Why the MacBook Air is Still Apple's Most Remarkable Product (10 years later)

Why the MacBook Air is Still Apple's Most Remarkable Product (10 years later)
Photo by Hostaphoto / Unsplash

When I was 10 years old, I received a MacBook Air for Christmas (I know, spoiled). It was the 2011, 11″ base model. This past Christmas, almost a decade later, my mom was gifted the new M1 MacBook Air 13″ base model.

All the reviews I’ve seen on the new M1 MacBook Air are largely positive. My favorite tech reviewers have praised it for its surprisingly powerful yet efficient M1 chip, vibrant display, and comfortably tactile keyboard. While all these features are indeed nice to have, they’re not what impress me so much about Apple’s entry-level laptop. That story begins 10 years earlier.

It shouldn’t be alive

From the moment I opened my 2011 Christmas present, I gave that laptop a run for its money. From downloading sketchy software to recording a whole Let’s Play Minecraft YouTube series (a story for another day), my trusty MacBook held on through thick and thin.

I downloaded apps that would probably make me cringe now, played so many hours of Minecraft that the fan sounded like an airplane ready to take off, and stored so many files that the meager 64 GB SSD was constantly maxed out.

About three years in, I decided to build my own computer, so I gave the MacBook Air to my mom. Even when I gave her the laptop though, it didn’t get a break. She put it through its paces by creating some impressively large photo albums and slideshows.

We bogged the computer down with heavy usage, but luckily, if it ever started acting up or running too slowly, a factory reset would always do the trick. A backup, an OS reinstallation, and a few hours were all I needed to get it running like new. Even in the few times throughout the past decade where I truly believed it was irretrievable, a reset was always able to resuscitate it. That is until one time it wasn’t.

Summer Vegetable

Last summer, I made it my mission to digitally clean up the old MacBook Air again. The poor thing was so bloated with miscellaneous files, downloads, and applications that you could barely use it without facing the spinning wheel of death.

Bogged down with stuff like old TomTom GPS software (for a GPS we don’t even use anymore) and thousands of other random downloads, it was unbearably slow.

Luckily, I knew just the trick to give it new life. No matter the issue, an old factory reboot would always do the trick. There’s nothing like a clean install of macOS to resuscitate a computer back to its normal self.

  1. Back up important files
  2. Wipe the drive
  3. Reinstall the operating system and voila! it’s a buttery smooth computer again.

Easy as pie right?

Except this time, it didn’t work. Like each time before, I had backed up my files and wiped the drive, but when I went to reinstall macOS, I got error message after error message. I don’t remember the exact wording that popped up, but it was something like, “Can’t connect to bla bla server to get the necessary components for the bla bla system.”

Then a file folder icon with a question mark started flashing, so I knew the situation was dire. Normally, I consider myself pretty tech-savvy. With the help of Google, I’m usually able to trial and error my way through most tech problems, but this time was different. This time, I needed reinforcements.

It was time to call a Genius.

Kenya to North Carolina

Can we talk about Apple customer service for a minute? Every time I’ve needed service they’ve gone above and beyond to assist me. When I called Apple to help me revive my laptop, the woman on the phone asked for its serial number. When I read it back she laughed, “wow, that’s pretty old.”

Nonetheless, she stayed on the line to help me troubleshoot. We tried downloading things, uploading things, erasing things, and everything in between. In the moments I was waiting for the computer to load, we talked about life. I found out she was from Kenya, but moved to North Carolina and loves it. It was a pleasant conversation.

The crazy thing is, I don’t even have Apple care. If we bought a package at the start, anything we would have had certainly would already be long expired. Their product is a decade old and they still offer support. Incredible.

Unfortunately, despite the excellent service, nothing we did worked. It took me a few more hours of diving down some old Apple support forums to finally finagle a solution that got it running again. I won’t get into how I did it because I honestly don’t remember.

Though you may not believe it from the sounds of this article, I’m not even an Apple Fangirl. I’m fairly technology-agnostic and have owned Mac and Windows computers, iPhones and Android Phones. If it works, I’m happy.

Is the New MacBook Air Cheaper?

Short answer: yes.

Long answer: My first base model MacBook Air cost $999 in 2011. The new MacBook Air purchased in 2020 cost $999. When you factor in inflation, it has actually dropped by over $150. Nine hundred and ninety-nine 2011 dollars converted into 2020 dollars is $1,149 or $150 more than the 2011 $999.

Ten years later, the MacBook Air base model is still the same price. Isn’t that bananas? I’ve heard common complaints about an unreasonable Apple “premium” or “tax” they put on their product. I see where the argument is coming from, but when I look at the MacBook Air, that’s simply not the case. Even though they could’ve risen the price long ago and fairly blamed it on inflation, they didn’t. We have a more efficient, more powerful, more beautiful machine for technically $150 less than what it was in 2011.

2011 MacBook Air
2020 MacBook Air
Intel Core i5 (dual-core 1.6 GHz)
Apple M1 Chip (8-core)
2 GB 1333 MHz DDR3
8 GB unified memory
64 GB flash storage
256 GB SSD
11.6″ (1366 x 768)
13.3″ (2560 x 1600)
Nominal Price

In my eyes, the base model MacBook Air is Apple’s most impressive product. Even after sustained heavy usage, my 2011 MacBook Air is still kicking. Further, in the 10 years since we bought it, the new model’s price has stayed the same.

Sure, new gadgets are exciting. I’m glad to finally see Apple is finally making their own chips! But what’s perhaps more exciting is a product that stands the test of time. In an age of constant innovation, I’m more impressed by a company that can make a “product of the decade” over “product of the year.”

Although $1,000 still is a lot of money, I’m glad we got my mom another MacBook Air. If history is any predictor, it may still be around in 2030.