The Apple MacBook Air 2018 is a streamlined and great laptop brimming with advanced features. Apple has updated its standard design with the thinnest-ever chassis and a Retina display. But with other laptop makers innovating in this space, is the new Air doing sufficient to hold onto the throne?
A standard design, refreshed for 2018
Lightweight, premium-feel body
Retina Display screen
Pro features for a lesser price
Apple MacBook Air 2018 Only have two USB-C ports
- 13.3-inch high-resolution screen (2560 x 1600)
- Touch ID fingerprint scanner for quick unlocking and protected purchases
- Butterfly-switched keycaps permit for a shallower keyboard
- T2 chip for added protection features
What is the Apple MacBook Air 2018?
The new Apple MacBook Air 2018 range has finally arrived. And by “finally” I signify Apple has given this much-loved laptop a proper update, in its place of the iterative upgrades we’ve seen with the past a small number of versions.
As well as rocking a Retina Display, which packs a resolution of 2560 x 1600 into a 13.3-inch panel, there’s the T2 safety chip, which routinely encrypts your files and offers a protected boot option. That latter is probable to be mostly of interest to IT professionals, sysadmins or whoever buys the laptops for your company. But for each day consumers, the T2 chip offers a level of security that, until now, has only been obtainable to MacBook Pro 2018 and iMac Pro buyers – and, afterward this year, to anybody snapping up a Mac Mini 2018.
In terms of looks, the latest MacBook Airs preserve that classic wedge shape, which set the bar over ten years ago. Numerous laptops game this look these days, but it’s Apple that can get much of the credit for that.
Contrasts to the 2017 MacBook Air lineup, this year’s models are about 10% thinner, with a lighter footprint. Apple says this has shaved just over a centimeter from the x and y-axis.
In addition, you acquire more up-to-date processors running the show and up to 16GB of RAM – an obvious upgrading on the 8GB maximum seen in the previous generation.
Apple MacBook Air 2018 – Design and features
The fresh Apple MacBook Air 2018 is business as usual – but thinner, improved, quicker, smoother. Slimming down means it weighs just 1.25kg. That’s an inspiring feat, considering the unibody case is an aluminum-heavy alloy, instead of the lighter and flexier magnesium-based matter seen on competing devices, such as the 1kg LG Gram.
In the days I’ve used up lugging the Apple MacBook Air 2018 around, there have been times I’ve scarcely noticed it’s there. Though prior to this, I’d been using the incredibly thick, 2.4kg Asus ROG GL504 Hero II gaming laptop as my everyday driver, so that may be part of the reason for that. The only disadvantage to the thin design is that the port lineup consists of just two USB-C ports, both underneath the Thunderbolt 3 standard.
The use of Thunderbolt at least means you can get advantage from video pass-through (by means of the DisplayPort 1.2 video standard) data rates of up to 40Gbps, for instance, and the capability to daisy-chain. As a result, you can set up the MacBook Air as the nexus of an influential home studio with the right cables and peripherals.
Right out of the box, however, you’re limited. Note that most of the time; one of those USB-C ports will be taken up by the mains adapter, so in essence, you include only one USB-C port at your disposal.
There are a larger number of peripherals these days sustaining the Thunderbolt standard, which is an excellent thing, but that’s only an advantage if you have a sizeable monitor with lots of additional connections, or a dock that you had to buy to make use of, with a previous MacBook. Not to talk about a budget/credit rating ample sufficient to accommodate the additional expenditure.
As with the Apple MacBook Air 2018, Apple doesn’t even comprise a USB-C to Ethernet adapter – a freebie that most other laptop manufacturers are pleased to throw in with their high-end models.
Connectivity aside, the design remains exciting. Apple says that this generation of MacBook Airs is the first to feature a case that’s made completely from recycled metal. In fact, it’s formed from the shavings that remain of the blocks of metal from which other MacBooks have been machine milled. These shavings are simply gathered up and re-smelted, instead of using a material that’s been mined, extracted and smelted from bauxite.
The corporation claims the 2018 MacBook Breaths of air are the greenest laptops so far, and this step is being taken as part of a wider drive to decrease the complete company’s carbon footprint by 50%. The cases of the latest Mac Minis will also be fashioned in a similar way.
While I haven’t analyzed Apple’s whole supply and manufacturing chain or enquired as to whether or not that 50% figure includes manufacturing partners, we can every one appreciate the reality that leftover materials that would otherwise be sold on are being repurposed. I also quite similar to the idea that the MacBook Air I’ve been holding in my hands might have once initiate life as a MacBook Pro, or maybe even an iPad Pro.
Bookending the keyboard are two sets of speaker grilles. Apple boasts that the speaker coordination is the extremely powerful ever seen on a MacBook Air, presenting an amazingly wide sound stage thanks to the addition of two latest bass units (one on each side, natch).
I don’t have access to every sound level meters or data taken from previous-gen MacBook Air reviews in order to validate this, but having listen in to music and watching TV shows on many laptops, I can confirm that the audio quality is normally incredibly excellent, with lots of spatial parting between instruments and stereo panning.
Listening to the Broadway cast footage of Hamilton on Spotify was mainly pleasurable. The crack of the snare drum on “My Shot”, for instance, cut right through the bump strings, brass, lead and backing vocals like a blade. The low end on the likes of Metallica’s “Master of Puppets”, and Rage’s “Bullet in the Head” sounded good and lively. High-end noise, however, of the type that featured in Igorrr’s ‘Infinite Loop’ sounded a small tinny at full volume.
That said, the speakers on the Apple MacBook Air 2018 are absolutely a cut above what I’ve heard on nearly all other laptops.
Apple MacBook Air 2018 – Keyboard and trackpad
The Apple MacBook Air 2018 comes with the similar third-generation butterfly-switch keyboard that we first saw on the Apple MacBook Air 2018 – and it’s somewhat of an opinion divider.
Personally, I’ve grown to it. But there’s no denying that the keycaps contain unbelievably shallow travel. This, coupled with the fact the MacBook Air will normally lie flat on your desk (it isn’t angled up towards your hands, approximating, say, the keyboard dock of the Microsoft Surface Pro 6), does make for an unusual sensation.
If you’re coming from a non-butterfly key model then it will take you a little time to get used to the MacBook Air 2018’s keyboard. I can usually at ease cruise at around 80 words a minute on Type Racer, but I was reducing typos all over the place with the MacBook at first.
Despite my early fumbling, I am fond of the keyboard layout. Nothing feels too overcrowded and, with the exclusion of the up and down arrow keys, most of the keycaps are openhandedly sized.
The trackpad is also exceptionally smooth and whip-smart, so much so that I’ve really had to dial down its receptiveness in the settings. I had to do that with the MacBook Pro, too, mind. Gratefully, and unlike the MacBook Pro, I haven’t come across any flexing.
Force Touch, a setting that lets you tap smoothly on the trackpad instead of clicking down, is turned on by default. Personally, I’m not a fan, as I find that it’s simple to misguidedly click on links when browsing the web. It’s simple to switch off, however… Clicking sensitivity can also be simply configured from the same settings menu, so whether you make use of Force Touch or not, you should be capable to fine-tune this.
Touch ID is one more grand addition. The MacBook Air’s power key features a built-in fingerprint scanner that lets you rapidly unlock the laptop if it’s in sleep mode. The feature is not obligatory – you can choose to lock the MacBook Air with a PIN or password if you wish – but I found it to be as quick and convenient as it was on the MacBook Pro 2018.
If you’re paranoid about Apple deceitfully storing your fingerprint data on a remote server and a digital copy being stolen by hackers, you needn’t be anxious. All of your biometric data is stored openly on the T2 security chip; when you reset the laptop to factory settings, it will be erased.
While I don’t tend to purchase various things off iTunes, I did similar to that I was competent to purchase stuff with the tap of my index finger, instead of having to enter my extremely long and difficult-to-guess Apple password every time.
Apple MacBook Air 2018 – Display
The MacBook Air’s screen measures 13.3-inches diagonally and crams 2560 x 1600 pixels into that gap. This gives you pixels per inch (PPI) count of 226.9.
Everything looks pin-sharp, whether that’s photographs, video, web pages – even the serifs on typed text look the business.
Via an X-Rite i1 Display Pro colorimeter and DisplayCAL software, I recorded 304.48 nits of maximum brightness. With the screen cranked all the way up, I recorded black levels of 0.6 nits. Both results present us with a different ratio of 501:1. These results are about the standard of what you should anticipate from a product line that starts at just over a grand.
A figure of 300 nits is absolutely fine for working and watching movies, but it might be a little dark for anyone wanting to do some photo editing. By contrast, the MacBook Pro 2018 I tested earlier in the year gave me an extremely high 514 nits of peak brightness.
Colour gamut coverage is in line with what I’d be expecting from a premium device. The MacBook Air’s screen hit 93.3% of the sRGB color space, which is what the majority of people will use/notice. This means web pages and any content you’re functioning on will look rich and vibrant. It’s a cliché to declare that colors “pop” on laptop displays, but they, in reality, do on the MacBook Air’s screen.
All the same, here’s how the MacBook Air’s screen contrast to likewise price and specced rivals in terms of color space coverage:
|Apple MacBook Air 2018||93.3%||68.2%||70.8%|
|LG Gram 14Z980||94.9%||67.5%||70.6%|
|Microsoft Surface Pro||6 90.2%||62.4%||64.2%|
|Apple MacBook Pro 2018||100%||84%||98.9%|
In summary, the Apple MacBook Air’s display is outstanding. It isn’t quite as fine as that of the 13-inch MacBook Pro, which also benefits from Apple’s True Tone software – but once more, the Pro’s screen is best-in-class.
Apple MacBook Air 2018 – Performance
In this section I’ve added standard results from the LG Gram and Microsoft Surface Pro 6, as well as the 13-inch MacBook Pro 2018, to give an idea of how this weigh against to Windows 10 devices in an alike price range, and to the more powerful Pro.
For general work performance, the MacBook Air 2018 is a rock-solid performer. The disk read and writes momentum of the MacBook Air I recorded were outstanding, suggesting that saving your work, launching projects and apps will be super-quick.
This bore out in my individual experience, with Spotify, iTunes, Chrome and pretty much any application I launched factually leaping into action.
Despite the MacBook Airs not actually being suited for high-end gaming or video editing, I ran Cinebench to improved gauge its CPU and GPU performance, along with Geekbench 4, a CPU pressure test.
|Apple Mac-Book Air 2018 (i5-8210Y)||LG Gram 14Z980 (i5-825-0U)||Microsoft Surface Pro 6 (i5-8250U)||Apple MacB-ook Pro 2018 (i7-8559U)|
|Geekbench 4 single-core||4248||4085||4080||5378|
|Geekbench 4 multi-core||7820||11888||13913||18885|
|Disk write s-peeds*||1091.9 MB/sec||504.9 MB/sec||807 MB/sec||2631.2MB/sec|
Editor’s Note: Disk read and write speeds for Windows 10 devices are at present calculated with CrystalDiskMark, which isn’t obtainable for macOS. For macOS devices, we make use of Blackmagic.
While these numbers aren’t completely reflective of the MacBook Air’s general performance, they should at least give an idea of how it will handle daily tasks compared to key rivals.
For daily work, the MacBook Air is powerful sufficient, but don’t expect it to perform something graphically intensive (such as edit video or play 4K games).
The MacBook Air I tested is powered by a dual-core Intel Core i5-8210Y, which has a base clock speed of 1.6GHz; both the LG Gram and Microsoft Surface Pro 6 include quad-core i5-8250Us with the similar base clock.
Therefore it isn’t astonishing that the multi-core results of these laptops beat that of the MacBook Air – but, fascinatingly, the single-core score of the Apple laptop was somewhat better.
Both CPUs are 8th-gen i5 U-series processors, and U-series processors classically perform a slight improved than Y-series equivalents. On the flipside, Y-series chips are less thirsty, which I believe goes some way to explain the reason the MacBook Air’s battery performance is so fine.
This is regardless of the new MacBook Airs using DDR3 RAM. The DDR3 memory is slower and further power-hungry than what you’ll get in the top-end versions of the MacBook Pro, which have DDR4 RAM. The similar will be factual for any laptop equipped with DDR4 RAM, for that matter (the LG Gram 14Z980, for instance).
Apple MacBook Air 2018 – Battery life
Being not capable to run an equivalent to Powermark – a program that simulates typical laptop use (Trusted Reviews uses Powermark to loop 10 minutes of simulated web browsing with five minutes of video streaming in laptop reviews) – makes it hard to assess how well the MacBook Air’s battery contrast with competitors.
What I can say, based on the real-world tests I performed, is that you should be expecting to get around 9-10 hours of power most of the time.
While working, I’d classically get through a standard nine-hour working day – tasks included writing articles, sending emails, creating playlists on Spotify and streaming them via Bluetooth to the workplace speaker – with around 10% of power left in the tank. This was with screen brilliance set to 150 nits.
Keeping the screen brightness at 150 nits and setting the speaker volume to 50%, I used QuickTime to loop a 2min 30sec-long 4K video clip saved to the hard drive. The laptop attains 9hrs 7mins value of playback time.
I ran the similar test with the 13-inch MacBook Pro 2018 (the quad-core Intel i7-8559U version), which gave 7hrs 33mins of local playback time.
Somewhere else, the device managed 10 hours of iPlayer action (all of Mark Kermode’s Secrets of Cinema and BBC Two’s Civilisations, FYI), all streamed in Full HD. The battery was at 2% as the credits rolled here.
Does Apple’s claim of being competent to offer 13 hours of video playback time stand up? The little print on Apple’s site says that it calculated that figure by looping a Full HD iTunes movie with the screen set to “12 clicks from the bottom, or 75% [brightness]”.
For reference, I reached 150 nits by turning the MacBook Air’s screen down to about 50%. Apple doesn’t openly mention whether or not Wi-Fi or Bluetooth was turned off in its test, or the volume level the device was set to either. Pretentious that all the radios are off and the speakers aren’t blasting at full volume, I’d pronounce that you’d almost certainly get 13 hours of playback time, at a stretch.
Based on my personal experiences, more practical anticipation for battery performance – whether you’re working or streaming media – would be around 9-10 hours, which is outstanding. Anecdotal figures for the Surface Pro 6 and LG Gram were 7-8 hours and 12 hours respectively.
In terms of charging, it doesn’t take extended for a bare MacBook Air to be filled all the way back up using the supplied mains adapter. I hit around 10-12% after 15 minutes on the mains and 25-28% following half an hour. After 60 minutes, I’d classically hit around 40%. It took me around 2hrs 30mins to get back up to 100%.
Apple MacBook Air 2018 – Specifications
Here’s how the specs for the Apple MacBook Air 2018 range contrast. The model sent for review has 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, 250.69GB of which is user-available out of the box.
Apple MacBook Air 2018
|Display|| 13.3-inch Retina Display, |
2560 x 1600 LED, 300nits
|Processor|| 1.6GHz dual-core 8th‑generation |
Intel Core i5 processor
(Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz),
4MB L3 cache
|Memory||8GB/16GB 2133MHz LPDDR3 RAM|
|Storage||128GB, 512GB, 1.5TB SSD / 256GB, 512GB, 1.5TB PCIe-based SSD|
|GPU||Intel UHD Graphics 617|
|Ports||2 x Type-C USB (supporting Thunderbolt 3), 3.5mm headphone jack|
|Connectivity||802.11ac Wi‑Fi, Bluetooth 4.2|
|Misc|| 720p FaceTime HD camera, |
Touch ID, T2 security chip, 3rd-gen
butterfly switched keys
|Dimensions||4.1–15.6 x 304.1×212.4mm|
|Battery|| Up to 13 hours’ video playback|
Why buy the Apple MacBook Air 2018?
If you’ve been waiting tolerantly for an upgrade to the MacBook Air, then it’s no dispute – this is an important update that hugely improves on the softly-softly iterations we’ve seen over the past few years. The thick bezels and low-res screens are gone, replaced by a much slimmer, smoother machine with a high-resolution Retina Display panel.
In various ways, the MacBook Air 2018 represents a less costly way to obtain a semblance of the MacBook Pro experience. There are a lot of shared key features: the Retina Display resolution, additional safety thanks to the T2 chip, Touch ID for easy and more secure unlocking, ports supporting the Thunderbolt 3 normal and third-gen butterfly switched keys.
If you want an influential Apple laptop that’s primarily for working, but maybe you can’t justify the cost of shelling out for a MacBook Pro – or, you’re not creative so you don’t require that additional power – then the MacBook Air 2018 is the device to consider.
However, there’s no getting away from the reality that, as great as the Thunderbolt standard is, you get just two ports here. That’s a real constraint, one that you can debatably sidestep if you buy the right dongles.
Consider that the LG Gram is a slim Ultrabook with plenty of connectivity options, although, and casual buyers who aren’t into the Apple environment might be improved served by one of these instead.
Also note that at the advanced end of the MacBook Air pricing spectrum, you start on to stray into MacBook Pro territory too. An Apple MacBook Air 2018 with 16GB of RAM and 1.5TB of storage will set you back £2579, though a 13-inch Apple MacBook Air 2018 with the similar memory, somewhat less internal storage at 1TB, but with an improved processor and more influential screen, will really cost you a little bit less at £2529.
Unlike other sites, we carefully test each product we review. We make use of industry-standard tests in order to contrast features correctly. We’ll always tell you what we discover. We not at all, ever accept cash to review a product. Tell us what you think – send your emails to the Editor.