Is the new MacBook Air the best laptop for creatives on the move?

New MacBook Air
(Image credit: Apple)

Apple has just announced a brand new MacBook Air that's available to order now, and it's a welcome update to the most lightweight of MacBooks that could make it your new favourite laptop.

The Air had, until recently, been feeling a little neglected, languishing behind the standard MacBook and Pro with outdated specs and not enough power to be seriously considered as one of the best laptops for graphic design. Recent updates to the Air have addressed this, but this latest version really puts it back in the game – especially if you're willing to pay extra for upgrades.

New MacBook Air

The new Air has a 13-inch Retina screen with True Tone, plus improved graphics performance (Image credit: Apple)

The new MacBook Air features quad-core processors for the first time, providing up to twice the power of the previous model and giving you the power you need for demanding design tasks. The base models come with Intel Core i3 and i5 processors; however there's an option to go with a punchier Core i7.

As well as more CPU power, the new Air also benefits from Intel Iris Plus Graphics that, says Apple, means up to an 80 per cent boost in graphics performance; again, an upgrade that designers are going to find pretty attractive. It features a 13-inch Retina display with True Tone – and can support external displays up to 6K – and anyone who's had an eye on the drama surrounding Apple keyboards over the past couple of years will be pleased to note that it has the Magic Keyboard, first seen on the 16-inch MacBook Pro, with Apple's improved scissor mechanism.

The new MacBook Air now comes with 256GB of storage, doubling the 128GB of previous models, and 8GB of memory. It also features Touch ID, a pair of Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports, a Force Touch trackpad and all-day battery life. And the price? $999 (£999) for the basic model with i3 processor and 256GB storage, or $1,299 (£1,299) for the i5 and 512GB version. If you're a student based in the US, though, it's worth noting that prices start at $899 if you visit Apple's Education Store.

New MacBook Air

The Air now features Apple's more reliable Magic Keyboard (Image credit: Apple)

There's no doubt that this represents a massive upgrade to the MacBook Air range, and it's a lovely-looking slimline machine. Our main concern about it is that in its base configurations, it's probably just a little underpowered for a design laptop. If you want to put it to serious use you're going to want to upgrade when you order, and that's where things get interesting.

We've looked into the cost of upgrading a new MacBook Air to a more design-friendly spec with a Core i7, 16GB memory and a terabyte of storage; it'll set you back $1,849 (or £1,849), while a similarly-specced 13-inch MacBook Pro would set you back $2,399 (or £2,399). Now, that's not a like-for-like comparison; the Pro has a Touch Bar and a more powerful i7 among other improved features, but we're willing to bet that plenty of designers would be happy to save $550 on a machine that's almost as good as well as being beautifully portable.

New MacBook Air

An added bonus - the MacBook Air connects to your iPhone or iPad so you can copy images, video or text across easily (Image credit: Apple)

The new MacBook Air is available to order now for delivery next month; we'll take a closer look at it soon as we can get our hands on one; in the meantime you can find out everything you need to know over at Apple.

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Jim McCauley

Jim McCauley is a writer, performer and cat-wrangler who started writing professionally way back in 1995 on PC Format magazine, and has been covering technology-related subjects ever since, whether it's hardware, software or videogames. A chance call in 2005 led to Jim taking charge of Computer Arts' website and developing an interest in the world of graphic design, and eventually led to a move over to the freshly-launched Creative Bloq in 2012. Jim now works as a freelance writer for sites including Creative Bloq, T3 and PetsRadar, specialising in design, technology, wellness and cats, while doing the occasional pantomime and street performance in Bath and designing posters for a local drama group on the side.