Apple’s working on a new MacBook Air that’s thinner, lighter, faster, way more colorful, but also maybe more expensive. Like the 12-inch MacBook having a love baby with the OG iBook.
According to a plethora of recent reports, Apple is getting ready to ditch the wedge-shaped MacBook Air that launched a 1000 ultrabook imitators, and go with something even slimmer, sleeker, and flatter. An M2 MacBook Air. Maybe as soon as March or June of 2022.
Why didn’t they do that with the M1? Because it takes Apple a couple years to develop and ship a new industrial design, and the Mac team was busy with the new 24-inch iMac and 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros, so they decided to stick with the existing enclosures for the first wave of M1 Macs, including the M1 MacBook Air. And that existing exclosure was all about containing a super hot, super hungry, super anemic, Intel Y-series processor. And fan. Yeah.
Which is hella ironic, given Apple went to Intel in the first place in order to make Macs like the Air, something that was just Ralph Wiggum level unpossible with the old PowerPC chips. But Apple was still left working around display limitations, performance limitations, design limitations, for years. Because, plot twist, making the dream MacBook Air with Intel inside was still pretty unpossible. As evident by the power and battery life boost we all got late last year based only on the M1 transplant.
So, enter M2, Apple’s second generation silicon for the Mac. Now, I’ve already done a whole entire dedicated video on M2 and M3, and I’ll drop a link for that in the description below the like button. But, long story… slightly less long, we should be looking at even better performance and efficiency. That is, if Apple sticks to pattern, which they always do just exactly until they don’t. But the worst case scenario is A15-generation silicon — 4 new Blizzard efficiency cores, which are way more powerful. 4 new Avalanche performance cores, which are quite a bit more efficient. And a whopping 9 to 10 new G14 graphics cores, which will just blow the thermal envelopes off the place.
And in a completely different way than what I expect we’ll see in the next iMac Pro, so you’ll want to hit subscribe so you don’t miss that video next.
But yes, that’s along with next generation neural engines, imagine signal processors, the whole shebang. And who knows what other features Apple will slip into that chip to even further optimize them for ultra low power Macs. But the bottom line is, M2 should be even faster than M1, especially at those everyday tasks, and should be able to sustain that performance longer, at least on the CPU-side, even a smaller chassis. A smaller, more colorful chassis. And, yeah, one that doesn’t require having to cram Intel inside.
More on the silicon in a minute, but the whole “smaller” part is something Apple’s been going back and forth on for a decade now. There was the 11-inch MacBook Air from 2010 to 2017, and the 12-inch MacBook not-Air, just… nothing… from 2015 to 2019. RIP.
The problem with the 11-inch Air was that Apple just couldn’t keep the Intel inside it, not with the demands of modern amenities like Retina displays. The problem with the 12-inch nothing was that Apple couldn’t get the price down, not to that $999 sweet spot that made the Air so popular.
That’s what prompted the 2018 MacBook Air, which, sure, the 2018 iPad Pro still laughed at, like Mark Hamill joker laughed at, but which also ended up being the target for the 2020 mother-of-all M1 upgrades.
But that was the silicon jab to set up the redesign upper cut for 2022, the one that’ll ditch the wedge for Apple’s current, flatter, more retro-future chic design language, but for the Air specifically, even a little more retro. Just like the new MacBook Pro design has a real… PowerBook vibe, the new MacBook Air design is rumored to be getting positively… iBook jiggy with it.
Which should, yes, mean the return of colors, according to Jon Prosser of Front Page Tech, maybe even the full taste-the-rainbow of the 24-inch iMac. Something we haven’t seen with Apple laptops since the iBook. But also, white bezels, something we just saw with that iMac. And if that isn’t enough to infuriate every commentor on the net, a notch as well. A notch, according to Ty98, but still no Face ID, according to Mark Gurman of Bloomberg.
White because iBook nostalgia and differentiated, and according to Apple on the iMac, it better fades away into home and school environments. Notch because it’ll let them Thanos-snap most of the top bezel away, and fit a 13-inch display in a 12-inch chassis. And no Face ID because the infra-red camera, flood illuminator, and dot projector still don’t all fit into lids this thin. But everyone really wants them to, so fingers crossed that changes ASAP.
The biggest question I have is will the RGB camera be the glorious 1080p we just got with the M1 iMac and M1 Pro Max MacBook Pros, or ye old 720p-as-in-potato cam of old?
The display is reportedly going to be mini-LED, according to Kuo Ming-Chi of TF International, like the latest iPad Pro and MacBook Pro, which should mean Apple’s outstanding 10-bit pipeline spatially and temporally dithered to an 8-bit panel. Whether it has as many local dimming zones as the MacBook Pro, we’ll have to wait and see, but either way, anyway, it should make for the first HDR, high dynamic range, MacBook Air.
Doesn’t sound like it’ll be getting the up to 120Hz adaptive refresh rate of the new Pro, though, not according to DylanKT on Twitter. And, while that means no battery savings on the 24Hz end, it also means less of a price hike, Which we’ll get to in a second as well.
And yeah, I’d love, all-caps love, a 15-inch MacBook Air as well, because some people want or need a bigger screen, but don’t want or need to pay a Pro premium to get it. Sounds like Apple has that on the back burner still, but if Tim Cook’s pivot tables can figure out a big screen iPhone 14 non-Pro Max, maybe we can hold to hope for a big screen non-Pro MacBook as well?
MagSafe is coming back, pretty much according to everybody, and hopefully in addition to the current double USB-C / Thunderbolt ports. Because going back to one port like the 12-inch MacBook would just… suck. Like, I get the beautiful dream of a fully wireless machine, or the iPad-like singularity of one-port-to-rule-them-all, but it’s still a dream and the reality of Mac life is that… it’s not an iPad. It’s purposefully, intentionally not an iPad. And ports are a big part of that not-an-iPadness. Even if all of us know they’re both going to end ups on the same exact side, right?
Then there are the media engines. The MacBook Pros have H.264, H.265, and ProRes accelerators on the M1 Pro and Max, but the A15… the A15 that M2 will likely be based on, well… that also has those accelerators. It’s how the iPhone 13 Pro is doing ProRes. Would Apple bring them to the MacBook Air, so it can better handle heavier video editing workloads?
Here’a another question — would Apple bring 5G to the MacBook Air, and would they do it now? So far, Apple’s been content to let macOS tether to iOS for cellular. But they’ve started integrating better power-savings into macOS, and better silicon, so could better connectivity be next? Or… hear me out… does Apple wait another year or two until they’re ready to start shipping their own custom modems, and then not only would they be better integrated into the chipset, and way more efficient, Apple would also only have to pay the obscene licensing fee for Qualcomm’s patents, and not the downright offensive rates they demand for dedicated chips.
Which could help keep costs down, because this isn’t going to be an entry level MacBook Air. The M1 is going to hold onto that place in the lineup for at least another year or two. No, this is going to be a premium MacBook Air experience. Full of new and expensive parts that Apple’s going to want to pay down as fast as possible.
Because that’s been the pattern as well. The OG manilla envelope MacBook Air started at $1800 for the platter version, but went to over $3000 when fully decked out with an SSD. The second generation 13-inch started at $1300 but eventually fell to that $999 sweet spot over time. At least until the 3rd-G jumped back to starting at $1200, but again settled down $999, which is where the M1 sits now. Leaving room for M2 to start on top of it, until it comes down in a couple or few years as well. You know, circle of tech life.