MacBook Air 2020: I think Apple is making a decision...

bill-p

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Jul 23, 2011
1,678
205
So by now, I think we have all seen how the MacBook Air 2020 is thermal throttling. Despite all of the other good things going for it, I don't think Apple spent that much time on designing the machine. And perhaps its release coincided with the iPad Pro for a reason: Apple wanted to "benchmark" how the Mac does against the iPad.

The target demographic for the MacBook Air and the iPad Pro happens to be college kids. And if we take a step back, what do college kids need?

1. Light documentation needs... probably some word and spreadsheet processing, plus maybe the occasional slideshow presentation. Both the Mac and iPad should be able to achieve this now.
2. Taking notes. I'd also say the Mac and iPad are on equal footing here, but perhaps the iPad is a bit better because it has the Pencil.
3. Programming, engineering, etc... these are probably very specific use cases for science and engineering students. They'll still want a Mac over an iPad for this, but... arguably, they might as well go for one of the cheaper Windows offerings. Those are at a price point where Apple is not making any sizable amount of profits anymore, so it's looking pretty likely that Apple is just abandoning the idea altogether. i.e.: Apple is not trying to make a "cheap" Mac computer anymore, if they ever tried to do that at all (MacBook Air 11.6 anyone?).
4. Light gaming. This is a major landslide win for the iPad. I love my MacBook but... it's really not a gaming device. The iPad is a gaming device, though, and it's far better than the Mac when it comes to this specific use case.
5. Art, creative, photography, videography, etc... where do these stack up now? I know professional photographers who just have an iPad Pro and then a Mac Pro at home. They had MacBooks in the past but ever since the iPad Pro came out and they made the switch, they figured the iPad was good enough for on-the-go light editing work, and nothing would beat their workstation at the studio anyways. Also going with the iPad Pro saved them roughly 2-3 lbs in the backpack. This is not to say the iPad dominates the MacBook when it comes to this usage specifically, but IMHO... it's a close call. The iPad certainly does have a much nicer screen than the MacBook Air, though... it's got higher color accuracy, higher brightness, higher refresh rate, and it's very interactive.
6. The MacBook Air 2020 still lags behind the iPad Pro 2018 in raw performance, and that's not even counting thermal throttling.

So I am inclined to believe Apple is releasing both of them this time as a "benchmark" to see which one does better, and perhaps they may "axe" the MacBook Air in the future when they have confirmed it for themselves that the iPad Pro squarely beats the MacBook Air when it comes to sales. If that was not the case, they would have spent more effort into this MacBook Air revision and at least given it better thermal control.

Also this is not looking good for the 13" MBP, which is also now getting too close to the MacBook Air for comfort. Will there be a 14" MBP? Maybe. Will I buy one? Absolutely. Will it be "better" than an iPad Pro in every way? Hm... it depends on whether or not Apple wants to spend that effort, or if they will make it so that the MacBook Pro 16" is the only portable "pro" MacBook, and then everything under that line will be overtaken by the iPad Pro.

TL;DR: it seems to me that Apple is slowly "abandoning" lower-end MacBooks in favor of the iPad Pro. So the title of the thread is a bit ironic: Apple isn't really trying to make a decision, they already made the decision.
 

cygy2k

macrumors member
Jun 13, 2005
53
54
Some of you seriously overthink things. There isn't some grand conspiracy for everything, nor is there always a million buyers that want something just how you think it should be.

They built a laptop with the best components for price they could (for their desired markup), while being able to get to a lower MSRP. They didn't make it big and bulky to withstand 100% CPU load, they designed it with enough speed for spurts of high CPU usage for the mass market.

If you want something you can fully tax all the time, you aren't their intended market for the MBA, you by definition fall into the MBP target market. The MBA is a general-use laptop for the 80%, the MBP is the higher-performance laptop for the demanding users.

I can't figure out how this is so hard to understand. It's economics 101 - different markets require different things.
 

bill-p

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Jul 23, 2011
1,678
205
They did not have to make it bigger to withstand 100% CPU load. They could just throw in a heatsink. A heatsink that even the 2015 MacBook Air had.

And they did in fact make this 2020 MacBook Air slightly thicker than the 2018 MacBook Air to accommodate the new keyboard so it's not like they are opposed to the idea of making it thicker.

This is not some grand conspiracy. Apple did something similar to this recently as well: they discontinued the 12" MacBook.

How long will it be before they discontinue the MacBook Air?
 

cygy2k

macrumors member
Jun 13, 2005
53
54
Well you should certainly apply to be lead engineer at Apple as I'm sure he's never heard of a heatpipe (it does have a heatsink, actually a larger one than last year's model).

I'm not saying it wouldn't be better with a heatpipe, I'm just saying they made the choice and you have a choice to buy or not to buy, but quit bitching about conspiracies to kill of products when the evidence is all to the contrary. This is just like people talking about the Mac Mini being killed for years, or the iPad mini.
 

KPOM

macrumors G5
Oct 23, 2010
14,564
3,111
They did not have to make it bigger to withstand 100% CPU load. They could just throw in a heatsink. A heatsink that even the 2015 MacBook Air had.

And they did in fact make this 2020 MacBook Air slightly thicker than the 2018 MacBook Air to accommodate the new keyboard so it's not like they are opposed to the idea of making it thicker.

This is not some grand conspiracy. Apple did something similar to this recently as well: they discontinued the 12" MacBook.

How long will it be before they discontinue the MacBook Air?
They discontinued the 12” MacBook (my favorite, incidentally) since apparently it didn’t sell as well as expected and they couldn’t see a future for it with Intel’s roadmap. The MacBook used 5W processors, and now Intel’s lowest power chips are the 9/10W models in the current MacBook Air.

The MacBook Air chassis did seem like overkill for the 7W Amber Lake in the 2018/2019 models, but now it makes sense. They were designing it for the 9/10W 10th generation chip and beyond.
 

turbineseaplane

macrumors 603
Mar 19, 2008
5,936
8,858
I honestly think that the problem for Apple was that there was a time period where the MBA could punch way above its class and many of us still sort of long for that.

How it’s designed now is likely how it “should be” from a pricing and marketing standpoint....

...but it does bum you out if you are a user who wants thin, light and powerful...and the MBA is very much in the “pick two out of those three“ camp these days.

I really believe there will one day be an ARM MacBook that will take all that custom silicon power and blow away anything we’ve seen from the Intel thin, light and powerful macOS class devices to this point.
 

bill-p

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Jul 23, 2011
1,678
205
The MacBook Air chassis did seem like overkill for the 7W Amber Lake in the 2018/2019 models, but now it makes sense. They were designing it for the 9/10W 10th generation chip and beyond.
But obviously it's not for a 12W chip. Apple's decision to include the i5 and i7 quad-core configurations is pretty damning: they want the MacBook Air and the iPad Pro to go toe-to-toe and see which one people prefer.

Also in terms of sales, I doubt the MacBook Air will be able to win over the iPad so it is now in basically the same situation as the 12" MacBook back then. "Not selling well enough" is relative, after all.

I really believe there will one day be an ARM MacBook that will take all that custom silicon power and blow away anything we’ve seen from the Intel thin, light and powerful macOS class devices to this point.
Yeah, I'm starting to think Apple wants the iPad to be "it". It's clear they want to reserve MacOS for the workstation-class devices like the 16" MacBook Pro (maybe the upcoming 14" one?) and the Mac Pro. Mac Mini has also gotten a massive jump in price. I still remember back in the days when I could get a Mac Mini for $499.
 

KPOM

macrumors G5
Oct 23, 2010
14,564
3,111
But obviously it's not for a 12W chip. Apple's decision to include the i5 and i7 quad-core configurations is pretty damning: they want the MacBook Air and the iPad Pro to go toe-to-toe and see which one people prefer.

Also in terms of sales, I doubt the MacBook Air will be able to win over the iPad so it is now in basically the same situation as the 12" MacBook back then. "Not selling well enough" is relative, after all.



Yeah, I'm starting to think Apple wants the iPad to be "it". It's clear they want to reserve MacOS for the workstation-class devices like the 16" MacBook Pro (maybe the upcoming 14" one?) and the Mac Pro. Mac Mini has also gotten a massive jump in price. I still remember back in the days when I could get a Mac Mini for $499.
The current chips are rated 9-10W.
The iPad has long outperformed the MacBook and MacBook Air. Heck, it gives the quad core 13” Pro a run for its money. Apple priced the Air to sell.
 

Saturn007

macrumors 6502
Jul 18, 2010
405
134
Isn't the MacBook Pro the thin, light, and powerful choice?

After all, it barely weighs more than the MBA does!

Of course, one has to put up with the Touch Bar and the front rectangular edge that gouges one's palms!

Loved the size, lightweight form factor of the 12” MacBook. An elegant laptop and truly worthy of an Air moniker...
 
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deeddawg

macrumors G3
Jun 14, 2010
8,431
2,346
US
Apple's decision to include the i5 and i7 quad-core configurations is pretty damning: they want the MacBook Air and the iPad Pro to go toe-to-toe and see which one people prefer.
Easily done using a bunch of focus groups. No need for a Vast Cupertino Conspiracy. :D
 

AppliedMicro

macrumors 6502a
Aug 17, 2008
610
44
1. Light documentation needs... probably some word and spreadsheet processing, plus maybe the occasional slideshow presentation. Both the Mac and iPad should be able to achieve this now.
...as does the low-end iPad (non-Pro), at a fraction of the Pro's price?

2. Taking notes. I'd also say the Mac and iPad are on equal footing here, but perhaps the iPad is a bit better because it has the Pencil.
...though one could just as well easily use the iPad (non-Pro) at a fraction of the Pro's price?

Especially since we're...

Apple is not trying to make a "cheap" Mac computer anymore, if they ever tried to do that at all (MacBook Air 11.6 anyone?).
...talking about price point ("cheap") here:
I believe they've just released one of the most affordable mobile Macs (at sane specs) ever. Or in a long time, at least.

5. Art, creative, photography, videography, etc... where do these stack up now? I know professional photographers who just have an iPad Pro and then a Mac Pro at home. They had MacBooks in the past but ever since the iPad Pro came out and they made the switch, they figured the iPad was good enough for on-the-go light editing work, and nothing would beat their workstation at the studio anyways. Also going with the iPad Pro saved them roughly 2-3 lbs in the backpack.
I honestly fail a bit to see the relevance to the MacBook Air (in specific) here?
Surely these creative professionals were and still are a demographic that is targeted by (and largely buying) the Pro Macbooks, of any?

LOL it's not that deep. Macbook Air is meant for a certain segment of the market, and IPP for another. Sometimes there is overlap. That's it.
I believe the MacBook Air demographic would - if and when considering an iPad rather consider the low-end iPad as well (by a great majority), not the iPad Pro.
 

kreasonos

macrumors 6502
Dec 4, 2013
337
305
I think the new MBA is amazing and I can't wait to buy one. I'm just holding out until this corona virus stuff calms down and the economy gets back up to speed. I don't want to make any big purchases when work is a little uncertain right now.
 
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TonyC28

macrumors 68000
Aug 15, 2009
1,652
4,883
USA
Interesting theory. One concern I have in making the jump from MacBook Air to iPad for full time use is the life expectancy. I currently use a 2012 MBA at home that pretty much works fine for about 90% of what I do. Could I expect the same longevity out of an iPad?
 

jjhoekstra

macrumors regular
Apr 23, 2009
198
17
I wonder how many people have a laptop, phone and an iPad, I am sure that is what they really want!
I actually use: an iPhone, IPP, 15" MBP, and 12" MB. They all have there own use-case depending on the situation. Lots of concentrated/serious reading and taking notes: usually the MB12 - just some reading and music: IPP - software-development using Eclipse: MBP15 - iPone: always there
I am totally happy with this arrangement. I aso do not update the MB12 so that 32bit software is still available, as not all software relevant to me has been converted.
If I would have to reduce, I am not certain whether the MB12 or the IPP would go. For actual work, the MB12 was till now simply more efficient. But with the support of a mouse and keyboard on the IPP I am not so sure anymore.
 

kitenski

macrumors 6502
Jan 30, 2008
257
55
Leeds, UK
I actually use: an iPhone, IPP, 15" MBP, and 12" MB.
Interesting, cheers for sharing! Presumably 12" MB not powerful enough for SW dev and MBP too big/heavy for reading and music?? Presumably IPP could do that as well though? Generally interested I've got an aged Windows desktop I'm considering upgrading to a Macbook at some point.
 

Mainsail

macrumors 65816
Sep 19, 2010
1,403
1,362
I think the OP raises an interesting question. The MBA and iPad are starting to overlap more and more. College student adoption of iPad is critical. From my discussions with my college kids, the MBA and Surface are kings on campus. They see very few iPads. I know Apple wants us to believe all these students are reading text books and taking notes on iPads, but according to my 3 college students it just ain’t happening. With the introduction of The magic keyboard trackpad For iPad, Apple might have closed an important gap, but they are going to have to offer a package to students that’s $899 with keyboard and pencil. Right now the base 12.9in iPad plus magic keyboard trackpad and pencil is over $1,475. Even if the student gets the base 11in iPad, you are talking about $1,225. I think most students will just buy a New MBA with student discount for $899.
 
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Mainsail

macrumors 65816
Sep 19, 2010
1,403
1,362
Quite amazing to think students are mostly using "premium" products vs budget ones!!
Well, the way I look at it is that a base MBA cost $899 with student discount. You can probably get a decent windows laptop for $500. So, let’s say $400 delta.

For my older kids, their MacBooks got them through 4 years of college, and they continue to use them after graduation. Many college student invest well north of $100K on their 4 year degree. So, $400 premium for the most important tool a student uses in this giant investment doesn’t seem to be that unreasonable.
 

kitenski

macrumors 6502
Jan 30, 2008
257
55
Leeds, UK
Well, the way I look at it is that a base MBA cost $899 with student discount. You can probably get a decent windows laptop for $500. So, let’s say $400 delta.

For my older kids, their MacBooks got them through 4 years of college, and they continue to use them after graduation. Many college student invest well north of $100K on their 4 year degree. So, $400 premium for the most important tool a student uses in this giant investment doesn’t seem to be that unreasonable.
yes good points!
 

Babo1956

macrumors newbie
Mar 24, 2020
1
0
So by now, I think we have all seen how the MacBook Air 2020 is thermal throttling. Despite all of the other good things going for it, I don't think Apple spent that much time on designing the machine. And perhaps its release coincided with the iPad Pro for a reason: Apple wanted to "benchmark" how the Mac does against the iPad.

The target demographic for the MacBook Air and the iPad Pro happens to be college kids. And if we take a step back, what do college kids need?

1. Light documentation needs... probably some word and spreadsheet processing, plus maybe the occasional slideshow presentation. Both the Mac and iPad should be able to achieve this now.
2. Taking notes. I'd also say the Mac and iPad are on equal footing here, but perhaps the iPad is a bit better because it has the Pencil.
3. Programming, engineering, etc... these are probably very specific use cases for science and engineering students. They'll still want a Mac over an iPad for this, but... arguably, they might as well go for one of the cheaper Windows offerings. Those are at a price point where Apple is not making any sizable amount of profits anymore, so it's looking pretty likely that Apple is just abandoning the idea altogether. i.e.: Apple is not trying to make a "cheap" Mac computer anymore, if they ever tried to do that at all (MacBook Air 11.6 anyone?).
4. Light gaming. This is a major landslide win for the iPad. I love my MacBook but... it's really not a gaming device. The iPad is a gaming device, though, and it's far better than the Mac when it comes to this specific use case.
5. Art, creative, photography, videography, etc... where do these stack up now? I know professional photographers who just have an iPad Pro and then a Mac Pro at home. They had MacBooks in the past but ever since the iPad Pro came out and they made the switch, they figured the iPad was good enough for on-the-go light editing work, and nothing would beat their workstation at the studio anyways. Also going with the iPad Pro saved them roughly 2-3 lbs in the backpack. This is not to say the iPad dominates the MacBook when it comes to this usage specifically, but IMHO... it's a close call. The iPad certainly does have a much nicer screen than the MacBook Air, though... it's got higher color accuracy, higher brightness, higher refresh rate, and it's very interactive.
6. The MacBook Air 2020 still lags behind the iPad Pro 2018 in raw performance, and that's not even counting thermal throttling.

So I am inclined to believe Apple is releasing both of them this time as a "benchmark" to see which one does better, and perhaps they may "axe" the MacBook Air in the future when they have confirmed it for themselves that the iPad Pro squarely beats the MacBook Air when it comes to sales. If that was not the case, they would have spent more effort into this MacBook Air revision and at least given it better thermal control.

Also this is not looking good for the 13" MBP, which is also now getting too close to the MacBook Air for comfort. Will there be a 14" MBP? Maybe. Will I buy one? Absolutely. Will it be "better" than an iPad Pro in every way? Hm... it depends on whether or not Apple wants to spend that effort, or if they will make it so that the MacBook Pro 16" is the only portable "pro" MacBook, and then everything under that line will be overtaken by the iPad Pro.

TL;DR: it seems to me that Apple is slowly "abandoning" lower-end MacBooks in favor of the iPad Pro. So the title of the thread is a bit ironic: Apple isn't really trying to make a decision, they already made the decision.
I don't know if this plays into your overall thesis, but I wonder: Why is the base chip a dual core i3 @ 1.1 GHz instead of at least dual core i5 @ 1.4GHz, which was the base chip in the 2014 model? Isn't this going backwards, or do I misunderstand something? Thank you.
 

kreasonos

macrumors 6502
Dec 4, 2013
337
305
Well, the way I look at it is that a base MBA cost $899 with student discount. You can probably get a decent windows laptop for $500. So, let’s say $400 delta.

For my older kids, their MacBooks got them through 4 years of college, and they continue to use them after graduation. Many college student invest well north of $100K on their 4 year degree. So, $400 premium for the most important tool a student uses in this giant investment doesn’t seem to be that unreasonable.
My 13" MBP got me through college as well!
 
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bill-p

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Jul 23, 2011
1,678
205
I believe the MacBook Air demographic would - if and when considering an iPad rather consider the low-end iPad as well (by a great majority), not the iPad Pro.
Yeah, but that's my point exactly: the iPad is quickly becoming "the computer" that Apple offers to people at the <$1000 price point. It doesn't matter if it's the "pro" or the "non-pro" iPad. You can take away the "Pro" and my statements still stand.

I don't know if this plays into your overall thesis, but I wonder: Why is the base chip a dual core i3 @ 1.1 GHz instead of at least dual core i5 @ 1.4GHz, which was the base chip in the 2014 model? Isn't this going backwards, or do I misunderstand something? Thank you.
What processor Apple includes in the MacBook Air is irrelevant because recent teardowns show they haven't paid enough attention to thermal. So the MacBook Air since 2018 has not been able to reach the maximum performance that the chip is capable of.

And whether it's actually "going backwards" or not, my statements still stand: Apple seems to be pitting the MacBook Air against the iPad Pro to see which one will survive moving forward.
 

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