With the iPhone XS Max a done deal, next up is a new “MacBook Air” and iPad Pro.
If reports pan out, the new MacBook Air (or whatever Apple decides to call it) may be the hottest MacBook in a long time — if the price is right.
Here are the 2018 “MacBook Air” highlights (based on reports and projections):
- First substantial revamp of the 13-inch MacBook Air* in 10 years (since it was announced by Steve Jobs in 2008).
- First Retina display for a low-cost MacBook
- Thinner display bezels
- Price around $1,000, similar to the current MacBook Air (starts at $999), possibly a little more
- Intel processor: Older Kaby Lake or the just-announced Whiskey Lake
- Apple announcement will happen before the end of the year but it’s likely sooner rather than later
One of the most closely watched specs of the new MacBook will be the processor. Whiskey Lake is Intel’s just-announced (late August) low-power quad-core 8th gen processor with a rating of 15 watts. (Here’s a longer explanation courtesy of Tom’s Hardware. Note that Core i5 and i7 Whiskey Lake are quad-core, i3 is dual-core.)
A new Whiskey Lake chip might seem counter intuitive for a MacBook Air-class laptop because the higher-end 2018 13-inch MacBook Pros with Touch Bar use the older 8th-generation quad-core Kaby Lake chips (introduced last year). And the lower-cost — yet still pricier than the MacBook Air —non-Touch-Bar 13-inch MacBook Pros use even older 7th generation dual-core processors.
I see two scenarios (which may not be mutually exclusive): Apple defers to the tried-and-true 7th generation Intel chip to keep the cost down. And/or Apple opts for quad-core Kaby Lake — if multiple models are offered with tiered (higher) pricing.
This also is a big question mark. Will Apple keep the 12-inch MacBook** and update it? Is the new low-cost MacBook more or less a 13-inch version of the 12-inch MacBook? How will Apple differentiate?
The answer to the last question is that Apple will find a way to differentiate if it continues the 12-inch MacBook. And there’s one difference that won’t go away: an ultra-thin 2-pound MacBook is costlier to make than a 2.5- or 3-pound MacBook Air. With high-end laptops — and particularly in Apple’s case — the thinner and lighter it is, the costlier it is. It’s not a trivial difference.
iPad Pro 2018:
New iPad Pro highlights (based on reports and projections):
- Screen sizes of 11 and 12.9 inches (Bloomberg)
- iPhone X-style design with slimmer bezels (MacRumors)
- Full-active LCD (Macotakara)
- No home button (maybe)
- Face ID
- TrueDepth Camera System (for Face ID)
- No notch
- No headphone jack (maybe)
- Price similar to current iPad Pro pricing: from $649 (10.5) and $799 (12.9)
- Release/announcement schedule similar to low-cost MacBook (above)
Apple dominates the tablet market, though the market has slowed from its heady growth of five years ago. Apple shipped 11.5 million iPads in the second quarter of 2018 more than twice the number of Samsung, which was a distant second, according to market researcher IDC.
(More 2018 iPad Pro concepts here.
*To say the current MacBook Air is underwhelming is an understatement. See Notebook Check’s 2017 MacBook Air specs/review, which calls the performance “old” and the display “last decade’s…technology.”
And to get some perspective on the current MBA’s processing power, see this comparison between a MacBook Pro 13 (512GB) — with much more processing punch than an MBA — and an iPhone XS Max (512GB).
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