Apple's Confusing Mac Lineup: MacBook Air vs. MacBook

Apple at its October event unveiled a new 2018 MacBook Air that's been entirely overhauled with a Retina display, Thunderbolt 3, a slimmed down design, a faster processor, and other hardware upgrades.

The new $1,199 machine is a great addition to the MacBook Pro, but there's just one problem - Apple already had a notebook with all of these features. The 2018 MacBook Air is very similar to the 12-inch MacBook, which did not receive a 2018 update.

Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos.

The 2018 MacBook Air, which Apple is selling for $1,199, is better in almost every way than the 12-inch MacBook, which is still priced at $1,299. It has a larger Retina display, a faster Amber Lake processor, upgraded Intel UHD Graphics 617, two Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports, up to 1.5TB of storage, Touch ID and T2 chip, better battery life, and it costs $100 less (though you're getting 128GB storage instead of 256GB with the base model).

At this point in time, with no update, all the MacBook has going for it is a slimmer body and a lighter weight, but even then, the difference is minute given the revamped design of the MacBook Air.


The 2018 MacBook Air measures in at 0.16 to 0.61 inches thick, compared to the MacBook, which comes in at 0.14 to 0.52 inches. It also weighs 2.75 pounds instead of the MacBook's 2 pounds, but those are really the only differentiating factors.

Right now, there is absolutely no good reason to purchase a MacBook over a MacBook Air, and anyone considering a new Apple notebook that's aiming for portability and good battery life should choose the MacBook Air.


You can get close to MacBook Air performance with the upgraded MacBook with a 1.4GHz Core M processor, but the MacBook Air is still going to beat it because it's using eighth-generation processors instead of seventh-generation and it costs $1,549 to upgrade to that higher-powered processor.

If and when Apple upgrades the MacBook with next-generation Intel chips, it's still going to be almost on par with the MacBook Air if there are no other changes to form factor or specifications, so it's a mystery why the MacBook is still in Apple's lineup and why Apple has opted to have two machines that are so similar.


Prior to the October update, Apple hadn't made significant changes to the MacBook Air since 2015, and it was believed that the machine, which was priced at $999, was sticking around as a low-cost option until component prices for the MacBook came down. With the launch of the new version, that's clearly no longer Apple's plan, and the future of the MacBook and MacBook Air is murkier than ever.

As for the MacBook Air vs. the MacBook Pro, things are a bit clearer. The MacBook Air is still the lower-cost lower-performance option that is ideal for lighter workloads that don't require high-powered software.


All MacBook Pro models, including the 2017 non-Touch Bar models, offer better performance than the MacBook Air's 7W Amber Lake processor, but with the base MacBook Air vs. the base non-Touch Bar MacBook Pro priced at $1,299, there's not a huge difference. When deciding between these two machines, it's going to come down to whether you prefer a smaller form factor and Touch ID or slightly better performance.

What do you think Apple is planning for the MacBook in the future? Let us know in the comments.

Related Roundup: MacBook Air
Buyer's Guide: MacBook Air (Neutral)

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
23 months ago
Good article but it's missing the most important thing:

Apple is STILL ashamingly selling the Early 2015 MBA, with a 5TH GEN Intel processor for $999 !!!

A 3.5 year old machine without dropping its price.

That's insulting!
Score: 96 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
23 months ago
Just shows what happens when a finance guy is making tech decisions.
Score: 68 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
23 months ago
The desktop lineup is even more confused, the Mac mini is stronger than the iMac and goes blow for blow with the Mac Pro lol
Score: 57 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
23 months ago
Tim Cook is even more confusing, the best confusion ever.
Score: 42 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
23 months ago
Too bad Apple didn't release a new low-cost MacBook (Air).
Lots of educational customers do not prefer iPad, but the new MBA is getting too expensive.
Score: 38 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
23 months ago
The MacBook is more air than the MacBook Air. Why not swap the names?
Score: 37 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Apple Takes Legal Action Against Small Company With Pear Logo

Saturday August 8, 2020 11:09 am PDT by
Apple is taking legal action against the developers of the app "Prepear" due to its logo, according to iPhone in Canada. Prepear is an app that helps users discover recipes, plan meals, make lists, and arrange grocery deliveries. The app is a spinoff of "Super Healthy Kids," and the founders claim that they are facing litigation from Apple. Apple reportedly takes issue with Prepear's logo, ...

Kuo: Global iPhone Shipments Could Decline Up to 30% If Apple Forced to Remove WeChat From App Store [Updated x2]

Sunday August 9, 2020 10:17 pm PDT by
In a worst-case scenario, Apple's annual global iPhone shipments could decline by 25–30% if it is forced to remove WeChat from its App Stores around the world, according to a new research note from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo viewed by MacRumors. The removal could occur due to a recent executive order aiming to ban U.S. transactions with WeChat and its parent company Tencent. Kuo lays out...

Google Maps Debuts New Apple Watch App and CarPlay Features

Monday August 10, 2020 9:16 am PDT by
Google today announced the launch of several features for Google Maps on Apple products, including new CarPlay functionality and a new Google Maps app that works on Apple Watch. The new Google Maps app for Apple Watch works similarly to the iOS app, allowing Apple Watch owners to get directions for a car, bike, public transit, or on foot. The app supports estimated arrival times and...

Foxconn Reportedly Begins Seasonal Hiring Spree for iPhone 12 Production

Monday August 10, 2020 7:03 am PDT by
Apple's largest manufacturing partner Foxconn has begun its seasonal hiring spree to assist with iPhone 12 production, offering employees who recruit qualified applicants up to a 9,000 yuan bonus, according to Chinese media reports. As usual, Foxconn needs as many hands on deck as possible at its factory in Zhengzhou, China to assist with mass production of the upcoming iPhones. Apple is...

Apple May Release 4G-Only iPhone 12 in Early 2021

Tuesday August 11, 2020 5:28 am PDT by
In a research note shared by Business Insider, Wedbush Securities analysts said that Apple may release a cheaper iPhone 12 in early 2021 with no 5G connectivity. Wedbush initially believed Apple would launch a mix of 4G and 5G iPhone 12 models this fall. Following re-examination of Asian supply chains, analysts Daniel Ives, Strecker Backe, and Ahmad Khalil revised the predictions,...

2020 iMac Teardown Reveals Internal Changes and Similarities

Saturday August 8, 2020 12:44 pm PDT by
A teardown video, shared by OWC, reveals the internal changes in the new 2020 27-inch iMac. The 2020 27-inch iMac was announced earlier this week with 10th-generation Intel Core processors, AMD Radeon Pro 5000 series graphics, up to 128GB of RAM, up to 8TB of storage, a 1080p front-facing FaceTime camera, a True Tone display with a nano-texture glass option, higher fidelity speakers, and...

Apple Believes This German Cycling Path Logo Infringes on Its Own Logo

Wednesday May 1, 2019 9:51 am PDT by
Apple recently objected to the logo of a new German cycling path in an appeal filed with the German Patent and Trademark Office, according to German outlets General-Anzeiger Bonn and Westdeutscher Rundfunk. Apple reportedly takes issue with the logo's green leaf and supposed "bitten" right side, attributes the company believes are too similar to its own logo. The logo, registered with the ...

Apple Seeds First Public Beta of watchOS 7 to Public Beta Testers

Monday August 10, 2020 10:33 am PDT by
Apple today seeded the first public beta of an upcoming watchOS 7 update to public beta testers, one week after seeding the fourth beta to developers and a month and a half after the Worldwide Developers Conference. The update can be downloaded after installing the proper profile from Apple's Public Beta website. watchOS 7 should not be installed on a primary device as it is still an early...

Apple Watch Likely to Adopt MicroLED Display Technology in 3-4 Years

Monday August 10, 2020 2:55 am PDT by
This year's Apple Watch Series 6 is expected to feature an OLED screen like previous models, but a future model is likely to be the first Apple product to adopt MicroLED display technology, albeit not for another three to four years. That's the main takeaway reading between the lines of comments made by the chairman of Epistar, Taiwan's top LED producer, which is reportedly working on a...

Apple Seeds iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 Public Beta 4 to Testers

Thursday August 6, 2020 10:05 am PDT by
Apple today seeded new public betas of upcoming iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 updates to its public beta testing group. Today's software releases, which Apple labels as fourth betas to keep them in line with developer betas, are actually the third betas that Apple has provided and they come two weeks after the prior beta releases. Public beta testers who have signed up for Apple's beta testing...