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My favorite MacBook of all time is on sale at Walmart – and I think I’d buy four if I could

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My favorite MacBook of all time is on ***** at Walmart – and I think I’d buy four if I could

Oh, Walmart, you have no idea what you’ve unleashed. A $699 MacBook Air with the M1 chip is the Big Mac to the Hamburglar, cookies to Cookie Monster, Bonnie to Clyde. It’s the antidote to MacBook Air lust without the deep-pocket investment and a game-over challenge to any affordable Wintel system Walmart has on its shelves 

The Apple MacBook Air with M1 was an

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. That’s how I described the first application of Apple Silicon on a Mac in 2020.

There was nothing exceptional about the design – it was the same as the last MacBook Air running an Intel CPU – but that ARM-based “brain transplant” produced a product with a new, winning, whip-smart, and ultra-efficient personality and I was smitten. No wonder I was sad when Apple discontinued the M1 MacBook Air in favor of the newest MacBook Air 13-inch running M3, AKA the best laptop you can buy. There’s still a cheaper $999 MacBook Air M2 but it features the flat slab design that supplanted the classic MacBook Air wedge.

(Image credit: Future)

I’ve grown to like that flat and arguably less stylish look, but I’ll always miss the original MacBook Air’s iconic and curvier design. There has never been a thinner laptop – at least when looked at from the front edge (0.16-inch) – or one that felt better in the hand. I even miss the visible speaker grilles on either side of the Magic Keyboard. Granted the ultraportable had just two USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports (one per side!), no dedicated MagSafe charge port (that was an important upgrade from the M2 redesign), and the screen is a little smaller and not the excellent Liquid Retina Display upgrade we got with the MacBook Air M2. Still, show me a classic MacBook Air and I will break into a wistful smile.

I assumed that after Apple discontinued the model, supplies would quickly dry up at other retailers where the system sold for as little as $749. I guess I was wrong.

It’s not just that $699 is an excellent price, it’s where you can buy the MacBook Air M1. “This is the first time customers can purchase a Mac directly from Walmart,” noted the company in a release. That’s right, the same place where you can pick up a 55-inch 4k TV for under $300 and an entire non-stick cookware set for under $70, you can now buy one of the best laptops ever.

(Image credit: Lance Ulanoff)

I get that this MacBook Air is now three generations old and may look out of date, but the truth is its 3.5 GHz system, ability to run virtually all Intel-supported apps, handle almost any task you throw at it (including editing multiple 4K video streams at once), 15-hour battery life (20 hours if you only watch video), and 2.8 lb weight make this a formidable competitor for laptops costing at least twice as much. Even with just 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, it poses a real threat to any sub-$700 Intel-running Windows PC Walmart has to offer. If you never thought you could afford to make the switch from Windows to Mac, this might be your chance.

This deal changes the calculation of my laptop buying advice. If you’re shopping for the perfect portable work, school, or life laptop, this is the system to buy. 

There is the question, naturally, of how long supplies will last. If you visit the Walmart website right now, this $699 MacBook Air M1 is the first thing you see. Apple’s not making any more so, it might be a short-lived opportunity.

On the other hand, this is a watershed moment for Walmart and its customers. The company said it was the first time it would sell Macs directly, but it didn’t say it was the last. I’m thinking that if you see a MacBook Air you really want – maybe the M2 or even the new and powerful M3 – you might want to wait and see when it arrives on Walmart’s ever-eclectic shelves.

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