Compared: 2020 MacBook Air i3 versus MacBook Air i7

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited April 2020
The MacBook Air is again available with an i7 processor. We've benchmarked the base 2020 MacBook Air with i3 processor, and the high-end quad-core i7 MacBook Air to see how much of a performance difference there -- and to see if the i7 is worth the higher price tag.

2020 MacBook Airs
2020 MacBook Airs

2020 MacBook Air

Aside from the processors -- and corresponding price increase -- there are no differences between models of the 2020 MacBook Air.

Across the board, the new machines can now be configured with up to 2TB of internal storage, start with a higher 256GB of base storage, have adopted the 10th-generation of Intel's processors, now use the Magic Keyboard, and have more powerful Intel Iris Plus graphics that can power a 6K display.






Users can configure the SSD and the RAM when picking out a machine, but that will offer a smaller performance difference than the processor choice.

MacBook Air i3 versus MacBook Air i7 performance

This all leads up to the actual performance increase those processor improvements provide.

Geekbench 5.1 results on the i3 and i7 MacBook Air (2020)
Geekbench 5.1 results on the i3 and i7 MacBook Air (2020)


For the base 1.1 GHz dual-core i3-1000NG4 processor, we scored a 1074 and a 2412 on the single and multi-core tests. On the 1.2GHz quad-core i7-1060NG7 machine, we managed a 1294 and a 3514 respectively.

Those are no small gains. The roughly 20% single-core benchmark gain is good, but the near 50% multi-core gains are excellent. This is due, in part, to shift from a dual-core to a quad-core chip.

We also tested out the CPU-intensive benchmark Cinebench R20, and the quad-core i7 easily outmatched the dual-core i3. The i3 scored a 690 while the i7 scored a 1194 -- double the cores, near double the score.

During our time testing the MacBook Air, we noticed the i7 would usually run slightly faster with everyday tasks and certainly has an edge with more intensive tasks such as Xcode compiling. Even on powering up from a cold shut down, we saw the i7 boot around two seconds faster than the i3.

To test everyday tasks, we encoded a roughly six-minute video in 4K at the default settings from iMovie. The base model took six minutes and two seconds while the i7 config took five and a half minutes. Not a huge saving in video encoding, but they do share the same graphics.

When configuring your MacBook Air, it is $100 to go to the 1.1GHz quad-core i5 and $250 to go to the faster quad-core i7. For a 20% price increase, you are getting 50% better performance out of your machine. Processor speeds don't help everything -- they won't necessarily make emails or Facebook any faster -- but you want to tax your machine at all, this seems like a good upgrade to consider.

Deals on Apple's MacBook Air

A number of 2020 MacBook Air configurations are currently on sale in the AppleInsider 2020 MacBook Air Price Guide, further discounting the latest systems on top of Apple's price drop for the new 2020 line.

Meanwhile, closeout MacBook Air models are also available with cash savings of up to $350 off.

For even more deals on Apple products, including MacBook Pros, check out the AI Apple Price Guide.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 30
    MisterKitMisterKit Posts: 503member
    I’m surprised there was not an even larger boost with the i7.

    Scot1razorpit
  • Reply 2 of 30
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 2,917member
    Comparison table should have all three(i3,i5,i7) versions included.
    ramanpfaffzeus423StrangeDaysharry wild
  • Reply 3 of 30
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 3,206member
    MisterKit said:
    I’m surprised there was not an even larger boost with the i7.

    Yes, going from 2 cores to 4 cores + hyperthreads would ordinarily be a bigger boost. The results suggest the memory controller may be handcuffing the i7. And why would someone splurge for the i7 and not also get 16GB RAM?
    edited April 2020 Scot1caladanianMisterKitGlockWorkOrange
  • Reply 4 of 30
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,869administrator
    wood1208 said:
    Comparison table should have all three(i3,i5,i7) versions included.
    We presently have the i3 and i7 models.
    ramanpfaffzeus423GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 5 of 30
    seanismorrisseanismorris Posts: 1,624member
    The i5 is almost always the sweet spot, but we’ll see when they get one in stock.

    My only observation in the i3/i7 comparison is no one is going to equip the i7 with only 8GB of RAM.

    I am curious about the graphics performance of the i3 vs the i7 (or i5).  Usually it’s pretty substantial...
  • Reply 6 of 30
    larryalarrya Posts: 608member
    The i5 is almost always the sweet spot, but we’ll see when they get one in stock.

    My only observation in the i3/i7 comparison is no one is going to equip the i7 with only 8GB of RAM.

    I am curious about the graphics performance of the i3 vs the i7 (or i5).  Usually it’s pretty substantial...
    Yes, I want to know about the graphics performance, and also these MacBooks vs. the Mac Mini.  I am trying to decide right now between hooking an external monitor to a Mac Mini or a MacBook Air, or possibly sticking with an iMac.

    The multicore performance is slightly baffling.  In single core, the i3 here bests the 8th Gen i3 and i5 in the Mini and iMac, and even approaches their i7s.  But multicore is a different story, where this i7 barely beats the old i3 (3500 vs 3200-3300).
  • Reply 7 of 30
    ITGUYINSDITGUYINSD Posts: 519member
    So the multi-core results were 50% faster in the i7 which has 100% more cores?  Why aren't the results closer to 100% faster?
    williamlondon
  • Reply 8 of 30
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 12,920member
    I wish Ai would develop a standard table for displaying these sort of data. Some articles have charts, some have text only, some have...screenshots? Just setup a Numbers document with a bunch of charts and plug in your data & labels, boom. Export to PNG and put in your articles.
    edited April 2020 dbolanderd_2randominternetperson
  • Reply 9 of 30
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,869administrator
    I wish Ai would develop a standard table for displaying these sort of data. Some articles have charts, some have text only, some have...screenshots? Just setup a Numbers document with a bunch of charts and plug in your data & labels, boom. Export to PNG and put in your articles.
    HTML tables are generally used for spec comparisons. It is left up to the author as far as benchmark demonstrations.

    If you'd like to discuss it further, I'd be happy to in a DM.
    edited April 2020
  • Reply 10 of 30
    seanismorrisseanismorris Posts: 1,624member
    larrya said:
    The i5 is almost always the sweet spot, but we’ll see when they get one in stock.

    My only observation in the i3/i7 comparison is no one is going to equip the i7 with only 8GB of RAM.

    I am curious about the graphics performance of the i3 vs the i7 (or i5).  Usually it’s pretty substantial...
    Yes, I want to know about the graphics performance, and also these MacBooks vs. the Mac Mini.  I am trying to decide right now between hooking an external monitor to a Mac Mini or a MacBook Air, or possibly sticking with an iMac.

    The multicore performance is slightly baffling.  In single core, the i3 here bests the 8th Gen i3 and i5 in the Mini and iMac, and even approaches their i7s.  But multicore is a different story, where this i7 barely beats the old i3 (3500 vs 3200-3300).
    I don’t have the speed tests in front of me, but I’m guessing you’re comparing the i7 in the new MacBook Air vs. the i3 in the Mini.  The Mini is probably a desktop processor running at a much higher clock speed.  The desktop i3 that your referring to might also be quad core, just like the mobile i7.
    tht
  • Reply 11 of 30
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 2,952member
    larrya said:
    Yes, I want to know about the graphics performance, and also these MacBooks vs. the Mac Mini.
    I just did a couple quick runs on my mini (2018 i7):

    Turboboost off
    811 sc   4096 mc
    Turboboost on
    1086 sc  5557 mc

    Note: I didn't quit any of the multiple apps I had running or anything, so maybe I'd get different results if I ran it 'clean', not sure. When searching the Geekbench database, mini i7 seem to be even over 6000 in some cases.
  • Reply 12 of 30
    sergiozsergioz Posts: 338member
    It’s incredible what this Mac Book Air i7 can do single score is 27% higher then my Mac Book Pro form 2017 and multi score is on par. You basically can plug in GPU and edit movies in Final Cut without issues. 
  • Reply 13 of 30
    harry wildharry wild Posts: 810member
    Apple kept the clock speed down to safeguard the new 13.3” MacBook Pro that probably get 1.8-2.2 GHZ!
  • Reply 14 of 30
    apollakapollak Posts: 14member
    What does it  mean for the battery performance?
    randominternetperson
  • Reply 15 of 30
    aderutteraderutter Posts: 609member
    sergioz said:
    It’s incredible what this Mac Book Air i7 can do single score is 27% higher then my Mac Book Pro form 2017 and multi score is on par. You basically can plug in GPU and edit movies in Final Cut without issues. 
    Personally I am underwhelmed as intel processor improvements take so long.
    It takes about 8 years for processor speeds to double. That’s less than 10% a year increase.
    Good job Macs last so long as usable machines.
    Will be good when Apple move away from intel.

    sergioz
  • Reply 16 of 30
    aknabiaknabi Posts: 211member
    Odd that one cannot find any 2020 MacBook Air results on the Geekbench 5 website... I'm assuming folks have upload those?
  • Reply 17 of 30
    Slower than an iPhone 11 Pro which gets 1329/3491. This is really Intel's fault rather than Apple's but I suspect Apple could have done better with an AMD CPU.
  • Reply 18 of 30
    XedXed Posts: 2,626member
    Slower than an iPhone 11 Pro which gets 1329/3491. This is really Intel's fault rather than Apple's but I suspect Apple could have done better with an AMD CPU.
    AMD would be better… but ARM would be even better.
    OutdoorAppDeveloper
  • Reply 19 of 30
    How about providing the outgoing model benchmarks as comparison?
  • Reply 20 of 30
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,869administrator
    How about providing the outgoing model benchmarks as comparison?
    We've done this in other pieces already.

    https://appleinsider.com/articles/20/03/18/2020-macbook-air-versus-the-2019-macbook-air-compared
    cgWerks
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