Exclusive: Apple explains how the new MacBook Air is designed for travel

Take a look around an airport, plane, or hotel, and you'll likely see at least a few Apple devices nearby.

From iPhones to iPads to AirTags, the tech giant has developed a range of products that have proven popular with dozens of travelers. Maybe it's its portable and sturdy design or the ease with which the devices interact with each other, but the company has worked hard to try and convince road warriors to show off its technology.

Apple may have already won the majority of the smartphone, smartwatch, and tablet markets. However, Apple's MacBook laptops haven't quite risen to the top of the laptop space — especially among corporate travelers who rely primarily on Windows machines.

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But Apple is still playing in this space. Earlier this month, the company unveiled a new MacBook Air with a slew of upgrades, all designed to entice users — especially travelers — to upgrade to this laptop.

How will Apple do that? TPG got an exclusive interview with Evan Buyze on Apple's Mac product marketing team to find out. Buyze walked us through how the company designed this computer specifically for travelers.

Thin, light and durable design

It starts with the thin and light design that comes in 13.6 and 15.3-inch versions.

The smaller computer weighs just 2.7 pounds and is only 0.44 inches thick, making it the perfect choice for the traveler who wants maximum portability, Boese said. It's also the less expensive of the two options, starting at $1,099.

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Business travelers — as well as those looking for more screen real estate for multitasking — will likely prefer the larger 15-inch model. It weighs only about half a pound compared to the 13-inch version, and starts at $1,299.

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Aside from the size differences, the design of the 13- and 15-inch models is practically identical. The latter just has a more powerful speaker system.

Both laptops are no thicker than a 100-page book; Buzye said Apple worked hard so that display didn't come at the expense of durability. The new MacBook Air is built with an all-aluminum casing that's “designed to be extremely durable.”

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Whether it's unexpected disruptions or an unwieldy kitchen cart rolling down the driveway, Buyze explained that Apple is putting the MacBook Air in its “reliability testing lab.”

“[It] “It mimics a lot of different customer experiences,” he said.[In the lab,] “They do a lot of different things to be able to make sure that whatever situation you're in, whether it's in your backpack or you're carrying it, it meets our standards for reliability.”

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During Buyze's four-year tenure on the MacBook Air, he heard from travelers who used the computer at airplane tables, in Ubers, in hotel rooms, and in coffee shops. He and the team evaluated all of these as use cases when considering durability requirements.

Buyze didn't share more details about whether Apple has fake airplane seats or tray tables in its testing labs; He only said that the company uses “rigorous testing methods” to ensure the computer works in all travel scenarios.

All-day battery life

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Despite the increased power requirements from the upgraded processor (more on that below), Apple managed to maintain 18 hours of battery life for both MacBook Air models.

Of course, when you travel, you often don't know where you'll find the next (operational) power outlet. So, an all-day battery should provide plenty of power even if you're on a flight without a power outlet.

Although I haven't tested battery life on the new MacBook Air, I recently used the previous model — which I use as my daily PC — on the new MacBook Air. The longest flight in the world is from New York to Singapore. I started the ride 100% and played a looping movie on my laptop to see when it would die. After nearly 18 hours in the air, I landed and saw that the battery level had reached 17%, which is roughly equivalent to a laptop battery level.

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Plus, even if you don't plan to use the full 18-hour battery, the computer also serves as a “great charger for your iPhone or iPad,” according to Buyze. With two USB-C ports, you can power two devices simultaneously and still have power left over for the laptop itself; This can be useful when you are not near a power outlet.

The new processor provides more power

Perhaps the biggest upgrade to the new computer is the introduction of Apple's M3 processor chip. While the technical details — an 8-core CPU, up to a 10-core GPU, and a 16-core neural engine — may be dizzying, Buyze has turned them into easy-to-understand comparisons.

“If you're coming from an M1 MacBook Air, it's up to 60% faster with an M3-powered MacBook Air. If you're upgrading from an Intel-based MacBook Air, it's up to 13 times faster,” he said.

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One specific aspect of the new processor that may appeal to travelers is offering more efficient video streaming to services like Netflix. This will allow you to stream for longer, according to Buyze.

While the new chips may have had a powerful impact, they were also the “secret sauce” to making the computer portable.

“How do we get this slim and light design that fits under the drawer table?” Bosie asked. “Moving to Apple silicon,” he replied, explaining [processor chips] … This was a real game-changer in that we were actually able to make these new designs that we had only imagined making before.”

Contact upgrades

Another big travel-focused improvement that Apple is touting with the new MacBook Air is the introduction of a connectivity upgrade.

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Laptops now support Wi-Fi 6E, which “gets twice the speeds” with “increased wireless spectrum,” according to Buyze. This means that when you're on a train, at an airport or a hotel with a crowded network, the new antennas are still able to connect to the Internet without any hiccups.

To take full advantage of Wi-Fi 6E, airlines and hotels should also upgrade their Internet routers. Some have already begun this process, while other new planes and hotels are coming with this system pre-installed.

The MacBook Air also supports Apple's MagSafe charging port, which magnetically attaches the charging cable to the computer and automatically disconnects when someone trips over it or pulls it out.

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This is “perfect for traveling when you don't know the environment, and gives you peace of mind in all different scenarios,” he said.

Finally, to reduce space, many of the most portable laptops on the market compromise on keyboard size and sturdiness. The MacBook Air retains a full-size keyboard that's “designed to be truly comfortable with a quiet, enjoyable typing experience,” according to Buyze.

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A new model of Apple's best-selling laptop, the MacBook Air, is now in stores.

It comes with a few upgrades, many of which are designed specifically for travelers, according to Apple. This includes things like a new processor and improved connectivity, all while maintaining battery life throughout the flight in a thin, light and durable design.

The new model builds on the strong foundation laid by previous versions of the MacBook Air. With its travel-friendly features and lack of price hikes, it's safe to say that the MacBook Air is a strong candidate for one of the best travel laptops money can buy.

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