Apple Macbook Air 2020: Smaller, cheaper and mostly better4 min read . Updated: 29 Jul 2020, 10:43 AM IST
- The entry-level variant covers most users. It has the same or more storage with a 256GB SSD inside and 8GB RAM
- Apple had built the 2020 Air for a pre-covid world and its webcam is a lowly 720p mess, not the best for the increased number of video calls these days
The 2020 edition of the Macbook Air brings component upgrades and it is also cheaper than its predecessor. The 2020 edition is part of Apple’s drive to put the new Magic Keyboard on all its devices, an important change since the company received criticism over the older butterfly keyboards. You also get upgraded processors and 256GB storage on the base variant.
Now, being cheaper doesn’t really make the Macbook Air affordable, but users may still find it a happy addition. Apple has also made the bezels smaller, reducing the overall size, despite retaining a 13-inch display. You get the company’s True Tone colour, which tweaks the colour temperature of the screen to suit the ambient lighting.
Like most Apple screens, this one has great colour fidelity too, but it doesn’t really deliver the pro-grade colour an image or video editor would need. Which makes sense, since it’s not meant for them anyway. Apple makes the Macbook Pro models for them.
The performance upgrade over the immediately preceding variant of the device isn’t huge, but Apple may have a unique value proposition in India. Most Macbook Air users in the country still have the version Apple launched pre-2018, and the performance upgrade over that one is substantial. My review unit runs on the 10th generation Intel i3 variant, and it’s still extremely smooth and fast.
To be fair, the i3 variant does lag at times—like when you call the Microsoft Teams app directly from Chrome or Safari—and while they’re just big enough to notice, they’re not really worth complaining about. The i5 variant costs in the lakhs, but you should go for that only if you absolutely want to avoid these slight lags. Pound for pound, even the i3 variant works for a user like me, who uses a 2017 Macbook Air for daily activities.
Actually, the fact that this one is smaller, lighter and has a better display makes it truly worth it. The fact that Indians predominantly own 2017 editions of the Macbook Air also helps in another way here. You probably paid between ₹50,000 and ₹90,000 when you bought that one—hitting the lower range of that price if you bought one through e-commerce discounts during the end of the product’s life cycle—which means you don’t want to cross the ₹1 lakh range. The entry level Macbook Air 2020 works for that.
The entry-level variant covers most users. It has the same or more storage with a 256GB SSD inside and Apple's 8GB RAM will cover most users who want longevity. My 2017 Macbook Air has lasted three years and is good to go for a few more, I can only imagine how long this one will last for someone buying it today. Assuming you buy it on monthly installments, the laptop will last in your backpack much longer than the EMI period, which is certainly commendable.
As on its other devices, the Magic Keyboard is near perfect for typing and takes almost no getting used to, unless you were using lacklustre keyboards so far. It’s silent, key spacing is adequate and so is the feedback. You also get Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint sensor built into the power button, which will let you login to the device and other accounts whose passwords are synced on Apple’s iCloud Keychain service. It’s a layer of both security and simplicity that you can’t give up once you have it, but won’t realise you want till you do.
With all that said, I still had two qualms for the Macbook Air, and one of them won’t be solved till next generation variants of this device. Apple built the Air for a pre-covid world and its webcam is a lowly 720p mess, which won’t be the best for the increased number of video calls and webinars you may need to be on now.
Even more importantly, the battery life on this one was noticeably lower than what my older Macbook delivered. While that one diligently lasted 10 hours on each charge, the new Air would usually require a charge every seven to eight hours. On regular usage, I had to charge the device between 2-3 pm every day, after starting work at around 8 am. Most of what I do is on Chrome and Word processors, but there’s one daily hour-and-a-half long Teams call that kills battery really fast.
It’s clear that the 2020 Macbook Air has a lot going for it. It’s an obvious upgrade for non-Retina (2017 and earlier) Air users who are looking for an update. However, at a starting price of Rs. 92,990, there are Windows laptops that are theoretically faster, like the Dell XPS 13, which costs a few thousand less than this. The Acer Swift 5 is considerably cheaper and has better specs too.
Another consideration to make is whether this is the right time to buy a new Mac anyway. Apple announced a move to ARM processors later this year, which promise significantly enhanced battery lives and at least the same power. That, and the fact that ARM signals a whole new journey for Macbooks in general, may deter some buyers.
Having said that, the question you have to ask is this: how urgently do you need a new laptop? The ARM Macs are expected at the end of the year, and it will take a bit longer for their performance, etc, to be gauged. Some may even wonder what happens to Intel-powered Macs once the company moves to ARM, but if there’s one thing Apple has proved over the years, it’s that it excels in supporting older devices.
Essentially, if you’re not in a real hurry to buy a new laptop, the 2020 Air is worth a shot. If not, the ARM powered Macs are definitely a future worth waiting for.