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The MacBook Air: a cult classic in waiting?

This article from The Verge caught my eye last week. It suggests that, with the looming release of the iPad Pro and the new MacBook’s emergence as Apple’s thinnest notebook ever, the previous holder of that crown – the MacBook Air – is on course for extinction.

This may well be true; the design of Apple’s diminutive workhorse hasn’t been updated for five years and its screen is of the non-Retina variety. Apple appear to have either decided to let it gently slip into obscurity or are actively planning its demise.

I’m not convinced that matters, though. For the last two years, I’ve used an 11″ MacBook Air as my main computer and it is the best machine I’ve ever owned. It is tiny, I rarely have to worry about plugging it into a wall socket and it zips along like Mo Farrah chasing a world record. I even quite like the screen, which offers a 16:9 aspect ratio and, if you follow these instructions and install a custom colour profile, impressive colours and sharpness. Retina screens are creamy and lovely, yes, but as I sit here and type, I’ve forgotten all about the 13″ MacBook Pro I was using yesterday. Our eyes are easily fooled – trust me.

The MacBook Air is also the cheapest laptop Apple offers, starting at ‘just’ £749 in the UK. Take a peek on the second hand market, however, and you’ll find one for considerably less, cementing the Air’s position as an affordable stepping stone into the world of OS X and brilliant industrial design. And, let’s face it – Apple stuff is bloody expensive. There is a thriving second hand trade out there, which – obviously – plays no part in Apple’s marketing plan. They tell us what’s new and what we should aspire to, but it’s up to consumers to decide the best route to the device they want, and I’d wager there’ll be little difference between the number of second hand purchasers vs those willing to invest in brand new hardware.

The iPad Pro is fascinating. But it isn’t a laptop. Having flirted with using an iPad as a daily driver, I always return to my trusty folding companion. For me, getting stuff done is eminently easier on a laptop with a ‘real’ keyboard and trackpad. Call me old fashioned.

So what does this make the Air? Where should we place it in the hierarchy? If Apple has indeed abandoned it, there’ll be no changes on the horizon, other than for us all to concede that the new 12″ MacBook is, actually, the new Air. I find that rather exciting. It means that the device sitting in front of me is suddenly even cooler than it was before. A cult classic in the waiting.

The Air still looks fabulous, in my book. It is one of the few laptops you can rest on any table, on any surface, in any room and it steals the show. People pick it up and say things like ‘so, where’s all the computer stuff?’. As a feat of engineering it is still one of Apple’s best.

I, for one, will be keeping my Air until I’m either forced to upgrade or the iPad finally becomes the content creation device it yearns to be. Do your worst, Apple.

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