2018 Apple MacBook Air, Real World Review

1 December 2018

It seems as though I purchase and use a laptop, specifically Apple laptops, for about 6 years before getting a new one. My very first Apple computer was a 2006 MacBook Pro which was one of the early Intel powered MacBook’s where Apple was transitioning away from the PowerPC chips. I used that MacBook Pro until 2012 when I bought a new one, a non-Retina 15″ MacBook Pro. Here we are 6 years later again, in 2018 and I decided to buy a new MacBook, this time the just announced Air.

I always wanted the Pro models so I could have the necessary power I wanted to be able to edit some video when I used to go to church. I also liked to run virtual machines which required a substantial amount of resources as well. The two Pro’s I had always did everything I wanted them to do. However, this time around I wanted to go in a different direction; lightweight portability.

I’ve considered the MacBook Air’s in the past but the big turn offs of the older models were a lack of real power, the big ugly and silver bezels and no Retina screens. So I never bought one. Now with Apple’s new update to the line they remedied those things and made me very interested in it.

My life and work has changed considerably over the last six years in that I’ve left church and religion behind which means I no longer edit audio and video. I’ve also received a promotion at work which means I’m now an executive administrator and no longer a systems administrator dealing with enterprise class hardware and software. Now my skills and abilities are put to use by my words, not by the systems I can build.

With those major changes in mind, I knew that I no longer needed the power of the MacBook Pro. My new job entails many meetings, travel and a lot of writing and reading. The new MacBook Air fits the bill perfectly for me and my current needs. It is lightweight, ultra portable and has a very long lasting battery. So far I’m getting better than 15 hours of usage from it on a single charge. At 2.75 pounds it’s much easier to carry around than the old MacBook Pro which was larger and weighed a lot more. The smaller design of the Air also means I don’t need as big of a bag to carry it and a few things around with me. I also really like the tapered design of the Air and it just makes it feel even more portable and easier to open up.

I know a lot of people have been complaining about Apple’s new butterfly keyboard style for the past 3 years on the MacBook Pro’s. Apparently the 2018 MacBook Air has a 3rd generation version of the keyboard. This is my first experience with this keyboard and I quite like it. So far I haven’t had any problems with it. On the past Pro’s apparently people were getting numerous typo's, repeated letters or letters that wouldn’t register when pressed. But so far so good for me on this new Air. I actually feel like I can type faster on this style than other more traditional keyboards and my typo’s aren’t any worse than before either.

In fact, I’ve been using it at work and on the road at meetings a lot since I received it on launch day. I’ve been writing and working on policies, letters and reports with it as well as picking up work on my book again. To date I still haven’t had any issues with the keyboard.

As for the screen, this is my first experience with a Retina screen. It is very nice and with the slimmer and black bezels it is so much better than the older generation Airs. There are however complaints about screen brightness. Apparently it only goes up to 300 nits. I agree it could be a tad brighter, but I’m not really complaining about it. Its plenty bright enough for my needs and most of the time I don’t even have it at full brightness anyhow. I assume that the 300 nits was a battery cost saving measure by Apple. The brighter they make the screen capable of, the shorter the battery life will be. But that’s just a guess on my part.

Another thing I really like about this laptop is that I can actually use it as a laptop. For instance, right now as I am typing this, the Air is on my lap with a blanket between it and my legs. With my older MacBook Pro even just typing a simple blog post and doing no other tasks, having it in a position like this would get my legs, and the laptop very hot. It required a good amount of airspace around it to stay cool and keep the fans from spinning up. What I would do with the Pro is either keep it on a table or I had bought a laptop tray thing to keep it on so it wasn’t in direct contact with me and had some air flow around it. This MacBook Air does not do what the Pro did and stays nice and cool, or at least just room temperature. I’ve not yet heard a fan spin up once on this machine.

Now for some people the lack of ports on this new Air can be a problem. It only has a 3.5 mm headphone jack on the right and two USB-C/Thunderbolt ports on the left, either of which can be used for charging. For me this minimal port offering is not an issue. I rarely plug anything into my laptops anymore and do everything online or over my local WiFi LAN. I did buy a USB-C to USB-A cable and a USB-C to Lightning cable just in case I might need them.

Apple boasted a little bit about the speakers in this model compared to the previous model. I don’t normally listen to music or much of anything on the laptop. I’m a bit of an audiophile and listen to lossless music on a DAP (digital audio player) or on the Mac mini which has an external amplifier and DAC (digital to analog converter) setup with some very nice Sennheiser headphones. But with that said, I did listen to some music on the Tidal app with the lossless music subscription and the speakers sounded decent enough for what they are. They are small, thin and narrow and in an ultra portable laptop. They sounded ok and didn’t make my ears bleed or anything.

A couple of other things that I like are the force touch track pad which has a larger area than my old MacBook Pro. Having the ability to click or tap anywhere on the pad is very nice compared to the older one where you had to click/tap only on the bottom. Another thing that is valuable is the Touch ID built into it. Having that is huge as far as convenience goes and double so when used in conjunction with Apple Pay on websites that support it. That combination is so much more secure and safe for your PII (personally identifiable information).

The other specifications of my 2018 MacBook Air are that I went with the optional Space Gray color, 16 GB of RAM and went with the 512 GB SSD. I don’t normally buy the AppleCare support on products and I haven’t done so with this either. But given this is a big update to the Air and the known history with the butterfly keyboard on the Pro’s, I’m considering buying the AppleCare+ just in case. I still have a month to decide before I am ineligible to buy it anymore.

All in all, I’m very pleased with the 2018 Apple MacBook Air. I recommend it to anyone who needs a general purpose laptop for the basic things such as web browsing, email, writing and the sort of casual use one might use a computer for. If you are into very intensive tasks such as audio and video editing, or photo editing, doing lots of other high CPU usage tasks, this might not be the right choice for you. The MacBook Air excels at everyday general use which is probably what most people do anyhow.

I’m looking forward to another 6 years before I need or decide to buy a new laptop.

Download the pdf version with pictures here.