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There are people much more qualified than me to write this kind of review, and many of them already have, so this might be a bit of a strange post. But I decided to write a review of my new 2020 MacBook Air, specifically for people like me: designers who just need a good machine that will fit in with their workflow.
From Then to Now
My previous laptop was the mid-2013 MacBook Air, which I purchased in early 2014. It still had the big silver bezels and the squishier keyboard, and it served me very well once my 2009 MacBook Pro had bitten the dust.
I’ve also used the more recent MacBook Pro, circa 2017 or 2018, as my main machine for work. This one had the reduced bezels, now black for more of a seamless feel, and a keyboard that is, quite frankly, painful to use. It has almost none of the “squishiness” and was akin to slamming your fingertips directly into the table for 8 hours every day.
The new 2020 MacBook Air is a bit like these 2 machines had a baby: we have the unobtrusive black bezel and a keyboard that’s a bit more of a throwback, with more travel (although not exactly the same).
This time, I went for the higher spec’d version of the 2020 MacBook Air, with a Dual Core i5 processor and 512GB of storage.
Is the 2020 MacBook Air Good Enough for a Designer?
When I was deciding which machine to go for, I popped the above into Google to see what others were saying. While it was, and is, still a fairly new release, I felt pretty confident that it would work for my needs, and so far it has!
As a designer, I often flip between tasks quickly and have quite a few programs running at once. Chrome (a notorious memory hog) is almost always open, as is my instant messenger app, Photoshop and Lightroom, and Sketch. When I’m coding, I add my code editor (Brackets, by Adobe), an FTP client, and an image optimiser to the mix.
So far, so good. While the fan can definitely kick in when I get really busy, the only time I’ve really noticed it was during set up – when I was syncing 2 large Google Drives.
2019 iPad Pro vs. 2020 MacBook Air
When I got my iPad Pro in the summer of 2019, I hoped that it would replace my need for a proper laptop. Sadly, this wasn’t the case, but the story does have a happy ending.
While I love my iPad Pro for drawing on Procreate, casual browsing, and bashing out the occasional blog post, I don’t find the keyboard to be comfy enough for a solid round of coding.
I also love using Sketch as my main web design tool, and it is only available on MacOS. I dedicated a lot of time to trying to find an iPad program that would at least allow me to design websites, but didn’t have much luck.
What has pleasantly surprised me is how seamless the Apple ecosystem is. It’s so easy to doodle a design element in Procreate and fling it to my MacBook. I’ve been an Android phone user since 2016, but when it’s time for an upgrade I will definitely be looking at an iPhone to maximise productivity.
I also really enjoy having both devices from a personal time management perspective. Having both means that I can keep my laptop more or less dedicated to tasks that I need to focus on while using my iPad more for causal browsing and consuming media and content. It helps create a clearer divide between work and play for me. I almost think of my MacBook as my portable office, while my iPad is a bit more of an entertainment system.
Using the iPad Pro as an External Monitor
Using Sidecar to convert my iPad Pro into a second monitor has been a real game changer. It’s easy: I just attach my iPad Pro to my MacBook Air (this can be done wirelessly too, but I like using the cable to keep my iPad charged), and it works the same as any other external monitor.
This is especially fantastic for me as I really love the size of the 13-inch 2020 MacBook Air for portability, but I do occasionally need extra space. When I am coding, it’s nice to have the design on one screen and the code on the other. When I am doing more casual tasks, it’s nice to have something playing on the iPad screen, or having my instant messenger app open so I can follow along with my many group chats. The way Apple products work together is seriously impressive!
Can We Talk About This Weird Colour, Though?
The 2020 MacBook Air comes in three colours: silver, space grey and gold. Before this, I’ve personally owned silver MacBooks, and my last work one was space grey. So, this time, I had to go for gold.
This “gold” is such a weird colour though! It’s not a more traditional yellow-ish gold. It’s definitely closer to a rose gold. Depending on my environment, it can look rose gold, bronze or even a bit more on the pink side! As a pink loving woman, I am obsessed. But it’s definitely something to keep in mind if pink isn’t your thing.
I also tend to lean toward a more vintage aesthetic, and the gold really lends itself to that.