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.

  • Albert

    retina MBA will swallow MBP 13 inch market share like an anaconda eats a mouse. Unless both are upgraded it is very unlikely.

    • Look at iOS devices, they’re all Retina now. MBPs would still have other features that Retina MBAs would lack, including 15-inch screen, better CPU/GPU, expansion ports, etc

      • Nick

        Actually Apple still sells the iPad 2 and original iPad Mini which are both Non-Retina.

      • Albert

        well i mentioned product cannibalisation would only happen to mbp 13 inch.

      • ✪ aidan harris ✪

        There’s no real reason IMO for a 13 inch MBA and MBP. Apple might as well release a MBA with everything the 13 inch Pro has while still being light and having amazing battery life and retire the 13 inch MBP …

      • Guest

        that sounds like a better plan than selling both lines

      • Albert

        that sounds like a better plan that selling both lines. We all want a MBA retina.

      • Ryan Bartsch

        Pro is WAY more powerful though

  • Matthew Cleveland

    I don’t keep up on the MacBook Pros and Airs but I always assumed they were all Retina displays. They’re charging that much for an old technology screen?

    • They’re charging $999 for a tightly integrated laptop which is consistently being named the best notebook in the world for a good reason 😀

  • Vipal Desai

    I feel like they might, however, it might sacrifice the Air’s battery life.

  • Virus

    The New Retina MacBook Pro is almost as slim and light as the MBA might as well just only make one Retina laptop instead of having two different versions

    • Their entire Mac lineup consists of consumer and pro editions so they need to have those MacBook Pros for the pro market and regular MacBook Airs for the consumer segment

      • iosPixel

        Regardless of whether they go Retina or not am I the only one who can see a merger of two markets in next 5 years?

        Consumer Macbooks + Consumer Tablets = Maxi Tablets?
        Hear me out! I mean tablets running something closer to Mavericks than iOS.

        I hate the word maxi, but if any one can invent a new market overnight or take an existing one by the nuts its Apple.

      • ✪ aidan harris ✪

        I can’t see this happening. I’m sure recently Tim Cook spoke out about this and how they felt the keyboard, mouse and gestures are the best possible way to use OS X and that a touchscreen just wouldn’t offer the same level of ease of usability. Plus it would add unnecessary cost and with it being a tablet it would have to be uncomfortably held in your hands…

      • iosPixel

        I meant as far as software goes. True multitasking or multiple applications taking up screen real estate. Multiple windows display real time information and open to real time edits.

      • ✪ aidan harris ✪

        One can dream. I’d love to see this happen but to do that Apple is going to need some serious innovation in the battery department and probably have to increase the amount of RAM too…

      • Virus

        Even Apple said the iPad is hurting their MacBooks simple just make one MacBook Pro with Retina and lower the price to $999

  • Jason Baroni

    Apple is giving us what whe want and what Market struggles to upgrade: options. Take a look at the iPad mini with Retina and the Air: The difference between both is small. The coice between them is most about the size and the price. Why can’t Apple make it with the Macbooks line up?
    In my country the Air is the last expensive of the Macs, being US$1900 for the basic model. If it gets Retina, could fit my pocket and taste. Nowadays I cannot afford a Macbook Pro, it costs US$2500 for the basic model. I am waiting for an Air with the Retina since I don’t dislike the size and love its battery life.

  • Modest

    Not retina, but something better than it is now. 1080p at least.

  • Thomas Flores

    What would be cool is if this supposedly 12inch iPad turns out to be the new MBA and the Mac books could just all go the retina route

  • Nick

    No Retina for the following reasons:

    Macbook AIr is not designed for graphic artists or photographers which is the group who will most benefit from a retina display.
    In order to run Retina on 13″ the MBPr is currently at 2.5Ghz with an Intel Iris Pro, versus Macbook Air at 1.3Ghz and the HD5000. You really suspect Apple will be able to fit an i5 at 2.5Ghz with a Iris Pro into the Air and deal with the extra heat? Probably not.

    Macbook Air is designed or great battery life and portability, if putting a Retina display into the unit is going to detract from either of these two things then it won’t happen.

    As of right now, the cost of putting a retina display, the extra weight, the reduced battery life are all factors against putting a retina into the MBA. Give it until 2015 when the skylake processors are out and then maybe we can expect to see one.

  • Steve Zou

    How about another Poll: should Apple launch Retina MacBook Air in 2014?

  • Liam Mulcahy

    I hope not I just got a new 2013 MacBook air

    • Philip Reed

      lol yea same. *gulp*

  • Andres

    I feel like they are moving towards retina on all of their products.

  • ProfessorX1®

    How about a 4K display? *buh dum tiss*

    Ha. Okay. No 🙁

  • ProfessorX1®

    I really think that the iMac will be getting a retina display instead of the MBA this year.

  • zakoops

    But wait a minute…

    If they are using the Retina iPad display sheet technology, we also have to remember that it’s a touch screen technology.

    Pointing at a MacBook Air screen, Federighi of Apple said quite recently that “This device, has been honed over 30 years to be optimal” —that is, for keyboards and mice. “It’s obvious and easy enough to slap a touchscreen on a piece of hardware, but is that a good experience?” Federighi said. “We believe, no”.

    Could it be that a new device “à la MacBook Air” be launched on iOS instead of OS X [counteracting the MS Surface Pro] with a touch screen?

    Obviously, this is just a guess… It does not distract us from the fact that the real MacBook Air will be retina (by other means or by using the Retina iPad display sheet —albeit without the touch screen technology), that’s for sure.

  • Philip Reed

    With intel broadwell it is probably possible for the MBA to have the same battery life and get a retina display but to be honest, i would rather have an even longer battery. A update to the screen would be nice but it doesn’t need to be retina. 1080p would do me fine. But i agree with Albert about the Macbook Pro Retina thing. for the same price as Baseline MBP Retina with intel i5 and 4gb of ram, i can get a MBA with i7 and 8gb of ram with a 6 hour longer battery life and a lighter body. the only reason anyone would buy a baseline MBP over a MBA is because of the Retina display, as soon as the MBA gets that then the MBP is dead. apart from the more powerful models which will still be needed by professionals.

  • Mike Colacone Saal

    $99 entry level for MBA??? Typo, Christian?

  • Michael Anderson

    I’m hoping they add Touch ID to the MacBook. I would definitely buy one then.