The MacBook Air Masterfully Makes a $1,199 Laptop Seem Like a Decent Deal

Compared to other MacBooks, at least.

The new MacBook Air models arrived on Tuesday as an expensive surprise. While much of the event played out as expected, the rumors indicting a cheaper MacBook Air in 2018 proved to be off-the mark. Instead of sticking with or lowering the price of last year’s $999 MacBook Air, the upgrades start at $1,199.

With some rumors indicating a MacBook Air with a price point as low as $799, the price’s announcement drew groans. But while the case for a middle market laptop from Apple certainly still makes sense (we still haven’t given up hope), digging into the numbers reveals that the new MacBook Air is actually a pretty decent deal inasmuch as anything that costs $1,199 could reasonably be described as such.

Let’s take a look at the Air’s upgrades. Apple gave it a Retina display with over 4 million pixels, added Touch ID support, two Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports, all while making it lighter, thinner, and smaller than its predecessor. This makes it more like the MacBook Air S (to use iPhone terminology) than the budget-friendly, Chromebook-inspired laptop some were hoping for. But this doesn’t mean you should count it out altogether.

That’s because newly introduced Air improves in many ways upon even last year’s $1,599 12-inch MacBook. It has a better processor, a larger display, faster RAM, a better graphics card, and it’s $400 cheaper. The only downside is that it has 128GB of storage capacity compared to the MacBook’s 512GB.

But of course, the fact that something seems like a deal relative to other Apple products could just as easily mean that Apple was over-pricing the 12-inch MacBook, too. So which is it?

macbook air dimensions 2018
Dimensions of the 2018, 13.3-inch MacBook Air.
macbook 2017 dimensions
Dimensions of the 2017, 12-inch MacBook. It's actually lighter and thinner than this new MacBook Air.

Somewhat counterintuitively, the 12-inch MacBook is actually now thinner and lighter than the Air, which could justify a slightly higher price. But the new Air is a generation ahead of it in terms of internals, leaving the 12-inch MacBook in the unenviable spot being both expensive and outdated.

For its part, the 13.3-inch MacBook Air now takes the place of the cheapest, current-gen Apple laptop, edged out only by the $999, 2017 MacBook Air. To get a truly cheap Apple laptop you’ll need to settle for last-gen tech. But a combination of impressive internal upgrades — plus last year’s disappointments — have made this year’s Air seem like a bargain.

Check out more of our coverage of Apple’s final 2018 hardware announcement.

Media via Apple