Back in 2015, Apple released the MacBook, an incredibly thin and light 12-inch laptop with a “butterfly” keyboard mechanism. That key design went into the following MacBook Pros, helping keep every model thin and light. Great!
Not so great was that soon after, the design was subject of lawsuits alleging the keyboard was defective: Customers complained that the keys jammed easily, requiring an expensive trip to an Apple Store. Apple also has a formal plan to service affected keyboards.
It’s worth dredging up because the Retina MacBook Air announced today, along with the most recent MacBooks and MacBook Pros, have updated versions of this keyboard, which include membranes underneath that keep out debris but don’t address all the gripes users have had about the general feel of the typing. In other words, if you are looking to replace your old Air, this is not the same keyboard.
Compared to Apple’s pre-2015 laptops, the new keys travel a very shallow distance, which requires you to adjust to a gentler keystroke to save your fingertips from stabbing into the plastic as the keys rapidly bottom out. I’ve gotten used to it, as many MacBook customers have, but they’re not as comfortable as the Logitech wireless keyboard I use at my desk every day.
Otherwise, the Air seems like an easy recommendation to anyone who needs more than a Chromebook, but less than a MacBook Pro. The Air’s base 8GB of RAM and a dual-Core i5 processor is plenty of power for anyone who isn’t editing video or gaming. Its claimed 12-hour battery life is solid. And I can’t wrap my head around how Apple engineers fit an optional 1.5 terabyte drive inside that space. Beyond that, the upgraded screen, a Thunderbolt port for external monitors and hard drives, and TouchID are all welcome. And as someone who never found a consistent use for the MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar (that small capacitive screen along the top of the keyboard), I’m relieved to see that that feature didn’t come to the Air.
Like many other nerds who have a history with Apple, I have a perhaps unreasonable soft spot for this particular line of laptops. The moment when Steve Jobs pulled the first MacBook Air out of an envelope in the 2008 keynote and shifted the idea of a laptop from a brick to an ultra-portable machine has always stuck with me, and MacBook Airs have served me well over the years. I hope the new Retina model will as well, even if it’s not quite the Air I’m used to.
Originally posted on Popular Mechanics