Last updated on March 9, 2015.
At a Glance
Apple's 11- and 13-inch ultra-portable notebook computers received an update on March 9, 2015 with new Intel Broadwell processors, improved graphics, and Thunderbolt 2 connectivity. The 13-inch model also features new flash storage that is up to twice as fast as the previous generation.
- 11" and 13" screen sizes
- 1.6 or 2.2 GHz Broadwell processor
- Intel HD Graphics 6000
- 128, 256, or 512 GB SSD
- 4 or 8 GB RAM
- Starts at $899
11.6-inch with 1366 x 768 Display:
-$899: 1.6 GHz Core i5 & 128 GB storage
-$1,099: 1.6 GHz Core i5 & 256 GB storage
13.3-inch with 1440 x 900 Display:
-$999: 1.6 GHz Core i5 & 128 GB storage
-$1,199: 1.6 GHz Core i5 & 256 GB storage
Apple's MacBook Air is best known for its compact size and portability. The notebooks were last redesigned in 2010, and weigh just 2.38 pounds and 2.96 pounds for the 11-inch and 13-inch models, respectively.
On March 9, 2015, Apple unveiled updated 11- and 13-inch MacBook Air models. As an internal-only update with no chassis redesign, the new notebooks received Intel's Broadwell processors with Intel HD Graphics 6000 and an upgrade to Thunderbolt 2 connectivity. The 13-inch model was also upgraded with faster flash storage.
With Broadwell processors, MacBook Air battery life has continued to improve. The 11-inch model now offers 9 hours of wireless web browsing and 10 hours of iTunes movie playback, while the 13-inch model offers 12 hours of wireless web browsing and 12 hours of iTunes movie playback.
Neither MacBook Air features a Retina display. The 11-inch MacBook Air has a resolution of 1366 x 768, while the 13-inch MacBook Air has a resolution of 1440 x 900. Both of Apple's more expensive notebook lines, the MacBook and the MacBook Pro, feature Retina displays.
Prices for the MacBook Air remain the same. The entry-level 11-inch MacBook Air is priced at $899 and the entry-level 13-inch MacBook Air is priced at $999.
Other MacBook Air specs include 802.11ac Wi-Fi, super fast PCIe-based flash storage, and integrated Intel HD Graphics 6000, with the ability to drive 4K displays at 60Hz. The MacBook Air also features Mini DisplayPort output, a Thunderbolt 2 port, two USB 3.0 ports, and an SDXC card slot (13-inch model only). It has stereo speakers, a headphone jack, dual microphones, and a full-size backlit keyboard.
The new MacBook Air models no longer support Windows 7 in Boot Camp.
Both of the new MacBook Air models use 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processors, with Turbo Boost up to 2.7GHz. A 2.2GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 processor with Turbo Boost up to 3.2GHz is available on build-to-order models for an additional fee.
Geekbench benchmarks of the new MacBook Air models suggest decent improvements over the previous-generation early 2014 and mid 2013 models, with score improvements generally in the 6-7 percent range. The high-end Core i7 chip does, however, demonstrate a nice 14 percent boost in multi-score benchmarks, making it a nice upgrade option for some customers.
The fact that processor performance improvements are generally modest is not a surprise, as Intel's Broadwell and Haswell processors have largely focused on improving battery life and efficiency. Though processor speeds are only moderately improved, graphics performance has seen a greater jump with Intel HD Graphics 6000.
Both of the two upgraded MacBook Air models come with up to 512GB of super fast PCIe-based flash storage, but according to Apple, the new 13-inch model has flash storage that's twice as fast as the flash in the 11-inch model.
An SSD test using Black Magic's Disk Speed Test revealed average read/write speeds of 315MB/s and 668MB/s for the 2015 11-inch MacBook Air, while the 2015 13-inch MacBook Air saw read/write speeds of 629.9MB/s and 1285.4MB/s.
A teardown of the two MacBooks revealed that the 13-inch MacBook Air uses Samsung flash storage with a Samsung controller, while the 11-inch MacBook Air uses SanDisk flash storage with a Marvell controller.
In addition to being two times faster than the 11-inch MacBook Air, the flash storage in the 2015 13-inch MacBook Air is also twice as fast as the storage in the 2014 model.
The entry-level 11-inch MacBook Air can be upgraded with a 2.2GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 processor ($150) and 8 GB of RAM ($100). The more expensive 11-inch model has the same upgrade options, along with 512 GB of flash storage ($300).
The entry-level 13-inch MacBook Air can be upgraded with a 2.2GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 processor ($150) and 8 GB of RAM ($100). The more expensive 13-inch model has the same upgrade options, along with 512 GB of flash storage $300).
How to Buy
The MacBook Air can be purchased from the online Apple Store, from an Apple retail location, or from select Apple Authorized Resellers. Currently, all base models of the MacBook Air are listed as "In Stock" and ship within 24 hours. Custom builds ship out in one to three business days.
MacBook Buyer's Guide
With the addition of the new MacBook to Apple's notebook lineup, it's harder than ever to figure out which Apple laptop will best meet your needs. If you're planning on purchasing a MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, or MacBook and aren't sure which one to get, make sure to check out our MacBook Buyer's Guide before making a decision.
It'll walk you through all of the options that are available and all the different features of each MacBook to help you make the right decision.
Apple's plans for the MacBook Air are unclear, given the similarities between the new Retina MacBook and the MacBook Air. It's possible Apple will phase out the MacBook Air line as technology improves and allows the price of the Retina MacBook to come down. Should Apple continue with the MacBook Air line, the next update will likely come in 2016, introducing models with Intel's Skylake processors. Details on 15-watt Skylake chips appropriate for the MacBook Air became available in August, suggesting the chips will be available later in the month or in early September.
Skylake processors may bring some significant upgrades to Apple's Mac lineup. Leaked Intel slides have suggested Skylake offers an up to 20 percent performance boost, 41 percent faster graphics and 30 percent longer battery life than Broadwell processors.