Buying guide: which MacBook Air 2020 to choose

With a price starting at less than € 1,200, the MacBook Air 2020 is a natural choice for anyone looking for an easy-to-carry Mac, properly equipped and powerful enough for everything related to the internet, office automation and, if necessary, editing audio, photo and video content sometimes.

MacBook Air Core i3 and 3,440 x 1,440 display

It remains to be seen which model to take since the range now includes three types of 10th generation Intel processors. To complicate matters, their performance is sometimes close when we stick to everything from applications.

Conversely, the rest of the equipment is identical: Retina screen very pleasant even if it could be even more luminous, brand new keyboard, two Thunderbolt 3 ports (in USB-C format), an audio output, two good little speakers and a Touch ID button for identification. Finally you can connect an external screen, even a 4K, and use it in very good conditions (on paper, you can go up to a 6K screen).

As explained in previous test articles, the dual-core Core i3 offered on the entry level is quite competent. This configuration is not the poor relation of the family which would be crushed by the quad-core models Core i5 and Core i7.

But all the same, Apple seems to have placed it there as bait (in the United States it is at $ 999, just below the symbolic four-digit bar). For only 50 € more, you can take the Core i5 option. How to resist and, above all, why deprive yourself of it?

You won’t see the difference between the two processors in Mail or Messages, but you can count on a real power reserve if your occupations take you to some video, music, photos or when you need to virtualize Windows. Nor is it insulting the future to take a slightly faster machine, either because we fear that macOS will become more greedy, or resale eventually.

Then, the graphics chip, with the same reference for the three processors, can go up a little higher in frequency when it accompanies the Core i5 and i7 (1.05 GHz instead of 900 MHz) and this was also reflected in the measurements .

However, there are only on our three autonomy tests – each time by working in a normal way on these machines with our usual MacG software – that the i3 has more frequently approached or largely exceeded 6 hours, while the two other configurations have succeeded only once. For their two other tests, they lasted an hour less than the i3.

Core i3 :

  • Valley Benchmark : 2 h 25 min
  • Common use 1: 5 h 45 min
  • Common use 2: 6 h 35 min
  • Common use 3: 6 h 45 min

Core i5 :

  • Valley Benchmark: 2 h 30 min
  • Common use 1: 4 h 45 min
  • Common use 2: 5 h 30 min
  • Common use 3: 6 h 05 min

Core i7 :

  • Valley Benchmark: 2 hrs 20 mins
  • Common use 1: 4 h 40 min
  • Common use 2: 5 h 45 min
  • Common use 3: 6 h 40 min

We cannot compare these tests step by step since the same applications are used at different rates. However, in a fairly similar framework, the trend was more favorable for the i3. In any case, regardless of the processor, perhaps consider an external battery for (very) long working days.

By choosing to change only the processor, you will stay on a 256 GB configuration. You are the sole judge to decide if this is enough. 512 GB seems to me a good compromise, but it’s also because I use the 2 TB formula of iCloud to unload my laptop from some of my photos and documents, in addition to family sharing.

There are 1 and 2 TB options for the MacBook Air, but they are expensive (€ 500 and € 1,000) and perhaps extravagant for this category? Start by checking the occupancy rate of your current storage volume, it is still the best way to estimate your immediate needs and provide a margin for the future.

Options from the Core i3 model

Also note that the SSD in 256 GB is much slower in writing (800 MB / s approximately) than that of 512 GB (1.4 GB / s). It does not necessarily jump to the eyes with use but it is another argument for this greater capacity.

A Core i5 option, plus that of the 512 GB SSD and that brings battery on the second configuration at € 1,499. Except that it only has 8 GB of RAM, some would say. Going to 16 GB is adding to the € 250 bill, it might get stuck! Never when using these three machines, each with 8 GB, I never felt like I ran out of RAM (a dozen applications were still open). It is also the capacity of my MacBook Pro 13 “2018 on a daily basis.

Again, it all depends on the ratio between your applications, those that we qualify as “general public” and those more “professional”. If you spend long hours making macOS and Windows coexist, a ram ‘of RAM is obviously relevant. Otherwise, when you work mainly with the internet and office suites, without forgetting a few detours in Photos or iMovie, 8 GB will certainly do the trick. But it is to choose from the purchase, you can not change it afterwards, the memory is soldered.

And when we arrived on this configuration in Core i5, it is enough “only” of 80 € to have the Core i7 … Optional option, starting from 1 199 € we arrive at 1 579 € for an i7 in 8 GB / 512 GB. By the way, we bit on the flowerbeds of the first of the new MacBook Pro 13 “Touch Bar, the one with an old 8th generation processor (€ 1,499). At this point, one wonders if the needs expressed should not rather carry you towards a MacBook Pro rather than a MacBook Air.

Ultimately, the first step, that which consists in opting immediately for the Core i5, even if it means staying on 256 GB, seems obvious. For € 1,249 you have a more powerful machine while remaining affordable. And then if your budget has elasticity, we can only recommend climbing to € 1,499 to have these 512 GB of storage and get a MacBook Air balanced and sustainable configuration.


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