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Apple MacBook Air 2020 vs. MacBook Air 2019: What's new and different?

Here's how the prices, features and specs -- including that new processor -- stack up.

macbook-air-promoimage-2.png

The 2020 MacBook Air.

Apple

Apple on Wednesday announced a new version of its least expensive laptop, the MacBook Air. Returning to its pre-2019 starting price of $999, the 2020 version features the Magic Keyboard first introduced on the 16-inch MacBook Pro, 10th-gen Intel processors, a new Force Touch trackpad and 256GB of storage for the entry-level configuration. It's available for preorder from Apple now, it starts shipping next week and will soon become available from third-party retailers.

What's different about the 2020 MacBook Air:

  • Lower starting price
  • Magic Keyboard
  • Entry-level configuration features newer but lower-end dual-core Intel Core i3 CPU, though quad-core Core i5 and Core i7 upgrades are available
  • Faster RAM 
  • Intel Iris Plus graphics
  • Entry-level configuration features 256GB SSD and there's a new top-tier 2TB SSD upgrade available
  • Bluetooth 5.0

What's unchanged with the 2020 MacBook Air:

  • Retina display
  • Chassis, design and weight
  • 720p webcam
  • Ports and connections

The one must-have upgrade: The Core i5 processor for $100 (more thoughts about component upgrades here)


Nearly all of these changes, and especially the lower starting price, are indisputably positive steps forward. The only possible exception is that processor. The previous entry-level model featured Intel's eighth-gen dual-core i5 CPU, while the new MacBook Air comes equipped with a 10th-gen dual-core Intel chip. Sounds good, right? But it's Intel's Core i3 -- and as my colleague Dan Ackerman pointed out, "A Core i3 is what you get in cheap Black Friday doorbuster laptops." Though we haven't yet tested the new model, stepping up to the Core i5, which tacks on an extra $100, is almost certainly a worthwhile, and possibly essential, upgrade. 

Read more: The return of the $999 MacBook Air

The only other downer -- especially now that most of us are stuck at home doing a lot more video conferences for the foreseeable future -- is that Apple stuck with its 720p webcam. That's pretty low-res in this era of 4K video.

macbook-air-promoimage-4.png

The new keyboard looks the same -- but it's "scissor-based" in contrast to the 2019 model's "Butterfly" mechanism, which many users did not like.

Apple

Otherwise, we like what we see in the new model's specs and features. A (probably) better keyboard, more storage on the baseline model (finally, 256GB to start), an updated trackpad and a lower starting price. Here's a summary of exactly what's included with the 2020 and 2019 base models, and the upgrades that are available for each. 

Read more: MacBook Air getting the Magic Keyboard is the good news we need right now

The basics: Entry-level features and upgrades


MacBook Air (2020) MacBook Air (2019)
Base price $999 $1,099
Display size/resolution 13.3-inch LED-backlit IPS Retina True Tone display (2,560x1,600 pixels) 13.3-inch LED-backlit IPS Retina True Tone display (2,560x1,600 pixels)
Processor 1.1GHz dual-core 10th-gen Intel Core i3, 1.1GHz quad-core 10th-gen Intel Core i5, 1.2GHz quad-core 10th-gen Intel Core i7 1.6GHz dual-core eighth-gen Intel Core i5
Memory 8GB 3,733MHz LPDDR4X RAM (16GB upgrade available) 8GB 2,133MHz LPDDR3 RAM (16GB upgrade available)
Graphics Intel Iris Plus Intel UHD Graphics 617
Storage 256GB PCIe SSD (512GB, 1TB or 2TB upgrade available) 128GB PCIe SSD (256GB, 512GB or 1TB upgrade available)
Networking 802.11ac Wi-Fi; Bluetooth 5.0 802.11ac Wi-Fi; Bluetooth 4.2
Ports and connections 2x Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports (one of which is used to connect the charger) 2x Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports (one of which is used to connect the charger)
Weight 2.8 pounds (1.27 kg) 2.8 pounds (1.27 kg)
Operating system MacOS Catalina MacOS Catalina
Battery life Up to 11 hours Up to 12 hours
Chasse design 100% recycled aluminum 100% recycled aluminum
Other notable features Magic Keyboard (scissor-based), Touch ID Butterfly keyboard, Touch ID
Now playing: Watch this: Hands-on with the 2020 MacBook Air
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