The MacBook Air remains Apple’s most popular laptop, which is hardly surprising. Since the first model was pulled from an A4 envelope by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs back in 2008 it has offered a solid blend of portability, looks and a price that gave it wider appeal than the beefier Pro models.
But then things went a little awry. Apple didn’t update the MacBook Air for years, leaving it with a non-Retina Display as the company focused on its super-svelte 12-inch MacBook. When that laptop was then discontinued, Apple updated its MacBook Air a much-needed reboot in 2018 with a more modern design, extra power and a Touch ID fingerprint scanner and Retina display.
However, all of these fresh new features did come at a cost as Apple pushed the price of this laptop well above the £1,000 threshold. In fact, the entry-level model cost £1,199 which was hefty jump from the previous version and put it well beyond what most University students – once one of the biggest markets for the Air.
Now the 2018 MacBook Air has been refreshed and one of the most exciting things about this latest model is it’s back below a grand.
For £999 you now get a machine with extra power, more memory and the new Magic Keyboard that launched on last year’s top-end MacBook Pro.
The new MacBook Air goes on sale next week but Express.co.uk has already had one on our laps – in fact we’re typing this first look on the new Air right now.
So what’s it like to use?
We’ve only had our fingers on this machine for a matter of days but there’s no question that Apple has a huge hit on hands. To start with, the updated keyboard is leaps ahead of the ill-conceived Butterfly mechanism keys with the increased travel offering a better typing experience and more robust design.
The new keyboard design, known as the Magic Keyboard, debuted on the 16-inch MacBook Pro and is now rolling out to every notebook in the portfolio. Unlike the Butterfly keys found on the 2018 model, which were less comfortable to type on thanks to the ultra-low travel, and caused a number of reliability problems, leading to Apple offering an extended warranty on all new MacBook models as they launched worldwide.
It’s nice too see the new Magic keyboard has now arrived on Apple’s lowest-priced MacBook and it’s undeniably better than before. You also get the “T” arrangement back on the arrow keys, which makes it easier for your fingers to find these useful buttons without having to take your eyes off the screen.
The next big change coming to the new Air is a boost to its overall performance with this update now bringing quad-core processors for the first time. We’ll be putting the MacBook Air through its paces in the coming days and will bring you full results soon but things certainly appear promising for those that need power but can’t afford a MacBook Pro.
It’s worth noting that adding quad-core brains does come at a price with these faster models starting from £1,299. The £999 version features a dual-core i3 processor which isn’t as powerful but don’t be too disappointed as Apple has packed more internal memory inside.
That means the base model gets 256GB (up from 128GB) and the quad-core Air now gets 512GB built-in. If you don’t think that’s enough then you can max the memory out to 2TB although this does pump up the cost by a rather pricey £800.
Other features you’ll find on the new Air include the excellent 13-inch Retina screen which continues to offer a supremely good experience.
There’s also the Touch ID fingerprint scanner which unlocks the screen in a flash and you’ll get Apple’s unrivalled Force Touch trackpad which continues to offer a best in class experience. So, like the 2018 model there’s loads to love about the new Air but we’ve already spotted some minor niggles.
Unlike the new 16-inch Pro, Apple hasn’t reduced the bezels around the screen which is a shame as you won’t get the same visual experience found on this premium model. To keep the cost down you also won’t find the interactive Touch Bar which automatically changes depending what’s on the main screen. Instead of this clever panel, the Air gets physical ‘F’ keys which sit in the usual position across the top of the keyboard.
One final annoyance is that there are still only two USB-C ports and they’re both on the same side. We’ve got used to USB-C and it’s versatility makes it worth the pain of needing endless dongles in your bag.
However, having one port on each side of the Air would make so much more sense as you won’t have to position yourself awkwardly to get the charger plugged into the wall.
We’re still testing battery life and will update you on this in our future review.
MacBook Air (Early 2020) review: early verdict
The new MacBook Air offers bucket loads of bang for your buck. This updated model is now far more powerful and brings the much-improved keyboard that until now has been reserved for the pricey £2,400 16-inch MacBook Pro. There’s also the storage boost, Touch ID scanner and pin-sharp Retina screen all for under £1,000.
Of course, that’s extremely pricey compared to rival Chromebook and Windows 10 machines, but if you want access to macOS, which remains one of the most stable and joyful operating systems to use, then it’s great that you’re finally able to do so without coughing up more than four figures.
We’ve only had this machine on our lap for a few days but it’s clear there’s plenty to love about this 2020 reboot and the Air continues to be as charming as ever.
We’ll be bringing you a full review soon but if you’re thinking of pre-ordering the Air we don’t think you’ll be disappointed when it arrives on your doorstep next week.