It looks like we haven’t had to wait very long to find out at least some of what Apple’s been up to with its MacBook lineup, with the company quietly refreshing its less-than-a-year-old 2018 Retina MacBook Air while also updating its older entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro and bidding farewell to the 12-inch MacBook.
Last month, we heard that Apple had several new MacBooks in the pipeline, although many expected these were being primed for a fall release, and although rumours of a 16-inch MacBook Pro have been swirling for a while now, most analysts expected that almost all of the new models would simply represent a refresh of Apple’s existing lineup.
After updating almost its entire MacBook Pro lineup in May, moving them to the latest 8th-gen and 9th-gen Core processors, there wasn’t too much more for Apple to do with its flagship lineup, but that left three other MacBook models: last year’s Retina MacBook Air, the 2017-era non-Touch Bar MacBook Pro, and Apple’s classic 12-inch MacBook, all of which have now been addressed by Apple in one way or another.
2019 Retina MacBook Air
Last fall, Apple released a long-awaited update to its MacBook Air lineup, bringing it into the same generation as its recent MacBook Pros by adding a Retina Display and Touch ID, along with Apple’s new T2 security chip and several other notable improvements, such as louder speakers, a Force Touch trackpad with a larger surface area, and a pair of Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports. By all estimations, this was a MacBook Air for the modern era, and it was lauded by most reviewers as being the best MacBook in its class.
While there was arguably little reason for Apple to refresh the MacBook Air less than a year later, the company has clearly decided to avoid letting any of its MacBooks languish like they have in the past, and decided that with back to school season upon us, it’s the right time to not only push out a new version but also drop the price while it’s at it.
Apple’s new 2019 Retina MacBook Air gains the True Tone screen feature on its Retina Display, but retains most of the same specs as before — an 8th-gen 1.6GHz dual-core Core i5 is still the only CPU configuration available. The base model, with a 128 GB SSD and 8 GB of memory now comes in at $1,099, which is $100 less than the 2018 version, and users can now configure it with up to 16GB of memory and a 1 TB SSD for a $1,899 price tag.
Entry-Level MacBook Pro Gets the Touch Bar
There’s been one outlier in Apple’s MacBook Pro lineup for the past few years, and that’s its entry-level $1,299 model, which omits the Touch Bar found on the higher-end versions. Apple skipped over this one entirely last year when updating the rest of its MacBook Pros, and then repeated that last month, leaving many to wonder if it was just going to eventually be discontinued.
Now, however, it appears that Apple is bringing its weird step-brother into the main MacBook Pro family, taking the entry-level MacBook Pro and adding the Touch Bar, Touch ID, and T2 chip to put it in the same class as the rest the lineup.
The processor specs are still very much entry-level, with a 1.4 GHz Core i5 in the baseline configuration, which can only be upgraded to a 1.7GHz Core i7, although both are now 8th-gen Intel CPUs. The base $1,299 model also still only comes in at 128 GB of SSD storage and 8 GB of memory, which remains a big contrast from the 2.4GHz quad-core Core i5 “standard” 13-inch MacBook Pro that was updated in the spring.
The 12-inch MacBook
Lastly, Apple has finally pulled the plug on its 12-inch MacBook — something that we sort of suspected was coming. After the company refreshed the MacBook Air last fall, the 12-inch MacBook became the real oddball in Apple’s lineup, especially since it was priced at $100 more than the brand new, Retina-equipped MacBook Air.
Despite the smaller form factor, there just didn’t seem to be a very compelling reason for users to pay more for less performance; about the only other advantages that the 12-inch MacBook had over last year’s refreshed MacBook Air were the ability to go higher on memory and SSD size, and now that these have been eliminated with the 2019 MacBook Air — users can get up to 16 GB memory and a 1 TB SSD if they so desire, and for $100 less than before — there’s really no reason for the 12-inch MacBook to exist anymore in its current form, and obviously Apple felt no need to release an updated version of it.
This change actually means there’s no longer just a “MacBook” in Apple’s portable computer lineup, which now includes only the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro. Notably, however, this isn’t the first time that Apple has done this — the “MacBook” name actually came out of a five-year retirement when Apple debuted the 12-inch version in 2015, having been discontinued after Apple stopped selling its plastic MacBooks in 2010.