MacBook Air 2020 Review

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.

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Capturing Moments with Hashtag Authentic

I’m just going to say it: I’m often skeptical about buying books written by “influencers.” I’ve bought a couple, and read reviews of a few more. Nowadays, I pay them hardly any notice. Still, something drew me towards Hashtag Authentic by Sara Tasker.

While I do follow Sara on Instagram and Twitter, I hadn’t listened to much of her podcast by the same name, so I didn’t really know what to expect.

unInfluencer Vibes

The main draw was how uninfluencer the book felt. I was inspired by the mantra of “moments, not things.” It seemed more like a book about photography than one about social media. And… surprise, that’s what it was.

I am the worst for buying books and then letting them collect dust, but I honestly loved this book. I read it over a few days and came away feeling inspired at the end of each session.

A Wide Range

The first thing that struck me was how accessible the book feels. It really puts an emphasis on how anyone can enjoy photography, as so many people carry cameras with them at all times anyway. At the same time, it didn’t feel limited. There’s such a wide range of information and different ideas on how to use photography to tell a story.

Actionable Tips & Tricks

I’ve studied photography for quite a while. I chose it as a discipline when studying New Media at post-secondary. I’m pretty familiar with composition and camera settings. But I still found something new to take away from each chapter. Whether it be a technical tip, or just thinking about social media in a different way.

I was a bit afraid that the activities throughout might feel a bit more like a fluffy blog post with the same kind of tips that you can find on a million websites online. This was not the case. Rather, the activities were very helpful and felt like doing an actual photography course.

I still need to go back and do some of them properly, which is something I’m really looking forward to. It’s like going back to school!

A Faceless Photographer

Sometimes I feel awkward on Instagram because I have almost no desire to be in the photos I post. There’s a definite bias toward images that contain the account owner on Instagram, to the point where it seems like many are models rather than photographers. I’ve always wanted to be more of a photographer and to share moments around me with very little time in front of the camera (for my face, at least). And I think for a long time I felt a disconnect between that side of me and what I most often see on Insta.

After reading Hashtag Authentic, I feel more focused. I feel like my Instagram account can be what I want it to be – a gallery of bits and pieces of the things I see and experience.

At the same time, it did help me think of more ways to be in my photos, even when I am faceless. I found myself using the “phone in mouth” trick to get both of my hands in frame (and yes, it was as ridiculous as it sounds). And it did make me think maybe I could show my face every so often.

I’m sure it’s obvious by this point, but I cannot recommend this book enough for someone looking to be inspired to create and tell stories, by the everyday things around us.

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Making a Photo Book

Psst, scroll to the end of this post for a Papier discount code worth £10 off your first order. They do a lot of cool things, beyond their photo book offering, like personalised cards and notebooks. You’re welcome!

My mom had been asking for years that I make her a photo book of some of my own photos. And I finally got around to doing it last year for her birthday. It was the perfect time to finally put one of these together and I’m very pleased with the result.

A double page spread showing 2 photos on each page of the photo book.

Choosing a Supplier

To find a supplier that could print my photo book, I did an old-fashioned Google and compared the results. I mostly looked at sites that I had heard of. I ended up settling on Papier. I was familiar with their brand from their Instagram account. I liked the look of the product. And they had the added bonus of 40% off all photo books. This made it extremely affordable by comparison to other sites. Especially as I knew I’d likely want to add extra pages on top of the base price.

Creating the Photo Book

I went for one of the “minimalist” styles in the landscape format. I knew my mom wanted to use the book as a coffee table book, so I wanted something that would be a decent size and the landscape format just seemed to be the type of book you would flip through with someone else while sat together on the sofa.

Assembling the book itself wasn’t too difficult. I went through old hard drives and picked out various photos, making sure to find originals so I could get the highest resolution possible. Then I edited them in Lightroom to make sure that all my edits were consistent.

The web-based builder for the book was OK. It wasn’t the easiest to use, but I’ve definitely had worse. I had to do it twice because I exported my photos a bit too small the first time. It also annoyed me by saying my photos weren’t high enough quality, even though I’d exported them at massive sizes. For the cover photo, in particular, I exported it at a very high quality, but then the building tool told me the file size was too large. So I’d make it smaller, and then it would say the photo was not high enough quality. It was infuriating!

The paper texture I chose was matte paper. Now I really like the look of matte paper from an aesthetic point of view! I like that it doesn’t get fingerprinted and I like the more vintage feeling. But gloss paper will make the colours pop a lot brighter, which might be the favoured approach when printing photos. And, as my partner pointed out, while it doesn’t get fingerprinted, it makes it easier for stuff to get on the page and not be able to be wiped away.

I think if I could add another feature it would be the option for captions. While I think most of the collections I made are self-explanatory, I think a little note with the location and year would be beneficial. I think they mostly market to events like weddings, which are on one date and in one place, so I can see why they may not have that feature.

Overall, I would recommend Papier for printing photo books, and, in all likeliness, I will use them again at some point.

Looking for a Papier discount code?

If you’re new to Papier, you can get £10 off your first order. (Full disclosure: I will also be given £10 credit toward Papier products after you make your purchase.)

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