MacBook Evolution – The History Of The MacBook Air And MacBook Pro

MacBook Evolution – The History Of The MacBook Air And MacBook Pro

Apple has released multiple laptop-style computers since the early 1990s. In fact, the original PowerBook was released in 1991 and served as the foundation the MacBook would be built upon.

The last PowerBook, the PowerBook G4, was released in 2001 and gave the world the first glimpse of the upcoming MacBook. This was when everyone got to know the more sleek style that Apple would soon introduce.

After that, MacBooks began to take the world by storm. With each new release, you’re introduced to a slightly better design and great new features. Curious how this evolution took place? Look no further.

The PowerBook Era (1999-2005)

You can’t truly appreciate MacBook’s evolving history without taking a quick look at the PowerBooks. While the original PowerBook 100 (pictured above) doesn’t really look like today’s MacBooks, it was a highly successful model back in 1991 with cutting edge specifications such as:

  • 2 MB RAM with easy expansion slot
  • PowerPC G3 chip (faster than both Pentium and Pentium II)
  • Swappable expansion bays
  • CD and DVD drive

 

The age of the PowerBook lasted over a decade with the PowerBook G4 (pictured above) starting to look more like the first MacBooks. For its time back in 2001, the design was sleek at one inch thick, even if it did weigh over five pounds. Still, that was incredible for that time period. It was slightly more powerful the G3 with specifications including:

  • PowerPC G4 processor (faster than Pentium III)
  • DVD drive
  • 128 MB RAM (expandable up to 1 GB)
  • Up to 5 hour battery life
  • 2-inch display

 

The First MacBook Pro (2006)

Apple enjoyed the success of the PowerBook until 2006, when the company released the first true MacBook. The MacBook Pro, released in 2006, still weighed in at over five pounds and was one inch thick, but it was the first to have the signature backlit keyboard. It was also the first model to introduce any type of fall protection, called Sudden Motion Sensor (a feature that stayed in future MacBooks), to reduce the impact on the hard drive during a fall. The 17-inch model was up to four times faster than the PowerBook G4 and included the following:

  • 67% brighter display
  • 67 GHz Intel Core Duo process (up to four times faster than the PowerBook G4)
  • Introduced the MagSafe magnetic power connector
  • 512 MB RAM expandable to 2 GB
  • Scrolling TrackPad
  • Built-in iSight camera
  • AirPort Extreme 802.11g wireless networking & Bluetooth
  • Two USB 2.0 ports & one FireWire 400 port
  • 80 GB hard drive

Apple also released at 13-inch (in white) and 15-inch model.

 

The First MacBook Air (2008-Present)

Just a few years after the MacBook Pro, Apple released their thinnest option to date – the MacBook Air. It measured just 0.16 inches at its thinnest point and 0.76 inches at its thickest.

In the initial years after its release, the MacBook Air would become a big seller. The price was attractive to many Apple users and it also attracted new Apple users. It was arguably the most portable laptop ever up to that point. Some estimates have the Air capturing over 50% of the thin-and-light notebook computer market in early 2013.

 

MacBook Air 11 inch (2010-2016)

In 2010, Apple released the 11 inch MacBook Air. The price was a bit lower than the sister 13” model, which was made possible by the smaller design and also slightly lesser capabilities with the battery life and performance. But the model was a relatively large success. Customers liked the portability of the smaller MacBook Air. It was nearly the size of an iPad.

In 2015, Apple announced that they would discontinue the 11” model and focus solely on the slightly larger 13” model for future releases.

The 11” Air was nearly the size of an iPad, but obviously came with a keyboard and it was also more capable than the popular netbooks of the time.

Additional features included:

  • 3 inch screen
  • iSight camera
  • Up to 5 hours battery life
  • AirPort Extreme 802.11n wireless (faster than 802.11g)
  • New Apple Migration Assistant
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 80 GB hard drive (or optional 64 GB SSD)
  • One USB 2.0 port (fewer ports than previously to reduce the size)

 

The MacBook and MacBook Pro Unibody (2008-Present)

The MacBook and MacBook Pro Unibody editions quickly became best-sellers for Apple. The base model featured an entry level price that was $700 lower than previous models. The unibody aluminum design created a more durable and thinner design than previous MacBook Pro models. Apple released 13, 15 and 17-inch models. The base model included:

  • 2 GB RAM expandable to 4 GB
  • 2 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor
  • NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics card (best graphics yet)
  • 160 GB hard drive
  • 8X SuperDrive
  • Same wireless and Bluetooth as the MacBook Air
  • Two USB 2.0 ports
  • iSight video camera
  • Most environmentally safe model to date

 

The MacBook Pro With Retina Display (2012-Present)

The next major advancement in MacBook’s evolving history is the MacBook Pro with Retina Display released in 2012. The 15-inch model featured the Retina display iPhone users were accustomed to. It still had a thin design at just 0.71 inches and weighed less than 4.5 pounds. At the time, it had the highest resolution on the market of over five million pixels. It also featured flash storage up to four times faster than its predecessors. Additional features included:

  • Up to 7 hours of battery life
  • Intel Core i7 Quad-Core (2.7 GHz to 3.7 GHz)
  • Latest NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M graphics
  • Up to 16 GB RAM
  • Up to 768 GB flash storage (SSD)
  • Thinner MagSafe port
  • HD camera

A complete performance overhaul set this model apart from the rest.

 

The Thinnest MacBook Yet (2015-Present)

In 2015, Apple introduced a new line of thinner, faster MacBooks. The new line weighed only two pounds and were only 13.1 mm thick. The new 12-inch display and more responsive keyboard were the best yet. This line is the line most people know and love today. Better responsiveness on the trackpad and keyboard created a more enjoyable experience. Additional features include:

  • Up to 10 hours of battery life
  • New USB-C ports
  • Full-size keyboard
  • 1 GHz Dual-Core Intel Core M processor (up to 2.4 GHz)
  • 8 GB RAM
  • 256 GB flash storage (SSD) (up to 512 GB)
  • Intel HD Graphics 5300

 

MacBook Pro (2016-Present)

In 2016, Apple introduced a new MacBook Pro line. The new 13-inch and 15-inch models gave fans the much needed upgrades they were looking for. These were also the first models with the new Touch Bar above the keyboard with a Touch ID sensor. Other notable differences included:

  • Brighter display
  • Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports
  • 50% larger trackpad
  • Intel i5 (up to 3.1 GHz) or i7 (3.6 GHz) processor
  • 256 GB SSD (up to 2 TB)
  • 8 GB RAM (up to 16 GB)
  • USB 3.1
  • MSRP: $1,299; $1,799; $2,399

Alternative models were released without the Touch Bar for a more traditional feel, but with a performance upgrade.

 

12-Inch MacBook Overhaul (2017-Present)

In 2017, the 12 inch MacBook got an overhaul. This model features an SSD twice as fast as the 2015 models. A 13 and 15 inch model were introduced as well. All included improved features over previously models, such as:

  • Much brighter display with support for one billion colors
  • Faster CPU and SSD
  • Faster processors
  • Improved graphics processing
  • MSRP: $1,299

 

2018 MacBook Air

As you might have noticed, the MacBook Air got left behind as the MacBook Pro took over as the more popular model. However, in 2018, Apple introduced the newest MacBook Air. It’s not the greenest MacBook, made from 100% recycled aluminum. It also includes features such as:

  • Up to 12 hours battery life
  • Support for up to 48% more colors than previous MacBook Air
  • 50% thinner screen borders
  • Touch ID
  • More responsive and stable keyboard like the MacBook Pro
  • 20% larger trackpad
  • 8th gen Intel Core i5 processor
  • Up to 16 GB RAM
  • Up to 1.5 GB SSD
  • 75 pounds
  • 6 mm at its thickest
  • Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) port
  • Improved speakers and camera
  • MSRP: $999; $1,199

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Image: Alesia Kazantceva, Wikimedia Commons / Brent DaxWikimedia Commons / Jared C. Benedict, Wikimedia Commons /  Julien GONG Min, Wikimedia Commons / Sir StigKārlis DambrānsMaurizio Pesce, AlexBor, Wikimedia Commons / MichalPL, Goran Ivos