Hardware

Computer | Notebook

Long-term Field Test 18.05.2020 to 15.08.2022


Apple MacBook Air i5 1.1/16/1 TB (2020)

Photo: original box Apple MacBook Air, colour space-grey, top side

Photo: original box Apple MacBook Air, colour space-grey, top side

Test Report about a MacBook Air

I hope you enjoy reading it!

Purchasing

05.05.2020: Order from Apple's online shop:
13-inch MacBook Air - Space Grey
With the following configuration:
Retina Display with True Tone
1.1 GHz Quad-core 10th generation Intel Core i5 processor (Turbo Boost up to 3.5 GHz)
16 GB 3733 MHz LPDDR4X RAM
1 TB SSD Storage
Intel Iris Plus Graphics
Illuminated Magic Keyboard – German
Touch ID
Force Touch Trackpad
Two Thunderbolt 3 Ports
Accessory kit
Price: 1.999.00 EUR (with tax)

USB‑C to Lightning Cable (1 m). Price: 25.00 EUR
Leather sleeve for 13" MacBook Air - Saddle brown. Price: 119.00 EUR

06.05.2020: Pick up cable + leather case from DHL Packstation.

18.05.2020: UPS supplies Apple MacBook Air i5 1.1/16/1 TB (2020).

Equipment

  • Apple MacBook Air with macOS Catalina 10.15.4 Build 19E266
  • 30 Watt Power adapter with USB-C socket
  • USB-C charging cable (2 m)
  • Notes and brochures for first steps and guarantee

Photo: Apple MacBook Air 2020 in opened box

Photo: Apple MacBook Air 2020 in opened box

Photo: opened box, MacBook Air removed. View of the rest of the delivery. That's all!

Photo: opened box, MacBook Air removed. View of the rest of the delivery. That's all!

Tech Specs

Colour: Space grey (also available in gold and silver)
Storage capacity: 1 TB (also available with 512 GB and 2 TB)

Dimensions and weight:
Height: 0.41 to 1.61 cm
Width: 30.41 cm
Depth: 21.24 cm
Weight: 1.29 kg

Display

Retina Display
13.3" Display (33.78 cm diagonal) with LED backlight and IPS technology.
Resolution: 2560 × 1600 pixels, 227 ppi, support for millions of colours
Supported scaled resolutions:
1680 × 1050
1440 × 900
1024 × 640
Aspect ratio: 16:10
True-tone technology

Processor

tested version:
1.1 GHz Quad Core Intel Core i5
(Turbo Boost up to 3.5 GHz) with 6 MB L3 cache

also available with:
1.1 GHz Dual Core Intel Core i3
(Turbo Boost up to 3.2 GHz) with 4 MB L3 Cache
or
1.2 GHz Quad‑Core Intel Core i7
(Turbo Boost up to 3.8 GHz) with 8 MB L3 Cache

Working Memory (RAM)

tested version:
16 GB 3733 MHz LPDDR4X

also available with:
8 GB 3733 MHz LPDDR4X (On‑Board)

Storage Space

tested version:
1 TB PCIe-based SSD

also available with:
256 GB, 512 GB or 2 TB SSD

Connections

Two USB-C sockets support:

DisplayPort
Thunderbolt (up to 40 Gbit/s)
USB 3.1 Gen 2 (up to 10 Gbit/s)

Headphone jack 3,5 mm

Wireless Technologies

802.11ac WLAN
Bluetooth 5.0

Audio Playback

Supported audio formats: AAC-LC, HE-AAC, HE-AAC v2, Protected AAC, MP3, Linear PCM, Apple Lossless, FLAC, Dolby Digital (AC-3), Dolby Digital Plus (E-AC-3) and Audible (formats 2, 3, 4, Audible Enhanced Audio, AAX and AAX+).

TV and Video

Supported video formats: HEVC, H.264, MPEG‑4 Part 2 and Motion JPEG
High Dynamic Range (HDR) with Dolby Vision and HDR10 content
AirPlay Mirroring, photos and video output to Apple TV (2nd generation or newer)

Power Adapter

According to Apple

  • up to 11 hours wireless surfing
  • up to 12 hours playback of Apple TV App movies
  • up to 30 days standby

Integrated lithium polymer battery with 49.9 watt hours
30 watt power adapter with USB-C connection socket

Both USB-C sockets support Thunderbolt 3 and USB 3.1 Gen 2 for battery charging as well.

Practice

Battery Performance

Battery Life, Battery Saving, Charging Time

Battery Life (Time between two Charges)

Very individual, difficult to compare. Dependent on use.

Little use: possibly x days (check mail inbox daily, visit one or the other website). Not tested, as the following applies better to me:
Heavy use: x h (emails, 5 h listening to music, reading a book [Apple books], maintaining this website, web research and editing photos for new reviews).

Battery Saving on my Part yes, but …

In order to protect the battery, which cannot be changed by the user, I rarely push it to its limits, as this wears it out unnecessarily.
When there is about 30 % remaining charge, I try not to charge it to 100 %.

Battery Saving on Apple's Part …

Unfortunately, even with stationary use, the battery charge does not end at max. 60 %, but at 100 %, thus promoting premature ageing.

Does Sony have exclusive Rights (Patent) to Battery Saving?

The battery charge is not adjustable for stationary use as I know it from my Sony VAIO Z12X9E/X notebook - for frequent stationary use on the power adapter, Sony recommends the charge setting that always keeps the battery in the 50% range, which protects the battery cells as best as possible. This is how I used this old notebook for years.

Portable High End Equipment for Audiophiles

03.06.2021: Listen to my favourite album The Best Of The Art Of Noise (1992), 2. title: Yebo (Mbaqanga Mix).
Ideal for testing the low bass reproduction!
Further play tip: 7th track: Legacy.

This is synthesiser sound, which - taken alone - is not objectively suitable for testing the sound quality of a music player. Electronic music sounds good on any device. But I know this album inside out and have already listened to it very often from CD and also on various MP3 players (constant quality encoding; dynamic data rate up to max. 320 kbit/s).

For the objective test of sound quality, I used music tracks with acoustic instruments and very often heard musicians' voices.
The listening test CD “Stakkato” from the hi-fi magazine Audio was also very helpful in the objective test of acoustics (old, but tried and tested).

Linear smooth Frequency Response

The Apple MacBook Air can thus show (at the headphone jack/via Bluetooth) that it has a ruler-like frequency response down to the low bass range. Otherwise, the bass would not be so abysmally deep, undistorted and clear (unfortunately, I cannot measure it).

The signal-to-noise ratio is also excellent. By the way: because Apple devices have extremely low latency, they are very popular with musicians and DJs.

My audio test equipment: As headphones I use the Sony MDR-EX90LP.
These studio monitor quality in-ear headphones offer quite pristine reproduction.

Change from Windows to macOS

It's a huge switch from Windows 7 Pro to macOS Catalina 10.15.x!

IT Professionals feel like Beginners again

Soon you are playing out in your mind the reversal of the purchase …
But just don't think it through! It's worth staying on the ball, er apple.
So far, you have accepted every challenge and not chickened out!
Onward into the depths of space, er apple universe … Wink Smiley

And if you're not an IT professional at all, you'll manage even better!
Because this way you are not pre-loaded with ingrained PC habits. smiley
I found the answer to almost all questions within seconds on the internet. And for the rest, after a few minutes.

If you still can't find a solution to some problems after an hour, don't give up!
I am not the benchmark! Patience, imagination and many years of internet experience make any online research easy for me.
If you are a computer novice, perhaps of an older vintage, and prefer the tome of books, download the free MacBook Air book from "Apple Books" and read it on screen – or buy it in paperback from a bookshop.

A reference book is always good and best in the form in which you prefer to work with it yourself.

Migration Problems

Key labelling: Special characters are missing – you have to laboriously read them from an app that is accessible via the menu bar (upper edge of the screen).

macOS Versions and Updates documented

  • 18.05.2020 ex works delivered with macOS Catalina 10.15.4 Build 19E266
  • 19.05.2020 Update to macOS Catalina 10.15.4 Build 19E287
  • 26.05.2020 Update to macOS Catalina 10.15.5 Build 19F96
  • 01.06.2020 Update to macOS Catalina 10.15.5 Build 19F101
  • 19.07.2020 Update to macOS Catalina 10.15.6 Build 19G73
  • (The rest will be added later, we have long since reached macOS Ventura 13.5.1)

Software alias Apps

Preinstalled Software

  • Photos
  • iMovie
  • GarageBand
  • Pages
  • Numbers
  • Keynote
  • Siri
  • Safari
  • Mail
  • FaceTime
  • iMessages
  • Maps
  • Stock Exchange
  • Home
  • Voice Memos
  • Notes
  • Calendar
  • Contacts
  • Reminders
  • Photo Booth
  • Preview
  • Books
  • App Store
  • Time Machine
  • TV
  • Music
  • Podcasts
  • Where is?
  • QuickTime Player

Highly recommended Apps in the App Store

  • 1Blocker Ad blocker also well-known as iPhone version by Salavat Khanov
  • Battery Monitor by Marcel Bresink Software-Systeme
  • iMazing HEIC Converter by DigiDNA
  • Pym tiny graphic tool (Open Source) by Chi Wang
  • Strongbox password safe also well-known as iPhone version by Phoebe Code Limited
  • StuffIt Expander 16 by Smith Micro Software, Inc.
  • System & Network Info by Konstantinos Papadakis
  • Thunderbird E-Mail-Client by the Mozilla Foundation
  • Tutanota Desktop E2E fully encrypted: e-mail, address book, calendar by Tutao

Highly recommended Applications directly from the Developers

  • FileZilla FTP Client Developer version from the Mozilla Foundation
  • iMazing “iOS administrative power pack” by DigiDNA

I have already been able to test and evaluate some software. You can find this and all future reviews at Software.

Excellently processed Hardware

Audiophile Features

The audio quality is excellent! The frequency response is from 18 Hz to 19 kHz, as if drawn with a ruler - and the headphone output is hardly any different!

Flat Aluminium Housing

The excellently crafted case feels very good and is a pleasure to hold.

The high-resolution 13.3-inch Display sharply displays Photos and Text

I like to watch my TV series on this screen.

10th Generation Intel i5 Processor, but powerful is different

The MacBook Air is really not designed for work that relies on high processing power!
Even complex websites can make the 10th generation Intel Y processor sweat.
Prolonged file copy actions with the Finder cause the fan to rotate …

Touch ID – Unlocking becomes convenient

The password only needs to be entered after switching on and booting up your MacBook. The corresponding fingerprint is sufficient to unlock the screen.

Poor Performance, but not a Problem for me: the Camera

Since I don't like video chats, the miserable webcam is perfectly adequate for me. It never gets used anyway.

Sleeve or Bag

Photo: Apple's beautiful, but very expensive leather case

Photo: Genuine leather case from Apple: beautiful and expensive

Photo: Apple MacBook Air 2020 and expensive leather case

Photo: Apple MacBook Air 2020 and genuine leather case

You want to protect an expensive MacBook from damage.
I had ordered the original leather case from Apple.

Unfortunately, I hadn't checked out fitBAG's online shop for their range of notebook bags. Otherwise, I would have ordered a leather bag there, as I already do for smartphones. That would have been cheaper, because bags from fitBAG are not expensive, despite being made to measure!

Pros

  • Absolutely flawless build quality
  • 100% recycled aluminium without compromising on stability or finish
  • very efficient coordination of software and hardware
  • Hard disk encryption efficiently implemented and easy to use (key ring)
  • Easy-to-use Time Machine backup software constantly creates backups so that as little as possible is missing in an emergency case
  • outstandingly good acoustics for music reproduction with linear smooth frequency response from 18 Hz to almost 20,000 Hz
  • Reliability and stability of the operating system - no crashes or unwanted reboots since initial operation
  • Memory with secure hardware encryption
  • Touch ID quickly unlocks MacBook, can also be used for App Store purchases (only if desired)
  • good keyboard with good pressure point
  • Keyboard settings such as shortcuts and intelligent word suggestion algorithm are synchronised with the iPhone
  • Display with excellent performance in resolution, brightness and colour fidelity - but not the whole P3 colour space
  • available with 16 GB RAM, highly recommended
  • Safari web browser with very fast page loading and excellent developer menu (including simulation of various screen sizes)
  • ideal for test report writers like me: good screenshot function implemented directly in macOS!
  • no bloatware ex works

Cons

  • everything is soldered, nothing can be expanded
  • models with storage sizes suitable for everyday use and future-proof are extremely expensive (1 TB is a must because of the lack of expandability!)
  • no exchangeable battery – battery cannot be exchanged by the customer without tinkering and loss of warranty

Nice to look at, but not to work with

The MacBook Air is really not designed for hard work!
Even opening several demanding websites makes the 10th generation Intel Y processor sweat.
When cleaning up your data collection on SSD or moving many hard disk files, the built-in fan soon becomes audible.
Some users have burnt up the i7 processor including the circuit board in the MacBook because the cooling system is not designed for it!

Compromise

Model with i5 processor – on the one hand I only do simple things with it, on the other hand an i5 doesn't die of heat as quickly as an i7.

Alternatives

MacBook Pro

The MacBook Pro (2020, Intel CPU) in the smallest configuration is barely more expensive than a MacBook Air (2020, Intel CPU) in a medium configuration!
The advantages of the MacBook Pro: the screen displays the full P3 colour space, the processor is connected to two coolers via heat pipes and the speakers are even better.

MacBook Air M1

Apple's new M1 chip (“Apple Silicon”) is much more powerful.

Apple's iPhone processor is now significantly more powerful than the mobile processors used in notebooks. All Apple's engineers had to do was add more cores, a better graphics CPU, neural processing units and more memory, and other notebook manufacturers no longer play a role in terms of performance …

More powerful than an old MacBook Pro and barely slower than the new MacBook Pro M1 for demanding image editing, rendering and video editing.

MacBook Air M2

Apple's successor model offers even more performance.
Sophisticated computer users like me therefore do not buy the still available model with M1 chip, but the successor.

Price Tip: MacBook Air M1 with 8 GB RAM

In a long, detailed YouTube video, I saw the entry-level model being compared to a full-featured MacBook Air M1, and the YouTuber himself was very pleasantly surprised that the entry-level model was very easy to work with and didn't get hot or slow at all without active cooling!
I would, however, prefer to buy it with 16GB of RAM just to be on the safe side.

Reference

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