Is the MacBook Air a good laptop for students, enterprises, and non-power users?

Last week, I wrote an article about the laptop I hoped Apple would announce at their October event. That event has come and gone, and I’ve gotten no less than 10 Twitter DMs and many iMessages from friends asking “Is the MacBook Air a good laptop?”.

In short, the Retina MacBook Air was a exactly what I wanted them to announce. The new MacBook Air is now the Mac I recommend to most people. It’ll fly off the shelves for college students and enterprise buyers.

To recap, it comes in a 13-inch screen size, has a large trackpad (Apple has the best laptop trackpads, and you’ll never convince me otherwise), 2 USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports, the 2018 keyboard, Touch ID, T2 chip, and a Retina screen.As someone who buys laptops in bulk, I often tend to think about everything with Apple at scale. If I am buying laptops in bulk in 2018, this laptop just became my go-to machine. Some organizations (especially large ones) will still buy the old MacBook Air at $999, but the new one has too many great features for me to pass up. I’ll likely be buying 50 of these laptops in the spring.

Screen Size

I’ve often said that my 12-inch Powerbook was my favorite laptop ever, but I’ve grown to love the 13-inch screen size over the years. I’ve always looked at the 12-inch MacBook is fondness, but I don’t think I’d want to use it day-to-day. With the new 13-inch MacBook Air, Apple has given us the best of the MacBook and the best of the MacBook Pro. It’s the perfect combination.

2 USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 Ports

The move away from USB-A has and will continue to be painful, but we will be better off in the end. I don’t have proof of this, but I would imagine that up until now, the previous MacBook Air was Apple’s best selling laptop. Tim Cook didn’t give any numbers, but he did say that “Our customers love their Mac, and they especially love one Mac in particular….” just before announcing the new MacBook Air with Retina display.

Now that Apple has released a MacBook Air with USB-C/Thunderbolt 3, the industry can continue to move forward with adoption. In a few years, we won’t remember the transition just like we don’t remember the painful transition away from the 30-pin dock connector on the iPhone. By including two ports, you’ll be able to charge while backing up using Time Machine or offloading pics from your camera. I would have loved for Apple to include 1 USB-A adaptor in the box, but this is Apple we’re talking about, so I am not surprised.

T2 and Touch ID

I wrote about the state of Apple in the enterprise last week, so this has certainly been on my mind lately. The new MacBook Air features Apple’s T2 security chip, which ensures that software loaded during the boot process has not been tampered with. Here’s some more information on how it works:

Without valid login credentials or a cryptographic recovery key, the internal APFS volume remains encrypted and is protected from unauthorized access even if the physical storage device is removed and connected to another computer. Internal volume encryption on a Mac with the T2 chip is implemented by constructing and managing a hierarchy of keys, and builds on the hardware encryption technologies built into the chip. This hierarchy of keys is designed to simultaneously achieve four goals:

• Require the user’s password for decryption. • Protect the system from a brute-force attack directly against storage media removed from Mac. • Provide a swift and secure method for wiping content via deletion of necessary cryptographic material. • Enable users to change their password (and in turn the cryptographic keys used to protect their files) without requiring re-encryption of the entire volume. To prevent brute-force attacks, when Mac boots, no more than 30 password attempts are allowed at the Login Window or via Target Disk Mode, and escalating time delays are imposed after incorrect attempts. The delays are enforced by the Secure Enclave coprocessor on the T2 chip. If Mac is restarted during a timed delay, the delay is still enforced, with the timer starting over for the current period.

For security focused enterprises, Apple’s T2 chip is music to their ears. Also, Apple has noted that the microphone on laptops that have Apple’s T2 chips is disconnected when the lid is closed.

Combining the T2 chip with a hardware disconnect to ensure the microphone is disabled when the lid is closed results in a level of privacy and security protections never before seen on Mac.

Some enterprises might stick with the $999 Macbook Air (previous generation), but for those that want additional hardware security, the new MacBook Air is hard to beat. Touch ID will be another added benefit for end users to quickly unlock their Macs.

Retina Screen

Some of the people I work with claim that they can’t tell the difference between Retina and non-Retina screens, but to my eyes, using non-Retina displays in 2018 is difficult for me. Everything on a Retina screen is just easier to read, and photos look a lot better when editing. I am thankful that Apple’s entire lineup is now 100% Retina.

Is The MacBook Air a Good Laptop?

At the beginning of this article, I mentioned I had been asked my multiple people: “Is the MacBook Air a good laptop?” It’s a great one. It combines some new features with a modern processor that is reasonably priced for anyone other than pro-users.

The MacBook Air is now the best Apple laptop on the market. If you want a little extra RAM, you can finally update the MacBook Air to 16GB. My only complaint is that I would love to have seen the default storage size at 256GB, but maybe next year. In a nutshell, the 2018 MacBook Air is almost the perfect laptop.

For a detailed breakdown for how the Retina MacBook Air stacks up against the rest of the MacBook lineup, check out our comparison post.