Critics are calling Apple’s latest refreshed laptops a ‘much-needed upgrade’ — here’s what they have to say about the new MacBook Air and MacBook Pro

Apple's new entry-level MacBook Pro now comes with a quad-core processor and Apple's Touch Bar.

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Apple’s new entry-level MacBook Pro now comes with a quad-core processor and Apple’s Touch Bar.
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Apple

  • Apple refreshed its MacBook Air and MacBook Pro laptops earlier this month.
  • The starting price of the MacBook Air dropped by $100, and Apple added its True Tone feature to the computer’s Retina display.
  • Apple beefed up its entry-level MacBook Pro to give it quad-core Intel processors and the company’s Touch Bar, which replaces the traditional function keys, amid other changes.
  • Critics really seem to dig the changes to the MacBooks, praising their design and upgraded performance, although note a few areas that still need improvement.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Apple refreshed its popular MacBook Air and MacBook Pro laptops this month in the lead-up to its annual back-to-school promotions that begin around August and September.

The MacBook Air now has a starting price that’s $100 more than before, meaning the new computer starts at $1,099. The only other major difference is that the MacBook Air’s new Retina displays also include True Tone technology, which helps match the screen’s color temperature to your surroundings to make viewing easier on the eyes.

Read more: Apple kills its 12-inch MacBook and launches cheaper new MacBook Pro and MacBook Air models

The entry-level MacBook Pro, meanwhile, got a more substantial upgrade.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro, which has a starting price of $1,299, now features quad-core Intel processors (compared to the dual-core processors in the previous entry-level model), Apple’s T2 security chip, and the Touch Bar, which replaces the traditional function keys along the top of the keyboard. If you’ve never used it before, the Touch Bar is a touchscreen display that lets you control aspects of the computer with virtual keys, which change depending on the applications you’re using at the time.

A handful of tech and news publications got their hands on Apple’s newest laptops this week, and for the most part, they had positive things to say. Still, there are a few hangups that had some critics feeling like Apple’s latest MacBooks are only “very good,” instead of “insanely great.”


First, let’s talk about Apple’s new MacBook Air.

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Apple

The Verge’s Dieter Bohn rated the new MacBook Air a 7 out of 10, praising the computer’s design, Retina display, and Touch ID, but knocking its inferior webcam, its bare USB-C ecosystem, and Apple’s decision to remove the MagSafe charging system.

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Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

This bit sums up Bohn’s review pretty well:

This MacBook Air isn’t the obvious, default choice anymore. … What made that classic MacBook Air so special is that it cut through all those caveats for so many people and did it consistently for so many years. 2019’s MacBook Air is good, but it hasn’t yet earned the title of The Default Laptop. After all, for $200 more, you could get a MacBook Pro.


Matt Hanson from TechRadar gave the new MacBook Air 4 out of 5 stars, calling it a “great bit of kit that’s nicely put together (as we’ve come to expect from Apple), but it just won’t be for everyone.”

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Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

Hanson found the MacBook Air does all of the basics well – the keyboard is “pleasant,” battery life is longlasting, and the screen is “more stunning than ever” – but he didn’t like the arrangement of having both USB-C ports so close together, which makes for some awkward setups, and the expensive upgrades for more storage.

This bit sums up his review:

The market for premium $1,000 laptops is more packed than it’s ever been, with some incredible machines dominating the price point, mainly spurred by the success of the original MacBook Air. With a price of $1,099, the MacBook Air 2018 is going toe to toe with impressive Windows alternatives, like the Huawei MateBook X Pro and Dell XPS 13. Both offer more powerful components and beautiful displays for comparable prices.

Of course, the XPS 13 and MateBook X Pro are only viable alternatives if you’re prepared to switch to Windows 10. If you’re wedded to macOS and Apple’s ecosystem, then the Apple MacBook Air (2018) offers the most affordable way to get a new MacBook – and its latest refresh, as well as drop in price, definitely gives it better value.


Henry Casey from Laptop Mag gave the new MacBook Air 3.5 stars out of 5, criticizing the computer for its high starting price and only having two USB ports, but hailing its display as the “true star” of this year’s model.

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Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

This is the most salient part of Casey’s review:

“I wrote a lot of this review on the MacBook Air, but when I had to put the machine down for testing, I continued the review on my aging 2015-style MacBook Pro. And when I did, I was reminded about why I’m reluctant to quit using that old laptop. Sure, butterfly-style keys are thinner, giving Apple more space for the battery and the ability to make a thinner laptop, but they don’t feel as comfortable to type on. Apple’s older keys have much greater amount of vertical travel. […] The new MacBook Air feels like the modern update that Apple devotees have been waiting for. I just wish Apple had chosen a beefier processor, as competing Windows machines are faster, though Apple’s flash storage is superior.”


While some reviewers had mixed feelings about the value proposition from the refreshed MacBook Air, most critics found the new entry-level MacBook Pro to be more appealing.

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Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

The Verge’s Dan Seifert gave the upgraded 13-inch MacBook Pro a 7.5 out of 10, calling the entry-level laptop “the best model for most people, as it has more power and provides a better overall experience than the Air for everyday tasks, but doesn’t cost nearly as much as Apple’s higher-end MacBook Pro models.”

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A guest points to a new MacBook Pro during an Apple media event in Cupertino.
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Reuters/Beck Diefenbach

Notably, Seifert said he wasn’t able to get the advertised 10 hours of battery life out of the new MacBook Pro. Even with brightness set to 50%, his laptop only made it about 7.5 hours. But that one issue aside, he found it was the “ideal compromise for the vast majority of buyers.”

“Most people needing a laptop for school or productivity work will be well-served by this model,” he said. “Unless you have particular and demanding needs, and you know who you are if you do, this model is more than capable of handling most anything thrown at it.”


Engadget’s Nathan Ingraham calls the new MacBook Pro “a major improvement [over the MacBook Air] for an extra $200,” praising the faster processors, but also lamenting that it wasn’t able to achieve Apple’s battery life claims.

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Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

Like The Verge, Engadget’s MacBook Pro review unit wasn’t capable of achieving Apple’s advertised 10 hours of battery life. Instead, Ingraham says his model topped out around 7 hours.

Still, he said the new MacBook Pro “might be the best all-around laptop Apple sells.”

Ingraham sums it up well here:

“Apple’s latest MacBook Pro isn’t the redesign some are waiting for. But it’s a strong refinement of the existing formula, particularly in the speed department. For $200 more than a MacBook Air, you get a much faster machine.”


9to5Mac’s Jeff Benjamin calls the new 13-inch MacBook Pro “compelling,” remarking on the computer’s “impressive” speed that makes it worth consideration, “even for those who felt the previous model was too underpowered for their needs.”

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Apple

Benjamin goes in-depth on the MacBook Pro’s performance, but this segment of his review sums it up:

“The CPU upgrade, in particular, gives this machine a large leap over its predecessor. The strong CPU provides impressive performance for multicore workloads, even if it is somewhat bottlenecked by the integrated graphics. With two Thunderbolt 3 ports in tow, there isn’t a ton of room for expandability, but it’s enough for MacBook Pro users on a budget. For instance, you can connect an SSD, an eGPU, or both, and push the machine farther than it could go on its own.

“Apple has shown over the last couple of years that it truly cares about the Mac lineup, and professional users especially. This latest update shows that Apple is set on giving even users on its entry-level machines a worthwhile boost to performance and functionality.”


We’d love to hear what you think.

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Apple

If you’ve purchased Apple’s latest MacBook Pro or MacBook Air laptops, we want to hear what you think: what you love, what you hate, and anything in between. Shoot me an email at dsmith@businessinsider.com.