Alongside the 12-inch MacBook with Retina display update, Apple dropped a very quiet update: All new 13-inch Apple MacBook Air configurations will come standard with 8GB of memory instead of 4GB.

This, obviously, is a very minor update — but a welcome one nonetheless.

Apple Updates MacBook Air … But Does It Mean Anything?

Despite being available for years with little change, the MacBook Air is still a popular Mac among consumers. It boasts a faster processor than the processors in the 12-inch MacBook (read my MacBook review here) and it comes in at a far more compelling price — $999 vs $1299.

Still, the MacBook Air fits a sort of no-man’s land in Apple’s MacBook lineup: It does not have a sharper Retina display, and it no longer seems to fit Apple’s naming conventions. When the MacBook Air was first introduced, it was the smallest and lightest Mac notebook. Now the 12-inch MacBook is smaller and lighter — but it’s just the MacBook, not an “Air” variant. At the same time, the new 9.7-inch iPad Pro essentially replaces the iPad Air 2 line . . . except Apple will continue to sell the iPad Air 2 at a lower price point for a while yet.

Meanwhile, the 13-inch MacBook Pro and 15-inch MacBook Pro — both with Retina displays — are (over)due for a redesign sometime this year where they will most likely take on some of the thinner design cues from the MacBook and MacBook Air.

Basically, by 2017, it’s hard to imagine a MacBook lineup that is not all Retina-based. I believe this means we’ll see something like this, all with Retina displays:

  • 12-inch MacBook
  • 13-inch MacBook Pro
  • 15-inch MacBook Pro

With this kind of lineup, you get the small and light option, the do-it-all 13-incher, and a more powerful and capable 15-inch workhorse.

So how long will Apple continue to sell the MacBook Air?

Hard to say, especially because the sub-$1000 price point on the 13-inch MacBook Air is so consumer-friendly.

What to Do Right Now?

If you’re in the market for a new MacBook but you want to stay under a $1,000, the 13-inch MacBook Air — especially with 8GB of memory — remains a compelling Mac. It will work great for most people, including students, for years to come. The only downside is the non-Retina display. While the display is very good, you should turn toward a Retina display if you do a lot of photo editing or light video editing. Retina isn’t necessary for this, but it is a bit more enjoyable (read, “Is a Retina Display Worth It?” for more detail).

Last question: Should you snag a 13-inch MacBook Air with 4GB of memory if you can find one on sale before they’re gone?

Answer: Yes, with an explanation: if you expect to do basic computing work via a web browser, email, and with office-type apps, then yes; however, if you think you’ll be getting into video editing — especially with Apple’s newer iPhone-based video in 4K — you should look toward the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display, a Retina-based iMac with a Fusion drive, or a 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display instead.

About the author

Chris Maxcer

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I've been writing about the tech industry since the birth of the email newsletter, and I still remember the clacking Mac keyboards from high school -- Apple's seed-planting strategy at work. I'm a big fan of elegant gear and great tech, but there's something to be said for turning it all off -- or most of it -- to go outside. Online I like to call out cool stuff on Wicked Cool Bite and blog with my buddies at Man Makes Fire. To catch me, take a "firstnamelastname" guess at the url of this site.