Apple gave its lightweight laptop range a boost in 2020 by introducing the M1 MacBook Air, but rumours suggest we could soon see the arrival of a redesigned version of the ground-breaking device.
Rumours suggest the new MacBook Air could be even thinner and lighter, pack a next-generation Apple Silicon processor, and even (gasp) come in a range of colours. Here's what we know so far.
When will the new MacBook Air be released?
- Expected in 2022
As the M1 MacBook Air only made its debut in November 2020, it's no real surprise that we haven't seen an updated version just yet. At Apple's early September event it introduced a new 10.2in iPad, iPad mini, Apple Watch 7, and iPhone 13, while in October it followed that up with the AirPods 3 and updated MacBook Pro 14in and 16in.
There was no sign of a new MacBook Air sadly - but not surprisingly. Bloomberg's Mark Gurman had previously suggested Apple might prefer the first half of 2022 instead for the Air.
A July 2021 9to5Mac report says that notable industry supply chain analyst Ming Chi-Kuo agrees with Gurman, citing a mid-2022 release, as does prolific Twitter leaker @dylandkt.
Just wanted to share some details on when to expect the next generation M2 (not the M1X which is reserved for the Pro Mac devices). This processor is on track to release in the first half of 2022 alongside the upcoming colorful Macbook (Air).— Dylan (@dylandkt) July 5, 2021
Kuo then followed up in late September 2021, suggesting the MacBook Air won't go into production until late Q2 2022, or possibly even Q3 2022, pointing towards a potential mid- to late 2022 release.
We'd be surprised if all these credible sources were wide of the mark, so it looks like you'll have to wait a few more months for a new MacBook Air.
How much will the next MacBook Air cost?
Something else Ming Chi-Kuo stated in his report was that the MacBook Air would see a reduction in price, but it’s unclear whether this would be due to the new models being cheaper or Apple keeping the older versions in the catalogue and lowering the cost.
At the moment, buying a new M1 MacBook Air will set you back the following amounts:
- M1 MacBook Air, 8-Core CPU, 7-Core GPU, 256GB SSD £999/US$999
- M1 MacBook Air, 8-Core CPU, 8-Core GPU, 512GB SSD £1,249/US$1,249
One way for this to work is that Apple knocks around £100/$100 off the older models and slips the new ones in at the existing price points, which would make the original M1 models even more tempting.
It would be quite surprising to see those prices dropping so soon though, which in turn does suggest that the release date will be 2022 rather than 2021.
What new features will the MacBook Air have?
Rumours suggest that Apple may well be adding new features and bringing back some old ones with the MacBook Air (2021) redesign. You can expect the standard upgrade of new processors, storage increases and access to the latest version of macOS, but here are the more interesting things we’ve seen reported so far:
Thinner and lighter design
Bloomberg has reported that the new MacBook Air will be ‘thinner and lighter’ than the current models. This could be achieved by shrinking down the bezels around the display, possibly bringing it closer to something like the Dell XPS 13 or Huawei MateBook 14 (2020), albeit without the latter’s 3:2 aspect ratio.
Ming-Chi Kuo suggested in an August 2021 note to investors that the design could be in line with that of the redesigned MacBook Pro range that has since been launched, sporting smaller bezels achieved in part by placing the webcam in a notch that cuts into the top of the display.
How much Apple can reduce the overall size of the Air is unknown, as we’re sure the company will be keen to avoid repeating the mistakes that came with its ultra-slim Butterfly keyboard that resulted in problems for a lot of users.
These have been replaced with more standard scissor switches in new MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros, which have eliminated most of the problems of keys giving double hits or not registering at all.
New Apple Silicon processor
The 2020 MacBook Air was one of the first devices to be powered by the M1 chip, Apple's first laptop processor designed in-house. The M1 was updated in 2021 with new M1 Pro and M1 Max versions, but so far these are limited to the new MacBook Pro laptops.
A tweet from prolific leaker Dylan suggests that the next MacBook Air will launch in 2022 alongside an all-new M2 chip. However, details on about what this new processor will bring to the table are relatively thin on the ground. Early indications suggest it'll be similar to the A15 chip found in the iPhone 13, and deliver more wholesale changes than the iterative M1 Pro & Max, but that's about all we know for now.
New colour options
To coincide with the redesign of the MacBook Air, Apple is apparently considering shipping it in new colour options. It's not unheard of, given the fact that the iPhone 13, iPad Air, and most recently the 24in iMac all come in a variety of colourful options including red, green and blue. In fact, it seems to be a trend within Apple at the moment to introduce non-pro products in brighter, more vivid colours, so it's not hard to imagine the same will happen with the MacBook Air.
That's what Apple leaker Jon Prosser suggests anyway. The leaker, who correctly predicted that the iMac range would come in a variety of new colours (although his colour predictions were off) discussed the upcoming M2-enabled MacBook Air in a May 2021 YouTube video. He claims that one of his sources has seen a prototype of the redesigned MacBook Air in a new shade of blue, and said that it looked "absolutely amazing".
He followed up days later with another YouTube video with renders based on photographs of the new laptops he'd seen.
Ming-Chi Kuo also expects the new MacBook Air range to come in a variety of colours, noting in an August 2021 note to investors that there will be "several" colour variants to choose from, although the leaker has yet to shed light on what those colours may be.
Ming Chi-Kuo (via Macrumours) has said that the new MacBooks Apple has in the works will feature Mini-LED displays. These would bring more balanced contrast to colours and lighting, brighter panels and should prove more energy efficient. So, a better-looking screen and longer battery life. That’s something we’d all like to see in a laptop.
Mini-LED has already arrived in the updated 14in MacBook Pro, and by the time it reaches the MacBook Air, it could be commonplace among Apple's laptops.
If you want to know more, and why it's a big deal, read what a Mini-LED display is and why you want one.
Many long-term Mac users will rejoice at the idea of MagSafe chargers returning to the MacBook Air. These magnetically attached charging cables had the excellent feature of instantly popping out if someone pulled on the cable.
So, if your dog decides to run across the room while you have your Mac plugged in, they won’t end up yanking the device off the table and have it clattering to the floor if their paws get caught up in the cable.
MagSafe is another feature that we've seen appear in the 2021 MacBook Pro updates, so it's more likely than ever that it will also be included in the new Air. In those laptops charging is supported on both MagSafe and the USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 ports, so hopefully the same will be true for the Air.