Apple Retina MacBook Air release date, news and rumours

Nov 30

Apple Retina MacBook Air release date, news and rumours

As the old adage goes: the best things in life are worth waiting for, and Apple’s long-awaited Retina MacBook Air has the potential to be the best all-round MacBook yet.

Apple’s current MacBook Air machines have excellent battery life and portability, but suffer from poor low-resolution TN displays. On the other hand, the MacBook Pro with Retina has an excellent high-resolution IPS display, but is a pound too heavy to be considered ultraportable and has good, but not great battery life.

While combining the best qualities of the two is a no-brainer, balancing power, thickness and battery life is no mean feat, and rumour has it that the Cupertino-based company has been working on a Retina MacBook Air for some time. So long, in fact, that it is one of Apple’s few remaining devices to get a Retina display having been beaten to the punch by the iPad Air, iPad Mini with Retina and more recently the iMac 5K.

Cut to the chase
What is it? A brand new MacBook Air with a Retina display
When will it release? Either late 2014 or, more likely, Spring 2015
What will it cost? Likely somewhere between a MacBook Air and MacBook Pro with Retina display

Retina MacBook Air release date

It was hoped that the Retina MacBook Air release date would be announced at Apple’s event back in October, which many thought the company would use to show off the new laptop. As we now know, that didn’t happen, as Apple choose to debut the iPad Air 2, iPad mini 3 and iMac 5k.

Although it feels like the Retina MacBook Air’s release date should have come and gone by now, factors such as the delayed availability of Intel’s new Broadwell-series processors means that Apple and other laptop makers have had no choice but to sit tight.

BGR, which cites a report from Taiwan’s Industrial and Commercial Times that’s written in Chinese, claims that Apple may still launch the Retina MacBook Air in late 2014 due to a batch of Broadwell chips being released. However, it also notes that the chances of that happening are ”beyond unlikely” due to Apple’s holiday announcements having already happened.

As highlighted by Motley Fool, Intel has confirmed that its Core i3, i5 and i7 Broadwell-U chips are scheduled for a spring 2015 launch, which it predicts means early March or April. Those CPUs will be of particular interest to Apple due to their low thermal design power (TDP), which will allow a new Retina MacBook Air to have a high-resolution display without heavily sapping battery life.

Alternatively, Apple may opt for Intel’s Core-M series Broadwell CPU, which is starting to appear in Ultrabooks including Lenovo’s Yoga 3 Pro. However, as MacWorld notes, a report by Redmond Pie points out that the Yoga 3 Pro has suffered from sluggish performance and poor benchmark results, which may tempt Apple into holding out for Intel’s potentially more efficient Broadwell-U series.

Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display

Retina MacBook Air design

The Motley Fool report mentioned above points out that it would be unlikely for Apple to stick with the MacBook Air’s current design for the Retina MacBook Air. Because Broadwell U is so energy efficient, manufacturers can put out even slimmer models because a fan isn’t needed to keep the CPU cool. This presents Apple with an opportunity to update the MacBook Air’s classic design to make it thinner, lighter and more portable.

A report by MacRumours, which points to an anonymous forum post on Weiphone, reckons Apple is looking to make the upcoming machine thinner by giving it a new trackpad design that does away with the mechanical element found on current MacBooks. Apple filed a patent application in January 2014 for a buttonless trackpad that uses sensors to simulate tactile touch, which could prove to be the tech behind the update.

According to a website simply called A Tech Website, which cites insider sources in the know, the Retina MacBook Air will arrive in a choice of three colours: aluminium grey, space grey, and gold.

USB Type-C

Retina MacBook Air specs

It has been rumoured that the Retina MacBook Air will arrive in an all-new size for the series. Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities reckons that Apple will launch a new 12-inch MacBook Air to plug the gap between the 11- and 13-inch models. The biggest drawback to both of them is the display, which tops out at 1,366 x 768 on the smaller model and 1,400 x 900 on its larger sibling.

A blog post by Canalys analyst Daniel Matte claims that Apple will include a 11.88-inch panel on the Retina MacBook Air, which will possess a pixel-resolution of 2,732 x 1,536, offering the same 264ppi as the iPad Air. Matte reckons that Apple will use the same display technology it currently uses for its 9.7-inch iPads to cut its panels to the larger size.

In terms of ports and connectivity options, as Lenovo’s Yoga 3 Pro demonstrated, giving a laptop very thin dimensions can leave little room for ports. Jack March (via 9to5Mac) reckons that the Retina MacBook Air will feature ”a noticeably thinner design” that forced Apple to abandon the traditional USB port in favour of the forthcoming reversible USB Type-C connector, which would require an adapter to connect peripherals.