The 2020 MacBook Air
Apple in March 2020 refreshed the MacBook Air, introducing a new Magic Keyboard with scissor switches, faster processors for better CPU and GPU performance, more storage space, and a $999 starting price tag.
The MacBook Air's overall design is unchanged compared to the 2019 MacBook Air, featuring a tapered, wedge-shaped aluminum body with a 13-inch Retina display, slim black bezels, and a Force Touch trackpad. Apple offers the MacBook Air in Space Gray, Silver, and Gold.
With over 4 million pixels and a resolution of 2560x1600, the MacBook Air's display is bright and crisp with vivid images and sharp text. The top of the display features a 720p FaceTime HD camera and a three microphone array. The display supports True Tone, which matches the white balance of the screen to the ambient lighting in the room, resulting in a more natural viewing experience.
The main new feature in the MacBook Air is the new Magic Keyboard, first introduced in the 16-inch MacBook Pro. The Magic Keyboard features a refined scissor mechanism that's more reliable than the previous butterfly mechanism, and it offers up to 1mm of key travel for a stable key feel.
Apple's 2020 MacBook Air is equipped with Intel's 10th-generation processors that offer up to 1.2GHz quad-core Core i7 performance and Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.8GHz. Apple says the new chips provide up to two times faster CPU performance and 80 percent faster graphics performance with Intel Iris Plus Graphics.
Like prior MacBook Air models, the 2020 MacBook Air includes a T2 chip and a Touch ID fingerprint sensor to use in lieu of a password. The T2 chip makes the MacBook Air more secure with an SSD controller for on-the-fly data encryption and a Secure Enclave to ensure a secure boot process. Through the T2 chip, always-on "Hey Siri" functionality is available.
Apple has increased the storage in the MacBook Air and the base model now starts with 256GB of storage space. Up to 2TB of SSD storage is available in total, double the previous 1TB maximum, and RAM can be upgraded to 16GB. For the first time, the MacBook Air supports up to a 6K external display through one of its two Thunderbolt 3 ports.
Other MacBook Air features include stereo speakers and the same long battery life available in the prior model. The MacBook Air's battery lasts for up to 11 hours when browsing the web and up to 12 hours when watching movies.
Pricing on the MacBook Air starts at $999 for a 1.1GHz dual-core 10th-generation Core i3 processor, 8GB RAM, and a 256GB SSD. Higher-end options and built-to-order upgrades are also available.
The new MacBook Air is available to order from Apple's online store and new orders will arrive early next week.
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First impressions for the MacBook Air are largely positive, with reviewers praising the new scissor switch keyboard, the faster 10th-generation chips, and the new $999 starting price point.
We've included some first impressions videos below, and a full set of reviews from media sites can be found in our MacBook Air review roundup.
The 2020 MacBook Air features no design changes compared to the 2019 MacBook Air. It continues to be made from an Apple-designed aluminum alloy that uses 100 percent recycled aluminum and it is available in Silver, Space Gray, and Gold.
The MacBook Air features a traditional wedge shape, tapering from thick to thin toward the front of the device. At its thickest point, the MacBook Air measures in at .63 inches, and at its thinnest point, it measures in at 0.16 inches. It's just a little bit thicker than the 2019 MacBook Pro, which was .61 inches at its thickest point.
The MacBook Air is 11.97 inches long and 8.36 inches wide, and it weighs in at 2.8 pounds.
As with the 2019 model, the 2020 MacBook Air uses a Retina display, a feature that first came to the MacBook Air in 2018. Around the display, there are also slim black bezels, giving the MacBook Air a similar design to the MacBook Pro.
The MacBook Air is equipped with a Retina display that's sharper, crisper, and clearer than the previous non-Retina displays used in the MacBook Air prior to 2018.
It has a 2560 by 1600 resolution with 227 pixels per inch and more than 4 million pixels in total. The display offers 48 percent more color than the previous generation for more lifelike, true to life colors.
The display in the MacBook Air supports True Tone, which is designed to tweak the color of the display to match the lighting in the room.
True Tone works through a multi-channel ambient light sensor that's included in the MacBook Air models, which is able to determine both the brightness of the room and the color temperature.
After detecting the white balance, the MacBook Air is able to adjust both the color and intensity of the display to match the room's lighting for a more natural, paper-like viewing experience that also cuts down on eyestrain.
The 2020 MacBook Air uses the same redesigned Magic Keyboard that was first introduced in the 16-inch MacBook Pro. The Magic Keyboard does away with the butterfly mechanism that Apple has been using since 2015 as it was riddled with issues that led to key failure due to dust and other small particulates.
The scissor mechanism in the MacBook Air's keyboard offers 1mm of key travel and a stable key feel, plus it uses an Apple-designed rubber dome that stores more potential energy for a more responsive key press.
Apple designed the arrow keys on the MacBook Air with an inverted "T" arrangement, which is a departure from the previous design of the MacBook Air keyboard. Apple says the new design makes the arrow keys easier to find without looking down.
The keyboard also features backlit keys controlled by an ambient light sensor to light up the keys in dark rooms.
Apple's 2020 MacBook Air includes a large Force Touch trackpad that has no traditional buttons and is instead powered by a set of Force Sensors, allowing users to press anywhere on the trackpad to get the same response.
A Taptic Engine powered by magnets provides users with tactile feedback when using the trackpad, replacing the feel of a physical button press. The Force Touch trackpad supports a light press, which is used as a regular click, along with a deeper press or "force click" as a separate gesture that does things like offer up definitions for a highlighted word.
Two USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports are included in the MacBook Air. With Thunderbolt 3, the MacBook Air can support 4K, 5K, and 6K displays and connect to eGPUs for faster graphics capabilities when necessary.
6K display support is new to the 2020 MacBook Air and allows it to work with the Pro Display XDR and other 6K displays. The MacBook Air supports a single 6K monitor, a single 5K monitor or two 4K monitors.
Thunderbolt 3 supports transfer speeds of up to 40Gb/s, while in USB-C mode, the ports support USB 3.1 Gen 2 transfer speeds of up to 10Gb/s.
Along with the two Thunderbolt 3 ports, there's a 3.5mm headphone jack on the other side of the device. Other than that, there are no additional ports on the MacBook Air, with Apple having removed the USB-A ports and SD card slot seen in MacBook Air models prior to 2018.
Processor and GPU
The 2020 MacBook Air models are equipped with Intel's 10th-generation Intel Core processors up to 1.2GHz quad-core Core i7 with Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.8GHz and Intel Iris Plus Graphics. This is the first time that Apple has offered a quad-core processor for the MacBook Air.
Apple says that the MacBook Air delivers two times faster CPU performance compared to the previous-generation MacBook Air and 80 percent faster graphics performance.
Benchmarks suggest the MacBook Air with 1.1GHz quad-core Core i5 processor is approximately 76 percent faster than the 2018-2019 MacBook Air models.
In a Geekbench test, the new MacBook Air received a single-core score of 1,047 and a multi-core score of 2,658. Comparatively, the 2018 MacBook Air received a single core score of 790 and a multi-core score of 1628.
Base models of the MacBook Pro ship with 8GB of 3733MHz RAM, but they can be customized with 16GB of RAM.
The MacBook Air features a T2 chip that has a built-in Secure Enclave to protect your Touch ID information, and it also offers on-the-fly data encryption for everything stored on your SSD. The chip is also designed to make sure software loaded when booting up your Mac hasn't been tampered with and is free from malware.
In addition to these security features, the T2, which is a separate little chip in your MacBook Air, enables an always-on "Hey Siri" feature so it listens for the "Hey Siri" command and there's no longer a need to click on the Siri button to activate Siri.
The 2020 MacBook Air has a Touch ID fingerprint sensor that's located next to the function keys at the top of the keyboard. Touch ID is powered by the T2 chip with a Secure Enclave that keeps your fingerprint data and personal information safe.
Touch ID on the MacBook can be used instead of a password, unlocking the Mac when a finger is placed on the sensor. It also replaces a password for password-protected apps, and it can be used to make Apple Pay purchases in Safari.
The MacBook Air features a 49.9-watt-hour lithium battery that lasts for up to 11 hours when browsing the web, and up to 12 hours when using the Apple TV app for watching movie.
The MacBook Air charges over USB-C using an included 30W USB-C power adapter.
The MacBook Air supports 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0. It does not support the newer WiFi 6 (802.11ax) protocol.
Speakers and Microphone
The MacBook Air features stereo speakers with wide stereo sound support for watching Apple TV+ content or playing iOS games and there's a three-array microphone with directional beamforming for FaceTime calls.
There's a 720p HD camera built into the front of the MacBook Air for FaceTime calls. Apple has used a 720p front-facing camera for multiple years now and has not upgraded the quality.
The MacBook Air uses solid stage storage with capacities up to 2TB. Storage in the base level MacBook Air starts at 256GB, which is twice as much as the base starting storage included in the 2019 MacBook Air models.
There are two stock 13.3-inch 2020 MacBook Air configurations available from Apple, in Silver, Space Gray, and Gold:
- $999 - 1.1GHz dual-core 10th-generation Intel Core i3 processor, Intel Iris Plus Graphics, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD.
- $1,299 - 1.1GHz quad-core 10th-generation Intel Core i5 processor, Intel Iris Plus Graphics, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD.
Build to Order Options
RAM, SSD capacity, and processor can be customized when purchasing a 2020 MacBook Air.
Entry-level MacBook Air upgrade options:
- 1.1GHz quad-core Core i5 chip - +$100
- 1.2GHz quad-core Core i7 chip - +$250
- 16GB RAM - +$200
- 512GB SSD - +$200
- 1TB SSD - +$400
- 2TB SSD - +$800
Higher-end MacBook Air upgrade options:
- 1.2GHz quad-core Core i7 chip - +$150
- 16GB RAM - +$200
- 1TB SSD - +$200
- 2TB SSD - +$600
How to Buy
The MacBook Air is available to order from the Apple online store or the Apple Store app, with pricing starting at $999. As of June 2020, Apple is also offering refurbished versions of the new MacBook Air at a 15 percent discount.
Some 2020 MacBook Pro and MacBook Air users have had problems with USB 2.0 accessories that connect to their machines through a USB-C hub or adapter, which is something to be aware of for those who still use USB 2.0 devices.
Complaints suggest that some users have run into problems with disconnects and freezes, and there's no clear pattern that indicates which accessories are affected. Some users have had luck using a Thunderbolt hub to power their devices. Check out our full article for more info.
MacBook Air vs. MacBook Pro vs. iPad Pro
We compared Apple's 2020 MacBook Air, 2020 13-inch MacBook Pro, and the 2020 12.9-inch iPad Pro, all of which have similarities when it comes to performance and functionality. If you're trying to decide which one to purchase, make sure to watch the video below and read our guide.
What's Next for the MacBook Air
Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo believes that the 13-inch MacBook Air will be one of the first Macs to be updated with an Apple Silicon chip, with an update set to come in the fourth quarter of 2020 or the first quarter of 2021.
Apple is said to be working on a range of MacBooks with 5G cellular connectivity, which could launch as early as 2020. The rumor comes from DigiTimes, a site that has a mixed track record when it comes to Apple info.
The site says that Apple has finalized its integrated 5G MacBook design, and it has a 5G transceiver that's more efficient and faster than components used by rivals like Lenovo, Dell, and HP. Apple is said to be using a ceramic antenna board for the improved performance, which could drive up the cost of the 5G MacBook.