MacBook Air: A New Hope

Apple may have taken forever to update their beloved MacBook Air, but this throwback was worth the wait. Under that eco-friendly (but still only pre-consumer) recycled aluminum, this Air rocks modular ports, and not one but ten pull-to-remove adhesive tabs securing its battery and speakers. After years of declining repairability, this is a refreshing change for Apple notebooks.

But don’t go thinking Apple has gone soft on us. These design improvements have more to do with rework than repairability. The Air still uses external pentalobes to keep you out, requires lots of component removal for common fixes, and both RAM and storage are soldered to the logic board. All together, that means Apple has an easy time with their knowledge and tools, but the average DIYer is left out to dry when it comes to upgrades. We’re not ones to complain (okay, yes we are), but we hope this is just the beginning of an upswing in repairable design.

MacBook Air removable battery pull-tabs in the teardown

MacBook Air 13” Retina 2018 Teardown highlights:

  • The Air comes equipped with a 49.9 Wh battery—compared to other ultraportables, that’s slightly smaller than Dell’s XPS 13 (52 Wh) but larger than HP’s upcoming Spectre (43.7 Wh). That said, the Air’s competition boasts equal (or better) battery life while also running faster, more power-intensive Intel U-series processors.
  • In one unfortunate regression, the trackpad is now less accessible than ever, sharing a keyboard flex cable that’s pinned under the logic board. But hey, at least it’s still modular.
  • While we’re pleasantly surprised by the Air’s relative repairability (compared to recent Apple notebooks), fixed storage and RAM are still a bummer on a pricey laptop. All things considered, the MacBook Air earns a 3/10 repairability score.
MacBook Air teardown