Apple MacBook Air (2018) Check-In: Performance

Posted on November 12, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Mac and macOS with 55 Comments

There are a few ways one might measure the performance of a laptop. You can run benchmarks. Or you can just use the thing.

I’ve decided to try both approaches with the new MacBook Air. After all, performance is one of the major concerns I’ve had with this purchase. This needs to be explored, and it needs to be explained.

On that note, I’ve followed the comments to my Apple MacBook Air (2018) First Impressions article with great interest. This isn’t unique to, of course, but comments on the web often devolve into rank, partisan arguments, largely from people whose minds are already made up. And, for sure, there’s been some of that. As expected: Apple sits at a nice nexus for the faux outrage crowd, thanks to its high prices, curious component choices, and corporate ego. The company just makes it too easy sometimes.

But I’d like to give the readers of this site some credit, too. This could change as the digital cockroaches wake up this morning and realize that the Windows Boy ™ had the temerity to write about an Apple product in a reasonable way. But there were more thoughtful comments to that article than bullying or pointless anti-Apple comments. That’s good news, and appreciated.

The legit comments seem to boil down largely to a few main topics: Price, performance, and the durability and reliability of the MacBook Air’s controversial third-generation “butterfly” keyboard.

I’ll keep a nervous eye on that last one, of course. But this can only go one of two ways in the short-term, during the two or three weeks in which I’ll evaluate this machine and then write a review. The keyboard will fail, forcing me to give up on it and return it to Apple, as I had to do recently with the terribly-made Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL (with Google). Or the keyboard will simply work fine during that time frame. Which will prove nothing.

Put simply, unless I do experience a major fail here, there’s no way I can opine on keyboard reliability. And so all I can do is wait. And hope. And wonder.

But I can measure performance. And this one I really do want to figure out. It’s tied to what I feel is the most curious component choice that Apple made with this machine, its dual-core Y-series Intel processor.

Everyone—from seasoned industry analysts down to the comment lurker trolls that dog all websites these days—has an opinion about this choice. On the outside—e.g. everyone who has never actually used a new MacBook Air—those opinions are generally very negative. After all, Apple is foisting a less-powerful CPU on its users in an age of quad-core laptops. And it’s then charging a heady premium for the privilege.

That’s a fair argument in theory, and it’s certainly one I’ve made myself. But I suspect you’d find a contrary view if you were to tally the performance ratings in the reviews that have been published so far. In other words, I believe that no one who has actually used a new MacBook Air has complained about the performance.

This can be rationalized in a few different ways, of course. I’ve written and spoken about the weird effect where one’s expensive technology purchases reflect their decision-making capabilities and thus become personal statements of worth. And that these people will defend the products they buy, and the decisions they make, in order to save their egos.

There’s also a perceived Apple bias, both in the mainstream press and in the blogosphere. And it’s not hard for this audience to rationalize that Apple “needed” to deliver a product here that fit neatly into its modern Mac lineup. That a dual-core part was somehow the only choice that made sense.

Whatever. This is where I’m at.

In theory, Apple’s decision to use a dual-core Y-series Intel CPU is, of course, outrageous. The industry has shifted to quad-core U-series Intel processors, did, in fact, make that transition a year ago. And the Windows PCs that the MacBook Air compete with are all using these CPUs. And are benefiting from the additional performance they provide, and are doing so without any hit to battery life.

But Apple did choose a Y-series part. Whether it did so because of the thermal requirements of the new MacBook Air chassis, or because it had really been waiting for some 10 nm part that is now delayed indefinitely is sort of beside the point. This is the reality: The MacBook Air stands alone with this curious 7-watt Y-series CPU.

And … in my admittedly limited experience so far, it’s worked fine. I’ve noticed no performance issues at all, across applications like Google Chrome, with multiple tabs, Adobe Photoshop Elements 2018, Skype, MacDown (the Markdown Editor I used to write that first article), or anything else I threw at it.

Apple used the term “everyday tasks” to describe the sorts of work that a typical MacBook Air user might undertake with this machine. But that may be underselling it. I think the new MacBook Air is a capable performer in what I’d call “traditional productivity tasks,” which includes email and web browsing, of course, but also Microsoft Office and, yes, even some Photoshop.

I’ll also see how some more advanced applications, like Apple’s Xcode development environment, perform. But Xcode worked/works just fine on my 2014-era MacBook Air, and I have little doubt it will work similarly on this one. Maybe macOS is just more efficient than Windows, folks.

Beyond this anecdotal usage data, which will turn into “actual, real-world experience” over time, it’s also helpful to look at benchmarks. Not in isolation. But in context.

Geekbench reports that the new MacBook Air and its Intel Core i5-8210Y processor score 4248/7828 (single-core/multi-core). That’s for a MacBook Air with 16 GB of RAM, just like the one I bought.

Those scores are higher than the 3335/6119 posted by the previous-generation MacBook Air. And they’re lower than the 4314/9071 posted by the non-Touch Bar-based MacBook Pro, which is the next Mac up the org chart. So it looks like some of that rationalization makes sense: The new MacBook Air landed right where it needed to in the lineup. That the old MacBook Air is $200 less expensive than the new model, and that the MacBook Pro is $200 more expensive, is particularly interesting.

I also ran my standard performance test, in which I encode the 4K video Tears of Steel to a high-quality 1080p version using Handbrake. Here, the MacBook Air didn’t do so well, posting a time of 1:52. And there was loud and constant fan noise during the entire procedure.

Let’s look at this one in context, too.

By comparison, my 2014 MacBook Air—with its 1.4 GHz Intel Core i5-4260U processor and 8 GB of RAM—needed 2:40 to complete this encoding test. So one might argue that the new machine is indeed a worthwhile upgrade.

But Surface Laptop 2—with a much newer quad-core 1.7 GHz Intel Core i5-8250U processor and 8 GB of RAM—needed only 51 minutes to complete the encoding, an excellent score. Here, the new MacBook Air does not compare favorably with a modern Windows laptop, and arguably the PC with which it most closely competes.

On a side note, both the 2014 MacBook Air and Surface Laptop 2 issued a steady fan noise during their respective encoding tests. But the new MacBook Air’s fan was far louder than either. I felt like I was abusing it somewhat just running this test. That said, the new MacBook Air remained relatively cool to the touch, and on par with the Surface Laptop 2. (The older Air heated up more.)

Looking over the results of the many PCs I’ve reviewed, I can see that the new MacBook Air falls right at the back of the pack when it comes to this encoding test. Modern, quad-core laptops typically need a bit over an hour to make this conversion. So the MacBook Air needs about twice as much time as the average these days. But the lowly HP Envy x2 (Intel) was even worse. It also utilizes a Y-series processor, but it was held back by its paltry 4 GB of RAM and was even slower: This terrible PC needed almost three hours to finish this test. That’s even worse than a 2014 MacBook Air.

Look, I’ll keep using the new MacBook Air. But my gut feeling is that it does indeed deliver on the performance one would expect of this laptop when used at the “everyday tasks” for which it was designed. That’s a nice surprise, and a useful reminder that going into something like this with preconceived notions isn’t perhaps the best approach.


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Comments (55)

55 responses to “Apple MacBook Air (2018) Check-In: Performance”

  1. Daekar

    Sounds reasonable. If performance per dollar isn't one of the metrics you care about maximizing and the thing does what you want it to, then it's a reasonable tool for the job. Whether or not you got ripped off is sort of in the eye of the beholder, really.

  2. genecrispr

    Paul, I'll be very curious, I hope you put Windows into the new Air and then also do a Tears of Steel encoding? What do you think we will see?

    • Jason Peter

      In reply to GeneCrispr:

      Since Apples bootcamp drivers have always been fairly mediocre and only offering basic functionality, I’d say it would perform quite badly and would not offer a fair comparison. That, and in my experience their power efficiency with Windows has always been poor (running hot and loud, and draining the battery quickly).

      If your wanting to run Windows on a Mac Air, to paraphrase - you could live off it, but it would taste like shit...

    • Paul Thurrott

      In reply to GeneCrispr:

      I will put Windows on it. Not sure what to expect, but that might be an interesting test.

  3. ericgharrison

    I think a good real world test is to connect it to a 4k monitor and then experiment with multiple desktops. This is where my 2018 MacBook Pro 13” really falls down. It should not be slow driving a single external monitor, but switching between desktops is not a great experience.

  4. remc86007

    This thing has a fan!?!?!?!? Apple couldn't figure out how to dissipate 7 watts of heat without one? I thought for sure that was the reason they went with a 7 watt part. The 2017 I5 Surface Pro has better Geekbench scores and it doesn't have a fan!

    I appreciate you trying to be objective in reviewing this thing's performance, but the "it's good enough" sentiment rings a little hollow considering how much you have derided the Surface products when they are one year behind the bleeding edge of tech. Quad Core parts are now mainstream and there is zero excuse for not including one. The i5-8250U was launched over a year ago and has a configurable TDP down to 10 watts. If Microsoft can get 15 watts of passive thermal dissipation into a 2.8 lb product, Apple should be able to eek out 10 watts with a fan in their 2.75 lb product.

    • ecumenical

      In reply to remc86007:

      The fact that it has a fan is precisely why performance is ok despite the "weaker" chip. With a fan it can run at full clock pretty much indefinitely, whereas a passively cooled chip would have to throttle down after 30-60 seconds.

      Now, sure, they could've put a quad in, but passively cooling this thing would have been stupid.

    • Paul Thurrott

      In reply to remc86007:

      The processor is brand new, it's just a dual-core chip. This thing is about as modern as a PC gets.

      • remc86007

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        Yeah, it's brand new in the same way the original Surface Book dgpu was brand new...Just because it is a new SKU doesn't mean it is "modern". It is still just an Amber Lake part, and it doesn't even have boost clocks as high as the 8200Y and 8500Y. If they took the 8500Y and turned the TDP up to 7 watts, that might be more interesting because it would at least have modern single core performance.

        Underlying all of this is the fact that all these parts are just slightly modified Kaby Lake parts which launched in Q1 of 2017.

        Apple cheaped out and they should be held to the fire for it. It is tech journalists' responsibility to inform the non-techy people about products like this that will be obsolete substantially sooner because of decisions like this.

    • macguy59

      In reply to remc86007:

      It does have a fan albeit a very small one

  5. dstrauss

    I tested out a custom HP SPectre Folio 13 (i7Y/16gb RAM/1tb SSD/4G LTE) - had to return it because of issues with the 1W display panel, but the Y processor was plenty peppy, about like my Surface Pro 4. If Apple had offered the i7Y part they might get less blow back from the tech community, but then I don't think they care, in general, and I believe every Apple laptop short of the truly professional SKU's of the MacBook Pro will be running A1X processors in a couple of years anyway.

  6. slerched

    Still using an old Dell desktop with i7 3770, upgraded SSD, 12 GB RAM, and a 1070 GPU. Connecting to it via SteamLink and my Surface Pro 3.

    Despite having the upgrade bug, being an IT geeky guy, I just can't seem to justify the expense of upgrading either. They work just fine for the way I use them (1080p games actually still look great). I want 4K on games I don't want to cheat on (Cheat Engine for the WIN on games with grinding), I use my XB1X. If said game isn't available on XB1X, I go PC or PS4 Pro, whichever it's actually on.

    What else do I do with my PCs? Listen to music (FLAC) and... browse from time to time?

    I definitely get the PERFORMANCE testing, then I also understand and get the "it works, and it does what I want," more reasonable Performance.

  7. falonyn

    I am glad to hear that the run of the mill performance is good on this. I figured that it would perform reasonably for most things, but it is the price for that performance that gets me. I get a Mac tax, but at $999 it is still over priced. I paid less for an HP Spectre x360 with a quad-core CPU, NVMe SSD, 8GB RAM, etc... I just see Apple pricing people out of the market for their laptops. And it seems that if a company is wanting people to get these when they are younger so they can grow up using Apple products and there can be a change in the workplace demand for it, they are doing a terrible job. Getting a form factor and price point where young children that are learning to code and develop, sounds like that would be a worthy reason for making something that costs significantly less.

    I am learning to code at 35, and coding on a Mac sure seems easier than on Windows (Bash shell scripting), but I can't afford it.

    And I am not coding on an iPad. Sorry. That is stupid at this point. Perhaps if mobile OS advances quite a bit, but for now, coding is done on a desktop, and Macs cost too much. Better to get something cheaper and more powerful.

  8. curtisspendlove

    This is exactly where I expected this new Air to fall.

    Good on “everyday tasks”. And decent on “Pro-light” tasks such as light Xcode or web development.

    And pretty much painful on anything more “full Pro” level.

    It is dissapointing to the crowd who (like me) were able to spec up an old Air and get away with most non-video “pro” needs.

    I think the Y processor is a clear indication that they expect you to shell out a few hundred more bucks if you need to compile faster, export audio or video encodings in half the time, etc.

    Unfortunate. And I know everyone is always super price sensitive when it comes to Apple stuff.

    But I think the price hikes are the new reality. Which will likely price out a lot of personal purchases.

    I expect this Air to be price-dropped by $100 next WWDC and a further $100 the subsequent year to be the new under-$1000.

    But I could be wrong. We may never see another Mac laptop below $1000. (The cynic in me wonders if it might be a way to push people toward iPads.)

    :: shrug ::

    • falonyn

      In reply to curtisspendlove:The cynic in me wonders if it might be a way to push people toward iPads.

      I think this is exactly what it is. For most people, they think that an iPad is more than enough. They control that system more and have a much stronger market share with Mobile than laptop/desktop. And when it comes to tablets, they are by far the best and most popular. I can't recall a huge hardware event that highlighted Android tablets recently, even though Samsung and Google are putting out new ones.

      If you can push people to using iPad, they will more than likely be more locked into your services like Apple Music, iTunes, iCloud, etc... And you can control the product and software further. But I think there are plenty of people that look at mobile OS and tablets as not measuring up for their day-to-day work, and Apple is going to lose the people from that crowd to cost.

    • joeaxberg

      In reply to curtisspendlove:

      I think the price will drop.

      I've never paid full price for a Mac. Wait for the openbox returns at Best Buy, refurbished units at the online Apple store.

      Micro Center already has an ad up today for $200 off the new Air's. The 8GB/128 and 8GB/256 versions.

  9. Jason Peter

    The Mac Air has always been a mystery. With the exception of its low-res display, the 2010-2017 Airs have always been a joy to use, even though its specs have always been substandard in comparison to the rest of the PC industry. As we have learned time and time again, specs and benchmarks don’t tell the whole story.

    I still have my 2013 Air (8 Gb/256 Gb SSD) that my kids still typically pass around for everyday use. It still has great battery life (surprisingly, considering it already passed 1000 charges some time ago and is still going strong) and is more than fast enough for everyday usage, apart from gaming and medium/heavy video encoding workflows. Sure, its starting to show its age in some cases, but is still amazingly useful. In comparison, my daughters 2015 Yoga with the same amount of memory (and probably better CPU, but I can’t remember at the moment) is starting to lag and strain under similar usage.

    I typically trace this down to a faster SSD for almost transparent memory paging, as well as macOS simply able to run much more efficiently.

    The point being, the Air has always been derided by those who look at specs only without having the experience of using one regularly. They simply work very well in everyday usage, have great battery life, and are a joy to use (if you like macOS). They simply don’t *need* high-end specs for what they are marketed for. I would say - spec for spec - that they would easily give a more satisfactory user experience than a similarly specced Windows laptop. Not benchmarks - but perceived smoothness and efficiency in multitasking and overall use.

    I don’t know how to explain it any better than that. It won’t win any benchmark wars, simply because it *doesn’t need to* in order to offer a great user experience. But it's not marketed towards gamers and professional apps that require large amounts of memory and high-end CPU’s. Obviously, it will perform unacceptably in those situations.

  10. Bob Shutts

    I've seen a couple of complaints that the 2018 MBA seemed a bit dim. Any complaints in that department?

  11. macguy59

    After some hands on time, my concerns are display brightness (only 300 nits) and the relatively slow app loads. I'm a MBP and iPad user so I'm used to bright displays (>500 nits). App loads seem to take longer (dock bounces) on this new Air. Luckily there was the old 13" MBA right next to it so I could compare. The new Air (at least the one on display at BB) does take longer than the old Air to load the same apps. Perplexing because the new Air is supposed to have a faster SSD in it. Is it the CPU they chose ?

  12. cyberone

    What's your guess how Windows 10 on Parallels runs on this new MBA? For years to come, that's likely where the MBA will be underpowered when using Windows software such as Publisher, I'm afraid...

  13. FalseAgent

    I guess Apple has the unique distinction of being able to order a semi-custom chip from Intel? Because this thing isn't really the same underpowered 4.5/5w processor, but it isn't as fast as the 15w processor either. It does, however, achieve around almost 80% of the performance of the Macbook Pro for much less power. Apple seems to have attempted to go for a "sweet spot" where this machine is much more efficient - but not necessarily much faster.

    Sad to say, the lack of performance increase is Intel's fault, not Apple's fault. The dual-core still worries me. We have seen the jump in laptop performance when Intel moved to quad-core designs. If this chip was quad-core it would be basically perfect. Assuming one keeps this machine for 3 years, how will this hold up in 2021 performance-wise vs if they were to buy a competing machine, like a Surface Laptop? New versions of MacOS - like Sierra - are also known to slow down Macs more than Windows 10 updates.

    • RobertJasiek

      In reply to FalseAgent:

      Quad-cores are faster in multiple threats but equally fast in single threats. I have yet to be convinced that two-core Intel CPUs are not more energy efficient. Notebookcheck has consistently assessed for the U series that two-cores have much longer battery lives.

  14. madthinus

    Apple does one thing really right. It always use quality SSD chips and they pair them to fast access controllers. This is the fundamental difference between an Apple laptop and any Windows machine. I bet that if one take that Surface Go and you combine it with pci express linked SSD chips it will feel less pedestrian.

    The bigger concern is the dual core design of that CPU. Will a dual core give you 4 years worth of life out of this purchase? I just feel that with most laptops now at quad core, we are at the point that software will once again push forward. With browsers going multi threaded leading the daily tasks.

    The other question is dual booting and virtualization. How well will that serve you going forward. Does that Y processor caries what is needed for a good experience?

    • mattbg

      In reply to madthinus:

      No technical issues with what you wrote, but does this really apply to the typical MacBook Air user? I use a ThinkPad and upgraded to a dual-core ThinkPad X1 Carbon a couple of years back, but if I still had my 3-4 year old (at that time - now 6 years old) dual-core ThinkPad that preceded it, I find it hard to imagine I'd be seeing slowdowns in the types of things I do on a laptop.

      My desktop is a recent-gen quad core i7 which is loaded with 64GB RAM for no good reason and a mid-level GeForce card I barely make middling demand of. I don't expect the same performance from my laptop because when I use a laptop I want it to be small and portable.

      Power users won't be looking at the MacBook Air unless they value portability above all else and in that case know that they have to sacrifice some performance to get it.

    • joeaxberg

      In reply to madthinus:

      I've not used a Mac based on the Y series processor, but I have used a Dell. Dell uses Y's in their XPS 2-in-1's.

      After changing the bios to allow virtualization, I loaded VMware Workstation and it run just fine. At least for things I do with with virtualization - which amounts to just running a couple of Ubuntu machines for demos and testing. I teach an IT infrastructure class at a University.

      I've also done the same on a 1st Gen Macbook (a loaner gold one no less).

      Depends on what one is needing out of virtualization anyway.

      There is my anecdotal evidence anyway.

    • falonyn

      In reply to madthinus:The other question is dual booting and virtualization. How well will that serve you going forward. 

      I would say that if you are buying something like this for desktop virtualization, you will be very disappointed. This is not the laptop for that, and they state as much. "Every day tasks" does not include that and if you are doing that daily, you are a power user.

  15. gabbrunner

    I was expecting it to run just fine, too. After all Apple really has never produced a "slow" computer, and MacOS just feels generally really snappy.

    It's certainly faster than that ridiculous processor of the Surface Go.

    On that note, I know you're not a fan but could you be persuaded into taking a second look at the Surface Go? It seems to be a funny situation where the benchmarks are crap, but everyone on Twitter who has one seems to be delighted with it...

  16. jimchamplin

    IMO the only reason to get a Macintosh anymore is to run macOS. If you have a big investment in Mac software and to you, the value of keeping that is higher than switching, then you get one of these things.

    The experience is nicer and more consistent than Windows 10, and overall, Mac devs care more about their software. We saw some new blood and new ideas in the UWP store, but I think that any promise of modern, well-designed Windows software is down the drain at this point.

    To me at least, though, if I’m not gaming in Windows, I’m at a *nix command line. macOS can deliver that, but I’m not paying those prices. Let’s not forget that also at those prices, they’re still foisting integrated video on you.

    • webdev511

      In reply to jimchamplin:

      I admit, I am not up to speed on Adobe subscription model, but I have to think at some point, the investment turns into "I know all the shortcuts on MacOS and how to use it overall" I feel this bite every time I have a day that I'm putting a MacOS build of Office through it's paces. I have to do it once a week because I have customers that are split 50/50 or higher on the Mac side. On the Microsoft side when you get Office you can download either or both and use both if you want. I would think that most of the subscription services would at least be kind of similar. So it's not so much that people MUST use a Mac and MacOS, rather that's what they're used to. Sure they could probably switch, but if someone else is paying for the device, why bother?

    • Vladimir Carli

      In reply to jimchamplin:

      I am a long time apple user and I strongly believe that MacOS is superior to Windows 10. I am burned by apple because I don't like their hardware anymore and I recently switched my macbook for a surface book 2. If it was only familiarity, the surface book 2 should be fine by now but I still struggle with it, in spite of the fact that the hardware is way superior. Apple is in the best possible position to deliver a great 2-1 and until it does, I am not buying from them anymore. For example, the new iPad Pro is an awesome device, I would buy it immediately if it only had a file system and supported a f***ing mouse. The day that apple release a macOS laptop with a detachable screen that becomes an iPad and they sell it for 5000 dollars, I will be cueing up to buy it on day 1.


    • ericgharrison

      In reply to jimchamplin:

      I agree. The hardware is generally not leading edge anymore.

      A friend of mine describe working in Windows (vs. MacOS) as death by a thousand cuts. You spend a lot of time on a Mac, then go back to Windows and it’s very frustrating. Especially with a 4k monitor attached - Windows still doesn’t handle this well, and for the Mac, it just works.

  17. amosclan

    I still use my i5 Surface Pro 3 with 4GB of RAM (plugged in because the battery died and isn't serviceable...) and the experience is fine, as long as I'm not doing heavy multi-tasking. I think for most people who aren't trying to use their laptop as a desktop replacement, any modern laptop over 800 dollars is going to be fine.

  18. wright_is

    The apps you listed, apart from Photoshop Elements shouldn't really put a strain on any modern processor.

    And Photoshop Elements is a lot lighter on the system than full Photoshop - and, the type of image you are processing. If it is just a 24MP RAW file, it shouldn't need too much scratch disk or memory, but if you are processing a high quality image (~100MP) with lots of effects things might look very different.

    XCode will also not require too much processing power when writing code, it is when you compile it that it will need more power. So compiling a project with several hundred thousand lines of code would be a good test of XCode, if you have other, modern Macs available to compare.

    Most modern machines spend a majority of their lives in idle mode. The bursts that benchmarks produce are interesting and show how long you will have to wait at the extremes, but in general use (Word, Outlook, browser with a few tabs open), you probably won't see much difference between a Pentium Gold and a Core i5, as long as both have decent SSDs and enough memory (see your point with the HP x2).

    • Paul Thurrott

      In reply to wright_is:

      They shouldn't. But they beat up the Intel Envy x2 pretty easily.

    • curtisspendlove

      In reply to wright_is:

      XCode will also not require too much processing power when writing code, it is when you compile it that it will need more power.

      Agreed. And Apple has been putting a lot of work into their software to take advantage of burst (such as incremental compilation, etc).

      I’m curious how non-Apple “Pro-light” tools such as VS Code and a web dev stack do.

      I expect they they will be fine. Not amazing. But fine.

  19. ericmeetsworld

    Conspiracy Theory - Deliberately choosing poorer performing chips in order to make the transition to their own chips look a lot better.....

  20. wharrington

    I appreciate the insight to the performance. I use both Windows and Mac. I am looking at upgrading my work laptop which I use boot camp on. I am curious is the Apple secret sauce MacOS has been tuned for this chip. I have a feeling if I tried to use Windows via boot camp it might be a different story on performance, with drivers purposely handicapped by Apple. If you could try boot camp in your final evaluation it would be very helpful. Thanks!

  21. AnOldAmigaUser

    You mentioned that the performance of your old MacBook Air was acceptable. I cannot imagine that the performance of the new one will not be more acceptable, and it comes with a better looking screen. For the target demographic, that is all that is required. It will be performant enough, familiar enough, it is new, and it has a big white apple on the cover. What more could they want? It is exactly what it needed to be, nothing more and nothing less. Provided the keyboard holds up, Apple got this exactly right, with the possible exception of putting both usb-c ports on one side.

    One can quibble about the price, but if one is inclined to do so, one is not buying Apple hardware.

  22. skane2600

    Your review seemed to me to be pretty objective, well done.

  23. SimonFlynn

    I'm on a 2016 m3 Macbook and I always have about 4 desktops open, 4 or 5 Chrome tabs, email app, OneNote, and bluetoothing music from it to my speakers. It has never once felt even slightly slow or laggy. I have an old i3 HP laptop that is *terrible* in comparison.

    • Stooks

      In reply to SimonFlynn:

      Having all those apps open only impacts the RAM especially when they are doing nothing at any given time. Now watch a HD or higher youtube video and and try opening up a large document in Word at the same time.

      With my experience using the 2016 Macbook ("nothing" or 12inch model) it will choke and choke bad.

  24. jreuter

    You should have made some note of which tasks used multi-threaded applications.  I'm guessing that Handbrake is multi-threaded.  Most applications used for 'everyday tasks' remain single threaded and so would show no benefit from multiple cores, unless for some reason you are running concurrent CPU-intensive tasks, which is not typical 'everyday' work.  All else being equal, including chip architectures, a dual core CPU with a faster clock would seem faster than a quad with a slower clock for typical 'everyday tasks'.  You don't get the benefit of more cores until you have multi-threaded workloads, a fact that spec-sniffers seem to ignore.

  25. Tom Berry

    I imagine in real world use it'll be grand. I've been using a surface Go as my main work machine for a few months and it flies. Gets in a tizzy when I dock it for a few seconds, but in general it's a brilliant compromise.

  26. michael_babiuk

    Coincidentally, I also purchased a new MBA Retina w/16GB RAM and 512GB SSD storage. I hadn't planned on this purchase this year but a few weeks ago, an early morning Apple Cider accidental but clumsy juice spill on my trusty 3 yr old MacBook Retina keyboard resulted in a necessary repair (still to be performed). Who knew that Apple Cider acted like kryptonite against Apple laptops?! Sigh. Of course it had to be "Apple" Cider. Grin.

    Anyway, after a very successful Time Machine restore of my MacBook files and apps to this new MBA, I can verify Paul's anecdotal performance observations with these added insights.

    I really, REALLY appreciate laptops that are absent fan noise. And in this regard, my new MBA mirrors my MacBook experience. I did notice one occurrence of fan noise so far in one week of use. (And yes, it does sound "THAT LOUD" under load as Paul describes.) It occurred during an initial "break-in" period where my transferred Parallels Desktop windows virtual machines were being optimized (file storage and the such) to work in this new hardware environment. Afterward that initial adjustment, I have not heard that fan running my Windows VMs at all. And I have not heard the fan at all using my macOS software. Silence is indeed golden.

    The performance of the MBA's file transfer using its USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports is impressive. I wanted to transfer about 80GB worth of files to a new external 1TB ScanDisk Extreme SSD (having a USB-C connector) and the transfer speed was impressive.

    As for the keyboard: Comparing this third generation butterfly switch design to its first generation version on my previous MB Retina - that I used for over three years without incident (until that darn Apple Cider spill) - I must conclude that tactile feel has improved in both "softness", accuracy and sound. Personally, I can't understand why anyone would NOT enjoy typing on this keyboard but apparently many do so - to each his own.

    Although I have used my Apple Watch to securely open my MB Retina (and this new MBA), I enjoy the Touch ID method of waking the MBA perhaps better since one needs to touch a key to initiate the waking process anyway and the Touch ID finger press to wake option is fractionally faster.

    Having a 13" display vs a 12" display is more of a productivity asset than what a novice computer user might anticipate. And, what seems to make all the difference in the world in performance (comparing my MB Retina to this new MBA) is that extra 8GB of RAM. Who knew that modern computer software and hardware NEEDS that added headroom. My VMs are noticeably speedier and everything multitasks so much more effortlessly.

    IMO, the new MBA is basically a generation 3 version of the 12" MacBook Retina. I even prefer the new "bronze gold" color to my more traditional gold color of my 12" MacBook. (Published photos don't do this new gold color justice. Photos tend to give it a more "rosy"tint than what it appears in real life and the black keyboard and display bezels really compliment the overall look of this new gold colored MBA aesthetics.

  27. nick-

    I use mackbook air.

  28. melinau

    It seems a case of 'horses for courses'. Pretty much the same as any other Tech purchase.

    The new Apple Air simply wouldn't have enough power for my primary needs, which revolve around working on complex spreadsheets & documents, and a lot of (amateur) video work. Doing these tasks in a sensible time-frame requires a lot more horsepower than is available here.

    That's not to say it won't suit many people perfectly. Apple appear to have been uncharacteristically straight and targeted 'everyday tasks'. Looking at reviews of the new 'Pro' iPads, and Adobe porting 'proper' Photoshop to iOS, it does seem that Apple's more creative customers might be happier with one of those, for less money, but better portability & convenience.

    I note some cynics in this thread are suggesting that the Air is deliberately a bit under-powered & over-priced precisely to encourage switching to iPad Pro. This would fit nicely with their strategy of dragging people into their highly profitable walled garden, and using their proprietary chips instead of Intel's.