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MacBook Air 2020 review roundup: What critics love and hate

2020 macbook air
(Image credit: Apple)

Although it had to make do with a virtual launch, the world was still happy to see Apple reveal the new MacBook Air 2020. There are not many in-depth reviews around right now, but first impressions from the tech community are generally positive.

We've collected a few summaries and choice quotes from reviews, first impressions and hands-ons of the new MacBook Air, which you can read below. The running themes seem to be joy at the new keyboard and appreciation for the increased specs and lower price. However, critics do have some small issues with the display, the lack of performance power in the starting version and the small number of ports.

Laptop Mag

Sherri Smith of our sister site Laptop Mag only had one major point of criticism: that the display is a bit disappointing without TrueTone enabled. But other than that, she named the tactile Magic Keyboard, boosted performance and beautiful design as standout features, and on balance declared the MacBook Air a great affordable Apple laptop.

Pros

"What can I say? It's a MacBook Air. That means it's just as stunning and sleek as its predecessor. Wrapped in gold, I'd be proud to pull this out of my bag no matter where I went."

"The Air's keys are springy and offer a satisfying click that makes me want to keep typing. And even after an hour of typing, my fingers feel like they just started working."

"Don't assume because it's cheaper, that Apple made any compromises... This just might be the best MacBook Air yet."

Cons

"I would definitely recommend keeping TrueTone enabled as the colors seemed a bit muted without the feature."

TechRadar

macbook air 2020

(Image credit: Apple)

Gareth Beavis and Matt Hanson of TechRadar had similar compliments about the keyboard, but also praised the lower price and improved CPU. Their two problem areas were the display looking muted and the keyboard not feeling quite right, but these were relatively minor and the pair had no problems generally recommending the laptop.

Pros

"The new Magic keyboard in the Apple MacBook Air 2020 debuted in last year's MacBook Pro 16-inch, and we were big fans then. This new keyboard offers 1mm key travel for a responsive feel when typing, and the arrow keys are now in an inverted 'T' shape, which makes them more intuitive to use."

"We've found early performance to be pretty impressive - even when loading up the RAM-hungry Chrome, filling it with 25 tabs and then trying to edit photos on the side. We noticed very little in slowdown at all in terms of switching between tasks - even when adding in a video call... things continued well, albeit with some necessary fan assistance to keep things cool."

Cons

"While the keyboard feels robust and easy to use - the key spacing in particular still makes tapping the right button a simple experience, and one that even non-MacBook users will adapt to swiftly - the travel still feels like it could be a touch deeper."

"Watching movies on the MacBook Air won't ever be the primary reason for owning the machine, but they do lack the color reproduction pop of some other, higher-power machines from Apple and rivals, looking a touch muted."

CNET

Dan Ackerman, writing for CNET, is another reviewer who praised the new keyboard. He also draws attention to the cheaper starting price and doubled basic storage as high points. However, he dislikes the standard CPU and the cost of adding more RAM, plus the fact that the available ports haven't changed from the previous model.

Pros

"[The Magic Keyboard is] a big improvement on the long-suffering butterfly keyboard found in most Macs in recent years, which has been plagued by breakdowns and general consumer dissatisfaction."

"The jump from 128GB to 256GB in the base $999 MacBook Air is welcome, if overdue"

Cons

"The biggest news is that it finally officially returns to the classic $999... There is, however, a bit of a catch. That $999 starting price only includes an Intel Core i3 CPU, not the Core i5 one would expect for that price"

"I'm sure the performance from the Core i3 base is as good or better than the previous base-model dual-core MacBook Air. That's fine for everyday office or student tasks, some modest graphic design and photo editing, etc. But I do cringe a bit at paying a thousand bucks for a Core i3 CPU."

CNBC

It's safe to say that Todd Haselton of CNBC likes the new MacBook Air, considering he writes that "It’s the laptop most people should buy." Highlights for him include the extra default storage space, Magic Keyboard and True Tone display, while low points are the low resolution webcam and the fact that it's still more expensive than more powerful Windows 10 PCs.

Pros

"Apple now offers 256 GB of storage in the entry-level $999 model. That’s twice as much as you used to get, and it’s the right move as apps are getting larger, and Apple’s push into services is increasing the amount of content people might want to download."

"The 13-inch Retina Display is sharp and colorful and has the True Tone technology that Apple offers in iPhones and some iPads…  It’s a feature I love, and it’s a good bump if you’re coming from a 2018 MacBook Air, as I am."

"I’m pleased to report that the new keyboard is a vast improvement."

Cons

"The webcam is still only 720p. It’s fine, but not great. I wish Apple would upgrade it to at least 1080p for sharper video chats. It seems like the space is there."

"If you’re not a Mac person, or have no real preference between the two systems, there are some really nice Windows 10 laptops out there you should know about."

PC Mag

Tom Brant of PC Mag concludes that the MacBook Air is easy to recommend to people who primarily use their laptops for writing and web browsing, scoring it a 4 out of 5. The keyboard, design, price and long battery life (although worse than the previous version) are the laptop's best features in his opinion. However, he criticizes the lack of additional ports, under-par computing performance, and the fact that there's no touch screen, unlike some equally expensive PCs.

Pros

"I typed part of this story on the new keyboard, and I found the keys to be only slightly less comfortable than what I consider to be the gold standard of laptop keyboards: Lenovo's ThinkPad T series."

"The MacBook Air's rated battery life is also excellent. Apple estimates it will last for up to 11 hours of wireless web browsing. On our own battery life test... the laptop lasted for nearly 15 hours. That's about four hours shorter than the previous model, although still excellent."

Cons

"The major downside to the Retina Display is the lack of touch support."

"Potentially a bigger problem for some users is the MacBook Air's lack of ports. There are only three: two USB Type-C ports, and a 3.5mm headphone jack."

"On standardized benchmark tests that measure more intensive multimedia tasks, however, the MacBook Air I tested is decidedly deficient"