Apple’s New MacBook Air is the Best Work-at-home Computer

Image credit: Apple

The Particle Debris article of the week is from Nilay Patel at The Verge.

“Apple Macbook Air (2020) Review: The Best Mac For Most People.” With subtitle:

All it needed was a totally new keyboard and faster processors

I selected this review because the MBA release by Apple was so timely, author Patel’s review was equally timely—and for the high quality of the review.

Author Patel writes:

When Apple updated the new Air last year, it stuck with that butterfly keyboard, which meant that there was still a question mark hanging over it. And the Intel chips inside struggled with even moderately demanding tasks.

That brings us to now: the 2020 MacBook Air comes with the new scissor-switch keyboard Apple introduced in the 16-inch MacBook Pro, and the processors have been upgraded to Intel’s new 10th-generation parts. Apple also lowered the price by $100: the MacBook Air now starts at $999.

It’s been a long road back, but this new MacBook Air is right where it needs to be: squarely in the mix of being the best laptop for most people.

MBA 2020
Image credit: Apple

Patel goes on to write a nicely constructed, even-handed review that supports his thesis. He lays out the scenario in which one might want to favor a 13-inch MacBook Pro or, in my opinion, the (rumored, forthcoming) 14-inch MacBook Pro with the new keyboard.

He explains in detail the trade-offs so the reader can decide between the two. Instead of griping or taking shots at Apple, this review goes into good technical detail as to why, for most non-pro users, working at home, this is the perfect Mac, indeed, computer.

I agree with the author that the base configuration (US$999) is too low in performance with its Intel i3. Patel notes:

Our review unit is the step-up configuration, with a 1.1GHz quad-core Core i5 chip and 8GB of RAM. [with a 512 GB SSD.]

Personally, I’d also strongly recommend 16 GB of RAM. That’ll come in at a total of $1499, but that investment will pay off handsomely down the road.

This is a thorough, first-class review of the MBA. I was impressed.

The Week’s News Debris

I have spoken.

Image of iPad Pro 2020 with Magic Keyboard

ars technica brings us down to earth in its review of the 2020 iPad Pro. “OK Computer: The iPad Pro 2020 review.

The new iPad Pro is a great tablet and an OK computer.

Sure, Apple’s marketing tagline for the new iPad Pro says, “Your next computer is not a computer.” But this year’s update comes with full mouse and trackpad support, and that moves this device into completely new territory. It was always a computer, of course, but there’s no room for ambiguity now.

This is also a thorough review, but because of the claims made by Apple, the author gets fairly blunt in places. Still, as always, good work from ars.

• All the expert tech journalists recommend the use of a password manager. But that practice is not 100 percent risk free. See: “Popular password managers can get hacked: Should you keep using them?

Some password managers fared better than others but researchers concluded that Dashlane was the worst. The app was vulnerable to seven different security flaws the researchers tested. 1Password, on the other hand, had the fewest flaws — “just” five.

My own balloon has just been poofed.

• Will the global pandemic delay the launch of the iPhone 12/5G? Gene Munster doesn’t think so. “Why Gene Munster believes Apple’s 5G iPhone will launch on time.

• Finally,

Ahem. Replicator: Tea, Earl Grey, decaff.

Particle Debris is generally a mix of John Martellaro’s observations and opinions about a standout event or article(s) of the week followed by a discussion of articles that didn’t make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holiday weeks.

2 thoughts on “Apple’s New MacBook Air is the Best Work-at-home Computer

  • John:

    Samuel Axon’s review of the 2020 iPad Pro in Ars Technica is quite good, despite some odd comments under differences with the 2018 models, such as,

    “For audio, the tablet has four speakers, so it can provide stereo audio in any orientation (addressing a complaint we had about using the lower-end iPads for media consumption), and a set of improved microphones—five of them, to be precise”. This is a feature of the iPad Pro 2018. Perhaps this is being conflated with the improved microphone in the 2020 device, which is being touted as studio quality. Nonetheless, this is a good review and definitely worth the read for anyone interested in not simply the iPad Pro 2020, or comparing it to its predecessor, but in the device writ large.

    There are two broad areas of consensus amongst reviews of the iPad Pro 2020. One is that, if one already has a 2018 iPad Pro, there is no compelling reason to upgrade to this version. For those of us who purchased the 1TB version, our 2018 models already have the 6 GB or RAM that are the standard in the 2020 version, and the CPU performance of the two versions are effectively identical.

    The second is that the big draw to the iPad Pro is the new Magic Keyboard, which is not solely about the keyboard, but about the inbuilt trackpad and mouse support built into iOS 13, which is not entirely new, but will exploit the new features of Apple’s iPad Pro – dedicated keyboard. Plus, the device is not only imaginative but gorgeous, and yet reminiscent of and consistent with Apple’s iMac legacy.

    Finally, as to appeal of the iPad Pro, this will differ by user and potential use case, but for yours truly, given my field work, one of my great worries over the years has been the vulnerability of my laptops. Two in particular suffered blunt force trauma, one of them non-recoverable. The iPad, by definition with fewer moving parts, has less to go wrong with it, and has proven a far more portable and robust field tool, made more so by the added features of cellular connectivity, camera, and battery life. Given that the keyboards and pencils that supplement its productivity, which are not a part of the device but separate, and decidedly less expensive and easily replaceable, there is simply far less to go wrong with it. A battered keyboard case is a mere $100 – $200 away (okay, a wee bit more with the Apple Magic Keyboard, but the principle applies).

    As for Kimberly Gedeon’s piece on password managers, their security flaws should not be entirely surprising. Apple and other major tech companies invest heavily in their security protocols to keep them not simply industry standard but industry leading. These smaller companies simply are not keeping pace, and may not be capable of competing in that tier. I, for one, have always found 1Password kludgy and difficult to work with (lost track of how many times I had to manually input passwords I had already created), and for the past 3 years at least, have found Apple’s Keychain far more robust and responsive. These third party offerings may have self-Sherlocked.

    Finally, regarding Star Trek: Picard, it more than delivered. It upped Star Trek’s game whilst delivering apposite and timely commentary on our relationships across the human spectrum from government and authority, to ‘otherness’, to relationships of every kind. Highly recommended for anyone interested in high powered entertainment that leaves you thinking.

  • The Best Work-at-home Computer would be a headless Mac, more powerful than the Mac mini, less expensive than the Mac Pro. The Mac miniTOWER. With a standalone Apple Thunderbolt 3 display, of course. And Apple wired keyboard and mouse (at least, as an option). Batteries are obnoxious for the environment and a pain to recharge.

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