I’ve had multiple MacBook Air laptops over the years, and I certainly understand the appeal of their iconic design. But I just bought a MacBook Air, and at great cost, about a year and a half ago. Why the hell am I buying another one?
Why the hell really?
The reason is that I have a daughter who decided last year that she needed a laptop Mac of some sort, probably because one or more of her friends is using one. I explained to her that Apple was transitioning from its terrible butterfly keyboards and would like to wait for a new model. And to take it home, I let him use my 2018 MacBook Air, thinking he would experience the keyboard and quickly return it.
Well, I never saw him again. And when I finally thought about asking about it, thinking he had been tossed aside in his room somewhere, he said he was using it full time for school work. Huh
Since then, I’ve scrapped the idea of getting another Mac, but they are expensive, especially the Pro models, and I can’t really justify such an expense for testing purposes. And without anything really happening with macOS that was so interesting to me, I let it sit. And the pandemic happened. You got the idea.
But while all of this was going on, I was also reintroducing myself to software development, and over a period of six months I created four different versions of my .NETpad text editor using VB / WinForms, C # / WinForms, WPF and then UWP. So when March 2020 came, I was preparing to move on to something different. And I started examining Xamarin.Forms, Microsoft’s mobile app solution, Flutter, and various web app technologies.
In doing so, it occurred to me (re) that one of the other ways Apple works as a guardian of its ecosystems is that it requires developers to use a Mac to create applications that run on Mac, iPhone, and iPad. So even if you wanted to use Xamarin.Forms or Flutter, or some other cross-platform app development solution, you would still need a Mac to create the iPhone version of the app.
Whatever is. I’m still not interested in spending a lot of money on one. And so I started looking at what a low-end MacBook Air or Mac Mini could cost. Perhaps renovated or for sale. Finally, I thought the Air was the way to go, because that would allow me to use it anywhere. And when Apple added the new 2020 MacBook Air to its restored store the first time on Monday, and for $ 150 off normal prices, I thought it was time to pull the trigger.
If you’re familiar with the latest MacBook Airs, you may know that the 2018, 2019, and 2020 Airs are basically identical from a form factor perspective. The 2020 model features Apple’s Magic keyboard, which uses quiet, reliable scissor switches instead of the butterfly design. And there have been a few CPU changes, though they’re still low-end U-series sub-Core designs. But that is all.
There’s no need to check out the MacBook Air 2020, and I won’t be using it much anyway. Instead, I’ll go through the improvements Apple has made since 2018, and then move on, with some development projects and testing of macOS Big Sur and its consistent and fluid new design. What a happy moment.
The most obvious change, of course, is the keyboard. I was probably one of the few critics anywhere who really liked the low-throw butterfly keyboard on the 2018 model, but I agree that it’s loud and could hurt your fingers, especially if you’re a heavy typist like me . Worse yet, the butterfly keyboard was endemically unreliable, and despite several generational updates, even on the 2019 MacBook Air I never tested, Apple was never really able to fix it. And so, the latest MacBook Air features the so-called Magic keyboard.
This is a well-made mobile keyboard, and a welcome compromise between the butterfly keyboard’s super-low travel and the more typical 1.5mm travel we still see on many modern laptops. The Magic keyboard features an even low 1mm travel, and I love it. There is no loud banging sound with every keystroke and there are no painful fingers. The keys are stable and should be much more reliable than before.
Less obvious, there have been big changes to the available microprocessors since the 2018 model. When I bought my 2018 MacBook Air, I only had one single processor option, a 1.6GHz dual-core Core i5-8210Y that would have been pretty mediocre at a Windows PC, but it seems to work fine in the air. Fast forward to 2020 and Apple now offers three processor options, a 1.1GHz dual-core Intel Core i3-1000NG4, 1.1GHz quad-core Intel Core i5-1030NG7) and a quad-core Intel Core i7 1.2 GHz -1060NG7.
It is understandable if even those familiar with Intel’s product naming schemes are confused by these names. Yes, they are pieces of the tenth generation “Ice Lake”, so they are more modern and efficient than the previous chip. And yes, they all run at lower clock speeds than their predecessor, but they also offer much better performance, even that core Core-i3 model.
Part of that increased performance is tied to faster RAM and integrated graphics: where the previous two MacBook Air models featured Intel UHD Graphics 617, the 2020 model has the much more desirable Intel Iris Plus. Excellent.
The new chipset options are also tied to two other nice changes that have happened since 2018. First, base storage has increased from 128 to 258 GB. And second, and you will not believe this, Apple has lowered its prices. Twice.
When I bought my previous MacBook Air, the product line had actually increased in price, so the base model was $ 1,200 (and I upgraded the RAM to 16GB, and the storage to 256GB for a total cost. from $ 1,400) Since then, Apple lowered prices by $ 100 per configuration in 2019, with a starting price of $ 1,100. And with 2020 models, the starting price now drops back to $ 1,000 where it belongs.
But for the renewed offerings that are now available, that means you can get a 2020 MacBook Air in your choice of colors for just $ 850. That’s a great price. But I opted to upgrade to a quad-core Core-i5 for a total price of $ 929 before tax. I paid in cash through PayPal, which is good since I haven’t been buying any electronics during the pandemic other than the powerline network kit I wrote about earlier.
Apple has also made a subtle but welcome change to the Retina display since 2018. It’s still a 13.3-inch, 16:10 LED-backlit IPS panel with a 2560 x 1600 resolution and 227 PPI pixel count, and it’s still fantastic. But now Apple has added its True Tone technology to the screen, a feature I’ve enjoyed on iPhones. According to Apple, True Tone “uses advanced multi-channel sensors to adjust the color and intensity of its screen and the Touch Bar to match ambient light to make images appear more natural.” In plain English, white appears as white, and not yellowish or gold or whatever, regardless of ambient light in the room or wherever it is, and all colors are also displayed correctly. It is a great feature.
There are a few other small changes, like redesigned speakers and microphones. But beyond all that, the MacBook Air 2020 is almost identical to its predecessors. The same iconic design. The same three color options. The same fast and reliable Touch ID button. The same two USB-C / Thunderbolt 3 ports. The same terrible 720p webcam. And so. Whatever is.
Now is the time to set it up with macOS Big Sur and Xcode 12 beta versions so I can start bringing my mobile app projects to my iPhone …
Tagged with MacBook Air