5 things we want from the next MacBook Air

MacBook Air 2021 concept
(Image credit: Devam Jangra/YouTube)

The rumors jury is out on whether we can expect the next MacBook Air this year or next. Where once the MacBook Air 2021 was expected to make its debut in the fall, Apple might be focusing on the MacBook Pro 2021 and could instead release a new MacBook Air laptop in 2022. 

Either way, the slimmest MacBook that you can still buy is due a refresh if not a redesign. As impressive as the MacBook Air M1 is with its surprisingly capable Apple M1 chip, its design is hardly cutting edge in the face of the likes of the Dell XPS 13 OLED

So with that in mind, we’ve pulled together five things we’d like to see for the next MacBook Air, some based on rumors and others based on our desires.  

1. A truly new design for a new MacBook Air

MacBook Air 2021 concept

(Image credit: Ian "RendersByIan" Zelbo)

There’s no argument that the MacBook Air is a lovely laptop. Like all MacBooks it’s well-built and has that premium industrial design look. But we’ve seen that aesthetic for several generations now, so we’d like it to get a full overhaul. 

For a start, we’d like to see the rumor of there being more color options come to fruition, as Space Gray and Silver are getting a bit rote in the Apple product lineup. And given the latest Surface Laptop 4 comes in a mix of colors, we see no reason why the next MacBook couldn’t. The new MacBook Air design is also tipped to feature flat edges, similar to the iPad Pro. 

I would appreciate more ports on the new MacBook Air, too. We get Apple is keen to stick with the all USB-C approach, but double the number of ports to four and throw in an SD card reader and we reckon Cupertino would put a smile on a good few people’s faces. 

Most notably, we’d like to see Apple trim down the display bezels. For reasons we can’t discern, they remain rather thick — very thick compared to some Windows 10 laptops like the aforementioned XPS 13 — and make the laptop look dated. We’re not saying Apple needs to rip-off the Dell’s InfinityEdge display, but slimmer bezels and a more favorable screen-to-body ratio would be a major tick in one of our boxes. 

2. An improved Retina display  

MacBook Air 2021 concept

(Image credit: Ian "RendersByIan" Zelbo)

Speaking of screens, we’d like the next MacBook Air to get a display upgrade. While it’s unlikely to get a mini-LED panel like the iPad Pro 2021 or the rumored MacBook Pro 2021 16-inch, we feel it could get a screen that’s at least the same as the current MacBook Pro M1

The current Retina display on the MacBook Air isn’t as bright as that of the MacBook Pro. So we’d like to see it get the same 500 nits of brightness, though boosting that brightness up to 1,000 nits would be even better as it would help with viewing HRD10 content. 

And we’d also like to see a larger display in the MacBook Air. A 13-inch panel is fine, but we feel that if Apple were to trim the bezels it could put in a 14-inch display into the 13-inch chassis. 

A higher refresh rate would also be great, say a 120Hz panel, just to make the whole desktop and gaming experience feel that much smoother. 

3. Apple M2 chip and more default RAM  

Apple M2 chip

(Image credit: Apple)

The Apple M2 chip has been touted for the new MacBook Air. While the next-gen MacBook Pro is slated to get a more powerful M1X chip, the MacBook Air’s second-generation slice of Apple Silicon is expected to be more about efficiency than raw power. 

Given the MacBook Air is more aimed at general computing than heavy workloads, we feel targeting efficiency is a good idea. If that can yield a chip that only sips power when it’s doing simple tasks, then we could see a MacBook Air’s battery last a whole working day and beyond. That would be rather handy for folks who often work out away from a power source. 

But where Apple could boost overall power is with the amount of RAM it gives the next MacBook Air by default. While you can get a MacBook Air M1 with 16GB of RAM but its a pricey upgrade over the default 8GB. However, if you’re someone who has a lot of apps open or browser tabs, especially with Chrome, 8GB isn’t a huge amount. So we’d like to see the default option set to 16GB. 

4. The return of MagSafe for MacBook Air

MacBook Air 2021 concept MagSafe

(Image credit: Devam Jangra)

We’d like see MagSafe charging make a return to the new MacBook Air; after all, it’s tipped to do so for the next MacBook Pros. 

MagSafe was not only a neat way to connect a charging cable to older generation MacBook Airs when compared to the USB-C charging they currently have, it also meant that if you hit or tripped on the charging cable there was less of a chance of sending the Air flying off a table and onto the ground. 

Granted, we wouldn’t expect to see Apple bring back a dedicated MagSafe charging port, but we’re sure the engineers at Cupertino could find a way of integrating it into a USB-C port.

5. A better MacBook Air keyboard 

MacBook Air 2021

(Image credit: Ian Zelbo/ Jon Prosser)

We can’t deny Apple’s move in late 2019 to ditch the controversial Butterfly mechanism keyboard MacBooks sported for nearly five years was a smart move. But the return to the scissor key mechanism arguably didn’t hit the high points of the original tactile keyboard found on pre-2015 MacBooks. 

So with the next MacBook Air we’d like to see Apple improve the keyboard, specifically the tactile typing experience. More travel, say 1.5mm and a snappy response along the lines of that delivered by the Surface Laptop or Dell XPS 13, would be ideal. 

Of course, Apple could go to the other extreme and draw upon one of its patents to make a virtual keyboard. That would get our attention but perhaps wouldn't yield the most practical of typing experiences. So we’d settle on an overall improved and refined keyboard. 

New MacBook Air outlook

None of these proposed new MacBook Air changes, upgrades and tweaks are extreme. And we believe they’re well within the reach of Apple, and more realistic than a MacBook Air with a touchscreen. So we’re hoping Cupertino does indeed take the scalpel to the MacBook Air and give it a bit of a nip and tuck, as if it gets the tweaks right it could the new Air could top our best laptop list

Roland Moore-Colyer

Roland Moore-Colyer a Managing Editor at Tom’s Guide with a focus on news, features and opinion articles. He often writes about gaming, phones, laptops and other bits of hardware; he’s also got an interest in cars. When not at his desk Roland can be found wandering around London, often with a look of curiosity on his face.