On June 22 Apple formally announced its departure from Intel x86 to its in-house ARM chipset, dubbed Apple Silicon.
ARM-based chips, like those found in iPhone and iPad, are considerably faster and more efficient than their Intel counterparts and will allow for better battery life and enhanced integration between hardware and software. Close your eyes and imagine the speed and stability of a mobile device but in a laptop or desktop computer.
The first Apple Silicon Macs will be available later this year.
All of this is to say my own Mac — a 2011 MacBook Air — died within days of the announcement, so I was confronted with deciding between buying into a dying line of Intel-based Macs now or holding out for Apple Silicon later this year.
It wasn’t an easy decision; while ARM-based Macs will be exponentially more powerful and more efficient, the transition to get there may include bugs and kinks. While this will be especially true for niche software developers who may lag in their production cycles, I don’t expect transitional issues from “anchor” apps like Microsoft Office and Google Chrome. Still, as a general rule, I avoid buying the first generation of any new tech. Plus, I can’t go months without a computer.
I opted for the upper-tier MacBook Air.
My Air’s configuration includes performance and memory bumps: a 1.1 GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i5, 16 GB 3733 MHz LPDDR4 RAM and a 512GB SSD. Choosing quad-core was a no-brainer, and the bump to 512GB of storage provides more wiggle room without fretting about space.
This configuration is more than powerful enough for my needs: writing with lots of open tabs, light web development and casual video editing. I can run Final Cut Pro or Logic Pro X if need to, though if I used either of those tools fulltime, I would have opted for the 16-inch MacBook Pro.
Apple’s attention to detail did not escape the 2020 MacBook Air. At the top of the list of enhancements is the return to the traditional scissor keyboard. The 2020 Air’s Magic Keyboard has 1mm of travel and has a satisfying click to keystrokes.
And finally, at long last, I have a retina display and Touch ID.
The line between the macOS and iOS is blurring more each year. There isn’t a hard divide between mobile and desktop experiences, at least when it comes to photos, bookmarks, documents, and settings. The majority of my stuff was synced via iCloud, and the rest was available through my Time Machine backups. I’m comfortably within the walled garden that Apple has constructed for me over the last 15 years, and I can seamlessly move between my MacBook, iPad, and iPhone. I expect macOS and iOS to become even more enmeshed when Apple releases its next OS, Big Sur, later this year.
The 2020 MacBook Air has only two ports, and they’re both USB-C. None of my devices –– not my printer, my external hard drive, or my GoPro camera –– is USB-C. This is my biggest grievance with the 2020 Air. It didn’t occur to me how many older USB devices I had until I couldn’t use them. The issue of legacy ports was solved by buying a USB-C Hub Adapter, which opens the notebook up to all of my older devices.
The 2020 MacBook Air, like all current Mac laptops, features a very awful 720p FaceTime camera, so don’t expect much visual appeal for virtual meetings from home. I suppose this is due to the Air’s thin form factor and lack of space for a larger, higher-quality camera. This is unfortunate as so many of us depend on video calls more than ever during the pandemic.
Will I get almost a decade of use out of the 2020 Air? It’s unlikely. But based on my experience so far, I can say that shoddy camera aside, the 2020 MacBook is a solid option for anyone who needs portability and power.