Replacement for 11" MacBook Air 2012?
May 16, 2019 9:40 AM   Subscribe

My 2012 MacBook Air 11.6" is coming up its dreaded seven year obsolescence. Which Mac laptop is a good replacement?

I will miss the keyboard most, the newer Air keyboards I tried didn't have enough travel on the keys. Something light too (the Air is 1.1 kg).
posted by bergnotburg to Technology (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I have a Gen 2 butterfly keyboard on a Macbook Pro (13 inch, 2017). It is the best laptop I've ever owned as far as the display and battery life are concerned. SSD is blazing fast, it weighs subjectively the same as my 2012 Air for much better performance, and the USB world is catching up to USB-C so that the dongle situation is not bad.

But. The keyboard, right?

The keyboard is actually very nice. I love the click of the butterfly keys, even though I understand that the feel is polarizing. But I cannot forgive the reliability issues. I type most of the time on an external keyboard attached to my monitor, which plugs into my laptop via one USB-C port and supplies power, keyboard, and mouse input while receiving audio and video output - it's magic. Even so, I've had my space bar and E key get sticky, go dead, and then (after a week or so) recover to normal performance. I'm literally scared to type on my laptop if anyone in a 6-foot radius has food.

Anyway, the rumor mill suggests that a major new keyboard re-design is coming, if you can hold out till the fall. I'd advise waiting.
posted by RedOrGreen at 9:59 AM on May 16, 2019

The 13" MacBook is is only about 200g heavier than your 2012 Air, so you might consider that. Though, at this point, pretty much all the Mac laptops that are going to be light with the exception of the 15" MacBook.

I'm not sure any of the current laptops are good replacements though, no full sized USB on any of the laptops means that you'll have to buy adapters for everything. Also, the new keyboard is a nightmare.
posted by gregr at 10:01 AM on May 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

I have a 12" macbook. I love it. It's the best laptop I've ever owned.

It weighs less than 1kg (0.91 or so), so it's lighter than the lightest Air.

They're not cheap, but they are the nearest equivalent to the discontinued 11" Air.

I've never had any problem with the new butterfly keyboards (I have another one on an 2018 MBP from work that also has never had any issues) but I guess the weight of people's testimony is strong in this case, so I assume that the problem is real and worth taking into consideration.
posted by dis_integration at 10:24 AM on May 16, 2019

2017 15" MBP, butterfly keys, no issues so far - i'm careful with it but I don't avoid eating lunch while using it. The retina screen is great, and the SSD makes an incredible difference vs. the 2012 model I used previously (so much in fact that I put an SSD into the 2012 MBP, which my wife now uses as a home computer).

Pro may be overkill for your needs, but I personally wouldn't be put off by the keyboard issues. It took some adjustment to get used to the key travel but I like it.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:33 AM on May 16, 2019

I'm in a similar situation with my 2012 rMBP. My digging indicates that if you like the form factor of your Air, the current non-Pro is probably your best move. gregr makes a good point though, that if you currently use regular USB devices you'll have to get adapters or a hub.

What's your use case? Do you have a dock set up with a monitor, keyboard, accessories, etc or are you a laptop-only purist?
posted by a halcyon day at 11:59 AM on May 16, 2019

Concurring I f’ing hate my 2018 MBP butterfly keyboard. Makes me want my 2014 back every day.
posted by spitbull at 12:00 PM on May 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

So Macbook 12" looks good so far, but I will possibly wait for a newer model with newer gen keyboard. Maybe they will add an old style usb port too (which I actually use daily). Use case is this is for use on the move, but never for extended periods. At home it attaches to my scanner with a not usb 3 port.
posted by bergnotburg at 12:04 PM on May 16, 2019

> Maybe they will add an old style usb port too

Without making "you must be new here" jokes: I'd bet that Apple will not, for the port thickness if for no other reason.

And honestly, USB-C really is superior - like I said above, I get power, video, audio, keyboard, mouse over a single port with no trouble, and I never have to try to plug it in three times to get it right.

I use these USB adapters - they are cheap enough to leave attached to the devices that still need them (like the external drive I use for backups).
posted by RedOrGreen at 12:47 PM on May 16, 2019

I bought the 12" last year, my first ever Mac product. The single USB-C port doesn't bother me at all - there are a number of adapters that provide all the ports I could want, and the reality is my multi-port adapter stays on my desk with all the things I need to attach (HDMI monitor, USB wireless adapters for keyboard and mouse, external drives, etc). When I am using it *as a laptop* I never need to attach anything more than the charger, or every so often a thumb drive. The only downside so far is that the video driver cannot handle the max resolution on a large external display. That's not a dealbreaker for me as I use it almost exclusively as a personal laptop but it does mean I can't plug into TVs and monitors and stream in HD. I don't know if that's a limitation on the newest 12" models (mine was new but already a year-old model when I bought it last year) but it's the only thing I would flag.
posted by Banky_Edwards at 12:50 PM on May 16, 2019

I too had an 11" MacBook Air, a 2011 version, and used the crap out of it. I donated it to an organization and it is still going strong.

Last year I switched to a used 13" MacBook Pro 2015 - the last version before the dreaded update with butterfly keyboard. It's twice as thick and heavy - but after 7 years of looking at the small, rather dim 11" air screen, the 13" Retina screen looks huge and gorgeous to me. You can crank up the screen resolution and cram a lot of pixels onto the screen.

Sadly I would avoid any Mac with the butterfly keyboard - even the latest version - as I know too many people who have had major issues with theirs.
posted by sol at 3:16 PM on May 16, 2019

At my work our laptops are on a three year replacement cycle and I held out an extra year and a half hoping that Apple would change the keyboard on the Macbook Pro and get rid of the stupid touch bar but eventually my manager started insisting and by that time it was too late to get a pre-touchbar model as a replacement.

I feel really terrible saying this because I am sure that many people would love to have their employer buy them an expensive laptop but I hate, hate, hate the keyboard and utterly despise the touchbar. And Apple, if you're listening, I want my f'ing escape key back while you're at it.

The worst thing about the touchbar is that it will register key presses when my fingers are merely close, not actually touching it, so throughout the day my experience gets enhanced by random events I didn't ask for.

About the only thing I like about the new Macbook Pro is that I can plug the charging cable in on either side. Otherwise I have a remarkable amount of resentment towards a machine that, judged solely by the amount of money my employer paid for it, ought to be a joy to use. My last Macbook Pro (before the butterfly keyboard and the touchbar) was quite lovely. But I simply won't get another after this one if they don't fix the crap they ruined.
posted by Nerd of the North at 12:15 AM on May 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

The only downside so far is that the video driver cannot handle the max resolution on a large external display.
The 2017 12" MB can drive a 4k external display at 60hz. I have the Early-2016 which can do 4K at 30hz. Both of them can do 1080p or even 2K at 60hz fine.
posted by dis_integration at 7:53 AM on May 17, 2019

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