Apple made some drastic changes when it launched the new MacBook Air in 2018, but other than the processor and the keyboard, there haven't been any major improvements since. But if we can believe the latest rumors, that could be changing this year, as Apple prepared to launch a drastic overhaul to its cheapest notebook. Here's everything we've heard about the new MacBook Air:
The latest rumors
Serial leaker Jon Prosser of Front Page Tech heard from different sources that Apple will release new laptops in various colors similar to that of the new 24-inch iMac. When you open the new laptop, you'll find a white bezel around the display, also like the iMac. And instead of four feet on each corner of the bottom, there will be two rubber strips running vertically to maintain balance.
Prosser reports that the keyboard will have full-sized function keys, a smaller trackpad and two USB-C ports. Prosser didn't report the size of the new laptop, though it will likely still be 13 inches.
2021 MacBook Air: Name and price
We're assuming for the sake of this article that Apple will stick with the MacBook Air name for the next revision, but Prosser noted that his sources haven't confirmed that. So it's possible that Apple reintroduces the MacBook, which was discontinued in 2019. Apple sold the Air alongside the MacBook Air for a short time, so it's also possible that the current Air either gets a price cut to make room for the new model at the $999 tier or sticks around at the same price as a cheaper option for a higher-priced MacBook.
2021 MacBook Air: Design, and colors
It's been reported for months that Apple is working on a lighter and thinner redesign for the MacBook Air. More recently, serial leaker Jon Prosser reported on his Front Page Tech YouTube channel that the new MacBook Air will be switch to a flat design rather than the classic tapered look, but retain its incredible thinness. It could also have full-size function keys, which would make the trackpad slightly smaller.
Apple will be making several colors for the MacBook Air, according to Prosser, likely in hues to match the new iMac, so green, blue, yellow, orange, pink, purple, and silver. Prosser also reports the bezels will be thinner and switch from black to white while the bottom will gain two rubber strips instead of the standard circular feet.
We conducted a twitter poll about the white bezels and the majority of Macworld followers weren't jazzed about it:
2021 MacBook/MacBook Air: Display
The 2021 MacBook Air will likely have the same 13.3-inch retina display as the current model. According to Mark Gurman at Bloomberg, Apple considered a larger 15-inch screen for the MacBook Air, but the company decided to shelve that model for the time being. However, even if the new Air sticks with the same size screen, it still could be getting an upgrade. It has been rumored that the Mini LED could be coming to the MacBook Air, but that probably won't arrive until 2022, with a debut in the MacBook Pro later this year. As seen in the new 12.9-inch iPad Pro, mini LED is a backlighting technology for displays, but as its name suggests, uses a higher concentration of smaller LEDs. This results in better control of the backlight, better image contrast, and greater dynamic range.
2021 MacBook/MacBook Air: MagSafe and ports
The new MacBook Air, which could be released later this year or in early 2022, could make the return of the MagSafe connector, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. MagSafe was a magnetic power adapter connector that could easily disconnect from the laptop using non-axial force—tugs from angles other than straight away—that was introduced in 2016. Its implementation meant that if someone yanked or tripped over the cable, the connection would break but the laptop would be spared from flying off the work surface. Apple retired MagSafe when it switched to USB-C connectors in 2016, which do not have a breakaway connector.
Apple reintroduced the MagSafe brand as a magnetic charging system for the iPhone 12 and the new iMac has a magnetic power cord that doesn't have the MagSafe branding. Presumably, any MagSafe-related technology for Apple's laptops would be in a similar vein as its implementation starting in 2006 but will likely still use USB-C for charging.
MagSafe could be making a comeback in the next MacBook Air.
As for connectivity ports, Apple has transitioned to Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports in its M1 Macs, and it's a good bet that Apple will continue with this in the new MacBook Air. The question then becomes how many ports—traditionally, the MacBook Air has two ports on one side. In his report about the color offerings for a new MacBook Air or MacBook, Jon Prosser said that the new laptop will have two ports but with a better placement—one on each side rather than both on the left edge.
2021 MacBook/MacBook Air: M-series processor and memory
Apple's 8-core M1 system on a chip made its debut in the MacBook Air and low-end 13-inch MacBook Pro last fall. Apple has not revealed the update cycle for its chips, but it's likely that the new MacBook Air will have a faster processor than the current model. New iPad and iPhones always have chip upgrades, and Apple updated the Air with a new Intel chip on a roughly annual cycle.
The speculation for Apple silicon in the higher-end MacBook Pro models is that Apple will use this opportunity to reveal the new boosted M-series chips, likely the M2. It could also come with more RAM options that exceed the 16GB limit on the current model, but it will likely still start at 8GB. That probably means that the new MacBook Air will have a similar chip to the current model but possibly a faster M1X, with Apple emphasizing its new design and new colors.
2021 MacBook/MacBook Air: Release date
Apple released the current MacBook in November of 2020, so it's likely that a new model will arrive at around the same time. Prosser said to expect the MacBook Air near the end of 2021 and Bloomberg has reported it's scheduled to arrive in second half of this year at the earliest. Both have suggested that the New MacBook Air could slip to early 2022 as well.