When we reviewed the 2018 MacBook Air, a recently revamped version of what had been an older laptop, we found that it was good, but not great. It brought the venerable ultraportable into modern times with a Retina display and Thunderbolt 3, but it also increased the price, switched to a disappointing CPU, made the keyboard a lot worse, and ruled out USB-A and MagSafe.
With the recently announced review of the MacBook Air, it seems like Apple is listening … at least a little. Addresses several of our biggest complaints with the previous model, although not all.
A major CPU jump
In reviewing Apple's 2018 MacBook Air, I regretted that the company went from a CPU with a 15-watt TDP (thermal design power) to one with a 7-watt TDP. There were no configuration options either – everyone got a Core i5-8210Y. The CPU I was expecting, the Core i5-8250U, would have given us twice as many cores and threads and more cache.
This year, Apple is sticking with Intel's super low-power processors. But at least they are significantly better, and you have a few options. The entry level model has a Core i3-1000G4. It's still a dual-core, four-wire CPU, and it has a lower base and increases the clock speed. But it's Intel's new 10th generation "Ice Lake" architecture, which is much faster on a clock-by-clock basis. It also has much newer and faster integrated graphics.
That model probably won't feel much different than the MacBook Air it replaces, but now you have the option to upgrade to a 4-core, 8-core Core i5-1030G4 for just $ 100 more or a Core i7-1060G7 for $ 250 more. Those should finally give the Air the performance boost we've always wanted. In particular, the latest model should offer a nice increase in graphics power.
More storage, better price.
The 2018 MacBook Air was, frankly, too expensive. It was $ 1,199 for 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. In 2019, Apple slightly improved the model and lowered the starting price to $ 1,099 (still too much). 128GB of storage isn't enough, and the upgrade to 256GB brought the price up to $ 1,299.
The new MacBook Air is starting at $ 999, and that's with a 256GB SSD. It is effectively a lower starting price of $ 300. If you agree to pay the above price, you can upgrade the RAM from 8GB to 16GB, or upgrade the SSD to 512GB, or upgrade the CPU, and have a much more pleasant experience.
We used to say you could also spend $ 200 more and get a 13-inch MacBook Pro, which starts at $ 1,299. But now that the Air has a lower starting price and more storage, that's no longer the case. The entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro costs $ 300 more and still only has a 128GB SSD. Time for a storage upgrade there too. Meanwhile, the difference in price and capabilities between Air and MacBook Pro makes a little more sense than it used to.
Quitting the fucking keyboard
When Apple released the new MacBook Air in 2018, it was replacing the last Apple laptop that still used the old one. great scissor switch keyboard with new horrible Keyboard with butterfly mechanism. It was a big discount.
Now Apple is back with the Magic Keyboard, a revival of the old scissor-switch keyboard. It first appeared on the 16-inch MacBook Pro, and the new MacBook Air 2020 is the next laptop to get it. We assume that everyone will, throughout the year.
Apple gets zero points from me by taking the best keyboard on any laptop and screwing it across the entire line of laptops to several years before correcting the course. But at least it is correct the course, and it's easier to recommend updating your MacBook again.
Oh, and the MacBook Air is still the only Mac laptop you can get without the Touch Bar, which is a huge plus in my book; I prefer the physical function keys. However, you still get the handy Touch ID sensor on the right.
I still want USB-A and a better camera
The new MacBook Air looks a lot more than we wanted and expected from its recent redesign, but it still has a few sore points.
Apple is still determined to make each USB port have a USB-C connector. We've been told that the ubiquity of USB-C devices has been around the corner for years, and it's still not happening. Accessory manufacturers continue to ship mice, keyboards, storage devices, microphones, audio interfaces, and many other things with USB-A connectors. Putting a single USB-A port on MacBooks would not be a step back, it would be an acknowledgment that in the wide world of USB devices, that interface is still very widespread, and we shouldn't need a dongle or dock to use them.
Then there is the camera. Oh gosh, that terrible 720p FaceTime camera! Their years behind the curve for modern premium portable cameras. At a minimum, Apple should upload it to 1080p with much better clarity and dynamic range. What we really want is the TrueDepth module of the latest iPhones so that we can log in and authenticate with Face ID, use Memoji in messages (with a macOS update to add it, of course), and enjoy very photo and video quality higher.
You may have noticed that there are currently many more people working from home and holding virtual online meetings.