The most recent MacBook Air, from late 2020.
Apple’s is set to host its “Peek Performance” event today (here’s how you can watch it live), and we’re expecting the iPhone SE 3, new iPads and Macs to make an appearance. We got two new MacBook Air models in 2020, but 2021 was a dry spell for Apple’s most universally useful laptops. However, that may change in 2022.
The MacBook Air has undergone many revisions since the original 2008 version, and the current physical design dates from March 2020, when Apple released what was probably the final Intel-powered version of the laptop. Later that year, in November, the MacBook Air was one of three Macs to upgrade to Apple’s new M1 chips, although there were no other design or feature changes.
Get the CNET Apple Report newsletter
Receive the latest news and reviews on Apple products, iOS updates and more. Delivered Fridays.
November 2021 passed without a new MacBook Air, so Apple’s event today is as likely a place as any for a MacBook update. It could happen later in the year as well, but here are the changes we’re mostly likely to see.
M2 chip, or maybe 1.5
The late 2020 MacBook Air, Mac Mini and 13-inch MacBook Pro all got the first-gen M1 Apple Silicon chip. In 2021, new 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro laptops got upgraded versions, called the M1 Max and M1 Pro, with better graphics performance. Some Apple watchers, including Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, say new 2022 Macs will have a new M2 chip, which could boost CPU performance while not changing the M1’s graphics capabilities much at all. That would allow the Air to grow, but not encroach all that much on the more-expensive MacBook Pro territory.
The late 2021 MacBook Pro, with an updated design.
New Pro-style design
Right now the 13-inch MacBook Air and the 13-inch MacBook Pro are part of one generation of MacBook design, while the 14-inch and 16-inch Pro laptops are part of a newer one. The more current version has a chunkier, squared-off look that’s almost retro-feeling. The older models still have gently curved lids that taper to a point. While there have been periods of design transition where some Macs look very different than others, I expect all the latest MacBooks at least to conform to the new Pro design language.
It’s been an uphill fight to get better webcams in laptops. I’ve been talking this idea up for years, and only deep into the COVID 19-fueled work-from-home era are we finally getting better cameras. The 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros, as well as the 24-inch iMac and 27-inch iMac (which is one of the last Intel Macs you can buy), have 1080p-resolution full HD cameras. The difference between these and the frankly pretty weak 720p-resolution camera in the MacBook Air is stunning. PC makers from Dell to Lenovo to HP are finally putting full HD cameras in many laptops, and if the MacBook Air followed, it would eliminate one of the only knocks against the product.
What to Expect With Apple’s Next Event
The latest MacBook Pro laptops did a bit of an about-face, returning some long-missing ports to service, namely the HDMI and SD card ports. Does this mean the company is aware that having just a couple of USB-C/Thunderbolt ports for all your charging, input, output and accessory needs isn’t enough? HDMI would be a very handy option to have again, especially for anyone working from home and connecting to a larger display.
We’ll also have to wait and see if the MacBook’s audio jack survives another round. Apple removed it from iPhones several years ago, but has kept it in laptops. It was only in early 2022 that I started seeing some upcoming laptops, like the Dell XPS 13 Plus, finally take a chance on removing the headphone jack. I suspect the next MacBook Air will still have one, but the headphone jack’s days may be numbered.