New MacBook Air gets the Magic Keyboard Treatment

The new MacBook has the Magic Keyboard, a new CPU, and costs $999

Why This Matters:

Apple’s MacBook Air is wildly popular, even with the beleaguered Butterfly keyboard introduced with last year’s update. Lowering the price and swapping in Apple’s new Magic Keyboard design could make it more appealing.

Apple 13 inch MacBook Air
Apple's new 13-inch MacBook Air.  Apple

The COVID-19 pandemic has tilted the world on its access, which means technology that helps us work from home and stay connected is more important than ever. And companies like Apple, which are still providing critical technology, have to do things differently. On Wednesday, Apple unveiled a bunch of new products and, instead of inviting tech media out to California for a big product event, it quietly posted a press release, produced a product unveiling video that I watched, and held a brief live Q+A for me and other tech journalists.

In addition to the new iPad Pros, Apple revealed a big 13-inch MacBook Air update (and a much smaller Mac Mini one)

The Air is still fair. While the new MacBook Air looks a lot like the one Apple released last year, Apple replaced the third-generation Butterfly keyboard (not exactly a consumer favorite) with the new Magic Keyboard it introduced last year on its MacBook Pro 16-inch and upgraded to a snappier 10 nm, 10th generation Intel Core i CPU and Intel’s Iris Plus graphics.

About that keyboard. The MacBook’s Air’s Magic Keyboard features the same refined keycap as the one on the MacBook Pro, with a mechanism that locks in place at the top of travel, as well as a rubber dome and new scissor mechanism underneath. The keyboard also includes an Escape Key and inverted arrow key array for easy screen navigation. Apple really likes this new keyboard. It also introduced a new iPad Pro keyboard cover featuring it (along with a trackpad).

Apple MacBook Air
The new Apple MacBook Air.  Apple

The engine underneath. Apple upgraded the MacBook Air from an 8th generation Intel Core i CPU to the processor company’s latest “Ice lake” 10th Generation CPU. It’s 10nm construction makes it far more efficient and it has a claimed 2X performance improvement over the previous MacBook Air. The new Intel Iris Plus Graphics can now support Apple’s 6K Apple Pro Display XDR, which would set you back $5,000. Interestingly, the entry-level MacBook Air now starts with a dual Core i3 CPU, instead of the Core i5 the last generation of MacBook Air offered. You can, obviously, still buy a Quad-core i5 model for $1,299.

Put your stuff here. The new MacBook Air now starts with 2566 GB of storage. You can upgrade to 512 GB (storage options go all the way up to 2 terabytes) and double your RAM to 16 GB. All of these options will add to the total cost of your MacBook Air.

Will it support me? The MacBook Air now has a claimed 11 hours of wireless web browsing battery life and 12 hours if you just watch video.

What hasn’t changed. The MacBook Air’s 13.3-inch Retina display is unchanged, as are the two Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports, 720p Facetime Camera and Power/Sleep/Touch ID button.

What about the mini? Apple’s Mac mini got a mini-sized update. The $799 base model now starts with 256 GB of storage.

On sale now. Apple’s already taking preorders for the new MacBook Air and Mac Mini. Those buying the MacBook air right now also get a free year of Apple’s new streaming service TV+.

Bottom Line: Apple, which is responding to our new reality by closing its stores, transforming its developer conference into a digital event, and reimagining product launches to help stem the spread of COVID-19, is still producing hardware and software than can play a role in helping us adjust and succeed in what could be a long-term remote work situation. Those thinking about a new long-term work-from-home companion from Apple will likely be interested in the new MacBook Air.

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