2020 MacBook Air versus the 2019 MacBook Air compared

Posted:
in General Discussion edited March 2020
The new 2020 MacBook Air improves on most things versus the late 2019 MacBook Air, including a better processor, more storage, and the new Magic Keyboard -- at a lower price.

The new 2020 MacBook Air
The new 2020 MacBook Air


The major update to the new MacBook Air is the addition of the Magic Keyboard. Otherwise, the updated model contains much that is identical to the 2019 edition, but in concert, those specifications that have been improved enough to make this a compelling buy overall. It would be a good deal even if Apple hadn't taken $100 off the price.

It's likely that it will be the new keyboard that will drive sales by itself. Previously the MacBook Air had a butterfly keyboard which was, possibly unfairly, known for failing. Once the 16-inch MacBook Pro came out in November 2019 and featured a return to the previous scissor-style mechanism, it's been expected that the MacBook Air, and the 13-inch MacBook Pro, would follow. The new mechanism gives a deeper travel, and is quieter, but it's chiefly expected to be more reliable.






With the lid closed, the 2020 and 2019 MacBook Air models are indistinguishable. The screen is the same and so are all of the dimensions. Apple has not made the case any bigger or deeper in its move from the butterfly to the scissor keyboard system.

It also hasn't increased the number of Thunderbolt 3 ports from last year's two, nor updated the front-facing camera, which remains 720p.

The 2020 MacBook Air is very slightly heavier at 2.8lbs (1.29kg) instead of the 2019 version's 2.75lbs (1.25g). As well as fractionally adding weight, the new machine has lost some battery power. Apple's claimed battery life is now up to 11 hours of general web surfing, as compared to up to 12 before.

However, the new MacBook Air comes with a choice of processors. Previously, the MacBook Air 2019 shipped solely with a 1.6Ghz dual-core Intel Core i5. The base model of the 2020 edition comes with a lower clocked 1.1Ghz dual-core Intel Core i3, but is configurable to 1.2Ghz quad-core Intel Core i7.

Geekbench 5.1 results on the new MacBook Pro
Geekbench 5.1 results on the new MacBook Pro


Though the new MacBook Air's processor is slower, it is significantly more powerful than the previous generation i5. In our Geekbench 5.1 test, the previous generation base unit with the 1.6GHz dual-core earned a 740 single-core and a 1663 multi-core. Our new base unit with the 1.1GHz dual-core i3 managed a 1074 and 2412 respectively. Even with those gains, we'd recommend springing the extra $100 to go up to the quad-core i5 for even better performance.
MacBook Air 2020MacBook Air 2019
Starting Price ($)$999$1099
Display13.3-inch LED backlit with IPS, 2560x1600 native resolution at 227ppi, millions of colors,True Tone13.3-inch LED backlit with IPS, 2560x1600 native resolution at 227ppi, millions of colors,True Tone
External monitor support1 external 6K display at 6016x3384 up to 60Hz at millions of colors; 1 external display at 5120x2880 up to 60Hz, up to 2 external displays with 4096x2304 at up to 60Hz1 external display at 5120x2880 up to 60Hz, up to 2 external displays with 4096x2304 at up to 60Hz
GraphicsIntel Iris Plus GraphicsIntel UHD Graphics 617
Dimensions0.16-0.63 inches (0.41-1.61 cm) x 11.97 inches (30.41 cm) x 8.36 inches (21.24 cm)0.16-0.63 inches (0.41-1.61 cm) x 11.97 inches (30.41 cm) x 8.36 inches (21.24 cm)
Weight2.8lbs (1.29kg)2.75lbs (1.25kg)
Min processor10th generation 1.1GHz dual-core Intel Core i38th generation 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5
Max processor1.2GHz quad-core Intel Core i71.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5
RAM8GB base, 16GB maximum8GB base, 16GB maximum
Storage (SSD)256GB base, 2TB maximum128GB base, 1TB maximum
Battery lifeUp to 11 hours webUp to 12 hours web
Camera720p FaceTime HD720p FaceTime HD
PortsTwo Thunderbolt 3Two Thunderbolt 3
The options for both storage have been increased. As standard, the new MacBook Air ships with a 256GB SSD, or double the previous model. The maximum SSD storage has been doubled, too, with the 2020 machine able to be ordered with 2TB.

RAM does remain the same, however, with a minimum of 8GB and a maximum of 16GB.

The most notable internal hardware difference with the 2020 MacBook Air is in its ability to support external monitors. Just as with the 2019 model, it can drive one 5K external monitor at 5120 x 2880, or two 4K ones at 4096x2304, all at up to 60Hz.

However the new MacBook Air can also drive a 6K monitor at 6016x3384, up to 60Hz. Which means that the new MacBook Air is capable of driving Apple's Pro Display XDR. This ability comes from the use of Intel Iris Plus Graphics instead of the previous Intel UHD Graphics 617.




Deals on Apple's MacBook Air

Apple's 2020 MacBook Air is already on sale, with cash discounts of up to $104 off. It's worth checking out the AppleInsider 2020 MacBook Air Price Guide if you're in the market for the new Air to save money on your purchase.

Even steeper discounts can be found on the 2019 MacBook Air, with the ultraportable laptops now up to $300 off and prices as low as $849. You can find the markdowns 24/7 in our 2019 MacBook Air Price Guide.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 25
    tommy65tommy65 Posts: 56member
    Amazingly interesting little laptop. 
    Intel Core i7-1060G7?
    edited March 2020
  • Reply 2 of 25
    wozwozwozwoz Posts: 253member
    Processor Benchmarks please: 2020 dual-core model at 1.1GHz vs 2019 dual-core model at 1.6 GHz.
    My clear guess is that the 2019 model will be significantly faster, and that Apple have dumbed it down to try secure a market for their more expensive (but ergonomically inferior) Pro notebooks.

    [ I am not interested in the quad-core comparison running parallel benchkits, which is a spurious test for everyday computing. ]
  • Reply 3 of 25
    thttht Posts: 4,500member
    wozwoz said:
    Processor Benchmarks please: 2020 dual-core model at 1.1GHz vs 2019 dual-core model at 1.6 GHz.
    My clear guess is that the 2019 model will be significantly faster, and that Apple have dumbed it down to try secure a market for their more expensive (but ergonomically inferior) Pro notebooks.

    [ I am not interested in the quad-core comparison running parallel benchkits, which is a spurious test for everyday computing. ]
    Ice Lake has better IPC, AVX512, and 2x bigger GPU than Amber Lake or whatever was in the 2018 model. It should outbench the 2018 model by about 10 to 15% in CPU. The 2x GPU improvement is obviously a much needed boost.
    doozydozen
  • Reply 4 of 25
    sirozhasirozha Posts: 801member
    tht said:
    wozwoz said:
    Processor Benchmarks please: 2020 dual-core model at 1.1GHz vs 2019 dual-core model at 1.6 GHz.
    My clear guess is that the 2019 model will be significantly faster, and that Apple have dumbed it down to try secure a market for their more expensive (but ergonomically inferior) Pro notebooks.

    [ I am not interested in the quad-core comparison running parallel benchkits, which is a spurious test for everyday computing. ]
    Ice Lake has better IPC, AVX512, and 2x bigger GPU than Amber Lake or whatever was in the 2018 model. It should outbench the 2018 model by about 10 to 15% in CPU. The 2x GPU improvement is obviously a much needed boost.
    10 to 15% in CPU? The quad core 2020 MacBook Air is more than twice as powerful in multithreaded performance. I have the 2018 MacBook Air, and it struggles with some applications. For example, Fidelity's Active Trader Pro taxes it so much that it never turns off its fans.
  • Reply 5 of 25
    thttht Posts: 4,500member
    sirozha said:
    tht said:
    wozwoz said:
    Processor Benchmarks please: 2020 dual-core model at 1.1GHz vs 2019 dual-core model at 1.6 GHz.
    My clear guess is that the 2019 model will be significantly faster, and that Apple have dumbed it down to try secure a market for their more expensive (but ergonomically inferior) Pro notebooks.

    [ I am not interested in the quad-core comparison running parallel benchkits, which is a spurious test for everyday computing. ]
    Ice Lake has better IPC, AVX512, and 2x bigger GPU than Amber Lake or whatever was in the 2018 model. It should outbench the 2018 model by about 10 to 15% in CPU. The 2x GPU improvement is obviously a much needed boost.
    10 to 15% in CPU? The quad core 2020 MacBook Air is more than twice as powerful in multithreaded performance. I have the 2018 MacBook Air, and it struggles with some applications. For example, Fidelity's Active Trader Pro taxes it so much that it never turns off its fans.
    The poster I was responding to was asking about a comparison between dual-core Ice Lake, which is in the base 2020 model, and the dual-core Amber Lake in the 2018 model (or was it Whiskey Lake?). 

    Base turbo frequencies are 1.1/3.5 for the Core i3 Ice Lake chip and 1.6/3.6 for the Core i5 in the 2020 model. 

  • Reply 6 of 25
    mpantonempantone Posts: 1,903member
    sirozha said:
    For example, Fidelity's Active Trader Pro taxes it so much that it never turns off its fans.
    That's not a particularly good example. 

    Active Trader Pro is a Windows executable. On a Mac, it is running in a customized version of CrossOver (commercial Wine). ATP isn't particularly snappy on a typical consumer Windows machine either. At home I usually run ATP on a Wintel box connected to a flat-screen 1080p HDTV.

    On my MacBook Air 2019, I run ATP pretty well. If I'm on battery I will generally use Turbo Boost Switcher to disable Turbo Boost. That might dock the performance slightly but at least the fans don't spin up much.

    I would attribute ATP's poor performance between the application's inherent sluggishness itself and the virtualization layer's mediocre power management capabilities.
    edited March 2020 dewmefastasleep
  • Reply 7 of 25
    M68000M68000 Posts: 486member
    Much more interested in the keyboard situation than anything else - will be interesting to see if it's worth selling the old model.   I'm used to the somewhat inferior keyboard now.  
  • Reply 8 of 25
    mpantonempantone Posts: 1,903member
    I have a MacBook Air 2019 with the "improved" [sic] butterfly keyboard. The thought of a scissors keyboard mechanism is very enticing but I'm balking because the MacBook Air 2020 will not run Mojave.

    I may just wait until the next MacBook Air release and the successor to Catalina. At least my Mac mini 2018 still runs Mojave.
  • Reply 9 of 25
    seanismorrisseanismorris Posts: 1,624member
    Don’t forget the SSD speed test.  If I remember correctly the one shipping with Air (previous gen) was inferior to the Pro.

    Also, a separate GPU test is warranted.  The i5 should significantly outperform the i3.
  • Reply 10 of 25
    aknabiaknabi Posts: 211member
    $1099 quad-core i5 2020 vs. $1099 dual-core i5... keyboard that works. Let me write the article
    "MacBook Air 2020 Nolo contendere"
  • Reply 11 of 25
    Andrew_OSUAndrew_OSU Posts: 533member, editor
    Don’t forget the SSD speed test.  If I remember correctly the one shipping with Air (previous gen) was inferior to the Pro.

    Also, a separate GPU test is warranted.  The i5 should significantly outperform the i3.
    Very good question. We ran the Geekbench 5.1 GPU test with Metal and the new 2020 i3 earned a 5853. The 2019 with the i5 only pulled a 696. 
  • Reply 12 of 25
    seanismorrisseanismorris Posts: 1,624member
    aknabi said:
    $1099 quad-core i5 2020 vs. $1099 dual-core i5... keyboard that works. Let me write the article
    "MacBook Air 2020 Nolo contendere"
    Agreed.  I wasn’t that impressed with the previous gen Air, and thought the Pro was a much better deal.  This new Air is a real contender.

    Apple offering a 128GB drive (at the low end) in the old Air was embarrassing.  Kudos to Apple for fixing the flaws and making substantial improvements.
    radarthekat
  • Reply 13 of 25
    Andrew_OSUAndrew_OSU Posts: 533member, editor
    aknabi said:
    $1099 quad-core i5 2020 vs. $1099 dual-core i5... keyboard that works. Let me write the article
    "MacBook Air 2020 Nolo contendere"
    Agreed.  I wasn’t that impressed with the previous gen Air, and thought the Pro was a much better deal.  This new Air is a real contender.

    Apple offering a 128GB drive (at the low end) in the old Air was embarrassing.  Kudos to Apple for fixing the flaws and making substantial improvements.
    That 128GB storage was just ridiculous. You eat up around 25GB just with the OS and default apps. Tack on quite a bit more for the iWork suite, perhaps some photos and that storage is gone. 256GB is a necessity and to bring that with the lower price tag is fantastic.
    noraa1138
  • Reply 14 of 25
    thttht Posts: 4,500member
    Don’t forget the SSD speed test.  If I remember correctly the one shipping with Air (previous gen) was inferior to the Pro.

    Also, a separate GPU test is warranted.  The i5 should significantly outperform the i3.
    Very good question. We ran the Geekbench 5.1 GPU test with Metal and the new 2020 i3 earned a 5853. The 2019 with the i5 only pulled a 696. 
    The Metal results section of Geekbench browser has the UHD 617, the GPU in the 2018 MBA, scoring 3108. A score difference of 5800 and 3100 is much more sensible given what we know of the GPUs.

    Is that 696 a typo?
  • Reply 15 of 25
    One additional plus of the MacBook Air 2020 is that it now comes with Bluetooth 5.0.
  • Reply 16 of 25
    SoliSoli Posts: 10,033member
    aknabi said:
    $1099 quad-core i5 2020 vs. $1099 dual-core i5... keyboard that works. Let me write the article
    "MacBook Air 2020 Nolo contendere"
    Agreed.  I wasn’t that impressed with the previous gen Air, and thought the Pro was a much better deal.  This new Air is a real contender.

    Apple offering a 128GB drive (at the low end) in the old Air was embarrassing.  Kudos to Apple for fixing the flaws and making substantial improvements.
    That 128GB storage was just ridiculous. You eat up around 25GB just with the OS and default apps. Tack on quite a bit more for the iWork suite, perhaps some photos and that storage is gone. 256GB is a necessity and to bring that with the lower price tag is fantastic.
    Not a necessity or I wouldn't have bought a 128 GB MBA for a family member in December to replace their 160 GB MacBook that's over a decade old with the intention of this one lasting them another decade. I didn't make this decision lightly and I looked at their storage usage and weighed that against presumed increases in OS and media data over the next decade. If I was going to upgrade any aspect of the HW for this user it would be the RAM.
  • Reply 17 of 25
    jdb8167jdb8167 Posts: 624member
    Our new base unit with the 1.1GHz dual-core i3 managed a 1074 and 2412 respectively.

    Something doesn't make sense here. How do you get more than double the performance from multi-core when the i3 is only dual core? That doesn't happen (lookup Amdahl's Law https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amdahl's_law ).

    Can you guys look into this. Is the i3 dual-core but 4 threads? Even that is unlikely to more than double the multi-core score.

    Edit: To answer my question, if the CPU is the Intel Core i3-1000G4 then it is 4 threads and that performance with 2 cores 4 threads is very impressive.
    edited March 2020 Andrew_OSU
  • Reply 18 of 25
    CheeseFreezeCheeseFreeze Posts: 1,046member
    I need more power and therefore have a MacBook Pro, but this is really a compelling little laptop with some nice specs and is very easy to travel with.
    Definitely a better option compared to the iPad Pro, unless you’re an artist and need the touch screen and pen. 
  • Reply 19 of 25
    CheeseFreezeCheeseFreeze Posts: 1,046member
    mpantone said:
    I have a MacBook Air 2019 with the "improved" [sic] butterfly keyboard. The thought of a scissors keyboard mechanism is very enticing but I'm balking because the MacBook Air 2020 will not run Mojave.

    I may just wait until the next MacBook Air release and the successor to Catalina. At least my Mac mini 2018 still runs Mojave.
    Why can’t you use Catalina? 
  • Reply 20 of 25
    jdb8167jdb8167 Posts: 624member
    mpantone said:
    I have a MacBook Air 2019 with the "improved" [sic] butterfly keyboard. The thought of a scissors keyboard mechanism is very enticing but I'm balking because the MacBook Air 2020 will not run Mojave.

    I may just wait until the next MacBook Air release and the successor to Catalina. At least my Mac mini 2018 still runs Mojave.
    Why can’t you use Catalina? 
    They might need a 32-bit app that hasn't been updated? Just a guess.
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