Hands-On With the New $999 MacBook Air

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Original poster
Apr 12, 2001
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Alongside new iPad Pros last week, Apple also refreshed the MacBook Air, adding more storage, faster 10th-generation processors, and an updated keyboard. We picked up one of the new machines to take a look at some of the upgrades added in the 2020 update.


Design wise, there are no real external changes to the MacBook Air's body, though to accommodate the new keyboard, it's just a bit thicker. It's 0.63 inches thick at its thickest point, up from 0.61 inches.

It still comes in Silver, Space Gray, and Gold, and it uses the same Retina display that was first introduced in the 2018 MacBook Air redesign. Most of what's new is internal, but there is an all-new Magic Keyboard with scissor switches, which is the same keyboard added to the 16-inch MacBook Pro released last October.


Scissor switches are more reliable than butterfly switches and aren't prone to the same failure due to dust and other small particulates. In fact, scissor switch keyboards were used in MacBooks prior to the 2015 and 2016 MacBook and MacBook Pro refreshes that brought us the butterfly keyboard, so Apple is returning to an old favorite.

The new keyboard feels nice with its 1mm travel, but the keys are a bit softer, quieter, and mushier, so for some, it's not going to be as satisfying of a typing experience as the butterfly keyboard, but most people will appreciate the change and the reliability improvements.


There are inverted T arrow keys to make it easier to find them by feel, plus the keys have the same backlighting as the 16-inch MacBook Pro model. Next to the function keys, there's a Touch ID fingerprint sensor for unlocking the Mac with a finger.

The MacBook Air still features just two Thunderbolt 3 ports, but 6K displays are now supported, so it works with Apple's Pro Display XDR if you feel like getting a $5,000 display to go with your $999 machine.

The rest of the changes to the MacBook Air are internal. It uses Intel's 10th-generation chips, maxing out at a quad-core Core i7 option that Apple says doubles CPU performance compared to the previous-generation MacBook Air models.

That Core i7 chip is a high-end upgrade, though, and the base model that we have on hand features a 1.1GHz dual-core 10th-generation Core i3 processor, and performance gains are a lot more modest.


GPU performance with the Intel Iris Plus Graphics is up to 80 percent faster than GPU performance with the previous Intel UHD Graphics 617, which is a bigger jump for the base model.

Apple also boosted the storage, so the MacBook Air now supports up to 2TB storage space and the base model comes with 256GB of storage instead of 128GB of storage, which is a great deal given the new lower $999 starting price. Entry-level machines still come with 8GB RAM, though, and the 16GB upgrade is $200.

With the price drop, storage upgrade, GPU refresh, and new chips, the 2020 MacBook Air is a great entry-level machine ideal for people who need something for office work, web browsing, content consumption, light photo editing, and similar tasks that don't require the power of the MacBook Pro.

For most consumers, the entry-level 2020 MacBook Air is more than adequate, and for a few hundred dollars, it can be futureproofed with some boosted CPU speed and additional RAM.

What do you think of the 2020 MacBook Air refresh? Let us know in the comments.

Article Link: Hands-On With the New $999 MacBook Air
 

jml12286

macrumors member
May 15, 2014
88
42
Denver
Tempted to get rid of my 2016 MBP 15" for this. Just not sure about how hard of a hit in 4k video editing it'll be.
 

jmgregory1

macrumors 68000
Just ordered a base model in Space Grey for one of my kids, to replace the cracked screen 2011 MBA 13” that he had been using at college (until he cracked the screen a few weeks prior to coming home for spring break - that is now extended through the end of the semester...). I would have replaced the screen, but the MBA did its thing for 9 years, and putting more money into it at this point didn’t make sense to me.

We had been looking at buying a late model used MBA or MBP 13”, but this way we were able to get AppleCare+, as well as the education discount, which made buying new easier (and I will get the 3% cash back discount from my Apple Card, which is a nice bonus.
 

triangletechie

Contributor
Apr 21, 2017
606
839
NC
I enjoy typing on the butterfly keyboard. I've had a 2018 MBP since Feb '19 and it's been flawless. I tested out the magic keyboard on the 16" MBP and also had no issue with typing on it
 
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recoil80

macrumors 68030
Jul 16, 2014
2,771
2,344
Tempted to get rid of my 2016 MBP 15" for this. Just not sure about how hard of a hit in 4k video editing it'll be.
would you do it for the new keyboard?
I have the same model but wouldn’t switch. I’d miss the ports on the right and the bigger display. I could consider a 14” model in the future, but for now I don’t see a valid reason to upgrade my MBP. The keyboard is starting to have problems but once I’ll be able to get a Genius Bar appointment I’ll have it fixed.
 

LIVEFRMNYC

macrumors 604
Oct 27, 2009
7,568
8,892
I enjoy typing on the butterfly keyboard. I've had a 2018 MBP since Feb '19 and it's been flawless. I tested out the magic keyboard on the 16" MBP and also had no issue with typing on it
Same here, also have a 2018 MBP and love the keyboard.
 

jml12286

macrumors member
May 15, 2014
88
42
Denver
would you do it for the new keyboard?
I have the same model but wouldn’t switch. I’d miss the ports on the right and the bigger display. I could consider a 14” model in the future, but for now I don’t see a valid reason to upgrade my MBP. The keyboard is starting to have problems but once I’ll be able to get a Genius Bar appointment I’ll have it fixed.
Mainly I'm worried the keyboard will just fail again and price wise the new air is what I would be able to afford after selling this. I just had the keyboard replaced and its good now, but who knows for how long.... And being that its a 2016, that 4 year keyboard repair will run out this year. Thinking of trying to get rid of it while it is still working. I wish they would have come out with a 14" pro cause then I could spend a little more to get the Touch Bar and 4 USB ports. For reliability I can forgo the 15" screen and consider this new Air.
 

rembert

macrumors member
Feb 10, 2009
68
114
Amsterdam area, Netherlands
Tempted to get rid of my 2016 MBP 15" for this. Just not sure about how hard of a hit in 4k video editing it'll be.
Keep the MBP. Spend your money on an external keyboard, mouse and a 4K screen instead. The single core speed of the Air will be your main problem. My 2015 MBP wasn't that much slower with most tasks than my current 16" MBP 2020 i9 due to the fact the single core speed didn't go up that much. With this Air, the single core speed is will be going down compared to your MBP. So, better keep the MBP.
 
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QuarterSwede

macrumors G3
Oct 1, 2005
9,236
1,245
Colorado Springs, CO
If my 2013 i7 8GB 256GB MBA stopped working I’d buy this new one immediately. The MBA is such a nice laptop and I’d love to have a retina screen. Wouldn’t like losing some oft used ports but that’s just the future with Thunderbolt3 and USB-C.
 

Rodney Dangerfield

macrumors member
Jun 29, 2017
83
41


Alongside new iPad Pros last week, Apple also refreshed the MacBook Air, adding more storage, faster 10th-generation processors, and an updated keyboard. We picked up one of the new machines to take a look at some of the upgrades added in the 2020 update.


Design wise, there are no real external changes to the MacBook Air's body, though to accommodate the new keyboard, it's just a bit thicker. It's 0.63 inches thick at its thickest point, up from 0.61 inches.

It still comes in Silver, Space Gray, and Gold, and it uses the same Retina display that was first introduced in the 2018 MacBook Air redesign. Most of what's new is internal, but there is an all-new Magic Keyboard with scissor switches, which is the same keyboard added to the 16-inch MacBook Pro released last October.


Scissor switches are more reliable than butterfly switches and aren't prone to the same failure due to dust and other small particulates. In fact, scissor switch keyboards were used in MacBooks prior to the 2015 and 2016 MacBook and MacBook Pro refreshes that brought us the butterfly keyboard, so Apple is returning to an old favorite.

The new keyboard feels nice with its 1mm travel, but the keys are a bit softer, quieter, and mushier, so for some, it's not going to be as satisfying of a typing experience as the butterfly keyboard, but most people will appreciate the change and the reliability improvements.


There are inverted T arrow keys to make it easier to find them by feel, plus the keys have the same backlighting as the 16-inch MacBook Pro model. Next to the function keys, there's a Touch ID fingerprint sensor for unlocking the Mac with a finger.

The MacBook Air still features just two Thunderbolt 3 ports, but 6K displays are now supported, so it works with Apple's Pro Display XDR if you feel like getting a $5,000 display to go with your $999 machine.

The rest of the changes to the MacBook Air are internal. It uses Intel's 10th-generation chips, maxing out at a quad-core Core i7 option that Apple says doubles CPU performance compared to the previous-generation MacBook Air models.

That Core i7 chip is a high-end upgrade, though, and the base model that we have on hand features a 1.1GHz dual-core 10th-generation Core i3 processor, and performance gains are a lot more modest.


GPU performance with the Intel Iris Plus Graphics is up to 80 percent faster than GPU performance with the previous Intel UHD Graphics 617, which is a bigger jump for the base model.

Apple also boosted the storage, so the MacBook Air now supports up to 2TB storage space and the base model comes with 256GB of storage instead of 128GB of storage, which is a great deal given the new lower $999 starting price. Entry-level machines still come with 8GB RAM, though, and the 16GB upgrade is $200.

With the price drop, storage upgrade, GPU refresh, and new chips, the 2020 MacBook Air is a great entry-level machine ideal for people who need something for office work, web browsing, content consumption, light photo editing, and similar tasks that don't require the power of the MacBook Pro.

For most consumers, the entry-level 2020 MacBook Air is more than adequate, and for a few hundred dollars, it can be futureproofed with some boosted CPU speed and additional RAM.

What do you think of the 2020 MacBook Air refresh? Let us know in the comments.

Article Link: Hands-On With the New $999 MacBook Air
No WiFi-6 = No purchase
 

Saturn007

macrumors 6502
Jul 18, 2010
405
134
Interesting the MR dude prefers butterfly to these new keyboards, reliability aside
Ah! Time to re-read what he wrote! He didn't say that *he* preferred it, just that some do. From the review:

“The new keyboard feels nice with its 1mm travel, but the keys are a bit softer, quieter, and mushier, so for some, it's not going to be as satisfying of a typing experience as the butterfly keyboard, but most people will appreciate the change and the reliability improvements.”

I was also glad to read that it is quieter!
 

thadoggfather

macrumors G4
Oct 1, 2007
11,224
8,486
Ah! Time to re-read what he wrote! He didn't say that *he* preferred it, just that some do. From the review:

“The new keyboard feels nice with its 1mm travel, but the keys are a bit softer, quieter, and mushier, so for some, it's not going to be as satisfying of a typing experience as the butterfly keyboard, but most people will appreciate the change and the reliability improvements.”

I was also glad to read that it is quieter!
but in the video he said he preferred butterfly I’m pretty sure

Obviously keyboard preference is a ymmv thing
 
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