New MacBook Air 2020 review – genius tweaks mean better value than ever


NO other laptop in the world is as instantly recognisable as the MacBook Air – and Apple has just released a new one.

We’ve spent two weeks with the latest and greatest edition of a 12-year-old product, and it’s as loveable as you’d expect.

 The new MacBook Air is as attractive as you'd expect
The new MacBook Air is as attractive as you’d expectCredit: Sean Keach

MacBook Air 2020 – what is it?

The MacBook Air was first unveiled by Steve Jobs in 2008, and it quickly became a cultural icon.

For many, the MacBook Air is the entry-point into the world of Mac.

They just work, for one. But this latest model also costs £999, which is fairly low for a premium “ultrabook”.

The big changes this time around include a much better keyboard, plus boosts to processing power, graphics and storage capacity.

 It has a slim all-in-one design that looks great in any situation
It has a slim all-in-one design that looks great in any situationCredit: Sean Keach

MacBook Air 2020 design – what’s new?

Not much has changed in terms of the MacBook’s raw design.

It retains the classy and elegant all-in-one metal aesthetic seen on the old model.

And it remains extremely light at just 2.8 pounds. It’s easy to lug around.

You can bag one in Space Grey (my personal favourite), Silver or the particularly ritzy Rose Gold.

From any angle – and opened or closed – the MacBook Air looks fabulous.

Put it on any surface and it starts to look like a pricey ornament – something most Windows laptops have failed to achieve.

The laptop has a large 13.3-inch screen, which is just about the perfect size for most general use.

It has a reasonable sharp 2560 x 1600-pixel resolution, which works out at 227 pixels-per-inch.

 Apple has fitted its new MacBook Air with more powerful processors
Apple has fitted its new MacBook Air with more powerful processorsCredit: Sean Keach
 You're paying Apple prices, which means you get premium Apple design – in the form of a lightweight ultrabook
You’re paying Apple prices, which means you get premium Apple design – in the form of a lightweight ultrabookCredit: Sean Keach

Colours are accurate, and brightness and contrast are about as good as it gets with an LED-backlit screen.

It also features Apple’s True Tone tech, which adjusts the colour temperature of the display based on the ambient lighting wherever you are.

The headline design change is the introduction of the new Magic Keyboard.

Apple has encountered some seriously bad press in recent years, as customers and critics poured scorn on the old-style keyboard.

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Late last year, Apple added the new Magic Keyboard on its pricey 16-inch MacBook Air.

And this keyboard has finally cascaded down to Apple’s entry-level MacBook Air, with great effect.

The keys have a refined scissor mechanism and very low travel.

Honestly, the keyboard is a delight.

I spend the bulk of my working days typing, so I appreciate when a keyboard doesn’t make my life harder.

The keys are well-positioned, practically sized, and require minimal effort to tap.

If you’re a student churning out a dissertation – or someone who simply has to type a lot, you’ll be chuffed with the new MacBook Air.

It’s also backlit, which is hardly revolutionary (or rare), but it’s still handy and worth mentioning for anyway prone to burning the midnight oil.

And Apple has built its Touch ID fingerprint-scanning tech into the keyboard, as an added bonus.

It’s handy for quickly unlocking your MacBook or making purchases, and doesn’t get in the way.

 The keys have been redesigned, and now more pleasant to type on
The keys have been redesigned, and now more pleasant to type onCredit: Sean Keach
 Apple is charging £999 for this laptop, which is reasonable value for money given the performance and design on offer
Apple is charging £999 for this laptop, which is reasonable value for money given the performance and design on offerCredit: Sean Keach

MacBook Air 2020 specs, features and performance

The MacBook Pro is the machine for anyone who needs very serious performance.

But that doesn’t mean the MacBook Air isn’t a highly capable machine.

For this model, Apple has fitted it out with the latest 10th-generation Intel processors.

They’re available in the standard dual-core format, or quad-core for the first time on a MacBook Air.

The top-spec model is a quad-core Intel Core i7, which can be boosted up to 3.8GHz.

Apple says its processors are up to two times faster, but that’s Gard to gauge in practical terms.

I used an i3 dual-core model clocked at 1.1GHz, and it worked just fine for daily tasks.

This is not a “pro” laptop and won’t be the choice option for a videographer, for instance.

But I got on with it just fine for work, and it’s more than powerful enough for the likes of students, office workers, and photographers.

 Apple hasn't changed much with this new laptop – but why fix what's not broken?
Apple hasn’t changed much with this new laptop – but why fix what’s not broken?Credit: Sean Keach
 The large 13.3-inch screen is big enough for most users
The large 13.3-inch screen is big enough for most usersCredit: Sean Keach

The laptop is seriously smooth, runs multiple programs across virtual “desktops” just fine, and only starts to squeak if you try something particularly demanding – like visual-heavy gaming.

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Apple has bumped up its Intel Iris Plus graphics, promising 80% faster performance for editing videos or playing games.

But the MacBook Air isn’t really the best option if you’re a hardcore gamer or work in video professionally.

If you want to fling together some holiday footage, you’ll be just fine.

And while you won’t be playing any graphically-intensive games, you’ll get on OK with the likes of The Sims, League of Legends and Fortnite – albeit at low settings.

Apple has doubled the base storage on the MacBook Air, which is now a 256GB SSD.

That’s very fast storage so files load up quickly – and is easily big enough for most users.

However, Apple does let you splash out on more storage, in 512GB, 1TB and 2TB variants. The latter is a first-time offering on the MacBook Air.

Apple provides 8GB of memory as standard. Memory, as opposed to storage, is what handles you’re currently-running files, apps and so on.

The 8GB default is fine for most users, and we’d really only recommend stumping for the 16GB if you’re using the MacBook Air as a real workhorse with intense multi-tasking.

There are two Thunderbolt ports on the side, for charging or connecting external displays.

And you’ve got a 720p FaceTime HD camera on the MacBook Air too.

 The trackpad is large and is a pleasure to use
The trackpad is large and is a pleasure to useCredit: Sean Keach

Battery life is very good, too.

Apple promises 11 hours of wireless web browsing, which sounds about right.

I used it for full days of work without having to charge it, though only just – but that’s probably not normal use.

Most users will come nowhere close to running it down when regularly charging it through the day.

Finally (and it’s important not to overlook this), Apple’s MacBook Air runs on the very impressive macOS.

This is Apple’s laptop/desktop software and is beloved by everyday customers and professionals alike.

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It’s got great features, including a Dark Mode, the Sidecar option for using an iPad as a second screen, and the ability to create multiple “virtual” desktops.

I use Windows and macOS computers every single day for both work and leisure.

And while Windows remains my go-to for gaming, my macOS machines are by far my preferred option when it comes to getting work done.

It’s hard to overstate how enjoyable and easy to use macOS is. It’s a real masterpiece of software design.

 The MacBook Air is one of the best laptops in this price range
The MacBook Air is one of the best laptops in this price rangeCredit: Sean Keach

MacBook Air 2020 review verdict – should I buy one?

Apple’s MacBook Air has been undeniably great for years – and the new model only reinforces that trend.

This is a laptop that looks fantastic, performs slickly, and is extremely easy to pick up and use.

You can (obviously) get Windows laptops for much, much cheaper than this.

But you generally won’t get a laptop that performs to a similar standard (and looks very premium) until very close to the MacBook Air’s price point.

Importantly, the magic of macOS is well worth the Apple premium.

If you have the previous-generation MacBook Air then it’s probably not worth the upgrade. That is, unless you’ve had serious problems with the older keyboard.

For anyone with a very old MacBook Air (which may now be four or five years old) then this is a breath of fresh air.

And if you’re unsure whether to pay extra for a MacBook Pro over this, it’s a worthwhile question.

The specs are now very similar as Apple’s 13-inch MacBook Pro longs for a hardware refresh.

But the MacBook Pro is still – on the whole – a much more powerful machine, with faster processing, a better screen, and more efficient heat management.

The Sun says: Apple’s new MacBook Air is even better value for money than the old model. It’s an elegant laptop that performs excellently. ★★★★★

iPhone 11 enthusiasts queue all night at London’s flagship Apple store for new release

In other news, check out our review of the new iPad Pro.

Take a look at these amazing iPhone tips and tricks.

And read our guide to the hidden secrets of FaceTime on your iPhone.

What do you think of the new MacBook Air? Let us know in the comments!


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