Here is the community consensus I cannot wrap my head around (pick your flavor): The MacBook Air is never coming back. There is no room for a MacBook Air in the lineup anymore. The MacBook Air has no place, no purpose, and has been replaced by the MacBook. The full range of options needed are now covered by the MacBook and the MacBook Pro alone. A Retina MacBook Air is pointless.

I’m a daily reader of 9to5mac, macrumors, and r/apple, and I think I can safely say in the past seven years I have never seen a higher level of consensus among commenters. I’m not going to dig through their combined 30+ articles, count comments, and crunch the numbers, so here’s a made-up stat: If I had to guess I’d say it’s a 70-80% consensus that’s what’s happening (no more MacBook Air). This makes absolutely no sense to me. I’m not saying you’re all wrong, and I’m not trying to put anyone down, but somewhere down the line the un-arguable, physical differences between Apple laptops were seemingly lost. Follow me for a few minutes.

The maximum amount of heat a CPU creates is measured in TDP (thermal design power). This is not the actual amount of power the CPU consumes, however they are directly related. The more power a CPU uses the more heat it generates, which means it has a higher TDP. Because of this, when comparing CPUs within a few generations it is perfectly valid to use the TDP as a measurement of how powerful that CPU is compared to others.

If this is new to you, you may be thinking “Ok, but Intel and AMD increase their CPU performance and decrease their power usage (and therefor heat output) with every yearly release now”. Yes that’s true, but think of it this way: vehicle engine manufacturers make meaningful yearly improvements in both fuel economy and performance across the board, but there will always be a huge difference between a 4, 6, and 8 cylinder engine’s performance. With each new iteration they will have made nice gains, but the 4 cylinder will never beat the 6, and the 6 will never beat the 8.

Intel’s CPUs are divided up into different tiers of power and heat based on TDP:

Y Series (labeled Core M) – 5w TDP

U Series (labeled Core i) – 15w TDP

U Series (labeled Core i) – 28w TDP

H Series (labeled Core i) – 47w TDP

There are higher tiers for Desktops, Workstations, and Servers that go all the way up to 84w TDP, however the ones listed above are for mobile computers. Keep in mind the TDP is important for two reasons, the higher the TDP the more powerful and capable the CPU is (it uses more power), but that also means it gives off more heat which is why the TDP determines the type of cooling required.

Remember we are not talking about any specific year or generation of Intel CPU here. While they all improve with each release, the TDP tiers remain nearly the same from the first generation Nehalem in 2008, to the current gen 6 Skylake. The list of mobile TDP tiers offered by Intel may not seem particularly interesting by itself, but take a look at which CPUs Apple uses in their MacBooks and what it forces and allows them to do when it comes to their cooling design:

Y Series (labeled Core M) – 5w TDP, fanless (heatsink cover only), used in the MacBook 12”

U Series (labeled Core i) – 15w TDP, 1 small fan + heatsink, used in the MacBook Air 11” + 13”

U Series (labeled Core i) – 28w TDP, 1 fan + heatsink, used in the MacBook Pro 13”

H Series (labeled Core i) – 47w TDP, 2 fans + heatsinks (also for GPU), used in the MacBook Pro 15”

The point here is that regardless of all other factors; screen size, which ports, how many ports, battery life, etc, the MacBook Air offers a significant CPU performance difference. In terms of maximum performance capability it absolutely, measurably, fits between the MacBook and the MacBook Pro. Apple could make a 13”, 14”, and 15”, MacBook and keep it the same thickness as the 12” sure, but that in no way replaces what the MacBook Air line can do.

MacBook

MacBook Air

MacBook Pro

CPU TDP

5w

15w

28w/47w

CPU Speed

1.3 GHz, dual-core

2.2 GHz, dual-core

3.1 GHz, quad-core

Ports

1

3

5

Weight

2.03 lb

2.96 lb

4.49 lb

Price

$1,600

$999

$1,999

Are you essentially moving 24/7? Do you never have more than a single hour spent in one spot yet you need a full computer OS? Maybe you’re a flight attendant, or someone’s personal chef/assistant/driver who has to follow someone else all day unpredictably. Nothing else matters to you: easily plugging in more than one thing without a bag of adapters and hubs, running multiple applications well, a screen larger than 12″, a very shallow keyboard, the equivalent CPU power of an iPad, cost, nope. The only thing of importance to you is weight and physical dimensions, this laptop is perfect for you.

Do you need decent CPU performance, decent battery life, a decent number of ports, a moderate level of portability in terms of size and weight, at a decent cost? EVERYONE ELSE WHO USES A LAPTOP

Do you work for Pixar? Do you run a music studio? Are you running a 4 VM test environment on your laptop? Are you a CAD mechanical engineer? Are you editing 4GB images in Adobe for a new billboard? Do you need to have 5 or 10 different devices plugged in simultaneously and sometimes on the go including an array of displays, hard drives, even external RAID arrays? Are you a gamer? Do you not care how heavy your mobile workhorse is as long as it’s desktop class performance? This laptop is perfect for you.

 I realize Apple has not always done the best job making sure significant portions of the market are continually given viable options when new variations of existing product lines come out, but they did learn a valuable lesson just last year by not having a modern smartphone with a 4” screen and are expected to announce it this March to recapture those users who are currently left with no good options. I can’t see them repeating that same mistake. Please leave a comment and give some details as to why you believe the MacBook Air will no longer be updated. NOTE: I am not referring to the naming scheme of the laptops, I could care less what its name is, what we’re talking about is the “middle of the road” laptop with a 15w TDP CPU.

Please add a Poll (here’s a suggestion):

I would consider buying a (Skylake 2016) Retina MacBook Air

I know someone who is interested in buying a (Skylake 2016) Retina MacBook Air

 

No one I know would be interested in a (Skylake 2016) Retina MacBook Air

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