Technology

Meet the new MacBook Air and Mac Mini

It's been quite a long time since the MacBook Air and Mac Mini received any significant update alongside their other Mac desktops and laptops. Some thought they would be silently retired, but that didn't happen - Apple has made significant changes to these models that warranted the patience.

The cheapest Mac from Apple has always been the Mac Mini, since it’s only the main desktop machine you’d be paying for and you bring the rest of the items (display, keyboard, and mouse). The last time it received an update was exactly four years ago and it was an internal spec bump. With the MacBook Air, it received an internal spec bump more than a year ago.

Naysayers thought that Apple has decided to silently retire the Air, given that the 12-inch MacBook could easily replace it. You can shelf those worries as Apple has surprised everyone by revealing major changes to both the MacBook Air and the Mac Mini.

MacBook Air is even better

We all remember how the late Steve Jobs unveiled this in 2008 – pulling it out of the standard mailing envelope onstage. The same tapered design has remained unchanged with only slight revisions to the base that adapted to newer ports. This new model brings it to the modern and future age by adopting some of the newer ports and components, while also offering three different colours.

New MacBook Air (Late 2018) in Space Gray, Silver, and Rose Gold
New MacBook Air (Late 2018) in Space Gray, Silver, and Rose Gold

Since the Macbook likely sits somewhere between the MacBook and MacBook Pro, it would take the best of both the low-end and high-end features that would bridge the families together. The biggest change is that it comes with a Retina Display just like the MacBook Pro and Touch ID just like the Pro models. The trackpad is now a complete Force Touch trackpad unlike the previous clickable ones, which should give it more volume to cram in a bigger battery cell.

Mac Mini goes pro in the same size

I still have my Late 2009 model lying around, but the performance hasn’t kept up after so many years. They always used mobile-based components to keep it within the dimensions of the chassis and the power consumption since they shrunk and integrated the power brick. The only major redesign happened in 2010 when it was shrunk and slimmed down, and it has stood the same design for quite some time.

New Mac Mini (Late 2018) in Space Gray
New Mac Mini (Late 2018) in Space Gray

Since the Mac Mini was packed with various ports, they’ve done some changes to future-proof it:

  • No more SD card slot like the previous model
  • There are four Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports for easy use to connect high-speed peripherals, and
  • They have also kept the standard USB-A ports as well working as USB3
  • Ethernet can support 10Gbps as a BTO option

It’s clear that this machine is being geared towards some form of pro-level use as it’s the most portable desktop that has been seen in data centres and even backstage during concerts.

The internal specifications have been brought forward just like their recent Mac updates. All the Mac Mini models start with a quad-core configuration, and they can easily be upgraded to the hexacore BTO option. You can also max out the RAM to 64GB (2x higher than the MacBook Pro but halfway from the iMac Pro). If you were hoping that they would integrate a discrete GPU, you can still get that benefit with an external GPU hooked up via one of the four Thunderbolt 3 ports that will work in tandem with the built-in Intel GPU.

Other Notable Discoveries

A big discovery is that the chassis for both the MacBook Air and Mac Mini was made with 100% recycled aluminium. Since many of the MacBook models and the previous Mac Mini are made with a unibody construction using CNC technology, there will always be shavings left around that are just wasted after a block of aluminium is milled. Using those shavings is a great way to cut down on the time to produce a new chassis and also saves on mining more aluminum. So don’t expect that aluminum cans have been recycled to create these new gadgets. The best of the Mac Mini is made with post-consumer plastic (recycled from consumed packaging).

Just like the MacBook Pro, the MacBook Air has the new improved butterfly keyboard design as well. Given the tapered design, they still have the traditional function keys (the Touch Bar is likely to remain as a USP exclusive to the MacBook Pro). In addition, you also have the standard headphone jack on the opposite side.

With security being a major topic, both of them come with the T2 Security Chip that takes over some of the less-intensive routines like video decoding and bootup process. It’s looking to become a standard across the Mac line, so we should see this trickle down into future updates for the MacBook and even the iMac.

If you loved to upgrade the memory on the Mac Mini, that remains unchanged with as long as you can find compatible aftermarket memory modules. Since it uses DDR4 just like the new MacBook Pro and supports up to 64GB, you can turn this into a beast that’s equally comparable to the 13-inch model.

For all those wanting to geek out at the specs of these newly unveiled Macs, check out the table below

 MacBook AirMac Mini
Processor1.6 Ghz dual-core Intel Core i5Starting from 3.6 GHz quad-core Core i3 (configurable up to 3.2 GHz hexacore Core i7)
RAM8GB 2133 MHz LPDDR3 (configurable up to 16 GB LPDDR3)8GB 2666 MHz DDR4 (configurable up to 64GB)
Storage128/256 GB (configurable up to 1.5 TB)128/256 GB (configurable up to 2TB)
Display13.3-inch Retina Display-
Ports2 x Thunderbolt 3/USB Type-C ports, headphone jackEthernet, 4 x Thunderbolt 3/USB Type-C, 2 x USB3 Type-A, HDMI 2.0, headphone jack
ColoursSilver, Space Gray, Rose GoldSpace Gray
NotesAllows you to self-upgrade the RAM with after-market DDR4 RAM modules

Image credit: Apple Newsroom

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