By Louis Ramirez, dealnews Senior Feature Writer
Normally after Apple releases a new version of one of its devices, we recommend that shoppers save money by skipping the latest model and instead look for deals on the previous generation; often the new upgrades are minor and "older" models are barely a year old.
But when it comes to the latest MacBook Air, we're actually recommending that shoppers instead consider the 2013 model; the updates on this generation offer a significantly better performance and, thus, a far better value than last year's model. And even though this means you'll be paying more, you can still score a small discount by shopping smartly.
2013 MacBook Air Has Double the Storage CapacityThe previous generation 11" MacBook Air shipped with a standard 64GB SSD, which was considered paltry. This week, Apple gave the 11" MacBook Air one of the best upgrades it could receive: a faster and larger 128GB SSD. And because you can't manually upgrade the MacBook Air's hard drive, the new SSD alone makes the Haswell MacBook Air a much better value. (Last year, consumers had to pay $100 to double their storage capacity to 128GB on the base model.) Furthermore, Apple rates the new SSD 45% faster than last year's model, so you can expect to see a nice speed bump in overall system performance, too.
And the upgrades don't stop there. The 2013 MacBook Air is now fitted with 802.11ac WiFi, which offers three times the speed of today's 802.11n spec. Chances are you won't find many hotspots that will let you take advantage of the new speed, but it's still a nice way to future-proof your MacBook Air as the 802.11ac spec gradually becomes the new standard in WiFi.
Haswell Brings Better Power Management and GraphicsApple's MacBook Air laptops have typically boasted impressive battery life, but with Intel's new Haswell chip, you can expect to see a dramatic increase in staying power. In fact, the new 11" model is rated with a 9-hour battery life, up from last year's 5-hour rating. For anyone who's constantly on the road, that alone is reason enough to pay more for the latest generation.
Furthermore, the new Haswell chip is expected to increase graphics performance by 40% thanks to Intel's HD 5000 chip, which is like having a dedicated graphics card in your laptop. This should make for a noticeable improvement in multimedia performance on all of the base MacBook Airs. As such, high-def streaming will be smoother than before.
Overall, the 2013 MacBook Air provides better hardware for the same original price of last year's model. And while we've seen the 11" Ivy Bridge MacBook Air with an upgraded 128GB SSD for as low as $900, it was a one-time deal that barely lasted a full day. With its upgraded CPU, better battery life, improved graphics, and larger/faster SSD, the Haswell MacBook Air is a runaway hit. And while you can find cheaper Ivy Bridge and Haswell Windows laptops, the entry level MacBook Air is still your best bet if you're deeply invested in the Mac ecosystem.
How to Find the Best Deal on the Haswell MacBook Air
As great as the new MacBook Air may be, we don't expect you to pay full price for the new laptop. And the good news is that the MacBook Air usually receives the quickest discounts, second to the MacBook Pro Retina. Last year's Ivy Bridge models saw a $49 discount (via MacMall) just two months after its debut, but the previous Sandy Bridge model saw the same $49 discount on the same day as its release (via Amazon). So we recommend waiting up to two months for that initial $49 discount.
However, if you simply can't afford a new MacBook Air, expect to see the Ivy Bridge 128GB SSD MacBook Air at around $900 while the 64GB SSD configuration could hit under the $800 mark (we've already seen it hit $800 back in January).