MacBook Air Thin

After transitioning its MacBook Pros to high-resolution Retina screens, the ultra-portable MacBook Air – my favorite Apple notebook of all time – has remained hopelessly stuck in the past with that normal-resolution display. I don’t want to trade portability for power, but non-Retina computing just doesn’t cut it for me anymore, simple as that.

I guess you could say I’m ready to upgrade to a Retina MacBook Pro, unless – unless Apple brings out a Retina Air at some point this year. Of course, it’s always easy to argue that a Retina-fied MacBook Air is going to remain wishful thinking until all the technological pieces have fallen in place. After all, aren’t Retina screens known as power and GPU hogs?

Yes, but fourth-generation Intel Core processors have made some great strides in power efficiency and graphics performances, as evidenced by the mid-2013 MacBook Air refresh: these systems now rock up to twelve-hour battery on the 13.3-inch model, or nine hours for the 11.6-inch version.

The bigger problem: Retina needs a powerful backlighting to push more light between those densely-packed pixels, in turn requiring a larger battery inside the Air’s already ultra-thin enclosure.

Me, I’m willing to sacrifice battery performance and be back at six hours of runtime in exchange for that ultra-sharp Retina screen. Which brings me to my question of the day: is Apple going to give the MacBook Air a Retina treatment this year, do you think?

Cast your vote now.


Canalys analyst Daniel Matte conjures up Apple could double the Air’s 1,366-by-762 pixels by using Retina iPad display sheets at 264ppi at a different size in order to create a 2,732-by-1,536 display.

It turns out that an ~11.88” Retina MacBook Air with a 2732 x 1536 resolution happens to have the exact same pixel density as the 9.7” 2048 x 1536 Retina iPads: ~264 PPI.

It would make sense for Apple to take advantage of the same display technology it has been utilizing for the 9.7” iPads by cutting their panels to this larger size.

This would also entail replacing the existing 11.6-inch MacBook Air model with a slightly bigger 11.88-inch one. Apple could even keep the actual dimensions of the notebook intact by shrinking the side bezels, like they’ve done with the iPad Air.

MacBook Air (teaser 001)

I am not so sure about the Retina model reaching the current $99 entry-level Air pricing.

On the other hand – and the company has done this with the Pros – Apple could keep the non-Retina $999 Air alongside a $200 or so pricier Retina one to preserve the pricing range.

Daniel acknowledges as much:

By utilizing its existing iPad display manufacturing and gradually replacing both MacBook Air models with just one Retina model, Apple would save a lot of money. OS X’s Retina scaling modes would also partially offset the lack of a 13.3” display option.

As per usual, chime in with your thoughts and give us reasoning behind your vote in the comments below.

Does a Retina screen make sense for the Air?

And, would you pay a slight premium for an ultra-sharp screen on that ultra-portable Apple notebook?

And while we’re at it, the more iPad Pro rumors I read about, the more I’m convinced Apple is working on a Retina MacBook Air. Folks are probably misinterpreting all that supply chain talk mentioning 12.9-inch Retina panels for an unspecified Apple device.