Apple's new MacBook Airs: What we didn't get

New MacBooks featuring Intel's latest processors were unveiled at WWDC 2013, but it was a far less dramatic moment than last year's MacBook line unveiling. Here's why.

Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
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  • Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Scott Stein
Watch this: Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, June 2013)

SAN FRANCISCO -- Apple's new MacBook Airs look better than before, but they don't reach for the stars.

OK, so I'll admit: having a potential 12-hour battery life is incredible. It's a very big deal indeed. But the new 2013 MacBook Airs unveiled at Apple's WWDC keynote weren't revolutions of design, or even of features. They're another well-polished upgrade step to an already excellent laptop that's becoming as familiar in form as an iPod or an older MacBook Pro.

To be honest, there was more on my wish list. Primarily, this.

Higher-res displays: Yes, there's the Retina Display MacBook Pro line. But many Windows laptops sport 1080p displays now. The 13-inch Air's 1,440x900-pixel 13.3-inch screen isn't bad at all, but I'm typing on one right now and I wish it were crisper. The 1,366x768 11.6-inch Air feels a little sharper for its size, but consider that the Toshiba Kirabook, Chromebook Pixel, and new Acer Aspire S7 have Retina-level displays, and even the 10-inch Surface Pro has a 1,920x1,080 screen. But, those laptops all have higher prices now than the Air.

More storage (or, at least, cheaper storage): The cost of configuring a 13-inch Air up to a 512GB SSD has dropped; now you can walk away with one for $1,599, where it used to cost nearly $2,000. Still, I'd like to effortlessly have enough onboard storage to not worry about economy or cloud offloading. For me, that's 512GB. Apple offers Fusion drives for Mac desktops that combine SSD and mechanical hard drives, but fitting one of those in something as small as an Air, I guess, isn't possible yet. I wish it were...or, I wish 512GB was achievable for several hundred dollars less.

Less bezel: You know you're complaining a bit too much when this makes the list, but the 11-inch Air has a lot of extra space around its display. Why not make the screen 12 inches? For the 13-inch Air, I'd prefer a little trimming down around both display and keyboard. Compared with some Windows ultrabooks, the 13-inch Air is actually feeling a bit wide (but still thin). Or, again, the 13-inch Air could get a bigger, higher-res screen.

More ports (and HDMI!): There's no reason, now, why another port or two can't be jammed into the Airs. There's room, next to the headphone jack on one side and SD card slot on the other. The Retina Pro has HDMI now, and it's an extremely handy port to have. Can't it at least be on the 13-inch model? And it's high time the little Air got an SD card slot. There's no good reason it doesn't.

LTE, please: We'll say it again: the iPad and iPhone have 4G LTE. Many laptops do, too. The MacBook Air's lack of an internal upgrade option still feels a little strange. At least offer the option.

A cheaper Air: The $999 MacBook Air is the best value it's ever been, but keep in mind that this is still the most affordable MacBook Apple makes, period. It's the new White MacBook. The new 13-inch Airs are $100 less on average than they were yesterday, but is it enough? If Apple could somehow make a plastic (or, lower-cost, in some other way) MacBook that was just a bit more affordable, many students would be thankful.

Do the new MacBook Airs do it for you?