Apple has released brand new MacBook Air models, improving the processor, RAM and storage options, knocking £100/$100 off the starting price, and replacing the problematic butterfly keyboard with a new Magic Keyboard.

We have been looking forward to Apple launching the 2020 version of the MacBook Air. The 2019 update to the MacBook Air in 2019 was a disappointment as the only change that came with that update was a slight improvement to the screen (the addition of True Tone) and a price drop from £1,199 model to £1,099.

The price drop for the 2020 model is a nice surprise. The MacBook Air now starts at £999/$999. It's the cheapest new MacBook Air for a long time - although not the cheapest ever. As recently as 2015 the entry-level 13in model cost £849 and the price has been even lower than that - before the 11in MacBook Air was axed in October 2016, you could get one for £749.

There are two MacBook Air models and only the entry-level Air has had its price reduced. However, there is a bigger gap between the two Mac laptops following this update, that will go some way to justify the £300 price difference.

We have a review of the 2020 MacBook Air here.

What is the difference between the 2020 MacBook Air

MacBook Air

In 2019 the only difference between the two different MacBook Air models was the amount of storage. The extra storage was the only reason to choose the £200/$200 more expensive model.

The price difference has widened in 2020, but the gap between the two models has also grown. Here's how the two MacBook Air models for 2020 compare:

2020 MacBook Air, 256GB, £999/$999

  • 1.1GHz Dual-core i3 10th gen processor
  • Turbo Boost up to 3.2GHz
  • 256GB Storage
  • Touch ID
  • 8GB 3733MHz LPDDR4X memory
  • Intel Iris Plus Graphics
  • Two Thunderbolt 3 ports

2020 MacBook Air, 512GB,£1,299/$1,299 

  • 1.1GHz Quad-core i5 10th gen processor
  • Turbo Boost up to 3.5GHz
  • 512GB Storage
  • Touch ID
  • 8GB 3733MHz LPDDR4X memory
  • Intel Iris Plus Graphics
  • Two Thunderbolt 3 ports

As you can see from the above specs, the big difference is that the entry level model has a Dual-core i3 processor, while the more expensive model has a Quad-core i5 processor.

You might see that both Macs have a 1.1GHz and think that means the processor is the same but there's a big difference. The quad-core model essentially offers four 1.1GHz i5 processors, rather than two. But don't assume you need four processors. You may find the Dual-core processor perfectly adequate for your needs.

The additional storage in the £1,299/$1,299 model will also be attractive for many.

You can buy the MacBook Air from Apple here or check out our round up of the best MacBook Air deals if you want to get a bargain.

2020 MacBook Air: Specs

As outlined above, there are various differences between the two MacBook Air models for 2020. But the two models share a lot of the same specs.  The big question is how these specs compare to the 2019 MacBook Air.

The 2020 models gain 10th generation processors with the Quad-core option for the £1,299/$1,299 Air, better RAM, double the storage, and better graphics.

In fact, Apple claims to offer the following improvements compared to the previous generation:

  • 80 percent faster graphics performance.
  • Two times faster CPU performance.
  • Clearer voice capture for FaceTime calls.
  • Support for up to a 6K external display for the first time.

In 2019 the MacBook Air offered the following specs:

2019 MacBook Air, 128GB, £1,099/$1,099

  • 1.6GHz Dual-Core i5 8th gen processor
  • Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz
  • 128GB storage
  • Touch ID
  • 8GB 2133MHz LPDDR3 memory
  • Intel UHD Graphics 617
  • Two Thunderbolt 3 ports

2019 MacBook Air, 256GB, £1,299/$1,299

  • 1.6GHz Dual-Core i5 8th gen processor
  • Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz
  • 256GB storage
  • Touch ID
  • 8GB 2133MHz LPDDR3 memory
  • Intel UHD Graphics 617
  • Two Thunderbolt 3 ports

Below we will look at the new specs in more detail, but before we do, there is one other significant difference between the 2019 and 2020 MacBook Air.

New Keyboard

New MacBook Air keyboard

It's no surprise that the 2020 MacBook Air offers an improved keyboard (in fact the only real surprise is that the 13in MacBook Pro doesn't yet).

The new MacBook Air has gained the same scissor-switch keyboard design seen on the 16in MacBook Pro that launched in November 2019. That keyboard design was itself based on past Mac laptops and the Magic Keyboard that ships with the iMac. Probably the only thing that really matters is that the new keyboard design replaces the butterfly mechanism design used for Apple laptop keyboards since around 2016.

The butterfly mechanism enabled Apple to make the keyboard (and therefore Mac) slimmer but it seems that the design caused problems with dust getting trapped under keys and requiring expensive repairs. Read all about those MacBook keyboard problems here.

Apple has admitted to the issue and offered free repairs to those affected, but the well-publicised keyboard-related problems will no doubt have prevented some sales of Mac laptops. This is something Apple will have been keen to rectify.

Based on our experience with the 16in MacBook Pro we expect that the new MacBook Air keyboard will not experience the flaws associated with the older model - and there were more complaints than the trapped dust issues. Our reviewer of the 16in MacBook Pro had a lot of praise for the new keyboard design, writing: "It’s softer on the fingers, and if you had sore fingers after a long typing session on the butterfly keyboard (like me), you won’t have that experience on the Magic Keyboard."

Processor

The 2018 and 2019 MacBook Air models both featured Intel’s 8th Generation dual-core Coffee Lake CPU. For 2020 Apple has jumped to the 10th generation Intel processors and in doing so brought a quad-core processor to the MacBook Air.

Apple is late to using the 10th generation chips - many of its competitors (Acer, Asus, Dell, Lenavo, HP and so on) have already introduced 10th Ice Lake generation processors. Many other laptops (and all other Mac laptops) were already featuring quad-core or better processors as well.

But does the MacBook Air need a faster processor with more cores? Perhaps the user base doesn't have a great need for multiple processors. This is likely the reason why Apple has kept the entry-level model as a Dual-core processor with an even lower price.

Graphics

The 2019 MacBook Air featured the integrated Intel UHD Graphics 617. For 2020 this has been boosted to the Intel Iris Plus Graphics.

These new Iris Plus integrated graphics ship with the 10th generation Intel chips so the improvement is expected.

Apple says that the 2020 MacBook Air offers 80% faster graphics performance.

SSD

It's great to see a boost to the storage in the MacBook Air from 128GB to 256GB and 512GB, but that's not the only improvement to the storage offering.

There is now a 2TB SSD  build to order option for an additional £600/$600.

Prior to the 2020 update there was a 1.5TB SSD which cost an additional +£1,000/$1,000 until Apple swapped this for a 1TB SSD in 2019 for £400/$400. That 1TB option is now an additional £200/$200.

RAM

Like the 2018/2019 Air the 2020 model also offers up to 16GB RAM (for an additional £200/$200). However, the kind of RAM in the new model is superior.

Previously it shipped with 8GB 2133MHz LPDDR3 memory as standard.

Now the MacBook Air offers 8GB 3733MHz LPDDR4X memory as standard.

Availability

Right now the Apple Stores are all closed due to Coronavirus, however, you can order a new MacBook Air online here.

Delivery is currently listed as from 6 April.

Read about the new 2020 Mac mini here.