Last updated: 4 days ago
It has been over a decade since Steve Jobs revealed the original MacBook Air, a laptop so thin he introduced it by pulling it out of an envelope. Apple's smallest laptop continues to fight for the perfect balance between size, performance, and price.
● Intel 10th generation quad-core processors
● Up to 16GB of RAM
● Up to 2TB of flash storage
● Two Thunderbolt 3 ports
● True Tone Retina Display
● Magic Keyboard
● Touch ID
The MacBook Air is Apple's most popular laptop with its decent specs and low entry price. The latest update in 2020 gave it double the processing power with the same long-lasting battery life.
MacBook Air Features
The 2020 model has a 13.3-inch Retina Display with True Tone and P3 color gamut. It has 500 nits of brightness and wide viewing angles.
AppleInsider reviewed the 2020 MacBook Air shortly after release and gave it a 4.5 out of 5.
External displays and other peripherals are connected with two 40 gigabits per second Thunderbolt 3 ports instead of the slower USB 3.2 type C found on Windows laptops. This allows users to connect any USB peripheral, and also has sufficient bandwidth to connect an external GPU or a 5K external display to the laptop, the same way that you can to a MacBook Pro.
The latest MacBook can even connect to 6K displays, including the Pro Display XDR.
The latest MacBook Air now features the new Magic Keyboard first introduced in the 16-inch MacBook Pro. A redesigned scissor mechanism with 1mm of travel means no more sticky keys from previous generations. The new keyboard also included the inverted-T arrow keys.
The previous generation housed a butterfly keyboard, which had multiple updates and changes to attempt to address reliability issues. The butterfly switch was prone to stuck keys or broken mechanisms, which had a higher failure rate than previous scissor-switch designs.
Apple had implemented keyboard repair programs for the butterfly keyboard, but the introduction of the new keyboard seems to be a final admission that there was some issue at hand. Even the latest iPad Pro keyboard uses the new Magic Keyboard design.
The 2018 revision incorporated a Touch ID sensor that can be used for biometric identification instead of entering a password. Touch ID has been retained on the 2019 refresh.
The T2 security chip is a separate piece of custom Apple Silicon that, for some aspects of operation, sits between whichever main Intel processor your Mac has, and macOS. Beyond hosting the Secure Enclave for Touch ID and providing encryption services to macOS, the T2 chip provides a secure boot, which means that the only things that can run at startup are trusted, approved macOS software.
The 2020 MacBook Air features the 10th-generation Intel Core processors with up to 1.2GHz quad-core i7 chipsets. During heavy load, the processors can Turbo Boost up to 3.8GHz for short bursts of speed. Despite the i3 naming, the baseline chips are better than the 9th-generation Intel i5 from the 2019 model.
The 2018 and 2019 models have virtually identical performance. The single-core Geekbench score for both is about 760 single-core performance and 1560 multi-core. In comparison. The 2015 13-inch high-end revision with the i7 processor had a single-core score of 740 and a multi-core score of 1548.
MacBook Air History
The latest update, as defined above, released in 2020. The faster processors, Magic Keyboard, and return to the lower $999 starting price make for a well-rounded machine.
This model also introduced the thinner 15.6mm chassis with three color choices in silver, space gray, and gold. There was only one screen size of 13.3-inches available.
In 2010, Apple released the second-generation MacBook Air with a tapered case and solid-state storage. There were two sizes, an 11-inch and 13-inch model.
This generation was well received and pushed the ultra-book design mainstream, with most competitors introducing near clones to the Air line.
Through each update, more internal memory and faster processors were added. This was the last generation to feature non-retina displays and a MagSafe port.
The 11-inch model was discontinued in 2017.
In 2008 Steve Jobs pulled a MacBook from a small envelope to the delight and astonishment of those watching. It had a 13.3-inch display and was 1.9cm thin.
The lack of a CD-drive was both controversial and revolutionary. It was sacrificed for thinness, and may have been the beginning of Apple's removal of popular I/O for the sake of design and lightness.
MacBook Air Pricing
The tiny MacBook starts at $999. The base model ships with a 1.1GHz i3 processor with turbo speeds up to 3.2GHz, and 256GB of flash storage. A $1299 model comes with a quad-core i5 processor with turbo speeds up to 3.5 GHz and 512GB of flash storage.
The MacBook Air configured with an Intel i7 processor with 512GB of flash storage retails for $1449.