So, this isn’t going to be the usual specs and benchmarks crap you’ll see in reviews. You want that, hop over to a website that does that. Just like when I review games, guns, motorcycle, etc. this is totally subjective.

I’ve been using a 2015 MacBook Air for about four years now; I’ve had it since my original 2010 Air was stolen out of my car. (Dammit, Albuquerque!) It’s been a superb machine. I’ve rarely seen the Beachball of Doom™️ and I’ve done writing, layout, and publishing of a host of books on it. Even on the latest macOS, it’s not slow, I’ve still got half the SSD drive to fill, and it has two excellent features: a ton of different ports (including the camera card slot for extra storage), and the superb MagSafe power cord. There was no real reason to walk away from the old Air, especially with the crappy keyboard design people were complaining about.

With the worldwide house arrest we’re all suffering through and the new keyboard design, I decided to jump on a new computer as retail therapy. It was either do an iPad Pro with a big SSD or a new Air. I spec’ed them out and wound up going with the new MacBook Air. It’s a base model with the 1.1GHz Intel Core I3 with 8 gigs of LPDDR4X memory and a 256 SSD.


So, from a totally user-based point of view, how is the new MacBook Air? for those where space and weight is a commodity — I do a lot of commuting on a motorcycle, so I need a small, light laptop with enough real estate for my tired eyes to see — it’s so much better. It’s lost almost a full inch in width, and about half an inch in depth, but the screen is the same size. The bezel around the screen is almost gone. The hinging on the screen is also improved.

It’s faster. I haven’t beachballed it, yet, and I was really trying the first night I had it. The picture above shows me trying to get the Migration Assistant to do it’s job, but it crapped out on me (apparently an issue with the new version of macOS). I wound up loading my files and other material from the internet, and from a jump drive. The jump drive took an hour and a half to upload the stuff I needed; it was 20 minutes from the USB3 pluged into an Apple adapter for USB-C to download. I had so much downloading, plus the Spotlight trying to indez the SSD, was on the internet surfing, had music going, and still the machine chugged along. It did get a bit hot, but it did it.

Also good: the screen is brilliant. Looks great and you can kick up the resolution to 1680×1050, instead of the standard 1440×900 to which it defaults. The True Tone gives the display a nice vibrancy, but if you turn the brightness down to save power it will lose a lot of the prettiness, just as what happens with any computer display these days. It’s also a power hog when turned up. More on that in a moment.

Speakers: The new machine has wee sound grilles on either side of the keyboard and gives a better stereo quality. Playing a music video side by side, I found the sound quality richer and with a wider range than the older machine, but strangely, I think the volume out of the older machine is a touch greater. It could have just been the way I had them set up in front of me, or me just wanting to find something to complain about. Still — good sound quality.

The keyboard is great. It’s got the same travel and feel as the Magic Keyboard for the iPads, and has a nice feel and sound when typing. the trackpad is much larger than the older MacBook I had. Not sure I like it, but I’m getting used to it. The Force Touch trackpad is taking me some getting used to, especially for tap and dragging things on screen; I’m doing it a bunch by accident. Also superb is the Touch ID. I know the Face recognition is the new meow in laptop and other devices, but it’s just a shit idea. Why? ’cause it’s obviously a shit idea from a security standpoint. I prefer passcodes, but the Touch ID makes buying things on iTunes or whatever they’re calling it this week and signing into sites using Keychain so much easier.

The “meh”: The 49.9‑watt‑hour battery is supposed to get you eleven hours of work. I doubt that. It drains faster than the 2015 MacBook Air and most of that seems to be the display and anything involving video processing (which it does superbly.) To use a period-appropriate example: a 2.5 hour Zoom meeting with six people burned up 50% of the battery on my old Air; the new one lost 20% in a 40 minute meeting with four people. I haven’t done much streaming video on it yet, but that seems a bit better on the battery. the key to conserving power, as with the older machines, turn the screen brightness down to 50-60 and turn off Bluetooth and if possible wifi. I’ll have to do a test with all this set up and follow up.

I’m also really not a fan of the USB-C ports and the paucity of the same. Yes, they’re fast, and the allow Apple to make the machine even thinner than the older ones, but there’s only two of them, and one might be used up charging the laptop. I’ve got a dock coming in to rectify that, but the point of a machine like this is to be small and convenient. The only reason I ignored this “feature” was that I rarely used the ports on the older machine. I have a camera SSD that has a 256GB storage, but I rarely plugged it in because it stuck out and I didn’t want to break it off when traveling. I use USB drives a lot at work, but the adapter i bought sorted that. Is it a drawback? Yup, but if you do most of your storage on some cloud server, it’s probably not much of a problem.

The bad: I miss the MagSafe power cord. I had the cable kicked out a few times, and it’s a feature I really like. Does USB-C power it up faster? Yes. But it’s my review and I’m griping. Gripe over. The only real downside is the web camera. It’s a shitty 720p that isn’t even up to the quality of the 720p on the old Air. That’s pretty unforgivable for the quality of cameras on other laptops.

So is it worth the $999 bucks for the base MacBook Air? Yes. Solid yes. If you’ve been holding out due to the keyboard fiasco, go for it. If you are feeling unsure because of the ports, figure out how often you use the ports (other than the USB ones — you can get USB jump drives now for both USB-3 and -C on the same stick, or use an adapter). If you’re using the camera card slot a ton, it might not be worth it. If you’re not, I can say that the last two weeks I haven’t really missed them. I’ve been using the cloud or Airdrop to other devices, but once I get back to work, it’ll be a bit more pressing.