By Chand Bellur
March 22, 2020 at 5:58 p.m. PDT
- The new MacBook Air doubles performance and storage space over the previous model.
- With the same Retina HD display as last year’s model, the MacBook Air offers 2560 x 1600 resolution with millions of colors.
- The new, improved scissor keyboard mechanism is now included in the MacBook Air.
Apple Launches New MacBook Air Amid COVID-19 Pandemic
There’s a lot more important news than a new MacBook Air. Given that we’re at the start of a global pandemic, which may kill millions and collapse healthcare systems across the world, a new, improved MacBook Air seems trivial.
Apple read the room and kept their latest product launches relatively low key. There’s no big event at Apple Park. I have yet to even see a TV commercial about the new iPad Pro or MacBook Air. Apart from a few tech websites, the world has been focused on COVID-19.
Despite the pandemic, life goes on. Technology products are people’s livelihoods. Computers like the MacBook are modern day workhorses. With more employees working from home, Apple’s latest offering gives people an affordable and reliable alternative to Windows PCs.
Apple quietly launched the new MacBook Air last week. The new, slim notebook is twice as fast and offers double the storage of its predecessor. With a low starting price of $999, it’s destined to sell relatively well, considering the circumstances.
Twice the Speed, Twice the Storage
The most exciting aspect of the new MacBook Air is its processor. Although there’s rumors that Apple may be developing an ARM-based MacBook, this one, like all Macs, uses an Intel processor.
Equipped with a 1.1GHz dual-core Intel Core i3, the base model is fast enough for most office workers. If you’re looking to create media and need fast rendering capabilities, this model maxes out with a 1.2GHz quad-core Intel Core i7. With Apple’s super-efficient macOS operating system, even an audio-visual professional could fare well with one of these machines.
Apple has always been frustratingly stingy on storage space. The actual cost difference between a 128 GB SSD and a 256 GB drive is negligible. Of course, Apple needs to make money, so the upcharge for more storage space is extreme.
It appears as though Apple has figured out that being slightly more generous may convert customers. A 256 GB MacBook Air for $999 is a pretty good deal. It almost makes me regret buying a MacBook Pro last year.
Good Riddance Butterfly Keyboard
Apple seems to be finally phasing out their troublesome butterfly keyboard mechanism. The notorious keyboard design could easily be compromised by small pieces of debris. Countless users had failing keyboards, which Apple addressed by extending the keyboard warranty to four years.
I personally have not experienced a problem with my MacBook Pro’s second generation butterfly keyboard mechanism. That said, my MacBook Pro is usually mounted on a stand and I use a Logitech external bluetooth keyboard. I bought a keyboard cover for my MacBook Pro, well aware that a little grit could compromise its deeply flawed mechanism.
The outrage over Apple’s butterfly keyboard mechanism is still salient. The Cupertino company still manufactures notebook computers with this flawed design. The latest version features a membrane to prevent ingress of foreign matter. Even with this improvement, however, Apple has gone back to the scissor mechanism in its newest models.
A scissor mechanism is used by the majority of computer keyboards. Apple used it for a long time, but switched to the butterfly mechanism in order to make thinner laptops. Although Apple has been silent about why they switched back, it was likely done for the sake of reliability.
Last year’s 16″ MacBook Pro was the first to feature the “back to the future” scissor mechanism. Apple has included this new Magic Keyboard in the MacBook Air. We can only hope that Apple replaces all butterfly keyboard mechanisms with the “new” scissor design. Even if they replace defective keyboards for free, going several days without a Mac is a dealbreaker for most productive individuals.
New MacBook Air Boasts A Gorgeous Screen
Although the new MacBook Air features a beautiful display, it’s the same one as last year’s model. With stunning 2560 x 1600 resolution, the display is perfect for graphic design, video editing or simply binge-watching your favorite show.
As with last year’s model, the new screen features a True Tone display. This technology uses the ambient light sensor to select the appropriate color temperature. The end result is more natural-looking documents, which makes work easier and more pleasurable.
Improved Speakers and Microphones
Apple is finally taking audio performance seriously with their MacBook line. Last year’s 16″ MacBook Pro added excellent speakers and “studio quality” microphones. A subset of these advanced features have found their way into the new MacBook Air.
The new MacBook Air boasts better speakers with twice the bass and 25% more volume. This could make the device ideal for semi-professional musicians and content consumers. It won’t replace studio monitors for pro-audio users.
A new three microphone array uses beamforming technology to pick up sound. While it may not be good enough for most Podcasts, it may help telecommuting workers communicate with colleagues.
Great Machine, Great Price
The new MacBook Air is an excellent machine at an affordable price. I almost regret purchasing a new MacBook Pro 18 months ago.
The new MacBooks feature a much more reliable keyboard mechanism. If that’s not enough, they offer faster processors and double the storage, for a few hundred dollars less than previous models.
If you’re new to telecommuting and need a reliable machine to work from home, this new MacBook Air is ideal. While it’s not powerful enough for audio-visual professionals, most office workers should fare well with Apple’s newest notebook computer.