New MacBook Air announced with $999 starting price, Magic Keyboard and 6K display support

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Low price, new keyboard, two times faster.
Photo: Apple

Apple updated its MacBook Air lineup Wednesday, adding a redesigned scissor-switch Magic Keyboard, twice the storage, a reported two times faster CPU and a lower price tag starting at $999.

Apple said the new MacBook Air comes with twice the storage capacity of the previous model. The new base model starts at 256GB, with up to 80% faster graphics performance. It also supports the Apple 6K Pro Display XDR.

The new MacBook Air comes in three finishes — gold, silver and space gray — and up to a 2TB SSD, double the previous maximum storage. Pricing starts at $999 for a Core i3 Intel CPU. The more familiar and powerful Core i5 version adds $100 to the price.

Apple said the new 13-inch MacBook Air features the latest 10th-generation Intel Core processors up to a 1.2GHz quad-core Core i7 with Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.8GHz. Apple claims the updated processor “delivers up to two times faster performance when compared to the previous generation.”

The new MacBook Air comes in three finishes — gold, silver and space gray
The new MacBook Air comes in three finishes — gold, silver and space gray.
Photo: Apple

The new MacBook Air comes with the T2 security chip, Apple’s custom-designed second-generation silicon that checks that software loaded during the boot process has not been tampered with. It also provides on-the-fly data encryption for everything stored on the SSD. The T2 also protects Touch ID information.

Additional added features for the new model include support for up to a 6K external display – a first for MacBook Air. It also comes with a three-mic array for clearer voice capture during FaceTime, and what Apple calls “advanced” stereo speakers for better, “wider” sound.

The new MacBook Air is available to order now online, but not at Apple retail stores until they reopen.  All stores were closed on March 14 as a result of the coronavirus outbreak and are scheduled to reopen March 28. It remains to be seen if all locations worldwide will open their doors on that date.

New keyboard design a welcome fix

In a press release, Apple explained the new MacBook Air now features the Magic Keyboard, first introduced on the 16-inch MacBook Pro.

“A redesigned scissor mechanism delivers 1mm of key travel for a comfortable and stable key feel, while the new inverted-“T” arrangement for the arrow keys makes them easier to find without looking down.”

Apple first introduced its controversial butterfly keyboard design on the 2015 MacBook. The keyboard design used less space beneath the keys compared to a regular scissor-switch mechanism therefore reducing the amount of travel on the keys. But the design also caused problems for Apple since it meant that the keys often stopped working when dust or other debris got trapped under them.

For the longest time, Apple didn’t acknowledge the backlash to the keys. Eventually, it began to offer a Keyboard Service Program, fixing MacBooks with keyboard problems for free.

When Apple revealed that it was switching back to the scissor-switch for its 16-inch MacBook Pro, Apple VP Phil Schiller told CNET: “We had some quality issues we had to work on. Over the years, we’ve been refining that keyboard design, and we’re now on the third generation, and a lot of people are much happier with that as we’ve advanced and advanced it.”

But he also commented on how pro users preferred the scissor-switch mechanism. That seemed to seal the fate of the butterfly switch.

Supports 6K Display

The new 2020 MacBook Air supports up to a 6K external display for the first time ever, including Apple’s Pro Display XDR.
The 32-inch Pro Display XDR is a 6K monitor with a P3 wide color gamut, true 10-bit color support, 1,600 nits of peak brightness, a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio, and a super-wide, off-axis viewing angle.