This week, Apple announced a small update to its MacBook Air, boosting the processor so the line will run a little faster.
To be honest, it’s a snoozer of an upgrade.
The Air now starts with a 1.8 GHz processor, instead of a 1.6 GHz processor. That’s a minor change, and as my colleague Jeff Dunn pointed out, there are a lot of reasons you should NOT buy a new Air.
But for fans of the MacBook Air, like myself, this leaves us in a bit of a bind. Apple appears to have decided that the laptop line should die a slow death, and is pushing customers toward either the MacBook Pro or the MacBook, both of which start at $1,299.
I don’t really want to shell out that kind of money for either of those, but there was a way I saved my MacBook Air for a few more years, and it can be a good option for many people.
The old days, and a fresh start
When I bought my MacBook Air in mid-2012, it was $899. That was a nice price point for me, especially since I saw it lasting at least four years. It was portable, stylish, and powerful enough. It had a keyboard that felt great, and it worked well with my iPhone and iPad. Sure, the screen wasn’t amazing, but it was something I could live with.
That MacBook Air continued to run well until the last year or so, when it began to run out of battery very quickly, and became a bit unreliable in terms of performance. I looked around at my options for buying a new laptop, from making the switch back to Windows, to going down-market with a Chromebook, but nothing caught my eye. I decided to see what I could do to get my MacBook Air back in shape.
I ended up replacing my battery, which was well, well past due. The replacement cost me $129 at Apple, but you can also do it yourself with a kit for $65.99. And it turned out, this made my MacBook Air work like a charm again. The degraded battery was the root of my MacBook Air’s issues, and now it feels almost like new.
I’m not seriously considering getting a new laptop until I run this one into the ground. There are a few reasons for that. The laptop, as a category, is in a bit of a transition period. Different companies are experimenting with hybrid tablets that could replace them entirely, or low-cost internet machines like Chromebooks. But none of them feel vital yet.
For me, part of the problem is that we haven’t quite settled on what the ideal complement to the smartphone is yet. Our smartphones have become so powerful that our laptops need to be designed around them in some way. But no one has nailed it. They will, eventually.
But if you, like me, felt like the last time you connected with a laptop design/price combo was 5-plus years ago when the MacBook Air was new (or new-ish), my advice is to wait. The older MacBook Air models are still elegant and functional machines, especially if you only need a hundred bucks to get one back into ship shape.
In other words, don’t waste your money on a new $1,000 MacBook Air.