Apple’s 2019 MacBook Air reviewed: A necessary update

Erna Mahyuni


On the surface the updated MacBook Air looks the same. — Picture by Erna Mahyuni

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 21 — Apple updated the MacBook Air this year, despite putting out a new Air just last October. After using it for a couple of weeks I have to say the update was a necessary one.

It’s not unusual for Apple to update the specs of a laptop line to keep up-to-date with new processor releases, though the company isn’t as quick to market as Windows-running brands.

What’s strange in this update, however, is that besides changes to the display and keyboard, on paper, the specs of the 2019 MacBook Air are pretty much the same.

Why then should you opt for this model? There’s one answer, that I’m using to describe it — the keyboard.

Not perfect, but better

Apple’s “butterfly” keyboard on its MacBook line has been maligned for lacking ergonomics as well as having keys prone to being jammed.

To be honest, I didn’t have that much of an issue typing with the 2018 MacBook Air model but the feel of the 2019 is much improved.

Like most long-time Apple laptop users, I miss the old Apple keyboards and just how much kinder they were on hands.

The keyboard gets a much needed tweak and the addition of True Tone is welcome.

I can’t say the 2019 Air makes up for it but I would say that the keyboard feels more solid and is a tiny bit more responsive than the 2018.

As I work primarily on my lap, key comfort matters a lot as well as responsiveness—the 2018’s keyboard was rarely quirky for me but typing on it was slightly less comfortable.

Easier on the eyes

What was even more apparent for me, ergonomics-wise was how much easier on the eyes the screen was now it has True Tone.

True Tone works by using sensors that adjust the display according to the surrounding ambient light.

I often work from late afternoon through evenings so I would notice how the screen would adjust to changes in ambient lighting.

My eyes do tend to be sensitive to bright light so I’m not the type to turn the light on as soon as evening descends.

I found my eyes to tire later than what I was used to, so if you spend long hours with a laptop in shifting light environments, True Tone is definitely kinder especially to aging eyes.

More power would have been nice

Yes, a better keyboard and True Tone are very nice, but it would have also been nice for there to have been other changes.

Specs-wise, the MacBook Air shares the same processor and memory configurations with the only customisable options being the memory and hard disk space.

The cheapest model at RM4,699 comes with 128GB of hard disk space and 8GB of memory. To add on another 8GB, you’d need to add RM880.

You need a 256GB drive? That’s another RM800.

For its specs, 8GB would probably be enough as the graphics processor doesn’t make it ideal for heavy graphics or video applications.

You could also likely make do with 128GB thanks to the existence of cloud storage and external drives

What is irksome however is the lack of ports besides a headphone jack and two Thunderbolt 3 slots, both of which are on the same side for some reason.

Battery life? I find no difference between the battery runtime of the 2018 model with the 2019 one. A regular workday would see the battery running out around the 10-hour mark, which is pretty decent by most standards.

Better than the 2018 for sure

This is obviously the better model no question so getting a 2018 secondhand or on a discount doesn’t seem worth it, especially with the upgraded keyboard.

Price-wise, the MacBook Air is actually on par with the current prices of Windows ultrabooks but the thing is, for the price of an Air with more memory or RAM, you might get a more powerful Windows machine.

If you want the lightest notebook, and it has to be a Mac, there’s no question it has to be a MacBook Air.

The only problem is convincing someone who would prefer having USB ports or, at the very least, an SD card reader. Note to Apple: SD cards are not going to go away anytime soon.

Still a solid notebook with welcome changes, the MacBook Air is adequate but sadly falls just short of amazing.

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