(Pocket-lint) - The MacBook Air receives an annual upgrade, with the 2020 model doubling the base storage and introducing a newer keyboard mechanism compared to the 2019 model. But is anything else different? Here's a quick-glance comparison between 2020 and 2019 MacBook Air models.
If you're otherwise interested in the newer M1 MacBook then check out our M1-powered MacBook Pro vs MacBook Air feature instead. We also have a breakdown of all Mac options in our Which MacBook is best for you? feature.
Design & Display
- Both models: 13.3-inch 'Retina display' (2560 x 1600 resolution)
- 2020 model: 40g heavier than 2019 version, at 1.29kgs
- Both models: Gold, Silver, Space Grey finish options
- Both models: 15.6mm thickness, same design
- Both models: 1x 3.5mm headphone jack
- Both models: 2x Thunderbolt 3 ports
At a glance both 2020 and 2019 MacBook Air models look identical. The same scale, same colour options, same screen - it's all the same. Indeed, even the 2021 models are identical in appearance.
There's some subtle differences though. The 2020 model is 40g heavier, plus can support an external monitor to 6K (6016 x 3384) rather than the 5K support from the 2019 model.
In terms of ports, the 2020 Air sticks to its guns: that means the usual two Thunderbolt 3 ports, no additions this time around. The headphone jack is still in place, too.
That also means no improvement to the FaceTime camera: it's still only 720p capable. Oh how we wish Apple would update this dated feature for a Full HD one!
Keyboard & Trackpad
- 2020 model: Magic Keyboard with redesigned scissor mechanism
- 2019 model: Third-gen butterfly mechanism keyboard
- Both models: Large trackpad with Force Touch
- Both models: Touch ID fingerprint login
This is where the biggest change can be seen. The 2020 Air utilises a Magic Keyboard, the same kind you'll find in the 16-inch MacBook from the tail-end of 2019. That's also now the standard in the 2021 M1 MacBooks, too, if you're looking for a newer model.
It's an important change, as the redesigned scissor mechanism here we found far superior than the butterfly mechanism of the earlier Air keyboards, which should mean less phantom typing. That said, we thought the 2019 Air's keyboard was much improved over the 2018 model.
Elsewhere both 2019 and 2020 models have the same large trackpad design with Force Touch dual-layer control, plus Touch ID fingerprint login. There's still no Face ID facial recognition login however - it seems Apple is holding its laptops away from such a sign-in system for now.
- 2020 model: Entry-level processor: 10th Gen Intel Core i3 (1.1GHz dual-core)
- 2020 model: Maximum processor: 10th Gen Intel Core i7 (1.2GHz quad-core)
- 2019 model: Only processor option: 8th Gen Intel Core i5 (1.6GHz dual-core)
- 2020 model: 8GB base RAM (16GB upgrade), 256GB base storage (2TB max)
- 2019 model: 8GB base RAM (16GB option), 128GB base storage (1.5TB max)
- 2020 model: Intel Iris Plus Graphics / 2019 model: Intel UHD Graphics 617
The 2020 Air also ramps up the base specification a little, by doubling the storage from 128GB to 256GB. It's also possible to upgrade to 2TB, rather than 1.5TB, if you want to spend the extra cash.
On the processor front, these models are pre-M1, so that's not an option. But the standard Intel Core i5 processor of the 2019 Air became an Intel Core i3 - which also brought with it a £100/$100/€100 saving, meaning the 2020 MacBook Air wasn't quite as expensive, despite having more storage on board.
Battery life is one area that we're unsure how these models will compare: the 2020 Air should last longer thanks to newer and more efficient processor hardware, unless, of course, you pick the more powerful processor upgrade. Some suggest that the newer model will deliver a slight downturn in battery performance though. But, really, if you want longevity then go for a 2021 M1 model - as it'll last yonks longer.
- 2020 MacBook Air: From £999/$999/€999
- 2019 MacBook Air: From £1,099/$1,099/€1,099
The 2020 Air didn't bring with it an ultimate redesign, nor more ports to bolster the experience. What it savvily did, however, was bring all the goodness of before, plus more storage, and a better keyboard, but for less cash. That was a sensible move, as a stepping-stone year before the M1 MacBook models started to roll out.