MacBook Air (2020) review | Macworld

The MacBook Air is Apple’s best-loved and best-selling laptop. It’s thin, light, powerful enough for most people, and it’s the least expensive option in Apple’s laptop lineup.

Apple finally brought the MacBook Air into the modern Mac era in 2018 with the addition of USB-C, Touch ID, a Retina display, and the removal of MagSafe and USB-A. But that laptop also ditched the old scissor-switch keyboard for the much-maligned butterfly keyboard, and boosted the starting price to $1,199 without giving you more storage.

In 2019, Apple knocked $100 off the price and added True Tone to the display, but that was it. It’s a fine laptop, but not a particularly good deal. This year, with faster processors, double the starting storage, the new Magic Keyboard, and a $999 starting price, the MacBook Air is back to being the great deal it was before.

New processors—plural!

One of our gripes with the 2018 and 2019 MacBook Air is that it featured an Intel Core i5-8210Y, and only that one processor. It was hardly an upgrade over the previous generation except that it offered better graphics performance. If you wanted more muscle, you were out of luck, as Apple offered no other processor options.

The new 2020 MacBook Air uses Intel’s new 10th-generation “Ice Lake” processors, which feature a new microarchitecture. All you need to know is that the clock speeds are lower but performance is generally higher, especially graphics performance.

At the $999 starting price, you get a Core i3-1000NG4, a dual-core processor which is a little on the pokey side. $100 more nets you a Core i5-1030NG7, a quad-core processor that offers a significant speed boost across the board. Another $150 gets you a Core i7-1060NG7 which is faster still, but probably not worth the price for most people.

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The quad-core Core i5 is significantly faster than the processor in the 2018 and 2019 MacBook Air.

Apple offers two standard configurations. One costs $999 and gives you the Core i3, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage. The other, at $1,299, is the one we reviewed; it still has 8GB of RAM but upgrades you to that quad-core Core i5 processor and doubles the starting storage to 512GB. It’s probably the sweet spot for most users. You can upgrade to 16GB of RAM for $200 at the time of purchase, but it’s not upgradable after the fact. There are also 1TB and 2TB storage options.

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Single-threaded performance is higher, but it’s multi-threaded and GPU performance where the new Core i5 really shine.

Our benchmarks show a boost in single-core processor speed of around 20 percent over the 2018 and 2019 MacBook Air, and multi-threaded processor performance of anywhere from 40 to 70 percent higher. This isn’t a computer you’ll want to do serious high-end video editing with every day, but it’s plenty fast for most people.

Battery life that gets the job done

Battery life on the 2018/2019 MacBook Air was just as good as the old MacBook Air—an impressive…

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