TECHNOLOGY

Apple is at the top of its MacBook game – and the best may be yet to come

We live in a wonderful era for Apple laptops. The 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros offer desktop power and stunning HDR displays. The new M2 MacBook Air is now a member of the family, with a similarly striking design and the Air’s signature smaller size and weight.

After a dark period of grappling with flawed laptop keyboards, a painful transition to USB-C, and an increasingly frustrating relationship with Intel, things haven’t looked so rosy for quite some time. So, as Apple proudly looks at the new line of laptops it’s been making in recent years, I have just one request: please, more.

Laptops are the best

Let’s start with the facts. For decades, the overall percentage of new Macs sold that are laptops continued to rise. The last time Apple specifically released desktop and laptop sales, laptops accounted for more than two-thirds of Mac sales and soared toward three-quarters. For most of the Mac’s existence, the most common Mac has been a laptop.

As Apple noted in its WWDC 2022 keynote, the MacBook Air is Apple’s best-selling laptop. And the next best thing is the 13-inch MacBook Pro with the same specs. Is it any surprise that the two most affordable MacBooks are the most popular?

But consider the lack of choice in Apple’s laptop line. If you don’t want to buy a MacBook Pro over $1,999, you can choose from the M2 Air, the 2020 M1 Air, or the 13-inch M2 MacBook Pro. That’s three 13-inch laptops that don’t really differ much from each other, down to their comparable weights and dimensions. They are three iterations of the same concept.

This is the main category of the Mac. Where is the choice?

Apple could do better by offering more choices in its laptop range.

Foundry

All laptops large and small

That’s why I’m encouraged by reports that Apple is considering not one but two new laptops that would appeal to those populating the under $1,999 Mac laptop market.

Let’s start with the big one, and I mean that literally. A few reports have suggested that Apple plans to release a 15-inch laptop early next year. This laptop is described by some as a “15-inch MacBook Air,” but I wouldn’t dwell too long on the names supplying sources in Apple’s hardware supply chain.

A laptop big enough for a 15-inch screen certainly doesn’t look like an Air, does it? While the MacBook Air brand has been successful for Apple, it doesn’t feel like it’s portable enough to fit a larger and heavier laptop. There are a few obvious alternatives, though: it could just be called the MacBook, or maybe (if Apple wants to expand on this new sub-brand) the MacBook Studio.

Whatever it’s called, you can see the appeal: more screen for less! Imagine a product that fits comfortably between the 13-inch MacBook Pro (starting at $1,299) and the 14-inch MacBook Pro (starting at $1,999), giving people who want a bigger screen an option that doesn’t require a jump to the high-end MacBook Pro models. With that $700 price difference between the 13- and 14-inch MacBook Pro models, there’s plenty of room for a larger laptop.

The other rumored model is a laptop that’s even smaller than the 13-inch MacBook Air. If you think the current MacBook Air is small enough, you’re right. For most people, the 13-inch laptop is the sweet spot. But some of us—and I count myself among this number—wouldn’t mind if our laptops were even smaller and lighter than the current Air.

There’s room in Apple’s lineup for a small model like the 11-inch MacBook Air.

Foundry

As I wrote at the beginning of last year, the 13-inch MacBook Air is smaller than ever, but it doesn’t compare to the ultimate compact Mac laptop, the 12-inch MacBook. That MacBook was nearly a full inch shorter than the Air, and while the M2 MacBook Air weighs 2.7 pounds, the 12-inch MacBook weighed two point zero pounds.

You can see where the M2 MacBook Air can be shaved to make a smaller model. The sides of the keyboard used to be home to speaker grilles, but the speakers have been moved to the back of the keyboard area. Pull the laptop in so it’s the same width as the keyboard, reduce the height of the trackpad a bit, and use the thin bezels (with notch) of the M2 Air’s screen, and you’ve got a thinner, lighter Air. I was using an 11-inch MacBook Air, and I’d like to see a new laptop that can fill that role.

Are the old ways best?

There’s one laptop in Apple’s current MacBook lineup that isn’t getting enough attention. That’s funny, because I suspect it will be one of Apple’s best-selling laptops of next year: the M1 MacBook Air.

Yes, the 2020 laptop, the M1 Air, is still floating around in Apple’s product lineup, especially since it starts at $999, and Apple isn’t willing to cut the margins of the M2 Air enough to make it to that. important starting price.

Most years I rolled my eyes at the suggestion that Apple kept an old Mac model around to get a lower price. Like the M2 MacBook Pro, the M1 MacBook Air has Apple’s last-generation design, no MagSafe, and a smaller screen. It’s old technology being sold alongside new technology. It’s a bit chilling, isn’t it?

But in this case… I say no. This is one of the happier side effects of the arrival of Apple silicon: the leap in Intel processors is so great that even the M1 MacBook Air is a dramatic improvement over the older laptops most people will upgrade from. For example, if you get a 2018 MacBook Air, you get a computer that is many times faster, with a spectacularly better battery life.

Would I have preferred the M1 Air to have been discontinued and the M2 Air inserted for the same prices? Well, of course I would. But I understand why Apple couldn’t — and I’m glad people can still get a great Mac laptop for $999. Or, if they want, they can get an even better MacBook Air starting at $1199.

MacBook choice is good. Let’s see more of it, please, Apple.

MacBook Air M1 (2020)

MSRP: 256GB, $1,299; 512GB, £1,549

14-inch MacBook Pro (2021)

MSRP: $2,499 (8-core CPU, 14-core GPU, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD); $3,149 (10-core CPU, 16-core GPU, 16GB RAM, 1TB SSD)

Read our full 14-inch MacBook Pro (2021) review

16-inch MacBook Pro (2021)

MSRP: $3,149 (M1 Pro 10-core CPU, 16-core GPU, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD); $3,399 (M1 Pro 10-core CPU, 16-core GPU, 16GB RAM, 1TB SSD); $4,399 (M1 Max 10-core CPU, 32-core GPU, 32GB RAM, 1TB SSD)

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