- The biggest improvement to Apple’s new MacBook Air is its Magic Keyboard, which represents a much-needed upgrade over the butterfly mechanism keyboard found on older Apple laptops.
- The MacBook Air has gotten some performance improvements, additional storage, and a slightly lower price – all qualities that make it a more formidable competitor to Windows rivals.
- It’s probably the right choice for most Mac users looking for a new general purpose laptop that doesn’t need the extra power provided by the pricier MacBook Pro.
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Apple gave a much-needed update to its MacBook Air lineup this week with the launch of its 2020 model, which brings fresh Intel 10th-generation processors, a slightly lower starting price, and most importantly – a brand-new Magic keyboard just like the one on the 16-inch MacBook Pro it launched last year.
That last point is especially important, because it’s the one factor that prevented me from upgrading my ageing 2015-era MacBook Air until this point, and I’m sure many other Mac users have felt the same way. If you haven’t been following the multi-year saga surrounding Apple’s butterfly keyboard, allow me to summarize:
Starting in 2015 with the launch of its now-discontinued 12-inch MacBook, Apple launched a keyboard with an entirely new design that it called the butterfly mechanism. These thinner keyboards helped Apple keep the design profile of its laptops super slim, but over the years customers complained about keys getting stuck and simply not registering when tapped. Apple tried to remedy the situation by launching free keyboard repair programs for affected users, but finally decided to move forward with a new keyboard design in 2019 based on its Magic Keyboard for Mac desktops.
I haven’t been able to spend much time using the new MacBook Air just yet. But after using it as my main work computer for nearly a full day, I can say that this feels like the upgrade a lot of Mac fans have probably been waiting for, mostly thanks to its significantly improved keyboard and lower price.
The new MacBook Air runs on a dual-core 10th generation Intel processor with the option to upgrade to a quad-core, is available with 8GB or 16GB of memory, and has storage options ranging from 256GB to 2TB. There’s also a TouchID sensor for logging into your laptop with your fingerprint, two USB-C ports, and Apple claims its battery should last for 11 hours on a single charge. The MacBook Air starts at $US1,000 for the base model, which includes a dual-core Intel Core i3 processor, 8GB of memory, and 256GB of storage. That’s a minor price cut compared to last year’s model, which began at $US1,100.
Here’s a brief look at what it’s been like to use it for the past day.
The keyboard is a major improvement.
The new Magic Keyboard on the MacBook Air is just as comfortable and satisfying as I remember it being on the 16-inch MacBook Pro when I reviewed it last year. The improved key travel provides much more feedback and depth to the typing experience, and it’s generally much quieter than some older MacBook Pro models.
Issues aside, the butterfly keyboard felt flat, stiff, and noisy even when it worked properly, and the Magic Keyboard mitigates all of those concerns.
As expected, the new MacBook Air has the same lightweight design and Retina display that have made the MacBook Air popular so far.
Weighing 2.8 pounds, the MacBook Air is slightly lighter and thinner than the 3.02-pound, 13-inch MacBook Pro, making it ideal for those looking for a laptop that they can easily carry with them regularly.
The MacBook Air also has a 2560 x 1600 resolution display just like the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Apple’s True Tone technology, which enables the colour temperature to adapt to the surrounding light for a warmer look.
During my brief time using the MacBook Air so far, I found that the display looked plenty sharp and crisp with wide viewing angles for comfortably reading, browsing photos, and watching video. It’s not quite as bright as the MacBook Pro’s display, but the difference is negligible.
The True Tone support will be particularly noticeable for those upgrading from an older MacBook laptop; the screens on my older work-issued MacBook Pro and five-year-old MacBook Air looked blueish in comparison.
Choosing between the new MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro
The MacBook Air’s lower price, improved keyboard, and lightweight design probably make it the best Mac laptop for most people, especially students and those who really only need a basic laptop for browsing the web, streaming media, and writing papers.
The MacBook Pro offers a bit more power with higher-clocked processors starting at the Core i5 level, and Apple’s Touch Bar – i.e. a small touch screen strip that replaces the row of function keys just above the keyboard, offering shortcuts that may change depending on what you’re doing. It’s a nice addition, but certainly not a must-have.
All told, while the MacBook Air was tempting before, its butterfly keyboard has always made me feel like I was making a compromise by buying it. The new Magic Keyboard, plus the lower price, now make it a much more worthy rival to Windows rivals like the Dell XPS 13, Business Insider’s current best pick for the best overall laptop, and the HP Envy 13t.