Should You Buy a MacBook Air in 2023? 8 Reasons I‘d Tell a Friend to Wait

As your tech-savvy friend, I constantly get asked my opinion on the latest gadgets and laptops like the ubiquitous MacBook Air. Apple‘s thin-and-light notebook has been a wildly popular choice for many years – but is it still the right pick in 2023?

I can think of 8 compelling reasons I would advise a friend to hold off on buying a new MacBook Air right now. Now don‘t get me wrong – the MacBook Air still has a lot going for it under the right circumstances. But considering some competitive Windows laptops offer better specs and value, I think it‘s smart to go into the purchase with eyes wide open.

Let me walk you through where the MacBook Air falls short and why you might want to keep shopping around before pulling the trigger as your next laptop upgrade. I promise by the end, you‘ll have smart perspective on alternatives that may just be a better fit.

Overview: Where the MacBook Air Shines…And Falls Short

First, let‘s recap what makes the MacBook Air so universally admired in the first place:

Beautifully Thin Design: At just 0.44 inches thick at its widest point, the MacBook Air sets the standard for ultraportable laptop dimensions even to this day. It‘s effortless to carry around at just 2.7 pounds.

Apple Silicon Power: The latest M2 chip provides excellent performance and efficiency. In web browsing, Office work and creative tools like Photoshop, it flies.

macOS Familiarity: For those invested in the Apple ecosystem, sticking with macOS provides welcome continuity across the iPhone, iPad and other Apple devices.

Now even fervent Mac fans like myself must admit some genuine shortcomings have crept up that rival Windows 10 and 11 laptops have largely addressed:

Price Creeping Up: The base MacBook Air M2 starts at $1,199 but still has just a 256GB SSD. Comparable Windows ultrabooks can be hundreds less.

Connectivity Constraints: With support for only one external display and just two USB-C ports plus a headphone jack, the Air can feel limiting for real work.

No Touch Screen: Apple refuses to add touch support which has become standard for premium Windows notebooks.

See the conflict? The MacBook Air offers that magical Apple formula of seamless software and hardware integration. But in terms of unbridled performance, expandability and versatility – key pillars for power users – Windows notebooks have caught up big time.

Let‘s dig deeper on 8 specific factors where I think the Air falls short and why I‘d readily steer a friend toward alternative options today…

1. You Can Get Far Better Value from Premium Windows Laptops

The MacBook Air more than ever commands a premium price but fails to deliver best-in-class performance compared to similarly priced Windows flagships.

Let‘s look at some stark examples:

The base model MacBook Air M2 gives you just 8GB unified memory and 256GB SSD for $1,199. Frankly that meager storage is borderline unacceptable for a modern pro notebook.

Step up to 16GB memory and a 512GB SSD and you‘re shelling out $1,499.

Compare that to a Windows champ like the latest Dell XPS 13 Plus which offers competitive specs starting at just $1,299. For that reasonable price, you get 16GB LPDDR5 RAM, 512GB SSD, 12th Gen Intel Core i7 processor, a gorgeous near bezel-less 13” screen and more.

Got the picture? You typically take an expensive combo of weaker base specs plus Apple‘s name tax buying a MacBook Air vs. Windows rivals.

2. Enjoy True Portability with Integrated 4G or 5G Connectivity

If staying connected on the road is a priority, MacBook Airs lack built-in mobile broadband while some Windows competitors shine here.

Premium options like the Samsung Galaxy Book Pro 360 make enjoying true untethered mobility a cinch with available 4G LTE or 5G connectivity. Pop in a SIM card and get instant internet access virtually anywhere untied to Wi-Fi.

Without built-in mobile broadband, getting a MacBook Air online outside Wi-Fi requires the extra hassle of external hotspots or tethering from your phone. Doable but hardly elegant.

For my money, I think enduring portable PCs need to carry connectivity everywhere just like our smartphones do.

3. Gaming and Creative App Support Trails Behind Windows

Make no mistake – Apple‘s own silicon combined with their unified memory architecture supplies CPU and graphics throughput competitive with many dedicated mobile discrete GPUs.

But much comes down to application support. And the MacBook Air running macOS still trails far behind Windows for support of major creative suites and AAA gaming titles.

Let‘s start with demanding games. From blockbusters like Elden Ring, Call of Duty to staples like League of Legends – they simply do not run on macOS. Support for popular game engines like Unreal is still hit or miss too. What good are impressive frame rates if the most popular games still won‘t launch?

Now creative apps for media production present a more nuanced picture in the Mac vs Windows tussle. Performance optimization for Apple‘s M-series silicon has come a long way. Things like Adobe Photoshop fly on MacBooks with M1/M2 processors.

But other pillars of the creative toolkit like Premiere Pro mandate Windows for true smooth operation with complex 4K+ projects. And niche tools for 3D, architecture and engineering remain largely Windows-only.

If access to the widest array of cutting-edge games and creative software suits matters, Windows 10 or 11 notebooks have a clear edge currently.

4. Apple Tax Bites Harder with Each Storage and Memory Upgrade

(Price comparisonMacBook Air M2 vs XPS 13 Plus)

Something subtle but essential to understand – MacBook Air storage and memory upgrades uniquely sting your wallet.

Let‘s scrutinize why.

The base $1,199 MacBook Air M2 nets you a paltry 256GB SSD paired with 8GB unified memory. Frankly both those specs verge on unacceptable these days for professional needs.

Opt to double the RAM to 16GB and SSD to 512GB for smoother multitasking and storage space and you‘ll pay $1,499.

Think that sounds steep already? Going all out to max the M2 MacBook Air at 24GB memory and 1TB SSD brings the total to $1,899.

Here‘s the kicker: Comparable Windows flagships can match or beat the maxed out MacBook Air‘s specs for way less.

That same Dell XPS Plus 13 configured with 32GB RAM and 1TB storage rings up hundreds cheaper at $1,739.

The insane storage and memory premiums Apple charges tally up quickly. Given the MacBook Air no longer leads in display, keyboard, trackpad or other areas, tougher than ever to stomach prices spiraling above the competition.

5. Underwhelming Display with No Touch Input Falls Behind

A pivotal pitfall of the current MacBook Air models rests with the screen. Namely lackluster brightness levels around 400 nits and no touch support.

The Windows notebook realm has vigorously upped display expectations with OLED touch options reaching 900+ nits becoming the norm.

The Dell XPS 13 OLED absolutely smokes the MacBook Air‘s panel with self-lit pixels and dazzling color. Even non-OLED competitors like the Samsung Galaxy Book2 Pro 360 pack AMOLED touch displays outshining Apple‘s dated LCD technology.

No Touch ID login or Apple Pencil input means a remarkably less versatile screen experience too.

Make no mistake – a high-grade display remains central to the enjoyment of using any laptop daily. And the venerable MacBook Air‘s LCD panel without touch feels stuck in the past.

6. Fewer Ports than Older MacBook Generations…Seriously?

Connectivity shouldn‘t be a game of compromises for a $1,000+ pro notebook in 2023.

Unfortunately for Mac loyalists, the beloved MagSafe charging port of yore vanished years back from MacBooks only to reemerge now as an expensive add-on.

More egregious, the M2 MacBook Air gives you just two USB-C/Thunderbolt ports plus a headphone jack. That‘s one less than the previous M1 model!

What happened to the SD card reader so essential for photographers and videographers? Or HDMI out plus multiple USB-A ports that don‘t require annoying dongles?

Windows comparables like the HP Spectre x360 14 offer the right balance with an SD reader, two Thunderbolt 4 ports, USB-A and HDMI 2.1.

Seems those shiny sci-fi Apple aesthetics come at the cost connectivity people actually need. Form over function never sat well with me. And the Air‘s stripped down ports prove especially hostile toMouse/trackpad not working only on MacBook

7. Minimal Upgradability and Repairability Severely Limits Long-term Ownership Value

Part of buying any premium notebook should come from a place of investing in an asset that can serve your needs 3 or even 5 years down the line.

But with ultra-compact systems like the MacBook Air, making improvements down the line poses extreme challenges.

All the memory and storage arrives soldered to the motherboard utterly unupgradeable. Forget about opening up the system‘s compact unibody chassis for user servicing either. Even mundane fixes require mailing into Apple with no certainty when you‘ll get your $1,000+ device back.

Let‘s again turn across the aisle to Windows hardware like the latest Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen series. They take the diametrically opposite stance with completely standardized components anyone can swap out coupled with exhaustive service guides and documentation. Real pro gear acknowledges unforeseeable needs can arise for extra memory, new SSDs etc – build systems to readily adapt. Apple deliberately does not.

Are sealed up systems with zero paths to upgrading components and limited repair options dealbreakers by themselves? Perhaps not right away, but utterly undermine reselling or transitioning a MacBook to new duties over years of use.

8. We‘re Overdue for a Complete MacBook Air Redesign with Next-Gen Features

Let‘s wrap up with what I consider among the most compelling reasons holding fire on buying a new MacBook Air this moment comes down to value over time.

The current external chassis design dates back over 4 years to late 2018. That‘s an eternity for personal electronics evolution. Just look at how much innovation brands like Samsung manage to pack into annual Galaxy phone refreshes.

I have zero doubt Apple engineers have an altogether sleeker, lighter vision for a dramatically revamped MacBook Air close at hand. Expect key upgrades like sensor-based force touch haptic trackpads, wireless charging, surround sound speakers and a bezel-less OLED display paired with Face ID login. Perhaps my long requested touch screen arrives then too!

Most tantalizingly, reputable rumor mills like Ming-Chi Kuo point to a 15-inch MacBook Air coming later in 2023 as well. A larger canvas for creators channeled by Apple‘s brilliance in portable design sounds too good to pass up.

Of course I can only speculate on Apple‘s secret roadmap. But knowing how rapidly laptop technology progresses today while hinting at the MacBook Air‘s profound impact when first unveiled in 2008, I suspect the model‘s next defining moment nears on the horizon. All the more reason I‘d gently steer a friend against buying the existing iteration right now. Good things come to those who wait!

I don‘t blame anyone for considering the MacBook Air. Apple perhaps does the best job distilling technological capabilities into approachable and desirable devices across phones, tablets, watches and laptops.

But in 2023, the Windows ecosystem finally delivers equally polished and more versatile options than the MacBook Air to suit demanding professional and creative needs.

Based on the 8 factors outlined above that position alternative notebooks superior to today‘s MacBook Air incarnation, which specific system should you consider instead?

Dell XPS 13 Plus: No-Compromise Windows Flagship

If you‘ve got a flexible budget and desire a standout Windows laptop experience sparing zero expenses, the Dell XPS 13 Plus makes a formidable 2023 contender.

You‘d be hard pressed finding a reviewer who doesn‘t gush over the XPS 13 Plus‘s dazzling near bezel-less InfinityEdge touch display, meticulously crafted chassis available in stunning colorways, use of premium components like RealSense cameras and excellent connectivity.

Matching Apple‘s prowess for obsessive design and quality control, the XPS Plus also brings more horsepower via 12th Gen Intel silicon, upgradeable storage and memory down the line, plenty of ports in a thinner profile plus savings of $100 or more over a comparably equipped MacBook Air. For the no-compromise Windows user, this Dell remains first choice.

Samsung Galaxy Book2 Pro 360: MacBook Beater

Another CES 2023 gadget that blew me away comes from Samsung in their fresh new Galaxy Book2 Pro 360 lineup.

Make no mistake – previous Galaxy Books struggled to match Apple polish in areas like trackpads and display quality while costing about the same. Samsung went back to the drawing board for the Galaxy Book2 series.

Now in a slick, ultra-portable convertible chassis you get phenomenal Super AMOLED touch displays with 2880 x 1800 resolution, latest 12th Gen Intel or AMD 6000 chips, up to 32GB RAM, extra useful features like 5G connectivity and an integrated S Pen.

Pricing ain‘t half-bad either starting under $1,200 putting Apple on notice. If you want flexibility plus functionality from a Windows-based MacBook challenger I‘d absolutely shortlist the Galaxy Book2 Pro 360.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 5: Premier Microsoft Hardware

Microsoft may still chase Apple designing the gold standard for modern computing devices. But their Surface Laptop 5 comes remarkably close for those invested in the Windows environment.

Combining clean design, ample power via 12th Gen Intel processors and excellent battery efficiency, the Surface Laptop 5 brings better value and expandability than a MacBook Air. The highly responsive PixelSense touch display shines with Dolby Vision IQ for lifelike images too.

While I‘d still give the edge overall to the Dell XPS and Samsung Galaxy Book slightly, the $999 and up Surface Laptop 5 warrants checking out if you want Microsoft‘s premiere notebook experience mixing portability and performance.

I fear this article comes dangerously close to bashing the MacBook Air‘s deficities more loudly than singing its merits. Let me reiterate – for the right type of user who travels light, don‘t need the latest games or niche software and value continuity in the Apple ecosystem, the Air absolutely still warrants consideration. Some scenarios where I‘d endorse buying one:

  • College Students Wanting a Reliable Mac for Basic Schoolwork
  • Mobile Professionals Mainly Requiring a Web Browser, Email and Office Tools On the Go
  • Photographers Premier Programs Like Capture One and Lightroom Run Superbly on Apple Silicon
  • Video/VFX Artists Invested in Final Cut Pro Optimization for M2 Chips

But for 2023, Windows laptops better cater to demanding prosumers needing powerhouse performance, versatile connectivity and options to upgrade components down the line. Also ignore the marketing glam and critically evaluate if that admittedly glorious MacBook Air design still competes on pragmatic functionality too.

I sincerely applaud Apple not resting on laurels with their Apple Silicon M1 and M2 ARM-based processors. They deliver fantastic clock speeds and efficiency rivaling Intel, AMD and Nvidia. But that custom architecture still hobbles Macs from enjoying software support and aspects like gaming and complete Adobe suite optimization. Maybe that changes in coming years.

For now in early 2023 though, I stand firm a well-equipped Windows 11 ultrabook like the latest Dell XPS or Samsung Galaxy Book Pro presents hard to beat value and technology over purchasing a brand new MacBook Air. The very best rival Apple‘s authority in crafting lust-worthy laptops but no longer demand compromise in performance, longevity or price either.

I don‘t make this analysis lightly given my longstanding Apple affinity. Still I must objectively call things as an experienced professional. Do your homework on all options and think hard if that sleek MacBook Air might not be outweighed practically by comparable Windows alternatives. I sure wouldn‘t blame any friend going that direction and likely join them!

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