Apple MacBook Air 2020: 5 reasons to buy and 3 to skip

MacBook Air 2020
(Image credit: Future)

The new MacBook Air 2020 doesn’t look much different than its predecessor, but it packs a bunch of welcome upgrades that make Apple’s new notebook a very tempting option for those looking to buy a new laptop. The dreaded Butterfly keyboard is gone, and the new MacBook Air now offers up to twice the performance and double the storage.

On paper, the new MacBook Air looks like it has what it takes to make our list of the best laptops. But even at the reduced price of $999 we have some reservations. Here are the reasons to buy the new MacBook Air — and some reasons you may want to skip it.

MacBook Air 2020: Reasons to buy

Finally, a good keyboard

MacBook Air 2020

(Image credit: Apple)

After years of complaints surrounding the Butterfly keyboard on the MacBook Air, Apple has taken the redesigned scissor mechanism from its critically acclaimed 16-inch MacBook Pro and brought it to the MacBook Air. You get a more solid feeling 1mm of key travel without the stuck keys and accidentally double presses that plagued previously layouts on the Air. 

Combined with the scissor mechanism, Apple says that it has refined the keycap design. And there's a inverted-T arrangement for the arrow keys, which makes it easier to find them by feel. It all adds up to a more reliable and comfortable typing experience. And it's about time. 

10th gen Intel Core speed boost

MacBook Air 2020

(Image credit: Apple)

No long is the MacBook Air stuck on 8th gen Intel Core processors. The latest model starts with a 10th gen Intel Core i3 CPU, and you can get up to a quad-core Core i7 chip on the Air. The other major boost comes on the graphics front, thanks to Intel Iris Plus Graphics; this should allow for swifter video editing and better gameplay.

Double the storage

The last MacBook Air started with just 128GB of storage, while ultraportable Windows laptops in the same price range have been offering 256GB for years. Apple seems to have gotten the message with the new MacBook Air, which starts with 256GB of fast flash storage. The Air offer up to 2TB max, up from a 1TB max on the previous model. (Strangely, the 13-inch MacBook Pro still starts at 128GB, but that's another story.)

Lower price

It's not a huge discount, but we'll take it. The new MacBook Air starts at $999, which is $100 less than the $1,099 model Apple introduced in July. Plus, students can get the MacBook Air for $899, which is a pretty good deal. 

The entry-level MacBook Air comes with a Core i3 CPU, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, while the $1,299 model offers a Core i5 chip, the same amount of RAM and a 512GB SSD.

Long battery life

The MacBook Air is rated for 11 hours of wireless web surfing, which is an impressive amount of endurance for a 2.8-pound laptop with this much power. We have yet to run our own web surfing battery test, but in general we've found that our lab results are very close to Apple's claims.

MacBook Air 2020: Reasons to skip

Limited ports

For a $1,000 laptop, I'd like to see more than just two Thunderbolt ports for plugging in peripherals. But that's all you get from the MacBook Air. The Dell XPS 13, for example, comes with 2 Thunderbolt ports and a USB-C port, plus a microSD card reader. The HP Envy 13 has two USB 3.1 ports and a USB 3.1 port. 

Core i5 would be better at $999

As much as we appreciate the jump to 10th gen Core processors on the new MacBook Air, it feels a bit chintzy to charge $999 for a Core i3 chip. Perhaps this is a way to further differentiate the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, but it doesn't change the fact that you can get a 10th gen Core i5 or even Core i7 for the same price as the MacBook Air.

Webcam still stuck at 720p

Here we are in 2020 and we still can't get an upgraded webcam from Apple. I'd much rather see a full HD 1080p webcam than the low-res 720p camera on this MacBook Air. A sharper webcam would be especially welcome right now since millions of people are now working from home more than ever before and dialing into to video calls. 

MacBook Air 2020: Bottom line

MacBook Air 2020

(Image credit: Apple)

If you want an ultraportable laptop with a solid design, a great typing experience and an easy-to-use and relatively secure operating system in macOS, the new MacBook Air should satisfy. I wish Apple included more ports and a Core i5 chip for the money, but overall the MacBook Air's multiple upgrades give it a very good shot at becoming one of the best laptops of the year.

Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.