John Gruber reviews Apple’s new MacBook Air: ‘It’s pretty damn sweet’

“The elephant in the room at last week’s Apple event was Intel. Apple introduced two products based on Intel chips — the new MacBook Air and new Mac Mini — but barely mentioned the company’s name,” John Gruber writes for Daring Fireball. “The word ‘Intel’ appeared on a single slide during VP of hardware engineering Laura Legros’s presentation of the new MacBook Air… The CPUs in the new Mini were simply described as 4-core and 6-core ‘8th generation’ processors.”

“Apple is not going to throw Intel under the bus — they’re taking an ‘If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all‘ approach, as they should,” Gruber writes. “Apple’s frustration with Intel as a partner is palpable at this point. Look no further than the other product introduced at the same event, the new iPad Pro. Apple spent an entire segment talking about the A12X chip in the iPad Pro and the performance it delivers. They spent almost no time talking about the performance of the CPU or GPU in the new MacBook Air. Performance is actually pretty good for the price and for the intended audience of the MacBook Air — but only when compared against other Intel-based notebooks. When compared against the iPad Pro, it doesn’t look good at all.”

With faster memory and the latest processors and graphics, MacBook Air delivers the performance you need for organizing your photos, browsing the web and creating presentations.
With faster memory and the latest processors and graphics, MacBook Air delivers the performance you need for organizing your photos, browsing the web and creating presentations.

 
“What we’re seeing here is a double whammy. On the one side, Apple’s custom silicon team is firing on all cylinders, delivering new A-series chips year after year with ever-more-incredible performance and efficiency. On the other side, Intel has missed deadlines, and what they have shipped often isn’t impressive,” Gruber writes. “Look at the iPad’s A12X compared to the iPhone’s A12 and you can see how much attention Apple is paying to the iPad’s system architecture. There’s no reason they won’t pay as much or more attention to the Mac’s custom silicon when they switch from Intel to their own chip designs. It should be downright glorious. But that’s the future. In the present, we’ve got this new MacBook Air, and it’s pretty damn sweet.”

Read Gruber’s full MacBook Air review here.

MacDailyNews Take: Intel’s high point passed some time ago. For Intel, it’s all downhill from here.

As for the new MacBook Air, we agree with John, “The form factor is just about perfect.”

18 Comments

        1. Well that has never been Apple so why are you with them now based on that product preference. Anyway the way things are going I suspect that in time Apple won’t be the last to jump ship on Intel for at the rate things are going it would be like staying with the horse and cart as the world turned to the motor car, unless Intel can achieve a turn around that they have patently failed to achieve this century. Most computing does not need Intel and it’s very possible the bit that presently does will be one an unsustainable rump in a gorse enable future.

          1. Ah yes, the good old days. Ohio Scientific, Tandy Radio Shack, Apple ][. Programming your own drop-down menus in assembly language. Trying to avoid using GOTO in BASIC. Having no interest whatever in politics.

  1. I too think the new Mac is a winner except that Apple should have made the starter with an SSD of 256 GB, not 128 GB. Paying $200 more for adding 128GB to Apples entry offering is outrageous.

  2. disappointing performance from intel aside, I wish Apple had put one USBc / TB3 port on EACH SIDE (left/right), not both on one side. Like before. Also, like Gruber, I can’t get used to the stupid blocky cursor keys that are not arranged as an upside-down T.

  3. The 2018 Macbook Air is everything the 2015 Macbook should have been except it needs one usb-a port and a $200 price drop. Why does Apple abandon students and price sensitive buyers?????????

    1. It’s probably wishful thinking but I do wonder if as Apple becomes predominantly speaking a services business, which could be as soon as the TV streaming services start to take off, that hardware might relatively speaking reduce in price. The services bonanza certainly will both reduce reliance on squeezing ever extra profit from plateauing hardware sales. Indeed in a reverse of the present situation Apple will create more potential profit from a larger installed user base than from actual product sales. The emphasis then might be to reduce prices a little to encourage more sales to take advantage of the greater service revenue, some of which will clearly be platform exclusive. Certainly that $200 you speak of starts to pall I go insignificance when compared to what that computer can earn after a sale.

      1. I think Apple will continue to focus on the high end consumer. As android has shown us, people who purchase cheap devices are not likely to be up for paying for services on top of the hardware cost. They’ve always been more about profit share than marketshare anyway.

        1. “They’ve always been more about profit share than marketshare anyway.”

          And they say Android users are the stupid ones. At least they know where the profits are coming from.

      2. It’s been clear for some time that Apple does not view itself as a computer maker. They are actively pursuing tomorrow, in all its ramifications. Apple became so successful that they do not need to toe anyone’s line except for their own bottom line. If they had remained a privately held company, they would be beholden to their power users, but that isn’t the case, so they used their freedom to create and speculate way beyond the formulas that worked so well for creative professionals. With their wealth and power to command markets, they have a rare opportunity to change the world in unforeseen ways, like Google, and they are grasping it. Unlike Google, they are not hidebound by a business model that mimics slavery in 1830; they’re on the other side of that moral divide, and they’re even money to make good on it.

  4. I await the future onstage “cook offs” with an Intel Mac versus an A(n) Mac. With Apple’s first party apps (FCPX, Logic Pro). I mean, right now you could do one with Keynote rendering to a video and it’s impressive to think that iOS would beat most macOS configurations you can buy.

  5. What I would like to see explained by someone expert in such things is why Apple can produce a GPU for iOS devices with superior performance that run half a day on batteries while desktop GPUs suck up hundreds of watts and require huge calling cases.

    I really do not see Intel’s desktop/laptop chips as a problem as much as the sorry state of integrated and discrete GPUs and their apparent hunger for power.

    At this point it seems that Apple going to custom CPUs & GPUs would make sense from a performance and security standpoint. Custom silicon would allow them to build in protection from vulnerabilities present in current PCs. Apple seems to have already mastered the art of high performance GPUs for the iOS devices it already ships.

    Once Apple switched from RISC to CISC with fat binaries and dynamic translation and it could switch back to ARM or something similar to ARM. The technology for the old Rosetta feature was licensed from a company that is now owned by IBM- which could use some cash right about now as they bet the farm on buying Red Hat.

    I bet Apple could buy the technology from IBM for a price they could not refuse and get the Mac off of x86 chips. That era is going away and it is time they put the money and people they have to work for something other than stock buybacks and making TV shows.

  6. I am getting tired of the gushing for the Air. It’s okay, but far from great. Form factor is no more perfect than the 13″ MacBook Pro sans touchbar. Performance is only amazing if you are comparing it to a 2010 era model, and even then not by much.

    iFixit repair score: 3/10

    Geekbench benchmark MBA 2018 Intel Core i5-8210Y @ 1.6 GHz (2 cores): multicore: 7383.

    Neither of these are praiseworthy marks, especially at the price Apple demands.

    The 2017 MBP 13″ with base processor, Intel Core i5-7360U @ 2.3 GHz (2 cores) scores a multicore 9072 — that’s 23% faster than the Air. The MBP also offers the option of an i7 processor for even more capability. Price is $100 more.

    Again, while it is great that Apple finally updated the Air, it is a beginner level machine, hard to repair, and overpriced compared to PCs. Since Apple makes future updates impossible, for the modest price increase, it would be silly not to choose the non-touchbar MacBook Pro. What it does do is confuse an already illogical laptop lineup.

    So stop already with the gushing reviews. Apple just trotted out a modest Air update 3 years late, overpriced it badly, and it functionally does nothing unique except keep the obsolete Air name alive.

    If Apple was smart, it would have killed the Air and the 12″ MacBook 2 years ago and simply removed the Pro sticker and $400 off the 13″ nonTouchbar MacBook Pro. The money wasted on thinner fashion models could have gone into keyboard development, getting details correct the first time. Even though using older processors, the MacBook Pro is a better machine by all measures and if Apple would finally get high volume manufacturing going, it could be a hugely profitable success. Apple instead remains a slave to fashion, offering weak thin overpriced hardware in a world that needs tough flexible, user friendly stuff more than ever.

    Cook again conspires to ensure the Mac dies a slow death.

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