Magic Keyboard makes the new $999 MacBook Air


Dan Ackerman/CNET

Take a 2019 13-inch MacBook Air. Now just take the brand-new 2020 model. Set them next to just about every other and check out to tell the two aside. You can’t they are identical. Until eventually, that is, you open up equally lids. It truly is a subtle factor, but if you glance carefully you can find a new glance and feel to the keyboard. The flat, island-design and style keyboard is a little bit elevated on the new product compared to the older a person. 


  • New keyboard style and design is a huge improvement.
  • Double the commencing storage.
  • Setting up price back down to $999.

Really don’t Like

  • The base product makes use of an Intel Core i3 CPU.
  • No improvements to ports and connections.
  • The webcam is have to have of an upgrade.
  • Upgrading RAM is primarily high priced.

Which is due to the fact this is Apple’s Magic Keyboard, a style and design 1st witnessed in the 2019 16-inch MacBook Professional and dependent on the standalone Magic Keyboard for iMac ($1,799 at Walmart). It truly is a large improvement on the long-suffering butterfly keyboard identified in most Macs in new decades, which has been plagued by breakdowns and basic consumer dissatisfaction. 

Far more than anything else, the new Magic Keyboard is what will make the most recent Air this sort of a winner. Sure, it solves a dilemma largely of Apple’s possess generating, but the finish outcome is very enjoyable, primarily when coupled with new $999 commencing price and part improvements, which is why I contemplate it deserving of an Editors Choice nod, with the caveat that you can find a particular configuration that signifies the ideal overall value.

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Arms-on with the 2020 MacBook Air


The new keyboard is just not the only fascinating new factor about the new MacBook Air. Also large information is that the laptop ultimately officially returns to the basic $999 (£999, AU$1,599) price, following a handful of decades of commencing at $1,199 and then $1,099 (although some vendors would often low cost it by $100 or so). 

There is, even so, a bit of a capture. That $999 commencing price only incorporates an Intel Core i3 CPU, not the Core i5 a person would expect for that price. Outside of that a person concern, most of the other information is good. New CPUs upgrade solutions contain quad-main Intel tenth-gen chips. The default storage jumps from a measly 128GB to a more sensible 256GB. Intel Iris graphics are a step up without having introducing additional hardware from AMD or Nvidia. 

The price is right 

There was once a time I known as the 13-inch Apple MacBook Air “the most universally practical laptop you can acquire.” That was back when the Air was a very school-university student-pleasant $999 and plainly outclassed anything in the Windows entire world you could get for the identical price. Others could have matched or defeat its processor speeds, but the Air experienced a slim, unibody aluminum shell, a near-perfect keyboard and an OS that would not travel you (quite as) ridiculous.

But that was a long time in the past. More than the decades, the MacBook Air fell behind the levels of competition, stubbornly clinging to its style and design and even most of its specs as other laptops progressed. In 2018, the system ultimately received a much-essential reboot, introducing a large-res monitor, slimmer bezels and Touch ID. But at the identical time, it also additional the much-maligned butterfly keyboard and kicked the price up.  I always felt that was a blunder —  $999 is an essential psychological and fiscal barrier, primarily for pupils, writers and any one who desires most reliability and usability on a price range. 

Keyboard evolution 

Now that I have experienced a opportunity to go hands-on with the new MacBook Air, the keyboard genuinely stands out as a big offering place. The keys sit visibly better. They feel more substantial. You can find a enjoyable heft to typing, and in contrast to the past model you are going to in no way question if a keystroke registered. It truly is hard to overstate how large a modify this is when using the two MacBook Air keyboards facet by facet. 


The butterfly keyboard on the left, vs. the new Magic Keyboard on the proper. 

Dan Ackerman/CNET

And it is really about time. Apple experienced stuck with its long-suffering butterfly keyboard style and design considerably past any one considered it would. That super-flat design and style was launched in the late, wonderful 2015 twelve-inch MacBook (a misunderstood basic I will defend until the finish of time). That said, absolutely everyone rather much hated the keyboard even as it crept throughout the item line, into the MacBook Air and MacBook Professional ($1,071 at Amazon) designs. 

The butterfly keyboard underwent several compact revisions in excess of the decades, in no way quite generating absolutely everyone happy (and getting a popularity for stuck keys and other malfunctions), even if the keyboard hatred was, frankly, overblown. 

Then together came the 16-inch MacBook Professional in late 2019. Not only did it make a big go by killing the long-standing fifteen-inch MacBook Professional monitor, leaving Apple without having a fifteen-inch laptop, it pulled the plug on the butterfly keyboard, replacing it with a likewise flat style and design that experienced a much greater system beneath. At the time, I said “Immediately after just a solitary day of typing on the new Magic-design and style keyboard on the 16-inch MacBook Professional, I am all set to retcon the butterfly keyboard back to currently being a disaster. Which is due to the fact the new keyboard is positively pleasant, which is not praise I give lightly. Set a different way, my 1st considered early this early morning when typing this overview on the 16-inch Professional was, “Wherever the f*** has this been for the last 4 decades?” 

Now, that identical up to date keyboard is in the MacBook Air. No, Apple didn’t blow out the monitor bezels even more and power in a 14-inch monitor, although that would have been fascinating to see. Maybe that’s waiting for the inescapable upgrade to the 13-inch MacBook Professional, which is now the odd-male-out and minimum-up to date of the MacBook line. 

Double the storage, but identical aged RAM

A person of the issues genuinely keeping back equally price range laptops and the non-price range MacBook Air has been compact storage drives. The Air, even in its 2018 refresh (and at a quality $1,199 commencing price), bundled only a 128GB reliable condition travel. With OS overhead, perhaps some online games, applications like Photoshop and Illustrator and how large-res images and films are these times, that’s genuinely not adequate. 

Except you are a gamer or online video editor, no a person genuinely desires 1TB or larger drives, but 256GB is genuinely the new regular, primarily if you don’t want to feel like you are micromanaging storage all the time. The jump from 128GB to 256GB in the base $999 MacBook Air is welcome, if overdue. The $1,299 step-up model will get 512GB as its default. In equally scenarios, 8GB is the normal RAM, which performs only due to the fact of how successfully MacOS deals with it, but genuinely, the 16GB step-up should really be the new regular, not a $200 upgrade. 

At minimum you can upgrade that, in contrast to the 720p webcam, which feels stuck in time and retains this from currently being a definitely professional-stage business machine, although that’s a dilemma that plagues the complete MacBook line. Underneath are images captured moments aside with the 2019 and 2020 variations of the MacBook Air. Primarily in a (ideally short-term) period of limitless Zoom meetings, it is really a shortcoming. 


The 2019 model webcam. 

Dan Ackerman/CNET


The 2020 model webcam.

Dan Ackerman/CNET

A main concern

Far more storage, greater keyboard, new CPUs, greater graphics. All welcome upgrades. The declare that the Air now has tenth-gen Intel quad-main processors is also welcome, but examine the not-so-wonderful print. The $999 model comes with a dual-main Intel Core i3, which isn’t going to seem, at minimum on paper, like a very quality encounter. Immediately after all, a Core i3 is what you get in low-cost Black Friday doorbuster laptops. 

The overview unit I have been using is the upgraded Core i5 model, and in preliminary work-from-house testing, I identified it to be approximately on-par with current Windows Core i5 laptops, but significantly lagging some new Core i7 designs, like the new Dell XPS 13 we just tested. Battery life was nine:40 on our streaming online video battery drain examination, which is a minor behind Apple’s promises, but good adequate for all-day, every day use. 


Dan Ackerman/CNET

I have not tested the cheaper Core i3 base product, but I am absolutely sure it is really wonderful for day to day office or university student duties, even some modest graphic style and design and photo modifying, etcetera. But I do cringe a bit at paying a thousand bucks for a Core i3 CPU. 

Jumping to the quad-main Core i5 is an additional $100, which seems like a good investment. But then I might want the 16GB of RAM as very well, for a different $200. At that place, you should really glance at the better-finish base product, which commences at $1,299 for the quad-main Core i5 and jumps to 512GB of storage, but once more with just 8GB of RAM. So, increase $200 to that and you are up to $1,499. At which place you could as very well wait around for the inescapable 13-inch MacBook Professional update. 

But no — that’s what the obsessive upgrade monster in your head wishes you to do. Get started with the $999 base product, increase $100 for the quad-main upgrade. Dependent on the on-paper specs for considerably, that’s what you should really do.