It was introduced as the world’s thinnest notebook, so how is it standing up in 2023?
An odd start to the year
I under use my M2 MacBook Air – no question about it. And just when I was starting to think about using it more, Apple confused matters in January.
They caught us all with our trousers down as they threw a load of new goodies our way. Quite possibly they were they supposed to be released gradually in the last few months of last year, who knows. All we do know is, in January we got A LOT!
We know that Apple is within touching distance of finally getting their AR/VR headset out of the door. But that push is meaning that there’s not much spare manpower around right now at HQ. Everything is behind, because of getting 100% behind the Apple Vision project.
Originally, it seemed as if they were hoping to showcase it at a spring event, but that event is now looking, less and less likely, with a release at June’s WWDC now a far more realistic goal.
So, if we don’t get a spring event, what will be the timeline for new Macs this year, and, what processors will these Macs use?
They seem in no rush at all with the Mac Pro. It’s a niche Mac anyway, and although important, it’s not a big seller. We are pretty certain that they’ll be using the M2 Ultra chip with up to 24 CPU cores, 76 GPU cores. That config will be able to be loaded up with up to 192GB of memory as well.
But enough of the Mac Pro – what’s next for the MacBook Air? What’s Apple got in store for it?
The start of my odyssey
The MacBook Air was my first MacBook, back in 2010, and, it was good enough to mean that I never left working on a Mac from that day.
Last summer, I was one of the first to get the M2 MacBook Air – the 8GB model with a 512GB hard drive.
I had already experienced what Apple silicon was capable of, thanks to my daily workhorse – the 16-inch M1 Max MacBook Pro. But when the M2 Air came out, I knew I needed one, if nothing else, for old times sake.
Where possible, I try not to take my MacBook Pro out with me. Not only because of the size and the weight, but also because of how much it costs. It’s stupidly expensive, and the thought of anything happening to it makes me shudder.
Enter the MacBook Air. And the thing is, it’s already good, very good at what it does.
Playing to its strengths
Good as it is though, and despite the early clamour, obviously, it can’t handle everything. Even M2 silicon has its limits…
If, say, the video I’m working on is heavy with plug-ins and effects, then it’ll struggle. But, on the other hand, if I am doing some easy timeline edits, simply arranging clips, or getting in to some light podcast production work, then you know what, the MacBook Air flies.
The only problem that I reallyhave is the smaller screen size. Working on a video edit on a small screen is tough…but, if only they had a larger screen….
When this M2 Air came out, it was the first time the iconic MacBook Air had been re-designed since we first saw it nearly 15 years ago. Gone was the famous, tapered wedge shape. Now it was all square and angular looking, very much like a mini MacBook Pro, actually. But slim and dainty as it is – it’s not lacking power.
The gorgeous, bright 13.6-inch Retina display, with its much, much slimmer bezels, lulls you in to thinking it’s actually bigger than it is. The smooth curve around the bottom edge feels better in the hand than the sharp edge of the old design, which, in turn, makes it easier to work on for longer spells.
And talking of working on it, the keyboard is as Apple as any other keyboard. They gave it back, the much missed row of full height function keys. And, to make yet more space, gone, too, were the speaker grills on either side, making the keyboard feel, even bigger, and more open.
Just like when Steve Jobs first pulled it from that manilla envelope – it carries on creating that illusion of being larger than it really is. That has always been the MacBook Air’s brief.
They gave the Air colours last year too. I got the midnight blue, which contrary to what others feared months ago, has aged just fine. The fingerprints turned out not to be a big issue at all. After eight or nine months of use, mine has remained just about scratch free.
The in’s and out’s
For me, the MacBook Air has plenty of ports. The two USB 4 Thunderbolt ports are enough, particularly as you get the MagSafe charger port as well. The only other port on here is the headphone jack, which now works with high impedance headphones. That simple point should not be underplayed – that helps make my M2 MacBook Air even more competent as a production back-up Mac.
But, good at as all this is, what’s next for the MacBook Air?
Not only are we are expecting a new M3 13-inch machine this year, but for the first time ever, also a 15-inch MacBook Air too.
Apple’s supply chain has already ramped up its production of the all-new 15.5-inch panel for it back in February. Ross Young, who is pretty spot on with his information, confirmed that earlier this year in some tweets. If that’s the case, you’d have to guess Apple is pretty close to shipping these MacBook Airs.
A 15-inch MacBook Air would be a perfect size. Imagine sitting in a coffee shop, video editing, on a slim bezelled, lightweight, 15.5-inch display – appealing, eh?
In the current economic climate, Apple will be keeping an eye on the ticket price of these new Macs. My guess is, for that reason, they’ll the ship MBA without a mini-LED, ProMotion display.
But the chip is the big question mark in the story.
As of December, Apple’s go-to chip manufacturer TSMC was already making the new 3 nanometer chips. But, even then, whether they would have enough ready for a spring release across all the range isn’t clear.
So, would they save the M3 chip for the 24-inch iMac that’s promised later this year instead, or will the beautiful MacBook Air ruin the party and get to use it first?
If they do launch these new 13-inch, and 15-inch MacBook Airs, they could be with us as soon as a few weeks time. If they have enough M2 silicon, available, and Young was correct about the panels, then why not?
They would be the first Macs that would have the 3-nanometer technology, which is expected to bring yet another step up in performance. My M2 MacBook Air, is already good, as I mentioned earlier. But, even more power, performance, and efficiency can never be a bad thing, right?
Then, later in the year, that 3-nanometer, M3 chip could then also be dropped in to the 24-inch iMac and by early next year the iPad Pro with an OLED screen.
The M2 was only ever a stopgap chip while they got the M3 chips ready to ship. It will also then move Apple another stage closer to their dream of getting Macs on an annual upgrade cycle, similar to the A series bionic chips in iPhone.
My MacBook Air has served me well this past year. I always forget just how good it really is. You don’t even have to make excuses for it and say “for its size”. It’s just good.
It’s easy for me to think everyone is video or audio editing on their Macs every day. In reality, I know that’s not the case, so I shouldn’t judge the MBA on that kind of workload.
If you mainly use your Mac for emailing, surfing, and general admin work, and just a little, light content creation, then an M2 or M3 MacBook Air would honestly be a great machine for you.
The MacBook Air is like the Volkswagen Beetle. That was a car for the masses. The MacBook Air has always been the Mac for the masses. Portable, light, powerful, forgiving, and durable – and all that could soon come with a 15-inch screen too!
So, as long as they’re sensible with where they price it, a 15-inch, M3 MacBook Air sounds like a great idea. If they do release it, I think I’ll sell on the M2 MacBook Air, and try out the M3 in its place.
So, although this year is set to be quieter than some recent years, what with the new MacBook Airs, iMac, Mac Pro, iPhone 15 and the headset, there is still plenty to look forward to.
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