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Apple just unveiled its biggest MacBook Air rethink in a decade. Here are 5 changes you need to know

June 7, 2022, 9:03 AM UTC

Apple Inc. unveiled the most significant overhaul to its popular MacBook Air laptop in more than a decade, bringing a fresh design, new colors and a speedier M2 processor from its homegrown chip line. 

The company showcased the updated laptop Monday at its Worldwide Developers Conference, an event that’s otherwise focused on software updates for the iPhone and other devices. The new Air adds yet another machine to the company’s lucrative lineup of computers, which has seen revenue jump since a switch away from Intel Corp. chips in 2020.

1. Bigger screen and new design

The move refreshes a product that was groundbreakingly light and thin when Apple’s Steve Jobs first unveiled it in 2008. The new model loses the tapered shape of the previous version and instead uses a design that looks similar to the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros launched at the end of 2021. The machine has a 13.6-inch screen, up from 13.3 inches on the previous model, and — like the MacBook Pro — a 1080p camera with twice the resolution of the previous model.

2. Speedier M2 processor

The updated computer includes an M2 processor, the first generational leap for Apple’s Mac chips since its in-house components for computers debuted in November 2020. The MacBook Air update is the first since then, when it was one of the earliest Macs to get the M1 chip. The latest version will be 40% faster in handling some pro apps, but around 18% overall, according to Apple.

The new capabilities should be a boon for Apple fans, even if there were few major surprises at the event. The shares were little changed following the announcements, trading at $145.38 as of 3:28 p.m. in New York. Apple is down 18% for the year, part of a broader pullback for tech stocks. 

3. Graphic, memory and video updates

The M2 chip has eight processing cores — similar to the M1 — but now has as many as 10 graphics cores instead of up to eight. It also has as much as 24 gigabytes of memory, up from 16 in the M1. And there’s an updated video engine to more smoothly play 4K and 8K video. 

The same M2 chip also is coming to a low-end 13-inch MacBook Pro, the company said Monday. The new Air model will start at $1,199, while the Pro price begins at $1,299.

The new MacBook Pro looks identical to the previous version from 2020. The high-end MacBook Pros, meanwhile, were updated in 2021. 

4. Delayed rollout

In a sign of continuing supply-chain challenges, the new machines won’t go on sale until July. The computers can’t be ordered yet and are listed as “currently unavailable” on Apple’s website. Due to COVID-19-related shutdowns in China, an Apple-contracted factory for building Macs was temporarily shuttered, delaying shipments. 

The Mac lineup generates a fraction of the sales that Apple’s iPhone does, but it’s been a solid performer in recent years. It accounted for nearly 11% of revenue in the last quarter, more than the iPad and Apple’s wearables and home products.Play Video

The last major MacBook Air overhaul was in 2018 when the company added a Retina display, but the device looked similar overall to the 2010 model — previously considered the most significant redesign in the laptop’s history. When the MacBook Air was first unveiled by Jobs, the Apple co-founder famously pulled the ultrathin laptop out of a manila envelope. 

5. New color

The redesigned laptop comes in space gray, silver, a starlight gold and a new dark blue called midnight. It also relies on MagSafe charging, the magnetic connector used in older versions of the MacBook Air but removed with the 2018 redesign. The updated 13-inch MacBook Pro continues to use a standard USB-C charger. 

Apple intended to launch the revamped MacBook Air in 2021, but it was delayed by supply-chain snags, the chip shortage and internal design challenges. Bloomberg reported earlier this year that it would launch at the Apple developer conference along with the new MacBook Pro.

The latest MacBook Air and MacBook Pro were two of several next-generation Macs in testing with variations of the M2 chip, Bloomberg reported earlier this year. Apple is also working on new Mac Pro desktop, high-end MacBook Pros, Mac minis and an iMac for release over the next year or so.

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