2017 MBA vs 2018 MBA

Plutowillreturn

macrumors member
Original poster
Oct 7, 2018
61
8
What would you all recommend as a first foray into MacOS? I will primarily use it for writing, office work, and media consumption.

I can purchase a 2017 MBA for maybe 700-800 USD or a 2018 MBA for 1000 USD. Is the extra cash worth it?
 

Howard2k

macrumors 68030
Mar 10, 2016
2,539
1,818
If you like risk, get the 2018.
If not, wait a week for more reviews, more specs, and see if there are “quirks”.

It’s not much faster than the 2017, but unless it has some so far undiscovered limitations I think it’s a bettter buy. But I wouldn’t buy one right now, I would wait a week or so.
 

filmbuff

macrumors 6502a
Jan 5, 2011
807
141
Get the 2018 no contest. The 2017 is an 8 year old design with nothing but spec bumps for 8 years bringing it up to the minimum standard.
 

MacManiac76

macrumors 65816
Apr 21, 2007
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White Mntns, Arizona
The 2017 has a better keyboard, more ports/better selection of ports, and the SSD is upgradeable unlike the new model which is not. Depends on what your needs are as to which is better for your use case. The only thing really any better on the new model is the screen.
 
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Plutowillreturn

macrumors member
Original poster
Oct 7, 2018
61
8
Price wise, is it worth the extra money for the screen? I am currently using a Dell 15” with a 1080p screen and a Chromebook 11.6” with a 1080p.
 

Howard2k

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Mar 10, 2016
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Price wise, is it worth the extra money for the screen? I am currently using a Dell 15” with a 1080p screen and a Chromebook 11.6” with a 1080p.

At the outset, I should say that I'm certainly not accusing MacManiac of this, but what tends to happen quite often on MacRumors is that when Apple launches a new product there's a knee-jerk "Omg, this is the best ever" reaction and a knee-jerk "this blows, it's no different to the older generation" reaction. It can be tough to separate the wheat from the chaff.

It's not just a MacBook Air thing, if you stick around you'll see it on pretty much all the products. Even when the new product is materially different. I don't have specific examples on hand but if you search this forum you'll see comments like "Apple just took the Macbook and jammed it in a 13 inch case to call it the MBA" or "Apple just fudged the new MBA from the 13 inch nTB" etc. Total fiction. And then there are those who are crazily over excited about the new product too of course.

The new MBA is not just a different screen. AFAIK it also has a faster CPU, faster SSD, possibly twice the wifi speed (to be confirmed), faster I/O via Thunderbolt 3 etc. But on the other side, processor throttling and video performance (it's pushing way more pixels) could be a challenge.

But I haven't seen a fully comprehensive review. There are quite a few "quite good" reviews kicking about covering different aspects of the MBA, but it's still hard to find real details.

Further, Apple is now bringing the T2 chip to the MBA line (wasn't in the previous MBA) which has caused some issues on some other devices that have that chip (iMac, Mac mini, MacBook Pro). Some folks are just fine of course.

The new MBA may also have battery life challenges from what I've read. But don't take my word on it.

So take your time, try to be cautious about taking forum comments verbatim. Whether they're full of praise of full of derision.

Apple got some good mileage from the MBA and there's a good reason it was so immensely popular.

Personally, I think that as awesome as the old MBA was, the new one could be the better buy. I still wouldn't buy yet though, it's too new, I'd let other people go and find those bugs first. I like a laptop that is reliable (and the old MBA checks all the boxes there). It can take a good half a day to get a laptop configured how I like it with software and data all set up. I don't want to waste a bunch of half days on returns and testing and backing up and restoring and stuff like that.

And again, MacManiac has a MBA, I'm sure he can confirm how great the old ones are.

The old MBA screen is fine. Lower resolution, but I still use a similar resolution for my work Windows craptop and it's fine. The Retina display is a thing of beauty though, that's for sure.


EDIT: I should also add, I use wifi pretty heavily since I have a NAS. So for me, if the MBA does turn out to have double the wifi speed of the old MBA, that would be a significant score for me, if I was buying. Not everyone has the same requirements though.
 
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Plutowillreturn

macrumors member
Original poster
Oct 7, 2018
61
8
At the outset, I should say that I'm certainly not accusing MacManiac of this, but what tends to happen quite often on MacRumors is that when Apple launches a new product there's a knee-jerk "Omg, this is the best ever" reaction and a knee-jerk "this blows, it's no different to the older generation" reaction. It can be tough to separate the wheat from the chaff.

It's not just a MacBook Air thing, if you stick around you'll see it on pretty much all the products. Even when the new product is materially different. I don't have specific examples on hand but if you search this forum you'll see comments like "Apple just took the Macbook and jammed it in a 13 inch case to call it the MBA" or "Apple just fudged the new MBA from the 13 inch nTB" etc. Total fiction. And then there are those who are crazily over excited about the new product too of course.

The new MBA is not just a different screen. AFAIK it also has a faster CPU, faster SSD, possibly twice the wifi speed (to be confirmed), faster I/O via Thunderbolt 3 etc. But on the other side, processor throttling and video performance (it's pushing way more pixels) could be a challenge.

But I haven't seen a fully comprehensive review. There are quite a few "quite good" reviews kicking about covering different aspects of the MBA, but it's still hard to find real details.

Further, Apple is now bringing the T2 chip to the MBA line (wasn't in the previous MBA) which has caused some issues on some other devices that have that chip (iMac, Mac mini, MacBook Pro). Some folks are just fine of course.

The new MBA may also have battery life challenges from what I've read. But don't take my word on it.

So take your time, try to be cautious about taking forum comments verbatim. Whether they're full of praise of full of derision.

Apple got some good mileage from the MBA and there's a good reason it was so immensely popular.

Personally, I think that as awesome as the old MBA was, the new one could be the better buy. I still wouldn't buy yet though, it's too new, I'd let other people go and find those bugs first. I like a laptop that is reliable (and the old MBA checks all the boxes there). It can take a good half a day to get a laptop configured how I like it with software and data all set up. I don't want to waste a bunch of half days on returns and testing and backing up and restoring and stuff like that.

And again, MacManiac has a MBA, I'm sure he can confirm how great the old ones are.

The old MBA screen is fine. Lower resolution, but I still use a similar resolution for my work Windows craptop and it's fine. The Retina display is a thing of beauty though, that's for sure.


EDIT: I should also add, I use wifi pretty heavily since I have a NAS. So for me, if the MBA does turn out to have double the wifi speed of the old MBA, that would be a significant score for me, if I was buying. Not everyone has the same requirements though.
I appreciate the thoughtful reply. I am leaning towards the new MBA for "future-proofing," but know that every iteration of an Apple product has a lot of kinks to work out (iPhone 4, 6/6+, etc.). What are your thoughts on the 17 MBP 13"? Given the comparable specs and price, is that something that would be a choice?
 

Howard2k

macrumors 68030
Mar 10, 2016
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I appreciate the thoughtful reply. I am leaning towards the new MBA for "future-proofing," but know that every iteration of an Apple product has a lot of kinks to work out (iPhone 4, 6/6+, etc.). What are your thoughts on the 17 MBP 13"? Given the comparable specs and price, is that something that would be a choice?
Based on what I've seen so far, I'd lean towards the non-touch-bar MacBook Pro 13". It seems good value, is on sale from some vendors, doesn't have the T2 "complications", and seems like a simple and stable workhorse. Not the fastest horse in the stable, but reliable.

The new Air looks great too, but the jury is still out for me on the T2 chip IMO. Even though the new Air might have double the wifi performance of the nTB 13" (I haven't seen a reviewer cover the wifi in any detail at all, strangely), I'd still take stability of the 13" Pro over the wifi speed of the Air if I was buying today. But again, that might change in a week once the decent reviews come out, and we hear more about user experience.

I don't worry about future proofing too much. Apple's plan is for us to use our computers for three to four years IIRC. Pretty sure that was addressed in an article. I'd buy a little more than I need but I wouldn't go nuts.
 

JPH675

macrumors member
Nov 22, 2016
57
38
Wife has a 2014 MBA and is not upgrading to 2018 MBA, but rather is going to save some money and buy the 2017 MBA at $750-$800 this holiday season. Here's why.

2018 rMBA screen is 4x more high-def but her 2014 and the 2017 MBA screens are so much brighter.
2018 MBA only has two Thunderbolt-3 ports but she loses 2 USBs, SD card reader, and the terrific mag-safe charger.
2018 MBA has very cool touch ID but the 2018 MBA keyboard is worse that the proven 2017 MBA keyboard.
2018 MBA only has Bluetooth 4.2, close to the 2017 MBA 4.0. The 2018 MBA should have Bluetooth 5.0 if losing all the ports, but it does not.
Performance is very close in the real world between 2017 and 2018 MBAs.
Battery life is also close in the real world.
2018 MBA: Lower weight and smaller size mean very little given her comfort with the 2014 MBA.
And she simply likes the lit apple logo when the MBA is awake.

In her mind, the 2018 rMBA improvements came with too many compromises/losses and is not worth it, so she is going 2017 MBA.
 
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chrfr

macrumors G3
Jul 11, 2009
8,177
2,508
Wife has a 2014 MBA and is not upgrading to 2018 MBA, but rather is going to save some money and buy the 2017 MBA at $750-$800 this holiday season.
The 2014 and the "2017" (which is really a 2015 with a very marginal speed bump) are barely different. Why is she even bothering to upgrade?
 

JPH675

macrumors member
Nov 22, 2016
57
38
Upgrade from 4 GB RAM, Battery is tired (lots of cycles), and she likes the 2017 MBA hardware so much that she is going to use it for at least 3 more years given her use.
 

newellj

macrumors 604
Oct 15, 2014
7,239
2,279
East of Eden
Wife has a 2014 MBA and is not upgrading to 2018 MBA, but rather is going to save some money and buy the 2017 MBA at $750-$800 this holiday season. Here's why.

2018 rMBA screen is 4x more high-def but her 2014 and the 2017 MBA screens are so much brighter.
2018 MBA only has two Thunderbolt-3 ports but she loses 2 USBs, SD card reader, and the terrific mag-safe charger.
2018 MBA has very cool touch ID but the 2018 MBA keyboard is worse that the proven 2017 MBA keyboard.
2018 MBA only has Bluetooth 4.2, close to the 2017 MBA 4.0. The 2018 MBA should have Bluetooth 5.0 if losing all the ports, but it does not.
Performance is very close in the real world between 2017 and 2018 MBAs.
Battery life is also close in the real world.
2018 MBA: Lower weight and smaller size mean very little given her comfort with the 2014 MBA.
And she simply likes the lit apple logo when the MBA is awake.

In her mind, the 2018 rMBA improvements came with too many compromises/losses and is not worth it, so she is going 2017 MBA.
My $0.02. I think she's right about the compromises, but having owned at least four (maybe more) MBAs I personally could not put up with the TN displays in the 2017 and earlier MBA models. Obviously, YMMV. To repeat myself, the 2018 rMBA is clearly a machine that you buy knowing there are some compromises. If I didn't love the MBA form factor, especially the wedge front edge on the palm rest, I would go for a rMBA, though. Suggestion: buy the 2017 through the Apple refurb section. You'll probably save a few hundred dollars and the machine will be new in every respect other than the box.
 

smbu2000

macrumors regular
Oct 19, 2014
245
103
The 2014 and the "2017" (which is really a 2015 with a very marginal speed bump) are barely different. Why is she even bothering to upgrade?
The speedbump is only on the i5 models (1.6 to 1.8), the i7 upgrade is the same 2.2 model.
There are other QOL improvements though. 8GB RAM became standard in 2016 I believe. 2015 and later models also come with a Thunderbolt 2 port (2014 and earlier had Thunderbolt 1 only).
2015 and later are also easier to use with an adapter and nvme drive I believe to upgrade your internal storage compared to 2014/2013 models.


If you are willing to buy used then prices have also come down (helped in part by the release of the new MBAs I believe.) I picked up a loaded early 2015 13” MBA (2.2ghz i7/8GB/512GB) not too long ago and it was much less than even the base model 2018 MBA would have cost me.
 
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