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REVIEW: New Apple MacBook Air A Welcome Refresh

The Apple MacBook Air (2020) has deployed a suite of next-generation smarts onto a product that consumers, especially youth, have always loved. With more speed, double the storage and a Magic Keyboard, Apple has breathed new life into a line which craved refreshment.

The MacBook Air (2020) (A$1,599) resembles the same external design as its predecessor, now made with 100% recycled aluminium, and its recognisable ultra-thin tapered wedge.

It’s also the first of its kind to incorporate the new Magic Keyboard, replacing the much-complained Butterfly Keyboard. The former was slammed for frequent debris lodgement and stuck keys. Front the moment you place fingers to pads, it’s clear the Magic Keyboard is a delight. It’s a pleasure to type upon, and a reliable surface for blogging, writing and professional document creation. Apple asserts the redesign mitigates former flaws.

It’s the same mechanism implemented on the next-gen 16-inch MacBook Pro. T-cursor keys make for a pleasurable typing experience, congruent with the premium Apple aesthetics.

Additional points go to the large Force Touch trackpad with virtual haptic feedback, which is just really nice to use.

Renowned for its portability, the ultra-thin (1.29 kg) MacBook Air offers a 13.3-inch LED screen, headphone jack and two Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports. New to this year’s model is around double the standard SSD memory (256GB) with speed up to 2TB.

Graphic processing claims to be around 80% faster, appealing to the new generation of content creators and social media influencers. The 2020 MacBook Air has a boost of processing power courtesy of 10th Gen Intel Core, configurable up to an i7.

It’s important to note, the Air has never sought to erode the Pro, and fulfils its mandate as a reliable day-to-day laptop for business and study. The 2020 version does allow you to push it comparatively more than its predecessor, but mid-range video editing and gaming does quickly trigger the fan, reflecting heated parts. 

As a writer, I could handle many internet tabs and multitasking without freezing, but I do not recommend the device for a heavy multimedia workload – it’s not aimed for this, go the Pro.

Entertainment is a pleasurable experience, visually and audibly, and there were very few moments when the laptop heated up whilst watching Netflix or YouTube.

A notable con which reduces effectiveness for business usage is a comparatively poor webcam (720p). In the COVID19 climate of frequent Zoom meetings, it’s a shame the webcam pales in comparison to other similarly priced non-Apple laptops. Picture quality is fine, but becomes a touch grainy without ample natural light. Personally, there were moments I swapped to another laptop for important Zoom meetings where I felt the Air would not project the ‘virtual first impression’ I desired.

Audio component revamps produce a brilliant entertainment offering, pleasurable for both Netflix and e-course videos. It can’t be compared to the new MacBook Pro (justified by price), but its is a notable upgrade versus its predecessor.

Portability is reliable via a 7 – 10 hour battery life, used with basic day-to-day computing tasks. It’s not the best on the market, but the ultra-thin nature of the product leaves enough space for a charger in your work bag without adding too much weight.

Concerning bulk, it’s important to note the requirement of a dongle for most connection points (e.g. non-USB-C). I highly recommend buying a multi-prong dongle. The Air is definitely best used as a portable device, with its lack of ports a hindrance when seeking to connect multiple display screens, or even wireless mice/keyboards.

For users stuck in the Apple world, AirDrop functionality often forgives a multitude of hindrances, with the Air a reliable generalist laptop for those who prefer ecosystem singularity from phone to notebook.

Unfortunately, the product does not offer support for Wi-Fi 6 which does limit its future proofing versus other new non-Apple notebooks about to hit the market.

Overall, the MacBook Air (2020) is a reliable generalist laptop that offers access to Apple’s software ecosystem and trademark aesthetics without the price-tag of a Pro. It fulfils the needs of freelancers, students and professionals who crave a light-weight portable Apple notebook for basic computing, and do not require the capabilities of more robust multimedia processing (or an excellent webcam).

Apple has offered Air consumers more bang for their buck with a slew of internal upgrades – especially the Magic Keyboard – increasing its value proposition in a competitive marketplace, without imposing a notable price hike.

RATING: 7/10

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