New MacBook Air vs. old

AMSOS

macrumors regular
Original poster
Nov 21, 2010
179
9
How is the new MacBook Air turning out now that it has been out for a few months?

I've am seeing some posts about keyboard issues. But are you seeing noticeable improvements in all the problems that have marred the laptops these past few years?

Also, the old MBA still being sold. For a student with basic usage would you not say that arguably at $850 the old Air may not be a bad deal, provided one is aware that one is getting old hardware?

Thanks!
 

AlexJoda

macrumors 6502a
Apr 8, 2015
758
579
This is as always mostly a questions of the price/value relation. If you want to keep the new Air for some time (longer than the 2017 MBA because of the higher price) you won't choose the basic configuration to be more future proof. A 2018 MBA with 16GB RAM and 512GB SSD cost you about $2300 with AppleCare (you might need it because of the keyboard issues) and some accessories.

On the other side you can get a 8 GB/256 GB 2017 MBA for less than half that money with nearly the same performance. The main difference is the display which is not a Retina one (this matters only with MacOS, on Windows this is no problem). If you work more intensively at home with an external display (as I do) and only occasionally on the road (e.g. for presentations) this is also not a problem. As a bonus you have more versatile interfaces (like the SD-Card slot) with the 2017 MBA.

For me that was reason enough to choose the "old" one. Because of the saved money I can also switch to a new ARM MBA in maybe 2-3 years without loosing too much. That is the one I waiting for, not the underpowered, expensive and troublesome 2018 MBA...
 
Last edited:

macintoshmac

macrumors 68040
May 13, 2010
3,126
2,685
This is as always mostly a questions of the price/value relation. If you want to keep the new Air for some time (longer than the 2017 MBA because of the higher price) you won't choose the basic configuration to be more future proof. A 2018 MBA with 16GB RAM and 512GB SSD cost you about $2300 with AppleCare (you might need it because of the keyboard issues) and some accessories.

On the other side you can get a 8 GB/256 GB 2017 MBA for less than half that money with nearly the same performance. The main difference is the display which is not a Retina one (this matters only with MacOS, on Windows this is no problem). If you work more intensively at home with an external display (as I do) and only occasionally on the road (e.g. for presentations) this is also not a problem. As a bonus you have more versatile interfaces with the 2017 MBA.

For me that was reason enough to choose the "old" one. Because of the saved money I can also switch to a new ARM MBA in maybe 2-3 years without loosing too much. That is the one I waiting for, not the underpowered and troublesome 2018 MBA...
I got myself a store unit 2017 MBA, 8GB 256GB SSD for $600 and very happy with it. For tasks I did on my 2011 15 inch Pro, this is adequate. I will definitely pick up a Retina display machine, but that will happen when the ARM comes. I will happily wait for that long, and the 2017 is sufficient for my needs as of now.
 

DJLC

macrumors 6502a
Jul 17, 2005
761
144
North Carolina
I've been using a MacBook Air exclusively since 2012. I've had the 2012, 2015, 2017, and now 2018 models.

While I don't feel like this is that much more powerful than the 2017 it replaced (although I did get the 16GB RAM model so I can have a million tabs open), I'm completely in love with the Retina display and the new keyboard. I haven't had any issues in the months I've had it. I understand keyboard issues may develop later, but so far I'm thrilled with this upgrade.

That said, if you're comfortable getting older hardware for less money, I don't think there's anything wrong at all with the 2017 model, and most people in my organization are still happily using that model.
 

Macdctr

macrumors 6502a
Nov 25, 2009
613
293
Ocean State
I'm using an Early 2015 13inch MBA and it is just as good as the 2017's. These laptops are built great and do not suffer the keyboard reliability issues that the 2018 MBA does. Hopefully when Apple comes out with the ARM version of the MBA they also have a keyboard that is actually reliable...
 

whg

macrumors regular
Aug 2, 2012
225
142
Switzerland
I'm using an Early 2015 13inch MBA and it is just as good as the 2017's. These laptops are built great and do not suffer the keyboard reliability issues that the 2018 MBA does. Hopefully when Apple comes out with the ARM version of the MBA they also have a keyboard that is actually reliable...
As a bonus, the old model allows to upgrade the SSD. I recently bought a 2017 MacBook Air for $860 and upgraded to 2 TB for less than $300 (all incl. tax). My first MacBook was the 12" from 2010. In 2011 I bought the new 13" Air and gave the 12" to my daughter. The Air served me very well, but I have since switched to a Retina model. To buy the 2017 Air was more a sentimentality move, but I think it makes a great backup notebook for me.
 

AustinIllini

macrumors demi-goddess
Oct 20, 2011
11,114
7,739
Austin, TX
There is nothing old with old 2017MBA.
It works great.
Outside of the screen, you're on the money.

I think either or is better depending on a number of factors, but the last gen MBA at a lower price point is definitely a solid choice. My problem is I went retina and now I can't go back.
 
  • Like
Reactions: macintoshmac

Macdctr

macrumors 6502a
Nov 25, 2009
613
293
Ocean State
I think either or is better depending on a number of factors, but the last gen MBA at a lower price point is definitely a solid choice. My problem is I went retina and now I can't go back.
I know what you mean regarding retina but even so you can still get by using the lower resolution displays... I have a retina 15inch MBP and the display is fantastic but I also have no problem going to my 2012 11inch MBA or 2015 13inch MBA for everyday usage...

You do pay a premium to have a laptop with Retina display...
 
  • Like
Reactions: AustinIllini

AMSOS

macrumors regular
Original poster
Nov 21, 2010
179
9
On the other side you can get a 8 GB/256 GB 2017 MBA for less than half that money with nearly the same performance. The main difference is the display which is not a Retina one (this matters only with MacOS, on Windows this is no problem). If you work more intensively at home with an external display (as I do) and only occasionally on the road (e.g. for presentations) this is also not a problem. As a bonus you have more versatile interfaces (like the SD-Card slot) with the 2017 MBA.

For me that was reason enough to choose the "old" one. Because of the saved money I can also switch to a new ARM MBA in maybe 2-3 years without loosing too much. That is the one I waiting for, not the underpowered, expensive and troublesome 2018 MBA...
Thanks for this. This is how I am thinking of it now. And seeing that it's working well for you I may as well join the bandwagon ;p)
Hopefully, Apple will have sorted out the mess with their laptops in 3 years which is when the extended warranty on my Air will run out and I will be in a position to take stock and get a new machine if needed.
[doublepost=1551243710][/doublepost]
I got myself a store unit 2017 MBA, 8GB 256GB SSD for $600 and very happy with it. For tasks I did on my 2011 15 inch Pro, this is adequate. I will definitely pick up a Retina display machine, but that will happen when the ARM comes. I will happily wait for that long, and the 2017 is sufficient for my needs as of now.
Can you explain a bit what you mean by "store unit"?
So how will ARM processor architecture improve the display? What other major difference should we expect when the ARM laptops start getting released?
 

macintoshmac

macrumors 68040
May 13, 2010
3,126
2,685
Thanks for this. This is how I am thinking of it now. And seeing that it's working well for you I may as well join the bandwagon ;p)
Hopefully, Apple will have sorted out the mess with their laptops in 3 years which is when the extended warranty on my Air will run out and I will be in a position to take stock and get a new machine if needed.
[doublepost=1551243710][/doublepost]
Can you explain a bit what you mean by "store unit"?
So how will ARM processor architecture improve the display? What other major difference should we expect when the ARM laptops start getting released?
ARM can't possibly 'improve' the display. Two are unrelated in context of one causing improvement in the other. I feel system snappiness and battery life should be areas where we see dramatic improvements. This is seeing as Apple chips would obviously share a much tighter integration between hardware and software than they manage with Intel. We have iOS backbone and that is slowly coming to macOS, it is only time that ARM makes the jump to the Mac too. Also, currently Apple product releases are tied to Intel releases. This will change.

One thing that I am hopeful for is that since Apple chips would be in-house development, we might see a rationing of product prices, although pricing of iOS devices with ARM chips does not reflect that possibility at all, therefore, my hope.


Now, by store unit I meant a display unit, one that is kept for the public to check out. It was a year old, just out of warranty, and I got it for under $600. $550 to be precise.

The machine is cosmetically worse than my 2011 15 inch MBP with couple of scratches under the belly and some marks on the screen that are only visible with the screen off, but I get a stable and reliable machine for some years at a great cost, and that is what I wanted. Had sold my 2016 13" MBP since it was neither representing great value nor stellar performance for the price I paid for it. With this MBA 2017, I get day-to-day performance at par with that 2016 machine for what I use the machine for, minus a good Retina display which was scaled anyway.

Yes, the 2016 machine with TB opened up avenues of usability that I appreciated (Touch Bar and ID), but for two years I lived with a machine I had to baby more than the usual amount of care I give to everything I use. In first year of use, the keyboard started fumbling, but got itself sorted out in some days of erratic use. I spent $300 for AppleCare (Not AppleCare+) to guard myself against the exorbitant cost of the keyboard replacement.

The keyboard failed in one and half years of use, just shy of when Apple formally announced a replacement program.

I am a writer and I just cannot live with something knowing I don't know what to expect from the keyboard the next morning I lay my hands on it.

Got myself the year old 2017 MBA 13 in 8GB/256GB configuration, 4 days short of January 2019, and till today I have a keyboard that I do not use a protector on, don't care about what will happen the next day, don't care about dust. I just use it and use it and use it without any worry. I feel that is what a computer should be, a tool that works for me, rather than me having to care for it like a neonatal to allow it to work for me.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: AMSOS

AlexJoda

macrumors 6502a
Apr 8, 2015
758
579
ARM can't possibly 'improve' the display. Two are unrelated in context of one causing improvement in the other. I feel system snappiness and battery life should be areas where we see dramatic improvements. This is seeing as Apple chips would obviously share a much tighter integration between hardware and software than they manage with Intel. We have iOS backbone and that is slowly coming to macOS, it is only time that ARM makes the jump to the Mac too. Also, currently Apple product releases are tied to Intel releases. This will change.

One thing that I am hopeful for is that since Apple chips would be in-house development, we might see a rationing of product prices, although pricing of iOS devices with ARM chips does not reflect that possibility at all, therefore, my hope.


Now, by store unit I meant a display unit, one that is kept for the public to check out. It was a year old, just out of warranty, and I got it for under $600. $550 to be precise.

The machine is cosmetically worse than my 2011 15 inch MBP with couple of scratches under the belly and some marks on the screen that are only visible with the screen off, but I get a stable and reliable machine for some years at a great cost, and that is what I wanted. Had sold my 2016 13" MBP since it was neither representing great value nor stellar performance for the price I paid for it. With this MBA 2017, I get day-to-day performance at par with that 2016 machine for what I use the machine for, minus a good Retina display which was scaled anyway.

Yes, the 2016 machine with TB opened up avenues of usability that I appreciated (Touch Bar and ID), but for two years I lived with a machine I had to baby more than the usual amount of care I give to everything I use. In first year of use, the keyboard started fumbling, but got itself sorted out in some days of erratic use. I spent $300 for AppleCare (Not AppleCare+) to guard myself against the exorbitant cost of the keyboard replacement.

The keyboard failed in one and half years of use, just shy of when Apple formally announced a replacement program.

I am a writer and I just cannot live with something knowing I don't know what to expect from the keyboard the next morning I lay my hands on it.

Got myself the year old 2017 MBA 13 in 8GB/256GB configuration, 4 days short of January 2019, and till today I have a keyboard that I do not use a protector on, don't care about what will happen the next day, don't care about dust. I just use it and use it and use it without any worry. I feel that is what a computer should be, a tool that works for me, rather than me having to care for it like a neonatal to allow it to work for me.
As you can compare the display of the 2016 MBP and the 2017 MBA and you are a writer can you describe the difference? Is the 2017 non Retina display really so bad and „nearly impossible to work with“ as many are telling? Can’t imagine that this is the case if you choose it as a writer....
 
  • Like
Reactions: macintoshmac

macintoshmac

macrumors 68040
May 13, 2010
3,126
2,685
As you can compare the display of the 2016 MBP and the 2017 MBA and you are a writer can you describe the difference? Is the 2017 non Retina display really so bad and „nearly impossible to work with“ as many are telling? Can’t imagine that this is the case if you choose it as a writer....
Short Version

- better colours on 2016
- better colours can help if you are deep into photography
- retina looks good if it is native retina (1440x900 on 15" and 1280x800 on 13")
- colours on 2017 MBA not bad in their own right and might


Long Version

Far from unusable. It's actually a very fine display. Retina is better no doubt, but I do believe that Retina on 15 inch where 1440x900 is a straight scale of actual pixels is better than 13 inch models where 1280x800 is the real scale but you'd rather run it at 1440x900 or even more.

I have been using the 13" MBA for two months now without ever feeling like "damn I miss the retina". It is mostly the tech snobs who value worth by way of the latest and greatest that will feel the older screens to be "unusable in 2019" and would look down upon anyone who uses an older computer. I don't think that's how it works in real life.

I use my Macbook Air 2017 for the following:

- Internet browsing
- watching videos
- typing
- gaming (Deus Ex Human Revolution)
- Photos and 24MP RAW file handling

and I am getting performance comparable to what I I got with 2016 MBP 13 for these tasks. Sometimes the dual core shows its limitations, but so far and few in between that I am as much in love with this Air as I was with my Late 2011 15" Pro. For that record, I appreciated the 2016 but was never quite in love with the whole package for the price and performance, given the unreliable nature to boot.

All in all, if at all you were fine with the old screen at any point, you will be fine with it today, unless you are one of those who got spoilt by Retina. I didn't get spoilt by Retina, despite appreciating the differences.


A Note on Battery Life If It Matters To You

No way you can get this out of any new MacBook today. Sure this includes the night hours of sleep, but battery life has been the best thing in this notebook for me. I can go for days without plugging if I want to.



Screenshot 2019-02-27 at 9.26.52 PM.png
 

Attachments

Last edited:

Jimmy James

macrumors 601
Oct 26, 2008
4,685
3,044
Magicland
Pre- 2018: Price, legacy ports, keyboard reliability.

2018: Longer support, retina display, cpu. That last one is important to me. A lot of my time spent is watching video on my laptop. HEVC is the future and this one has hardware acceleration. If that’s important to you it could be a big factor.
 
  • Like
Reactions: macintoshmac

AlexJoda

macrumors 6502a
Apr 8, 2015
758
579
Pre- 2018: Price, legacy ports, keyboard reliability.

2018: Longer support, retina display, cpu. That last one is important to me. A lot of my time spent is watching video on my laptop. HEVC is the future and this one has hardware acceleration. If that’s important to you it could be a big factor.
That's a good point. Although HVEC (H.265) is still not used for e.g. YouTube and many other platforms. It looks like the T2 chip help with this in the 2018 MBA. With the 2017 MBA this is also possible but done in software which stresses the CPU and battery more...
 

auxbuss

macrumors regular
Feb 18, 2014
167
135
UK

A Note on Battery Life If It Matters To You


No way you can get this out of any new MacBook today. Sure this includes the night hours of sleep, but battery life has been the best thing in this notebook for me. I can go for days without plugging if I want to.

Screenshot 2019-02-27 at 9.26.52 PM.png
Sure you can. Here's my usage from yesterday on MBA 2018.

Screenshot 2019-02-26 at 21.43.39.png
 

Mainsail

macrumors 65816
Sep 19, 2010
1,205
1,009
If reliability issues important to you, I would recommend the 2017 MBA. You can buy Apple Care, but that isn't much help if you frequently work on tight deadlines, since you may be left without a computer if the keyboard gives out. For example, college students should beware of the butterfly keyboards....new and old.

Apple has really painted themselves in a corner. Frankly, I would love to see Apple release an update to the old MBA with the existing form factor, chassis and battery capacity, plus:

1. Routine processor update with great energy efficiency
2. Replace the Thunderbolt 2 with Thunderbolt 3 port

Call it MBA Classic. Sell it for $899. Advertise it as a great entry level computer with incredible battery life....an old favorite.

Won't happen.
 
  • Like
Reactions: macintoshmac