The MacBook Air needs Retina

It has been nearly six years since the second-gen, redesigned MacBook Air hit the scene. The laptop that changed laptops forever — and according to The Verge “The one everybody either uses, or copies”. But six years is a long time to leave a laptop running the same hardware, and the MacBook Air is mostly the same as it was back then: still a TN display with poor viewing angles (“the worst displays Apple ships in any of its products”, according to Ars Technica), big bezels, and no HDMI port.

OK, that last one wasn’t all that important, but the first two are key. A laptop without a good display is pointless, and the thick, metallic bezels of the Air make it look clumsy beside the sleek new MacBooks that have shown up since, and Dell’s gorgeous XPS 13, or even most other Windows Ultrabooks in this price class.

The argument for keeping that 1440 x 900 TN display is that more resolution would mean the need for a more power hungry backlight, and as such, a thicker or heavier body. But Apple's made huge strides in that regard — both the insanely thin 12 inch MacBook and the 5K iMac (Apple claims new tech means it consumes less power than the non Retina screens) prove that you can ship a nicer screen without consuming significantly more power or space. so that's one checkbox ticked.

The other argument for keeping the lower res display is the amount of graphics and computing horsepower it would take to power that display. Until this year, there was never a real solution to this — it was power vs screen. And this year, that's still very much the case, but Intel's Skylake processors make huge gains in graphics and CPU performance, and Apple could be able to maintain the Air's performance at the very least, and for a lot of people, the Air's performance is more than enough.

And Apple could update the Air to be a more well rounded laptop over all. The new MacBook is the thinnest and prettiest, the Pro's the workhorse and the current Air is the entry level laptop. But the same way the 13 inch non Retina MacBook Pro is still sticking around as Apple's last optical drive equipped laptop, the non Retina Air could stick around as a cheaper entry level model, removing the argument that the Air is destined to be the entry level model and nothing else, because that would be a real shame.

The Air has always stood out because it offered a well rounded experience, but in 2015 a TN display isn't acceptable anymore, much lless on a thousand dollar laptop. With the iPad Pro now hitting store shelves from next month, the Air either needs the Retina upgrade, or it doesn't have future. Take your pick Apple.

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