The Next MacBook Air Could Be Thinner Than Ever

Don’t hold your breath for extra ports, though

Key Takeaways

  • The Air will continue to be thin, thin, thin.
  • Extra colors? Sure. Extra ports? Maybe not.
  • Maybe the next Air will just be called a plain ‘MacBook.’
A MacBook computer open slightly in a dark room so the display glows against the keyboard.

Ali Mahmoudi / Unsplash

The next MacBook Air will be Apple's most popular Mac ever. What will it look like?

We've seen Apple's plan for its Apple Silicon computers. While the first M1 Macs were just the shells of its old Intel-based Macs with Apple chips stuffed inside, the iMac and MacBook Pro were designed from scratch to use the high-powered, low-energy chips. So, now that we've had a peek into Apple's plans for the future, we can take a very good guess at what the next MacBook will bring, whether it's still called the Air, or just plain "MacBook."

"Remember the last MacBook? I think they'll do another one of those, but with [Apple Silicon]. It'll be awesome, but a little more expensive than an Air," software developer and designer Graham Bower told Lifewire via email. "Whether it's called a MacBook or a MacBook Air, it will be beautiful."

The M1 Line in the Sand

Apple divides its lineup into two tiers—regular and pro. In the past half-decade, there hasn't been much difference between the MacBooks Air and Pro. Faster chips, slightly brighter screens, and more USB-C/Thunderbolt ports, and that's about it. But with the new M1 computers, the line has been drawn.

The regular, consumer-level iMacs have just a few ports, are super-thin, and come in a range of beautiful colors. The new MacBooks Pro are available in gray and silver and pack in an absurd amount of technology, from the M1 Pro and Max chips to the XDR display and all those lovely expansion ports. 

This new dividing line, combined with some credibly sourced rumors, gives us a pretty good idea of what to expect from the next MacBook Air. 

Thin, But Powerful

The neat thing about Apple's chip designs is that they are absurdly powerful, even without fans to cool them. That's why the iPad Pro has been among Apple's most powerful computers for years now. 

The next Air will probably double-down on thinness. The whole point of the Air has been its size, its sheer portability. Expect a slim shell, then. Perhaps it will even ditch the Air's trademark wedge shape to mimic the slab-like Pros, or perhaps it'll be so thin that it will need the extra stiffness that the wedge could bring. 

The Air will almost certainly also get a new slim-border screen design, including the notch. This may or may not be the mini-LED XDR screen from the Pros.

A conceptual render of the Apple M2 MacBook Air

Jon Prosser X Rendersbyian

Apple likes to share parts across its lineup, presumably for cost savings and to simplify manufacturing, but the rumors say that it will not use the 120Hz ProMotion tech from the MacBook Pro. 

With the emphasis on being thin, the Air may not have space to fit in an HDMI port or an SD card slot, which is a real shame. Then again, the separation of Pro and non-Pro lines lets the Pros get heavier and more capable. It's a bit like the MacBook vs. the iPad. The power and increased capabilities of the Mac are what let the iPad be so light. If you want power and connectivity, go Pro. If weight and thinness—and presumably price—are more important, go Air. 

"There's rumored to be a major MacBook Air refresh coming next year. I like lightweight, and if it has a MiniLED screen, that'd justify the upgrade to me. These Pros are nice, but the price and weight are not," wrote science fiction author and Mac user Charles Stross on Twitter.

One possible exception is MagSafe. We'll probably never know why Apple abandoned MagSafe in 2016, after years of (rightly) touting its superiority, but a good guess is that it felt that USB-C charging and MagSafe couldn't exist together in one device. Now that it's back on the MacBook Pro, there's no reason not to put it on the Air. The Pro's MagSafe port is thin, too. 

Any Color, as Long as It’s Bright

Color-wise, the rumblings say that the Air will follow the iMac. The body will come in a range of colors, and the screen bezels will be white, not black.

A concept image showing a stack of different colored MacBook air computers.

Jon Prosser X Rendersbyian

It’s also possible that the keyboard will be white, matching Apple’s Magic Keyboard design for desktop Macs. The Intel Air has always had black keys, but previous iBook and MacBook designs have had white keys. They’re harder to keep looking clean (ask me how I know), but on the other hand, your black keys are probably filthy, and you don’t even know it. 

It’s great to see Apple really committing to the difference between pro and non-pro. It means we get a real and obvious choice. And a new powerful, slim, and colorful Air with a giant, beautiful screen will probably be a runaway hit.

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