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2018 MacBook Air: All the rumors on specs, price and release date

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After eight long years of tiny refinements, Apple may finally introduce a brand-new, redesigned MacBook Air in 2018, according to reports.

Sometime soon — possibly this quarter or next — a new MacBook Air is coming. (Probably. As usual, Apple has not announced anything officially, and did not respond to our request for a comment.)

While Apple has given the MacBook Air some incremental upgrades over the past eight years, it remains largely unchanged from the Apple MacBook Air Fall 2010. Suffice to say: A new model is way overdue. The current 13-inch MacBook Air, released in August 2017, got about the most modest makeover possible from its 2015 predecessor — a microboost in the speed of its antiquated Intel CPU and a belated doubling of RAM. 

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The original MacBook Air, 10 years later


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Instead, Apple has been steering customers away from the MacBook Air. The 12-inch MacBook and 13-inch MacBook Pro come equipped with higher-quality Retina displays and the latter model delivers more processing power than the Air. The MacBook Pro weighs about 0.3 pound more than the Air, while the 12-inch MacBook is nearly a full pound lighter. (The newer MacBooks have also been the subject of some reports of uneven quality, including stories about their ultra-flat butterly keyboards being rendered inoperable by a literal speck of dust.) Both newer systems cost at least $300 more in the US. 

At the same time, Apple’s competitors have been flooding the market with alternatives that are well-designed, affordable and significantly more powerful. Exhibit A: Dell’s XPS 13, which offers a supertight design and state-of-the-art Intel processors for $1,000. If you can tolerate Windows, there are many laptops to choose from that arguably deliver more value per dollar than the outdated MacBook Air.

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Dell’s 2018 XPS 13.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Still, the fact that Apple has left the Air in its lineup and not killed it off — as it just did with its AirPort networking products — has fans of the Air hoping for a Mac Pro-style stay of execution. After all, the basic design of the MacBook Air remains the Platonic ideal of a laptop to many. At the very least, a MacBook Air reboot — whether or not Apple sticks with the name — is an opportunity for Apple to redefine what kind of a laptop you can get for $1,000 in 2018. 

To that end, we’ve collected all the rumors and published reports circulating about the forthcoming price, specs, features and design of the next MacBook Air equivalent. This roundup will be updated on an ongoing basis, so check back often to see breaking news and details about the 2018 MacBook Air.

Rumor: Apple will debut new MacBook Air in 2018

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CNET

DigiTimes reported last year that Apple was developing a new 13-inch laptop that would replace the MacBook Air, and suggested that we would see it sometime during the first half of 2018 — perhaps as soon as June 4, when the company hosts its Worldwide Developers Conference

This week DigiTimes revised this forecast, however, reporting that Apple has postponed the upcoming MacBook Air’s introduction to the second half of 2018 — “probably in the third quarter,” which would be July 1 through the end of September. That means a release could instead coincide with the likely release of the next batch of iPhones. According to the report, Apple has not given suppliers an explanation for the delay, leaving some to hypothesize a problem with “key components such as processors.” 

Rumor: A lower-priced MacBook Air

DigiTimes, of course, doesn’t always have the greatest rumor track record. However, the more reliable Mark Gurman at Bloomberg reported in March that a “new, cheaper MacBook laptop is in the works and likely destined to replace the MacBook Air at a price less than $1,000.” Likewise, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has predicted that the 2018 model will be even “more affordable” than the current MacBook Air.

Today’s entry-level MacBook Air, with 128GB of hard-drive capacity, starts at $999, £949 or AU$1,499; the 256GB version costs $1,199. Third-party retailers now routinely discount the Air to $750 or $800, and its low price is key to its popularity. (Converted, $800 is about £600 or AU$1,060.) 

Rumor: A significant redesign with cutting-edge components

The DigiTimes report describes a new MacBook Air that will have a “slim design,” Apple’s high-resolution Retina Display and a more modern Intel CPU. It’s hard to imagine the company unveiling a truly new model that doesn’t have all of those things at a minimum.

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The MacBook Pro’s high-quality Retina Display and Touch Bar.


Sarah Tew/CNET

What about other Mac updates?

Apple refreshed its entire laptop line at 2017’s WWDC, and we may well see a refresh of the other MacBooks in Apple’s lineup. Whether that would be a “spec bump” — the same design but with newer, faster Intel chips — or a larger overhaul remains to be seen. The Mac faithful would certainly love to see Apple rethink everything from the Touch Bar on the Pro models to those problematic keyboards.  

The fact that we’ve seen some recent sales of current-model MacBooks certainly makes it feel like some sort of 2018 refresh could be on deck for WWDC.

Will we ever see a touchscreen MacBook?

Last year Bloomberg reported that Apple planned to merge support for applications across the two Mac operating systems in 2018 — perhaps in time for a debut at WWDC, which is in June this year. The move would unify support for apps, making them compatible with both iOS (for the iPhone and iPad) and MacOS (for laptops and desktops). At the moment, developers have to design different versions of each application separately. More recently, Apple analyst John Gruber has said that cross-platform app support is a “2019 thing” — so, likely to come after the introduction of the forthcoming MacBook Air.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, meanwhile, continues to insist that a merged MacBook and iPad wouldn’t be a good thing. Still, that doesn’t mean there’s no chance for a curveball. How about an overhauled 2018 iPad Pro with a new keyboard attachment? 

We’ll find out at the June 4 WWDC keynote, one way or the other. 

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