Apple announced updates to the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro lines this week, and – just in time for the beginning of the North American school year – a Back to School promotion that shaves US$100 off the ticket price for students, and throws in a pair of $350 headphones for good measure.

Apple has been a big player in the K-12 and college sectors since the early days, but of course, it's not just high-deals and altruism. Introducing people to your products early in their lives is a great way to establish a loyal user-base, and for Apple at least, it seems to be working. According to Apple, data from Student Monitor's Spring 2019 report shows almost 60 percent of American college students who buy a notebook own at least one Mac.

"College students love the Mac," says Tom Boger, Apple's senior director of Mac Product Marketing. "It's the notebook they rely on from the dorm room to the classroom, and the No. 1 choice among higher education students."

Apple is confident that its gear is good, innovative and attractive, but this school of fish isn't just going to jump into the boat without a little bait. So, as part of its Back to School promotion, Apple has knocked $100 off the list-prices of the newly-upgraded MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro models, and will throw in a pair of Beats Studio 3 Wireless to boot.

To a budget-conscious student, a MacBook Air for $999 or a 13-inch MacBook Pro for $1,199 with a free pair of $350 headphones is a pretty good deal.

As you'd expect, the new MacBooks are a step up from last year's models. The entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro now sports the Touch Bar and Touch ID, a True Tone Retina display (for a more natural viewing experience), the latest 8th-generation quad-core processor, a T2 Security Chip, wider stereo speakers and more. Many of these features were previously the domain of higher-end models, but are now a feature of every MacBook Pro, which starts at $1,199.

As for the MacBook Air, while the price has dropped, the features have grown. It doesn't have the Touch Bar of the MacBook Pro, but it has Touch ID, the latest 8th-generation dual-core processor and wider stereo sound, while its Retina display has been upgraded with True Tone.

The keyboards on all the new MacBooks will still have the somewhat controversial butterfly key mechanism, but the design has been tweaked to address the problems some users experienced with the previous design.

The introduction of these new models has, however, come at the expense of other products. Gone are the $999 MacBook Air – a model which hadn't changed since 2015 – and the 12-inch MacBook (which was the first MacBook to sport a single USB-C port). Of course some will miss them, but to many, neither of these models made much sense among the rest of the line-up, which seems much more cohesive now.

At present, all the new models will come loaded with macOS Mojave, with Apple's newest operating system – macOS Catalina – available as a free upgrade in the third quarter of the year.

MacBook Air starts at $1,099 ($999 for students) while MacBook Pro starts at $1,299 ($1,199 for students). Both are available now via the Apple Store app and in select Apple Stores and Apple Authorized Resellers later this week.

Source: Apple

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