MacBooks won’t be the focus of Apple’s big “Gather Round” September event on Wednesday. Yet thanks to the copious rumors, we know that Apple is working on a new, affordable laptop, that could appear at the event.
Here’s what I want to see Apple announce for a new, entry-level laptop.
Many reports about the new device have labeled it as a “revamped MacBook Air.” On one hand, I can understand some of the excitement around that idea. The MacBook Air was a popular and high-performing laptop — and many people’s first entry into the Mac brand. Reviving the Air would bring nostalgia to the brand after a few troubling releases.
But please, Apple. Just don’t.
Rather than lean on an old brand like the Air, Apple needs to save the MacBook it already has. The 12-inch MacBook didn’t make nearly as large a splash upon its re-launch in 2015 as the Air did, largely thanks to the high starting price, slower Intel Core M processor, and limited port selection. Despite its forward-looking design, it was quickly disregarded as an overpriced, slow computer, especially compared to the equally-priced 13-inch MacBook Pro. It became a niche product — the opposite of what an entry-level computer should be.
It goes beyond the name. In terms of design, this new laptop needs to be a refined version of the 12-inch MacBook. Thinner, lighter, trimmed-down bezels, and an improved keyboard. If it’s a MacBook Air with a USB-C port, then Apple shouldn’t bother.
The MacBook has a legacy. It’s time Apple recaptured that.
Price is among the current MacBook’s biggest issues. At $1,300, it’s not much less than a MacBook Pro and far more expensive than entry-level versions of top-tier laptops like the Dell XPS 13. Since this new laptop would be taking the place of the MacBook Air, I’d like the new MacBook to be priced no higher than $1,000. That still isn’t affordable, but it’d be a $300 discount off the current 12-inch model, and would match the current selling price of the MacBook Air.
The only time Apple has priced a MacBook under a $1,000 was the (now-discontinued) 11-inch MacBook Air, while sold for $900 upon its release. I’d be surprised if Apple released a laptop that affordable again, but anything above $1,000 will still be too expensive. If it needs to have a small 128GB SSD (like the base model of the MacBook Pro), so be it.
Don’t think Apple would ever reduce the price of a product line to save it? Look at what happened with the iPad in recent years. The iPad Air 2 sold for $500 in 2016, only to be replaced entirely by the $330 iPad a year later. That’s a 34 percent discount. That happened, of course, in the light of fledgling iPad sales.
It’s time for Apple to do the same with the MacBook.
Lastly, I want to see the new MacBook pack Intel’s newest hardware. Whatever laptop Apple releases in 2018 will most certainly be 8th-gen, but Intel’s recently launched processors that feel like the perfect fit. The base MacBook currently comes with a 7th-gen “Intel Core M” processor, which no longer holds up to the competition.
Importantly, the new Intel Y-Series chips come with some advantages, such as significant improvements to battery life and connectivity. The new laptops announced at IFA, with these new processors, have boasted significant boosts in battery life, upward of twenty hours. Battery life is an area MacBooks used to lead in, and now they’ve fallen to the back of the pack compared to laptops like the Surface Book 2 or Dell XPS 13. In addition to some extra juice, an Amber Lake-powered MacBook would bring increased connectivity, with Gigabit Wi-Fi and possibly built-in 4G LTE.
I’m not asking for a lot. I’m not asking for Apple to manufacture its own processors, bring iOS apps to Mac in full, or bring touch capabilities to its laptops. I’ll keep it simple. If Tim Cook takes the stage on Wednesday and announced a $1,000 12-inch MacBook with twenty hour battery life, I’ll be happy.
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