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MacBook Air (13-inch, Late 2020) with M1 chip: Everything you need to know

Apple Macbook Air Gold Facetime Screen
Apple Macbook Air Gold Facetime Screen

MacBook Air

MacBook Air (Image credit: Luke Filipowicz / iMore)

The MacBook Air has received its second update in 2020. With Apple Silicon inside, it's not just a big update, it's the biggest update the MacBook Air has ever received. We've got all the details right here.

What's new with MacBook Air?

It's all about what's inside. The MacBook Air is built with Apple silicon, also called the M1 chip. Apple has been working on custom silicon for years, and bringing it to the Mac is already revolutionizing the future of computing.

The M1 chip promises to be up to 3X faster than the highest performing PCs and Apple says is 98% faster than all other PCs in its class. It's rated to be 3.5X faster than the 2020 MacBook Air from earlier this year.

The MacBook Air (13-inch, Late 2020) has an 8-core CPU and 7 or 8 core GPU. That's up to 16 cores for the neural engine. ML is up to 9X faster and the SSD storage is up to 2X faster. All of this is thanks to the M1 chip.

The powerful 8-core CPU performs up to 3.5x faster than the previous generation. With up to an 8-core GPU, graphics are up to 5x faster, the biggest leap ever for MacBook Air.

Apple is so sure of the extraordinary performance of the M1 chip that there isn't even a fan in the MacBook Air. It will never push past its limits into needing to cool down.

What other new features are there?

The body of the MacBook Air (13-inch, Late 2020) with M1 chip doesn't change at all. It's the same size, same design, and probably the same weight. There are some small improvements, however, that give the MacBook Air a little boost.

It has a better iSight camera with some minor tweaks to improve how you look on screen. It has less noise and better adaptive lighting to help how you look in any situation. It doesn't get a 4K upgrade, but it's better than nothing.

Other new features in MacBook Air include Apple's latest image signal processor (ISP) in the M1 chip, which improves camera image quality with better noise reduction, greater dynamic range, and improved auto white balance and ML-enhanced face detection so users look their best during video calls.

The MacBook Air (13-inch, Late 2020) with M1 chip also gets a display boost with P3 wide color support.

And, thanks to the Secure Enclave in the M1 chip, Touch ID is faster and more secure than ever before.

The new MacBook Air gets an upgrade to Wi-Fi 6 and support for Thunderbolt 4

What about battery life?

This is the most impressive part of the M1 chip's abilities. The Apple silicon MacBook Air has up to 15 hours of wireless web browsing, 18 hours of video playback, and can support 6 hours more battery life while video conferencing.

Talk about all-day battery life!

Can you upgrade the processor?

Now that the MacBook Air (13-inch, Late 2020) has the M1 chip, which is a system-on-a-chip, there is no processor upgrades available. There is, however, a GPU upgrade option if you want to spend a few hundred dollars more.

Any new colors?

Not this year. The Apple silicon MacBook Air comes in gold, space gray, or silver.

How much does this new, faster MacBook Air cost?

Remarkably, the same as the MacBook Air launched earlier this year (and less than the 2019 model). The MacBook Air starts at $999, $899 for qualified students.

The $999 MacBook Air comes with an 8-core CPU and a 7-Core GPU. It has 256GB of upgradable SSD storage (up to 2TB). It comes with 8GB of unified memory, but you can upgrade that to 16GB. And this one does come with a charging brick in the box.

For $250 more, you can upgrade to the 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU model, which starts with 512GB of upgradable storage (up to 2TB). You can also go from 8GB of unified memory to 16GB.

When will the MacBook Air go on sale?

Today! You can order the MacBook Air (opens in new tab) right now from Apple's website.

Any more questions?

Do you have any more questions about the Apple silicon MacBook Air? Put them in the comments and we'll find the answer!

If you aren't excited about Apple Silicon and feel more secure with Intel inside, we get it. Lucky for you, there are going to be some incredible MacBook deals over the next few months.

Lory is a renaissance woman, writing news, reviews, and how-to guides for iMore. She also fancies herself a bit of a rock star in her town and spends too much time reading comic books.  If she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can probably find her at Disneyland or watching Star Wars (or both).

6 Comments
  • Honestly the 2019's smaller trackpad was an attraction to me. I use a 13.3" Pro for work and the wide trackpad gets in the way when I am typing A LOT!!! going to say that now that they went to the bigger trackpad I will wait for tan update to the 13.3" Pro to replace my aging 15.4" rMBP.
  • Interesting! I've never found the big trackpads to be a problem, even if I touch them I still have to physically press them down to actually click. I usually have my hands rested on each side of the trackpad
  • Is it the exact same screen? I saw somewhere that it gets up to 400 nits, but I thought that the last version had a remarkably dim screen (maybe below 300 nits)?
  • Oopsie, typo in the second paragraph! A "25GB starting storage capacity" isn't very impressive. But how about 256GB?
  • I'm excited about these new silicone macs! As a teacher with the most demanding thing I do being running Zoom classes, I'm curious if the 8 core GPU is a necessary upgrade or if the 7-core GPU will be fine. Also, will I need to upgrade to 16 GB of RAM?
  • I expect 7 core GPU will be fine. 8 core GPU will give you a marginal improvement for games and some pro apps. Since the RAM is built-in and can't be upgraded, I personally lean toward 16GB for future-proofing as well as my unusual use case of running lots of VMs, but 8GB should be completely fine for Zoom and normal usage. For comparison, the 2020 iPad Pro only has 6GB of RAM.