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This is one of 3 articles dedicated to Apple’s Macbooks:
Who is the Macbook Air ideal for?
Anyone who wants a laptop that’s solid, lightweight, with an excellent battery life, great backlit keyboard, an excellent trackpad, higher CPU performance and at the lowest price for an Apple laptop.
What is the Macbook Air good for?
- Web browsing, e-mails, school or office work (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc.)
- Listening to music
- Watching TV/movies. Note that you may need an adapter to connect a monitor or HDTV.
- Lightweight audio/photo/video editing. If you’re a professional working with audio/photo/video, you’ll be much better off with the more powerful Macbook Pro.
Why do you want the Macbook Air: Pros
- This is the least expensive Apple Macbook laptop
- Thin and lightweight: Only 2.8lbs and .41-1.6cm thick. Perfect if you’re traveling and often on the move.
- It’s an Apple computer: Mac OS X, Time Machine backup (automatically backs up system data to an external hard drive), many built-in apps, highly reliable, excellent customer service
- Backlit keyboard
- High-end performance storage makes your computer feel more responsive.
- Very quiet: The fan is hardly audible, unless you push the CPU to 100% for a long time.
- Great display: 2560 x 1600 Retina IPS
- Long battery life: 11 hours of web browsing
- Solid chassis: All-aluminum unibody
- Available in multiple colors
- Solid screen hinge
- Excellent trackpad, with great multi-touch support
- Bluetooth 5.0
- Latest generation WiFi 5
- More ports than the Macbook Pro 13: 2x USB 3.0 Type-C with ThunderBolt 3 and a combo audio jack.
Why you might not want the Macbook Air: Cons
- Limited amount of ports
- Average CPU performance: The base model dual-core CPU: Great for web browsing, music, Office work and lightweight programs. Upgrade to a quad-core CPU for photo/video editing, heavy multitasking or demanding programs. Still not ideal for heavy photo/video editing, heavy multitasking or demanding programs where high sustained CPU performance is required. You’ll want a more powerful CPU and possibly more RAM for better performance, so consider a Macbook Pro instead.
- Limited GPU (video card) performance. Forget playing modern video games or 3D rendering: you want a dedicated video card for that. Once again, a Macbook Pro would be a better option.
- No LAN port
- No optical drive. You can get an external USB powered optical drive, if you want to.
- No Numpad
- The Macbook Air RAM cannot be upgraded: It’s soldered.
How to Choose your Macbook Air
What you need to know:
Early 2020 models:
All models have this in common:
– Dimensions: Height: 0.41-1.6cm, Width: 30.4cm, Depth: 21.23cm
– Weight: 2.8 lbs (1.27kg)
– RAM: LPDDR4X 3733MHz
– GPU: Intel Iris Plus
– Screen: 13.3″, resolution: 2560 x 1600 Retina IPS, with True Tone technology, which automatically adjusts the white balance to match the color temperature of the surrounding light.
– Storage: High performance PCI-Express based SSDs (Solid State Drive) storage. This offers you a better computer experience because it responds to your inputs much more quickly. Programs launch far more quickly, the Operating System starts in seconds and resumes from sleep instantaneously. No noise, no vibration, higher reliability and higher resistance to shocks. See the SSD FAQ for more details on SSDs.
– Ports: 2 x USB 3.0 Type-C with ThunderBolt 3, 3.5mm combo jack
– Networking: 802.11ac 2×2:2, Bluetooth 5.0
– Battery: Up to 11 hours
Early 2020 models compared to the Mid 2019 models:
I refer to those new updated models as the Early 2020 models through this article. Compared to the older model, referred as Mid 2019, here are the changes:
1. Massive CPU performance upgrade! The Mid 2019 model was limited to an Intel 8th gen Dual-Core CPU, while you can now get an Intel 10th gen quad-core CPU, as an upgrade, the base model still has a dual-core CPU. This pretty much doubles the CPU performance of the Macbook Air!
2. Higher RAM Frequency: You get a significant upgrade from LPDDR3 2133MHz to LPDDR4X 3733MHz.
3. GPU: You get an upgrade from the Intel UHD Graphics 617 to an Intel Iris Plus.
4. Storage capacity upgrade: The entry-level storage capacity has doubled from 128GB to 256GB, while the maximum has also doubled, from 1TB to 2TB.
5. Keyboard: The new MacBook Air goes back to a more traditional ‘scissor’ Magic Keyboard, which should be more reliable than Apple’s butterfly keyboard, which was plagued with issues.
6. Battery life: Battery life takes a small hit, going down from 12 hours to 11-12 hours.
7. Bluetooth gets updated to the 5.0 standard.
8. Lower entry price point: The launch price of the least expensive Early 2020 model is $999, compared to $1199 for the launch price of the least expensive Mid 2019 model.
What about older models of the Apple Macbook Air? Are they worth it?
Simply put: No.
The Mid 2019 and Late 2018 models are difficult to find in stock now.
The Mid 2017 models aren’t worth it. I’d spend a bit more to get the newer models, just to get the twice as fast CPU and the much better display.
Models that are older than Mid 2017? Stay away from them. They are equipped with only 4GB of memory (RAM), which is hardly enough for anything more demanding than basic tasks (word processing, web browsing, listening to music). This lack of memory will become a bigger limiting factor in performance as time goes on, forcing you to change computer sooner and spend more in the long run.
The 4 differences between all the Macbook Air Early 2020 models:
1. Choose between 3 levels of CPU performance:
Macbook Air Early 2020, from the lowest to highest performance:
– Intel Core i3 Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 1.1-3.2GHz
– Intel Core i5 Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading 1.1-3.5GHz
– Intel Core i7 Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading 1.2-3.8GHz
Do yourself a favor and get at least the Intel Core i5 model!
Unless you only use your Macbook Air for web browsing and checking e-mails, and even then, you’ll be better served with an Intel Core i5 or Core i7 CPU, which features twice as many cores and pretty much offers twice the performance as the Core i3 model!
Let me state that in another way: A $100 upgrade from a Core i3 to i5 CPU gets you twice the performance. This is a wise move.
Not only that, but in the long-term, you’ll be able to keep using the quad-core Core i5 and i7 models for more years compared to the dual-core Core i3, which will eventually feel too slow in day to day usage.
As for the Core i5 versus the Core i7, the performance difference is minimal, with the Core i7 offering roughly 9% higher performance compared to the Core i5 CPU. Still, if you want the highest CPU performance possible in a Macbook Air, the Core i7 is the way to go.
2. Choose between 8GB or 16GB of memory (RAM)
Is 8GB of RAM enough for you or do you want 16GB?
It depends on what you intend to do with your Macbook Air.
If you only use your MacBook Air to run a few basic programs at once, like email, some Excel, Word, a web browser, and iTunes, 8GB is fine.
On the other hand, if you run multiple programs at once, run heavier programs (audio/photo/video/3D), like to multitask and have no time to lose, 16 GB is the wiser option.
Warning: You cannot add RAM to your Macbook Air.
Keep in mind that the memory is soldered in the Macbook Air computer, so you cannot add memory to upgrade your computer.
So if you intend on keeping your Macbook Air for many years, going with 16GB is a good idea, seeing as memory usage keeps increasing, with newer versions of programs using more and more memory.
3. Four storage capacities:
256GB, 512GB, 1TB or 2TB
Unsure about how whether you want 256GB, 512GB, 1TB or 2TB of storage? Read our article on How to choose the right SSD storage capacity and pay less for your computer to figure it out.
4. Choose the color:
Silver, Space Grey or Gold
I recommend the least expensive option by default, although the other colors are often the same price or hardly more expensive.
The Best Macbook Air Early 2020
Prices for B&H as of September 17th 2020. Note that I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post. Prices and availability are subject to change.
Is it safe to buy a Mac from B&H Photo Video instead of the Apple Store?
B&H Photo Video is an Authorized Apple Reseller. That means B&H has received authorization from Apple to sell Macs, iPods, etc. This is great for you because B&H prices are generally much lower than the Apple Store. Items ship promptly and you receive the same warranty as if you had made the purchase at the Apple Store. In fact, you still receive all the benefits of the Apple Store (classes, Genius Bar access, etc.) when you buy from B&H Photo Video. So really, the only difference between buying from B&H and the Apple Store is that with B&H you will probably save a lot of money!
Base Dual-Core Core i3 CPU models:
– Core i3 Dual-Core, 8GB RAM, 256GB storage: $999.00 at B&H
– Core i3 Dual-Core, 8GB RAM, 512GB storage: $1199.00 at B&H
– Core i3 Dual-Core, 8GB RAM, 1TB storage: $1,399.00 at B&H
– Core i3 Dual-Core, 8GB RAM, 2TB storage: $1,799.00 at B&H
Base Dual-Core Core i3, with twice the RAM:
– Core i3 Dual-Core, 16GB RAM, 256GB storage: $1199.00 at B&H
– Core i3 Dual-Core, 16GB RAM, 512GB storage: $1399.00 at B&H
– Core i3 Dual-Core, 16GB RAM, 1TB storage: $1,599.00 at B&H
– Core i3 Dual-Core, 16GB RAM, 2TB storage: $1,999.00 at B&H
Quad-Core Core i5 CPU models:
– Core i5 Quad-Core 1.1-3.5GHz, 8GB RAM, 256GB storage: $1099.00 at B&H
– Core i5 Quad-Core 1.1-3.5GHz, 8GB RAM, 512GB storage: $1199.00 at B&H
– Core i5 Quad-Core 1.1-3.5GHz, 8GB RAM, 1TB storage: $1,499.00 at B&H
– Core i5 Quad-Core 1.1-3.5GHz, 8GB RAM, 2TB storage: $1,899.00 at B&H
Quad-Core Core i5 CPU, with twice the RAM:
– Core i5 Quad-Core 1.1-3.5GHz, 16GB RAM, 256GB storage: $1299.00 at B&H
– Core i5 Quad-Core 1.1-3.5GHz, 16GB RAM, 512GB storage: $1449.00 at B&H
– Core i5 Quad-Core 1.1-3.5GHz, 16GB RAM, 1TB storage: $1,699.00 at B&H
– Core i5 Quad-Core 1.1-3.5GHz, 16GB RAM, 2TB storage: $2,099.00 at B&H
Fastest CPU, 8GB of RAM:
– Core i7 Quad-Core 1.2-3.8GHz, 8GB RAM, 256GB storage: $1249.00 at B&H
– Core i7 Quad-Core 1.2-3.8GHz, 8GB RAM, 512GB storage: $1449.00 at B&H
– Core i7 Quad-Core 1.2-3.8GHz, 8GB RAM, 1TB storage: $1,649.00 at B&H
– Core i7 Quad-Core 1.2-3.8GHz, 8GB RAM, 2TB storage: $2,049.00 at B&H
Fastest CPU, 16GB of RAM:
– Core i7 Quad-Core 1.2-3.8GHz, 16GB RAM, 256GB storage: $1449.00 at B&H
– Core i7 Quad-Core 1.2-3.8GHz, 16GB RAM, 512GB storage: $1649.00 at B&H
– Core i7 Quad-Core 1.2-3.8GHz, 16GB RAM, 1TB storage: $1,849.00 at B&H
– Core i7 Quad-Core 1.2-3.8GHz, 16GB RAM, 2TB storage: $2,249.00 at B&H
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this article on how to choose the best Macbook Air.
Do you have any feedback or any questions? Are you unsure which Macbook Air is the best one for you?
Please leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.