Apple announces all-new MacBook Air 10 years after original debut

After 10 years of sticking with the same industrial design, Apple (AAPL) finally unveiled a new entry-level successor to the MacBook Air laptop with a new design and features, along with a brand-new Mac Mini.

“It [the MacBook Air] redefined the notebook in the process … and became the most beloved notebook ever,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said on Tuesday at a company event in Brooklyn.

The MacBook Air, which goes on sale Tuesday and ships on November 7, starts at $1,199 for a hardware configuration that includes an eighth-generation 1.6 GHz dual-core processor, 8 GB of RAM and a 13.3-inch higher-resolution “Retina” display. Previously, the MacBook Air started at $999. Meanwhile, the new Mac Mini starts at $799 and, according to Apple, is five times faster than previous models, which started at $499.

The new MacBook Air, which is made from 100% recycled aluminum, also has slimmer display bezels than its predecessor, as well as Touch ID for users to use their fingerprints to log on to the computer and make purchases from iTunes and Apple Store, a flatter keyboard for more precise typing, and a Force Touch trackpad that’s 20% larger than the previous trackpad.

The all-new MacBook Air has a flatter, more precise keyboard.
The all-new MacBook Air has a flatter, more precise keyboard.

Weighing in at 2.75 lbs., the new notebook is 17% smaller and 10% thinner than its predecessor. And in keeping with the previous MacBook Air line’s all-day battery life, the notebook can last for 12 hours while web surfing in-between charges and 13 hours for playing movies downloaded off iTunes. Other features include 25% louder speakers, twice the amount of bass and a three-mic array that should improve Siri voice recognition and FaceTime calls.

The new MacBook Air arrives a decade since former Apple CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs wowed the Macworld audience with the first MacBook Air by whipping it out of a slender manila office envelope. And while the bestselling MacBook Air saw some minor nips and tucks since then — adding a second USB port, updating the processor and RAM — the 2008 industrial design stayed largely stayed the same.

Until this week, for instance, the latest MacBook Air still had the same lower-resolution 1,440 x 900 display of that 2008 model, and thick, unsightly bezels and deeper keyboard.

Apple also unveiled a major new update for the Mac Mini desktop.
Apple also unveiled a major new update for the Mac Mini desktop.

The all-new Mac Mini is also available for order Tuesday and shipping next week, with a space grey finish, a 3.6 GHz quad-core processor, and 100 GB SSD. The Mac Mini also offers a slew of port options: 4 Thunderbolt 3 ports, an HDMI port, as well as standard USB ports.

For Apple, the introduction of a new MacBook Air and Mac Mini is crucial. Although Cook said 100 million people now regularly use Macs, pundits had long criticized the company for not refreshing the MacBook Air and Mac Mini lines at the same pace as its pro-level MacBook Pro line. Even as Apple totally revamped its MacBook Pro line with better displays and shallower keyboards, and released the thinner 12-inch MacBook in 2015, the MacBook Air, curiously, was largely left to languish for years.

But whether the new MacBook Air goes on to achieve the same level of mainstream success as its predecessors remains to be seen.

JP Mangalindan is the Chief Tech Correspondent for Yahoo Finance covering the intersection of tech and business. Email story tips and musings to Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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