Review: MacBook Air 2020- How do you like the latest MacBook Air? Are the improvements in the keyboard and the faster processor worth making the switch, or is it better to save up for another model? Y
The MacBook Air is an important part of Apple’s range. It is many people’s first foray into a Mac , it is the cheapest Mac with a screen, it is the laptop you buy when you are a student, and it is the most logical choice when you have an office job. The MacBook Air’s target audience is huge. The device shouldn’t feel too cheap, but it shouldn’t be too expensive either. Performance and price are very important.
In that respect, the MacBook Air 2020 is a bull’s eye. This model has become faster and cheaper, which means that performance and price are good. Add to that that this is the first MacBook Air with a more reliable keyboard and you know, now is the time to upgrade if you were ready for a new MacBook Air.
Improvements in short
These are the main improvements in the 2020 version of the MacBook Air:
- The entry price has been reduced.
- More flexibility in your choice of processor and upgrades.
- You now get more storage as standard, namely 256GB instead of 128GB. And you can upgrade to 2TB.
- It includes a new 10th generation 1.1GHz dual-core i3 processor. You can also opt for a quad-core chip for the first time, but then you must at least choose the i5 chip.
- The graphics card is 80% faster according to Apple.
- It now includes Bluetooth 5.0, which has a longer range and is more energy efficient. But there is no Wi-Fi 6 in it.
- The keyboard now has a scissor mechanism, which should be less sensitive to malfunctions. Apple calls this the Magic Keyboard.
- The speakers have been slightly improved and now support Dolby Atmos .
- The MacBook Air still has 3 microphones, but on the 2020 model, these are bundle-shaped, so your voice sounds better. The image remains poor during video calling, because Apple has not improved the webcam.
Furthermore, the 2020 model has become slightly heavier and thicker and the battery lasts slightly less.
Introducing MacBook Air 2020
The MacBook Air has been known for years as a good and reliable laptop for people who want to perform daily office tasks. In 2018, the MacBook Air was completely renewed with a Retina screen and a small improvement in the specs followed in 2019.
But one point of irritation remained: the keyboard. It did not have the best reputation and forced many MacBook owners to use the repair program . Another criticism was that you had few options to upgrade your MacBook Air with more RAM, more storage, or a faster processor. As a result, you were soon tempted to buy the MacBook Pro anyway , because it offered more flexibility.
Both points have been solved with this MacBook Air 2020: it has a reliable scissor keyboard, which is not so likely to fail. And you have more options to equip your MacBook Air with better specs.
We started testing and tell our experiences here. We chose the 13-inch MacBook Air 2020 with i5 processor and 16GB RAM. This is slightly more future-proof than the entry-level model with i3 processor and 8GB RAM. In this review of the MacBook Air 2020 you can read why we chose and have chosen it and what else can be found in improvements, new functions and the like.
- Core i3
- Core i5
PRICES 13-INCH MACBOOK AIR 2020 I3 PROCESSOR
- Dimensions 30.41 x 21.24 x 1.61 cm
- Weight 1.29 kg
- 2x USB-C / Thunderbolt 3 ports
- 3.5mm headphone jack
- 100% recycled aluminum
- Available in silver, space gray and gold
The casing of the MacBook Air 2020 has hardly changed compared to 2018. It is still one piece of aluminum in three colors: silver, space gray or gold. In addition, 100% recycled aluminum and 35% recycled plastic are used again, making this MacBook very green.
Think carefully about which color you choose, because the inside, including the nice and large trackpad, is also in the same color. Gold is really gold everywhere.
The simple appearance and sleek finish are timeless. In our opinion, a redesign is far from necessary. In terms of materials and build quality, everything is fine. The fact that this MacBook from iFixit only got a 4 out of 10 as a repair score , has to do with the fact that RAM and SSD are not so easy to upgrade. Therefore, choose the correct configuration right away when purchasing, because it becomes more difficult afterwards.
It is the thinnest and lightest Mac you can buy, although we have to admit that competitors such as Microsoft and Lenovo also make beautiful lightweight laptops. But then you don’t have macOS. This MacBook Air weighs 1.29 kg and is 16.1 mm thin, a great size to take with you every day. The 2020 version is 40 grams heavier than its predecessor and is slightly thicker at the rear (previously 15.9 mm), but you will not notice that.
When you open the MacBook Air, you will see the updated keyboard in the top half, which we will talk about in detail later. At the top right is the on / off button with built-in Touch ID sensor for unlocking, payments and access to passwords.
A design change that we would have liked to see: narrower bezels. Apple is a company where design comes first, and the 16 ″ MacBook Pro also managed to narrow the screen edges, so we hoped it would happen with the MacBook Air too.
Such a slim look means there is little room for ports. You only get a headphone jack and two Thunderbolt 3 ports. If you (like us) are used to a 12-inch MacBook with only one port, then you will improve, but you will soon be googling for a USB-C hub or dongle , especially if you want to connect an external screen.
The size difference compared to the 2015 12-inch MacBook .
You can connect this MacBook to an external display up to 6K (6016 x 3384), while last year’s model supported up to 5K resolutions. The maximum transfer speed of the two ports is 40 Gb / s.
In any case, the shade of space gray has remained the same.
Hardware and screen
- 13.3-inch Retina display
- True Tone with standard color rendering
- Improved speakers and three microphones
- Still disappointing FaceTime camera
- Force Touch trackpad
Apart from the keyboard, not much has changed on the hardware side of the MacBook Air 2020 either. The screen is the same as in the 2019 model. The display has a size of 13.3-inch and we find it compact enough to be portable and large enough to work comfortably. You might wonder whether Apple should release another smaller version for those who really want a portable MacBook Air. But no, we don’t think Apple should go back to the 11-inch format. In that case, it is better to get an iPad Pro or iPad Air , which, thanks to the improvements in iPadOS, can also take over certain functions of your MacBook . If you are a fan of smaller MacBooks, then you might be happyrumors of an upcoming 12-inch MacBook .
The display has been equipped with True Tone since the 2019 model , which we have been a fan of for a while. Thanks to True Tone, the colors on the screen adapt to the ambient light, so that the colors are always displayed in the right way. That can be important in graphics applications, although we just like it better for our eyes. And speaking of colors: unfortunately the MacBook Air still does not support wide color reproduction. The screen works with the full sRGB spectrum, so there is slightly less variation in the color reproduction. We do not think this is necessarily a deal breaker, certainly not for the target group for which this MacBook is intended. Nevertheless, you can expect a laptop of such a price level to have slightly better specifications for the screen.
Apple has slightly improved the speakers in the 2020 model. According to Apple, the latest model has a wide stereo sound, which makes the sound just a little better. We think the speakers sound great, but we do not prefer to listen to music for a long time. The speakers are great for video calling and watching a YouTube movie, but that’s where it ends. In addition, you can now play Dolby Atmos content. This was not possible with the previous generation MacBook Air. This is especially useful when watching movies that support this, but to be honest, we don’t often do that via a laptop.
In addition to the speakers, the microphones have also been slightly improved. There are now three beam-shaped microphones. They are therefore slightly better than the current 13-inch MacBook Pro , but not as good as the latest 16-inch MacBook Pro. Noise remains well filtered and during video calling you can easily be understood by your conversation partner. A nice upgrade, but no more than that.
And speaking of video calling: you can actually do that better on an iPhone or an iPad. After all these years, it still packs a mediocre 720p FaceTime HD camera. While the iPhone can already film in 4K with a 12-megapixel selfie camera, the MacBook lineup is hopelessly behind. Images often look grainy, especially when you’re in a dimly lit environment. We think it is now really time for an upgrade to 1080p, although we wonder when Apple will finally come up with it.
Force Touch trackpad
Like all recent MacBook models , this MacBook Air also has a Force Touch trackpad. As we are used to from Apple, the trackpad is nice and large, so that you have plenty of room for operating your mouse cursor and the many swipes of macOS . Apple has been making one of the better trackpads in laptops for years, and this MacBook Air is no different.
Magic Keyboard keyboard
- Magic Keyboard with scissor mechanism
- Longer button travel
- Renewed arrow keys
By far the most important innovation of the MacBook Air 2020 is the improved keyboard. Apple has equipped this model with the Magic Keyboard, which has also been used in the most expensive MacBook since last fall’s 16-inch MacBook Pro. We are pleased that Apple has decided to also provide the cheapest MacBook in the line-up with a new improved keyboard. We would not have been surprised if Apple had provisionally equipped this model with the butterfly keyboard due to its thin design, but fortunately everyone can now work on a much more reliable keyboard. So you no longer have to put down the most money for that.
The Magic Keyboard uses a scissor mechanism, instead of the teased butterfly mechanism of the earlier models. It is important that this mechanism is much less vulnerable to dust and dirt. So you don’t have to worry that a single crumb immediately means that you have to make an appointment for a MacBook repair . Also not unimportant is that it is simply much more pleasant to type. The so-called button travel is a bit longer, so you have a much less click feeling and more pressing a real button
Tested: our experiences with Apple’s latest MacBook Pro keyboard
Apple has equipped its latest MacBook with a new scissor keyboard. After many complaints in recent years, Apple has thus reversed its earlier decision for a thinner butterfly keyboard. Did Apple do the right thing about this and have the problems now been resolved? These are our experiences with this new keyboard of the 16-inch MacBook Pro.
The new Magic Keyboard does take up a little more space, making the MacBook Air slightly thicker than its predecessor. The difference is a few millimeters and it has also become slightly heavier, but you hardly notice that in practice.
The keyboard after a week of intensive use.
Finally, the arrow keys of the new keyboard are again positioned in an inverted T. We find this much more pleasant than the old layout, where the keys are close together. You can now find the arrow keys much easier by touch, without having to look at the keyboard. The Touch ID sensor is also still there. That works just as fast as ever. We do think it is time for Apple to slowly switch to Face ID on the MacBooks, although we do not expect Apple to do this first with the cheapest model. Perhaps the MacBook Pro will make the switch in the fall or next year.
Processor and battery performance
- 10th Generation Intel Core Ice Lake Processor
- First quad-core processor in a MacBook Air
- Available with i3, i5 or i7 processor
- Standard 8GB RAM (upgradeable to 16GB)
- Standard 256GB or 512GB storage (upgradeable to 1TB and 2TB)
- The promised battery life of 11 hours is a bit disappointing
In this section we look at things like processor, RAM, storage and battery life. The MacBook Air has never been Apple’s most powerful laptop. The emphasis has always been on standard office use. Nevertheless, the Air has made a nice performance leap this year: it is the first Air with a quad-core processor.
It’s not to say the MacBook Air is now a powerhouse, but you will be less likely to suffer from blowing fans and an overheated laptop because tasks are too heavy or because you have too many tabs open in Chrome. Although the MacBook Air will still suffer from a noisy fan in 2020.
Storage doubled, not working memory
A welcome improvement with the 2020 version of the MacBook Air is that you now get twice as much storage. The entry-level models previously only had 128GB of storage. That is not enough if you want to use your MacBook with software such as Photoshop. 256GB is really necessary, unless you do everything online or like to regularly clean up your disk. The entry-level model with i3 processor has 256GB of storage, while the i5 model includes double.
Few people need 1TB or more, but if you, for example, as a photographer or video editor, need extra storage, you can upgrade to a whopping 2TB. Although we do think that a MacBook Pro may be more suitable for such professions.
Regardless of which model you choose, you get 8GB of RAM as standard, which we find on the tight side. That is why we have chosen 16GB for future-proofing. Unfortunately, that will cost you 250 euros extra, but … realize that you cannot upgrade any part of the MacBook Air. SSD and RAM are soldered to the motherboard, iFixit’s teardown showed. So make sure you make the right choice.
Processor: Quad-core for the first time
One of the biggest frustrations with the 2018 and 2019 MacBook Air was that you could only choose the Intel Core i5 processor. There was no other choice. If you wanted more, you soon had to rely on the MacBook Pro, where the options were a bit more flexible. Fortunately, this is better arranged with the 2020 version – on several points.
Apple has opted for the 10th generation Intel Core Ice Lake processor for this laptop. This makes this the first Air with a quad-core processor, but then you will have to choose the i5 or i7, because the entry-level model with i3 processor is still dual-core. Twice as many cores does not mean that the performance also doubles.
It is true that more cores and more threads ensure that you have more power available for multitasking and heavy applications. In fact, you will find the same processor in many laptops from competing brands: they are variants of the Y-series chips that Intel has adapted specifically for Apple in this case. Competitive laptops also have at least a quad-core processor, although Apple will believe that macOS is much more efficient and user-friendly.
The three processors have a turbo boost of 3.2 GHz, 3.5 GHz and 3.8 GHz respectively. If you look at the benchmarks, this year’s i3 fares better than last year’s i5. Apple promises twice the performance of the previous generation with the quad-core chip.
You may be wondering: is the Core i3 good enough, or do I really need the Core i5? Benchmarks show that the i5 is about 8% faster than the i3 when it comes to single core tasks. It is 27% faster for multicore activities. The fact that there is so little difference is probably due to the fixed clock speed, which is 1.1GHz at both. The clock speed may sound on the low side, but the performance is still higher, due to a new micro-architecture. Especially in multicore tasks, improvement is noticeable.
We have made the upgrade to i5 anyway, because it only cost 50 euros extra. We do not recommend to fully upgrade the MacBook Air with the maximum options, although the price at maximum specs at € 2579 is still quite within limits – for Apple standards then.
The question is whether you need such a souped-up MacBook. That just depends on your use. Many people want to buy a MacBook Air for web browsing, word processing, and email. If you hardly use any creative and graphic applications, then the Core i3 is really good for you. It’s nonsense to spend extra money on a MacBook Pro or pimped Air because of status anxiety. You can also work fine as a professional with an Air.
Graphics power: better, but limited
The fact that Apple has now opted for a 10th generation Ice Lake processor from Intel also means that the graphics performance has been improved. Apple talks about an 80% faster graphics chip. That’s nice now that Apple is trying to get us playing more and more with Apple Arcade and graphic applications for design, photo and video editing are also becoming increasingly accessible. All versions feature Intel Plus graphics, with the i5 and i7 having 25% more processing units. Another reason to spend that 50 euros extra for the i5.
For demanding games, it is better to get a Windows laptop or a MacBook Pro. In terms of thermal design, the Pro is better designed to dissipate heat and will produce less fan noise. The MacBook Air can be quite loud at times. Fortunately, the heatsink of the CPU has become slightly larger and it manages to dissipate the heat quite well. The Air never got too hot to use on your lap.
Battery life: shorter than before
The MacBook Air 2020 has not improved in all respects. According to Apple, you can use all versions of the laptop for 11 hours for web browsing and 12 hours for video playback. In reality, this is especially true if you use the (optimized) apps from Apple itself. Because at iCulture we mainly work online and with web browsers, the difference was clearly visible. With Safari you can easily get through the working day, but with Chrome you still have to look for the charger at the end of the day. This is of course not only due to Apple, but also to the fact that Chrome is not as efficient and requires more RAM than Safari . But it’s good to consider if Chrome is your browser of choice.
On normal working days, we achieved a battery life of 9.5 to 10 hours with mixed use: surfing the web, writing, emailing, editing photos in Photoshop and some other light graphics tasks. We have not tested continuous video viewing; it was a working day after all. Despite our enthusiasm about the many improvements in this MacBook Air, we still have a critical point: the average battery life has become slightly shorter than the predecessors. It is about 10-15% less and that is quite a lot. In return, you get better performance.
Apple includes a 30 Watt charger, with which you can recharge the battery in 2.5 hours. If you are in a hurry, you can use the charger of a MacBook Pro, if you have one. On the positive side, this MacBook holds its charge very well in standby mode.
Who is the MacBook Air 2020 for?
If you are a light computer user, the MacBook Air 2020 in the Core i3 version is a great choice. However, if you want to use your MacBook for longer and you also have plans to use slightly heavier software, we recommend the i5. It doesn’t cost much extra and you have just a little more elbow room.
The Air is an excellent choice for people who are buying a Mac (Book) for the first time. It is also a good time to step in or upgrade, because this year has changed relatively much in terms of performance, price and keyboard compared to last year. You have more options when compiling, although we do not fully understand what the most expensive model with maximum specs is intended for. Nice that it is possible, but rather choose a MacBook pro.
If you’re looking for something in the same price range or even slightly cheaper, there is plenty of choice, such as a Chromebook, Pixelbook or mid-price Windows laptop. But they don’t run on macOS . An extra plus at Apple: you get all productivity software such as Keynote and Pages for free and for your creative expressions you have Garageband and iMovie, also completely free. At Microsoft you have to pay for Office 365 and at Google you pay with your personal data.
With a price tag of $ 999 for the entry-level model, it would have been an even bigger recommendation, but unfortunately the psychologically nice $ 999 price is only valid in the US. It is not entirely fair, because the American price does not include sales tax . If you subtract the VAT from the Dutch price, you will also arrive at a nice price of € 990.91. But that only benefits you if you are a self-employed person or can buy it for business in another way.
Buy this MacBook Air if you:
- An affordable MacBook wants : It’s a great value for money for a laptop that, like all other Apple products, will last a long time. It also keeps its value for a long time.
- Was waiting for the new keyboard : This is the first affordable MacBook with the new scissor keyboard, which is much more reliable and less likely to break.
- Are you ready for a new laptop : the 2020 model has been improved on a considerable number of points and it is therefore a good time to upgrade now.
This MacBook Air is less suitable if you:
- Want to start gaming : in games like Oceanhorn 2, the fan quickly starts working overtime, not to mention heavier games, such as Call of Duty.
- Will work with video : the performance has improved, but if you want to edit video, we think the MacBook Pro is more suitable.
- Want the best color reproduction : if you have to do graphic work, you will rather opt for the MacBook Pro , which has a more accurate color reproduction.
Be careful if you choose the 13-inch MacBook Pro, because there is a good chance that it will receive an update in 2020 with more screen surface ( possibly 14-inch ) and a better keyboard.
- The best MacBook for almost everyone
- Improved keyboard
- Good performance for the lighter tasks
- Touch ID for faster login and transaction approval
- Lower price than before
- More flexibility in specs and upgrade options
- Still relatively wide screen edges (bezels)
- Limited number of connections
- Disappointing 720p webcam
- No Wi-Fi 6
- Not the best battery life
- Not the prettiest screen colors
The MacBook Air is an important part of Apple’s range. It’s for many people’s first foray into a Mac, it’s the cheapest Mac with a screen, it’s the laptop you buy when you’re a college student, and it’s the most natural choice when you’re in an office job. The MacBook Air’s target audience is huge. The device shouldn’t feel too cheap, but it shouldn’t be too expensive either. Performance and price are very important.
In that respect, the MacBook Air 2020 is a bull’s eye. This model has become faster and cheaper, which means that performance and price are good. Add to the fact that this is the first Air with a more reliable keyboard and you know, now is the time to upgrade if you were ready for a new Air.
This is a productivity machine, not a powerhouse. It is designed to be thin and light and the MacBook Air 2020 scores well on that point as well. Apple ticked off many points on the wish list of Apple fans. The fact that the battery life is reduced and there is no Wi-Fi 6 and better webcam are the biggest setbacks. However, for most people, this is the laptop they need.