and those just looking for the least expensive route into the MacOS ecosystem. Every hardware addition to the line comes with a potential price increase — something we saw play out with the evolution of the Mini, which jumped from $499 to $799, removing some of the device’s entry-level appeal.
The Air has also seen a price increase, though Apple was able to rein things in a bit more here, in terms of both overall and relative price. At $1,199, the low-end version of the laptop remains the least pricey entry point into the Mac ecosystem (excluding the older Air, which is still available for $999).
This latest update finds the Air finally assuming its place in the current MacBook line, whose current iteration began life with a major overhaul in 2015. Becoming part of the club means an aesthetic upgrade, a move to USB-C, souped up internals and, of course, the long-awaited addition of a Retina Display.
The device arrives amid a shift for the company, as it once again embraces creative professionals with both MacOS devices and iOS through the addition of the iPad Pro. The latter continues to blur the line between Apple’s operating systems, with computation power rivaling — and in some cases outperforming — some of its MacOS models.
Currently, the Air sits between the iPad Pro and low-end MacBook — though given the $100 price difference between it and the former, I don’t know that anyone would be entirely shocked to see Apple quietly sunset the baseline product in favor of the reborn Air. There simply aren’t enough compelling reasons to keep that model around in its current configuration, especially given the Air’s enduring popularity.