​MacBook Air 2017 vs the new 2020 model

Hello Geeks! Today we are comparing ​MacBook Air 2017 vs the new 2020 model

The Macbook Air was a game changer when it was released in 2008. Seen for the first time at a keynote address in the hands of Steve Jobs, no less. It was the world’s thinnest laptop with a 13.3 inch screen and was the peak of style without compromising functionality. Since then we’ve seen two more generations added with an even smaller 11.6 inch screen and more functionality. We’re currently 2 years into the third generation and the 13th version of the air overall with the 2020 model launched earlier this year in March. What we’re going to do today is compare the last Macbook Air of the previous generation – the 2017 model, against the most recent offering of 2020. Bearing in mind that the 2017 air was at the twilight of the 2nd gen’s life and the new model is only a couple of years old.

Processor, usability, RAM & storage

Ok so for a fair comparison we’re going to compare the basic models, both with 13inch screens. Obviously these can all receive upgrades but let’s try and make this as level playing field as possible. The standard processor on the 2017 air was a 1.8GHz​ dual-core Intel Core i5 with Turbo Boost up to 2.9GHz and 3MB shared L3 cache. Yes, this is by no means the fastest processor but will comfortably handle what the average air user needs it for. The air was always marketed towards students and entry level creatives as the gateway Macbook. A processor like this is perfectly capable of multi-tasking and handling photo or video editing.

The 2020 model is a slight step down on the surface with its basic version having a 1.1GHz dual-core Intel Core i3 with Turbo Boost up to 3.2GHz, and 4MB L3 cache. So the processor is less powerful by the boost and cache offers more. Again the i3 is no slouch but you’d be wanting to upgrade to the i5 version if you really wanted to put a processor through its paces with multiple apps and processor draining tasks like video editing.

RAM is similar with both. The 2017 version offers

slightly high spec RAM but both are impressive at 8 gig meaning that for such a small notebook

​8 GB of 1600 MHz LPDDR3 SDRAM.

Compared with the 2020’s offering of 8 GB of 3733 MHz LPDDR4X SDRAM. So 2020 has a

it has a lot of short term memory to keep up with whatever the user wants to throw at it.

As with all of these specs, the SSD is upgradeable but the 2020 comes with a 256gb SSD as

standard, which is double what the 2017 standard version offered at only 128gb. Obviously now

there’s less emphasis on storage with cloud based systems taking priority and this trend looks

like it will continue into the future. However it’s always nice to have that piece of mind that

you’ve got the physical storage in your back pocket should you need it. The last thing you want

is the dreaded notification telling you you need to start deleting everything.


Now if you’re a macbook air user the chances are that you’re not looking to use the notebook for gaming. And if you are then you’ve not done much research into what to buy. As an entry level notebook the air was never built for serious gamers. However there’s still an expectation that these things need to be able to cope with some visuals, especially as higher def images become the norm. The 2017 version offered up Intel HD Graphics 6000 whereas the 2020 equivalent has Intel Iris Plus Graphics. Doing a little digging into these two cards there is little difference on the face of their specs but the iris plus outperforms its predecessor in almost all tests as you’d expect. The graphics on the 2020 version have received the upgrade desperately needed to match the resolution upgrade, which we’ll go into now.


So this is where the 3rd gen 2020 version really starts to pull away from its predecessor. The 2017 was the last dance for the 2nd gen and as a result had a display that badly needed an upgrade, not just the screen itself but also the intrusive bevel around it. As the years rolled on this bevel started to date the macbook air as other windows based machines started to shave down the frame around the display. Apple took note and followed suit with a much more slick design that was far more fitting of a macbook. On top of that apple also upped their game in terms of specs. The current version sports an​ LED-backlit display with IPS technology and crucially a 2560×1600 native resolution at 227 pixels per inch. Compare that with the very dated 1440 by 900 native display of the 2017 version and you can clearly see the improvement.


So it wouldn’t be a notebook comparison without mentioning the keyboard. Well the good news is, both manage to avoid the dreaded butterfly keyboard that caused so many issues and upset the mac fanbase so dramatically. Without going into detail the butterfly keyboard was introduced between these 2 models we’re looking at today and caused many issues. The 2017 version instead has the now extinct chunky island style keys which had tactile functionality even if they weren’t the best looking. Apple decided to remedy this with the butterfly that shallowed the keys but lost functionality. Finally they remedied that problem by introducing the magic keyboard, initially on the pro but now available on the air as of this year. They’ve brought back the keys and therefore brought back more functionality and reduced the issues found on the butterfly so you can see how these two models have come full circle with their keyboards.

Another keyboard orientated feature that does set these two apart however is touch id. This wasn’t available on the 2nd gen models so you won’t find it on the 2017 version. However this has since been added on the 3rd and is a significant addition for a lot of customers.

Design and physical specs

The design of the air is one of it’s biggest selling points. When it launched in 2018 the thin and light design blew people away and offered a new era of portability. So when apple launches a new air people expect to see an even smaller laptop. So let’s see if that’s the case with these twomodels.First,height.2017boasts0​ .11–0.68inchheightwhereas2020is0.16–0.63inches, so overall not too much difference in range. 2017’s width was 12.8 inches compared to 11.97 inches of 2020, a significant reduction. 2017’s depth was 8.94 inches vs 8.36 inches of 2020, over half an inch difference. And the weight has been reduced from 2.96 pounds on the older version to 2.8 pounds in 2020. Not a massive reduction but one to take note of. So overall the 3rd gen has been on a diet since the second generation was retired.

Other key points

The battery on the 2 models has very little to choose between them. You’ll get a ​Built-in 49.9‐watt‐hour lithium‐polymer battery with the new model compared to the 54‐watt‐hour battery on the 2017 so expect to see a little less power storage. Around 1 hour less of wireless web time from 12 to 11 hours according to apple.

The 2nd gen air had the very popular magsafe power adapter which avoided countless accidents when tripping over the power cable as it would detach immediately. The air 2020 follows the trend for minimalist inputs so this has been replaced by a USB-C power point which may disappoint a lot of fans.

On that note if it’s ports you’re after you’re going to be disappointed because there are only 2 here and they’re both thunderbolt usb-c. So although they’re versatile they’re going to be used up pretty quickly if you use them for charging or displaying. You might have to settle for a dock life from now on. In contrast the 2017 version has 2 usb-a ports as well as 2 thunderbolt ports and the magsafe port we’ve already mentioned.

So in summary the 2020 does offer the necessary upgrades that you’d expect from a new gen of airs. The display especially is worth the update alone. However the CPU specs aren’t that impressive on the newer model if you’re going with standard, so expect to spend a little more to upgrade if you’re wanting that extra processor punch. All in all the 2020 wins out here but only by virtue of the fact the 2017 version was at the twilight of the 2nd gen’s life.

Lastly, thank you to the sponsors of this video, TEKDEP.com, where you can shop for certificated Mac computers and sell your old Mac for top dollars. Once again, that’s TEKDEP.com, where you can buy & sell used gadgets.

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