MacBook Air Retina: Modular Design Returns to Fashion

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The 2018 generation of the MacBook Air is not only interesting for its features, finally the current standards, it is also interesting for its internal design that foreshadows, perhaps, a new chapter for Mac laptops.

One of our Apple Store contacts says " pleasantly surprised " by MacBook Air and what it contains promise and potential. For the technicians first, and for the customers when they bring it for repair.

" We observe a rationalization of the interior, with less "DIY", less screws and overall a machine easier to repair, in less time He says, about this notebook that marries the lines of the previous MacBook Air with the strengths of MacBook Pro.

The 2018 MacBook Air, seen by iFixit

The big difference between this MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro in recent years is in the top case. This element originally refers to the top of the aluminum frame, the one that surrounds the keyboard keys, the trackpad, and on which you rest your wrists.

On MacBook Pro, the top case encompasses wider. It forms a whole including the keyboard, the module of the trackpad, the speakers, without forgetting the elements of the battery stuck under the keyboard.

One of your speakers sizzles and needs to be changed? It's all this block that needs to be replaced by a new one. A situation doubly absurd because Apple has two references for this "room" and two replacement rates intervention.

Two awards for the same coin

If you come for a trackpad that loses the ball, it's all this block that will be changed and it will cost around 418 €, plus 79 € of labor. If it is more specifically the battery that motivates a meeting in SAV, it is still this block that will be changed … but it is about a second part reference. As for the price, it goes down to 209 € and the labor is not invoiced.

This distinction around the same part means that a repair can be delayed if the technician has only one of the two references in stock and your request involves using the other one.

However, this procedure seems to be improving, explains our contact, things seem to be going towards more tariff granularity:

We always have a single piece on MacBook Pro, but we select a rate to apply. It is clearly a choice in the sense of the customer, which allows to have the same repair. In the case of a damaged trackpad, we will have to invoice only this one, at a reasonable price. And at the same time, we will continue to change the block top box, keyboard, battery and trackpad.

It still tempers by talking about a recent evolution of the billing system and a procedure that is not yet clearly defined, nor confirmed internally.

It is nevertheless emerging at a time when this MacBook Air is coming up that rebates some cards, with a more interesting design when considered side service. Where in a MacBook Pro the parts mentioned above are only one set, in the MacBook Air Retina they are independent and replaceable. Another technician, who operates in an Apple service center, is overwhelmed by the positive contribution of this machine:

The battery and trackpad remain independent and can be ordered from Apple, separately from the top box. There is no Touch Bar, so no need to replace the complete top box in case of problem of the Touch Bar.

It also emphasizes the fact that the battery is no longer glued as before. It is held by adhesives intended to be easily removed (read: The MacBook Air's battery is individually replaceable). When dismounting, iFixit had noted with the same satisfaction the facilities offered to those who will have to intervene on this laptop.

Some things do not change and our second technician deplores: " Welded storage, it still seems to me aberrant "While enjoying, conversely, the new ease to unplug and change the duo Thunderbolt ports.

The removable module Thunderbolt ports on the MacBook Air Retina. Picture : iFixit

Our first technician recalls that if the MacBook Air 2018 slice compared to Apple laptops released in recent years, it is still in line with the previous generation of this family of entry-level.

In his dismantling of a 2015 MacBook Air, iFixit applauded for example the cradle surrounding the battery to help its extraction. A frame that was held by screws, there was no glue under the battery. " Once you have managed to remove the bottom part, all the parts are replaceable quite easily Noted the site. His critics, unsurprisingly, focused more on proprietary RAM and SSD. Or again on the choice of a welded memory and the use of unusual screws. But at least the modularity of the internal elements was there.

A case apart or an example to follow?

Will the design of this MacBook Air inspire the next generations of MacBook and MacBook Pro? This is the big question. If one is pessimistic, one will say that this MacBook Air 2018 remains a special case and that Apple has just dragged it into the wheel of his predecessor. It's better than nothing and not very ambitious.

A more optimistic view would be to see the MacBook Pro take inspiration in the long run. Apple has put a lot of emphasis on recycling aluminum chips, to make the complete chassis of this MacBook Air.

Improving everything that comes under its technical service department is part of this environmental approach. Having to change a set of major pieces when only one of them is missing makes no sense. This gives the impression of a form of idleness among designers while the speech of Apple to them is exactly the opposite.

When the MacBook Pro began to suffer from their keyboards, technicians were forced to change the entire top box … to put a same keyboard. With a design where parts are less dependent on each other we can dream of less heavy interventions, even parts that can evolve in case of discovery of a problem of reliability.

Apple is solely responsible for the design of its machines, it has every opportunity to opt for one route rather than another. His appetite for environmental issues is another factor that gives hope for future laptops. To follow during the next big evolution of MacBook Pro.