Apple is widely expected to debut a lower-cost MacBook device later this year, with many reports suggesting a sub-$1,000 price point. But a new report from DigiTimes throws a wrench in that speculation.
The report, which corroborates the existence of the entry-level 13-inch MacBook, says that it will start at $1,200.
That leaves the existence of a sub-$1,000 notebook up for debate.. So what’s going on here?
There are a few distinct possibilities.
First off, it’s worth noting that DigiTimes doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to accurately predicting pricing information about Apple’s upcoming products. Supply chain sources just don’t have that kind of information available to them.
Secondly, it’s worth noting how much of an opportunity Apple would be missing if its cheapest notebook was $1,200 — particularly if it phases out its current $999 MacBook Air.
But there is another possibility here.
The 2018 MacBook lineup would then look like this.
- 12-inch MacBook at $999
- 13-inch “MacBook Air” at $1,199
- 13-inch MacBook Pro at $1,299+
The MacBook and the MacBook Air are two vastly different machines, mostly because the latter hasn’t been refreshed in years. So the 12-inch MacBook appears as a higher-power and more premium device at first glance.
But this option makes a lot more sense when you delve into the details.
MacBook “Air” Is Unlikely
We’re not sure whether Apple will stick with the MacBook Air moniker. There are conflicting reports, with some sources suggesting that the lower-cost laptop could be a MacBook-branded product. The differences in information could be explained simply by an analyst source misspeaking or getting the exact details wrong.
But we’ll assume that both products will be sold under the MacBook brand.
Apple’s rumored plan makes more sense when one stops thinking of the 13-inch MacBook Air refresh as a MacBook Air refresh. It could end up being a new, larger MacBook.
- The 12-inch model, then, could end up being the “entry-level” MacBook with a starting price of $999.
- The refreshed 13-inch MacBook could occupy a mid-tier price point between Apple’s lower-cost notebooks and its MacBook Pro lineup.
For one, it seems unlikely that a 13-inch device would be the lower-end counterpart to a smaller notebook. But also consider the chips.
The 12-inch MacBook uses ultra-low power chips because of its thermal architecture. The most recent rumors suggest a 2018 MacBook refresh could sport Amber Lake Y processors.
Apple’s current MacBook Air uses Intel’s Core processors, and DigiTimes suggests the rumored 13-inch MacBook could come packed with Intel’s eight-generation Kaby Lake Refresh processors.
The older Kaby Lake Refresh processors are actually slightly more powerful than the new Amber Lake CPUs and they’re able to pack more RAM. It’s hard to imagine a slightly less powerful notebook would be more expensive.
In other words, if these reports turn out to be accurate, all signs point toward a price drop for the 12-inch MacBook and the new 13-inch MacBook overtaking its price tier.
Apple’s notebooks are incredible machines, but their pricing dissuades many would-be users. The company has to adapt to a market filled with lower-cost Windows PCs that are every bit as good. This would be a good way to do that.