Apple's new MacBook Air.
Photo: Apple

Apple’s widely sold MacBook Air laptop has received its first significant update in three years, getting a higher-resolution display, the latest Intel processors, and the company’s Touch ID fingerprint reader, which can be used to unlock the device.

The updates, announced Tuesday at an event at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York, give a much-needed boost to the 13-inch laptop, which goes on sale today and ships Nov. 7 with prices starting at $1,200.

The once-formidable laptop had undergone only minor tweaks since March 2015, losing ground to quick, capable rivals that chipped away at the perception that only Apple could design such thin and light models. 

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At the same Brooklyn event, Apple also announced updates to the iPad Pro tablet and the Mac Mini, a small desktop computer that comes without a display, mouse, or keyboard (all sold separately).

We look forward to getting Apple’s new products into our labs and putting them through our testing once they’re available for purchase by consumers. We buy everything we test at retail—just like you. 

The New MacBook Air

An overhead view of Apple's new MacBook Air.
The new MacBook Air has Touch ID, a faster processor, and a higher-resolution display.
Photo: Apple

First released in 2008, the MacBook Air helped usher in the era of thin and light laptops. Early ads showed off how it could comfortably fit inside an envelope, something Apple CEO Tim Cook reminisced about at the Brooklyn event.

Since a 2010 refresh, which dropped the entry-level price from $1,800 to $1,000, the Air has settled into the role of Apple’s primary laptop for everyday consumers, complete with a comfortable, full-sized keyboard and midrange specs appropriate for everything from editing documents in Microsoft Word and Google Docs to conducting Skype calls.

While the design of the new laptop largely resembles that of the 2015 model, the 13.3-inch display is now framed by a much smaller bezel. Apple claims to have trimmed it by 50 percent.

At 2.75 pounds, the computer is also lighter than its 2.96-pound predecessor. That’s impressive, yes, but there are Windows laptops that are even lighter, including the LG Gram and Asus ZenBook Flip S.

The 13.3-inch Retina display—Apple’s term for a screen so sharp that you can’t discern individual pixels—has a resolution of 2560x1600, up from the previous model’s 1440x900, which was decidedly low in an era when Windows laptops routinely offer 1920x1080 displays.

All those extra pixels on the screen come in handy when you’re touching up photos in Adobe Lightroom, but they also make the text, images, and video you encounter in your everyday life look sharper and more well-defined.

The new MacBook Air also ships with the latest-generation Intel Core i5 processor, which should provide all the juice you need for complex tasks such as dealing with large spreadsheets.

The base model comes with 8 gigabytes of memory and a 128GB solid-state drive. That’s less storage space than our experts recommend for typical consumers. For $1,400, you can double that to 256GB. 

The New iPad Pro

Apple's new iPad Pro.
The new iPad Pro has facial recognition technology and no Home button.
Photo: Apple

The updated tablet—which Apple likens to a full PC in performance—goes on sale today and ships Nov. 7, with prices starting at $800 for the 64-gigabyte 11-inch model and $1,000 for the 64GB 12.9-inch model.

Apple has removed the Home button on both tablets to increase the size of the displays. The tablets also feature the company’s Face ID technology, which uses facial recognition software to unlock the device and log you into websites. Both now have a USB-C port instead of the usual Lightning port. Apple says the switch lets consumers charge other devices, such as smartphones, with the tablet.

And, finally, the iPad Pro’s stylus—sold separately as the $130 Apple Pencil—now clips magnetically to the side of the tablet for charging and storage.

The New Mac Mini

Updated for the first time since 2014, the new Mac Mini—priced to start at $800—comes with the latest-generation Intel Core processors and up to 64 gigabytes of memory and 2 terabytes of solid-state storage. Maxing it out in this fashion does not come cheap, though, with prices topping $4,000 for a fully loaded model.

The device is designed for professional users. Apple spent a good deal of time during the Tuesday event talking about how developers and other IT workers have embraced the small desktop computer. Our testers rated the old model highly, finding fault primarily with the lack of a built-in DVD drive and the inability for consumers to upgrade the memory.