The first of the ultra-thin computers arrives in an updated version, with more powerful processors, more memory and a completely redesigned keyboard – here’s our exclusive test.
The first MacBook Air was introduced by Steve Jobs on March 18, 2008, a lifetime ago. Yet the design has not changed much, the current model is perfectly recognizable as the descendant of that computer that then revolutionized the market. To keep costs down, it fitted the same hard disk as the iPod, but it was slow, bordering on usability; for this it was also one of the very first computers to mount an SSD, although optional. And he was the first to do without optical readers. Little by little, with small but constant adjustments, it became Apple’s most popular computer – more than the iMac, as many have given up on a desktop computer at home.
The new model, launched in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic , is on sale today. The keyboard is essentially the same as the 16-inch MacBook Pro, with the keys having a 1 mm travel, they are large, well spaced, backlit. It is comfortable to use, finally silent, precise: one of the best on the market today, without a doubt. It remains to be seen how it will resist use, but we think we can immediately say that dust and dirt should not be a big problem, as was the case with the previous version, very sensitive. There is no Touch Bar like on the MacBook Pro, but few will miss it. There is, however, and is very useful, the Touch ID biometric recognition sensor, incorporated into the power button: it is used for passwords, purchases and much more. And it works great.
Here, too, as in the MacBook Pro 16, the audio section is much improved, with stereo speakers and support for playback in Dolby Atmos. But even with simple songs from Apple Music or Spotify, the music and speech are clearer, the sound balanced and dynamic, and the truly amazing spatial effect. Of course, the bass is more powerful on the MacBook Pro 16, but it is also true that the space available for the speakers in the Air is much smaller.
Well the microphones, which are now three, and allow for example to make and receive calls on Skype or FaceTime without the need for a headset. Which, if desired, can be inserted into the usual 3.5 mm jack, fortunately still present. Just a shame that the front camera is still at 720P.
Only two external ports, which also serve for monitors, hard drives and various peripherals: they are in USB-C format, now quite widespread, but they are also compatible with the Display Port and Thunderbolt 3 standards, which allows data transfer speeds of up to at 40 GB / sec. Two notes here: first, a port is almost always occupied by the power cord; second, having the ports on opposite sides of the MacBook Air would have allowed easier connections even in complicated situations or with short cables. The bluetooth is updated to the latest version, 5.0, while for the wi-fi Apple could perhaps have adopted the new Wi-Fi 6, and instead has stuck to the previous 802.11ac.
The processors are dual-core 10th generation Intel chips, but also for the first time quad-core, i5 or i7, with 8 or 16 GB of configurable memory upon purchase. More than acceptable the integrated video card, which according to Apple offers 80% faster performance for graphics-intensive tasks. MacBook Air supports Apple Pro Display XDR and external monitors up to 6K (or two 4K). The storage capacity starts from a minimum of 256 GB, instead of the previous 128 GB; you can configure up to 2TB, and the prices Apple asks for once are not exaggerated.
For a few years, Apple seemed to have decided to retire the MacBook Air, and replace it with the 12-inch MacBook released in 2015. In fact, after three iterations, Apple’s beautiful micro laptop has been abandoned.and the MacBook Air revived at the end of 2018 in a new revised and corrected version. Some tweaks in the design, a bigger screen and finally with a retina display, more powerful processors. But it always had the butterfly keyboard, which Apple now only keeps the 13-inch MacBook Pro (still briefly, we think we can tell). With the 2020 version, the MacBook Air, the first of the ultraportable computers, is also the best on the market. A few small but substantial changes were enough: how else to define the new keyboard (baptized “Magic Keyboard”, with some emphasis) which combined with the rigid and light chassis in recycled aluminum makes writing a real pleasure? But there is also an excellent display, a faster processor, a battery that lasts a full working day.
Because a computer is essentially a keyboard, screen, processor and battery, and the new MacBook Air is a step forward in all these respects, while retaining the very compact size and low weight (only 1.29 kg) of the previous models. Highly recommended for anyone who needs a Mac: the $ 1229 base model is already fine, but increasing RAM to 16GB is a wise choice, if only in view of more demanding workloads or macOS updates. Then the configuration with the fastest processor and 512GB of storage makes perfect sense, even if it costs 1529 euros.