Wednesday, March 18, 2020 [Tweets] [Favorites]

MacBook Air 2020

Joe Rossignol (Apple, Hacker News):

Apple today updated its MacBook Air lineup with faster processors and graphics, a scissor switch Magic Keyboard, a lower starting price of $999, and more.

The new MacBook Air features Intel's latest 10th-generation Core processors, including up to a 1.2GHz quad-core Core i7 with Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.8GHz, resulting in up to two times faster performance compared to the previous generation. And with Intel Iris Plus Graphics, the new MacBook Air delivers up to 80 percent faster graphics performance.

A 256 GB SSD for $999 is a big improvement.

In retrospect, I kind of wish I had waited for this instead of buying a 16-inch MacBook Pro. I love the speed and the larger display, but the oversized trackpad and the Touch Bar annoy me on a daily basis.

Previously:

11 Comments

>In retrospect, I kind of which I had waited for this instead of buying a 16-inch MacBook Pro. I love the speed and the larger display, but the oversized trackpad and the Touch Bar annoy me on a daily basis.

I wish more people raise this concern. I still dont like the new Scissor's keyboard, it feels similar if not the same as Butterfly, but this MBA seems to be the replacement I am looking for, for my old MacBook 2015.

No WiFI 6 though.

@Ed Yeah, I understand that the scissor keyboard is an improvement over the butterfly, but as someone who had been using 2012/2015 Apple laptops it feels like a regression to me.

@Michael have a look at the trade in values, they can be quite generous. I really like working on the MacBookAir, I much prefer having a lighter (less hot) computer, after a couple of months of adjustment I didn't miss the larger screen at all.

@Neil The current trade-in value on Gazelle and SYM is not good, 50% off for a few-months old Mac, and less than what it would cost to buy a specced-up MacBook Air. I think I would really miss the larger screen.

So, would you use this for App Development? My existing early 2013 MBP just hates the iOS simulator now. I want that newer keyboard layout but really need to know that there's enough power to cope with current Xcode and Simulator. The price point seems pretty good though.

Sören Nils Kuklau

>So, would you use this for App Development?

No, except for casual stuff.

You didn't specify much about your MBP (is it 13 or 15 inches? If it's 15, it'll be quad-core…). You definitely want at least the mid-range CPU, because those $100 buy you a big performance boost. But even then, you only have four cores, and Xcode (clang and swiftc) loves cores for breakfast. That's why you often see developers going for the iMac Pro (which can be had with up to 18 cores). But these days, a much better bang for the buck is the 27-inch iMac: it can be configured to up to 8 cores, while costing half as much as an iMac Pro (about the only downside is the poorer cooling system).

But obviously, that's a desktop, and you'll also be spending about twice as much.

If you want a machine that's very compact and reasonably zippy for its size, the $1,099 MacBook Air with i5 is a great deal. But it won't be fast for development. My recommendation is to wait until Apple upgrades the 13-inch Pro models, which are currently (compared to the Air) a poor deal.

@Sören Nils Kuklau Thank you. You're right I didn't provide much detail. My current unit is a dual-core 2.6Ghz i5 with 8GB ram. I was looking at the quad-core i7 16GB ram option for the Macbook Air. What does my head in is the 1.2GHz thing. Just can't wrap my head around the diff between 2.6Ghz dual i5 and 1.2Ghz quad i7.

A desktop is sadly not an option; I do a lot of my work on the move. I was thinking to wait for the new 13" pro's but I guess I've been waiting for a long time, and this one looks tempting.

Neil Hargreaves

@Peter I've been developing on the first gen retina. Absolutely no problem with simulator. Xcode inline/as you type compiler warnings and errors can be a little bit laggy, but I'm not sure that this is related to CPU performance, even so it's still not a big deal. Google Chrome sometimes makes the fans spin up, but Xcode and simulator never does. I'm sure the new models are totally fine. I'm not doing SwiftUI or live view previewing, so you might want to check that.

Things I like the most... wedge shape has way better ergonomics, I have quite big hands so the the front end edge on the pro models was always annoying, real function keys and of course lighter and less heat.

Sören Nils Kuklau

My current unit is a dual-core 2.6Ghz i5 with 8GB ram. I was looking at the quad-core i7 16GB ram option for the Macbook Air. What does my head in is the 1.2GHz thing.

Well in that case, that’s an even more serious upgrade. We don’t have a proper “benchmark chart” entry yet, but MKBHD measured 1192 in single-core and 3238 in multi-core. Jason Snell measured 1047 in single-core and 2658 in multi-core. That wide variance particularly in multi-core is a little concerning, but either way, that’s a big bump over your CPU; let’s split the difference an call it 1120 and 2948. That’d make the Air 91% faster in single-core, and 132% faster (more than twice as fast) in multi-core.

The latter isn’t surprising; you’re getting twice the cores. But the former is, these days, quite a bump.

Doubling the RAM obviously will help you, too. There’s other factors, as well: the Air will likely have a faster SSD than yours, too.

Just can’t wrap my head around the diff between 2.6Ghz dual i5 and 1.2Ghz quad i7.

In practice, while compiling, that CPU will be turbo boosting a lot. Even with all four cores running, those Ice Lake CPUs go above 3 GHz. Aside from that, GHz don’t really tell the whole story. You’re on a 22nm CPU, so there have been two die shrinks since (14, and now 10), you’ve missed out on various other enhancements such as AVX2, and where your memory runs at 1600 MHz, the Air’s will run at 3733 MHz.

But if you’re looking for two things to be concerned about:

There’s the obvious thing that this machine only has Thunderbolt 3 ports, and only two of them. One will be occupied a lot with your power plug, assuming you don’t integrate that with some kind of dock that has USB Power Delivery, so you effectively only have one more left (again, assuming you don’t use some kind of dock/hub solution). You’ll have to decide for yourself if you’re OK with that. If not, you’ll need to go all the way up to the 13-inch Pro with four ports (not the base-model Pro, which also only has two), and you’ll want to wait on that one until later in the year, because it’s just not a good deal right now compared to the Air.

And then there’s thermals, which are sometimes a big question mark with Apple laptops. We just don’t have the data on this one yet. How much can the Air sustain the performance? Is there an overheating problem?

For the latter, nothing else will help than wait a few weeks and hope no big negative reports come out.

But will I’ll still say it’s somewhat low-end for development purposes (but then so was your 13-inch Pro), the Air looks like quite a good laptop, in a way we haven’t seen much from Apple these recent five years.

@Sören Nils Kuklau and @Neil Hargreaves, thank you for taking the time to respond. I feel much better informed now, and encouraged.

I was very tempted by the 16-inch too, but my desire for it despite its price and its size made me realise that the updated keyboard was what I really wanted. The moment the Air was announced with this new keyboard, I ordered one.

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