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The new 2020 MacBook Air Core i5 has arrived: Faster CPU, but still way too loud

After the upgrade to the much improved Retina screen, Apple now takes care of two more problems of the MacBook Air with the latest 2020 model. The heavily criticized Butterfly keyboard is replaced with a conventional input and custom Intel processors are supposed to improve the performance. But does it work?
Andreas Osthoff, Klaus Hinum, 👁 Klaus Hinum, 🇩🇪 🇷🇺

After Apple has already replaced the problematic Butterfly keyboard in the larger MacBook Pro with a conventional keyboard design, we now also get the new keyboard in Apple's smallest laptop, the MacBook Air. During our last review, we were actually not sure whether Apple will use the new keyboard for the MacBook Air because it requires more vertical space. The new model is actually slightly thicker than before, even though Apple does not really advertise this fact in the press information. At 15.9 vs. 16.1 mm (at the thickest spot), however, the difference is small and we actually prefer this development. To be honest, you cannot really notice the difference in practice, either.

Another big issue of the previous model, especially considering the high price, was the slow processor. Intel's Core i5-8210Y was an ultra-low-voltage processor with two cores and very low performance headroom. Apple wants to change that with custom processors from Intel. They still belong to the ultra-low-voltage Y-series, but are now based on the modern Ice Lake architecture, so the graphics performance in particular is increased. The default processor is still a dual-core Core i3, but you can also get a Core i5 or even Core i7 quad-core. These custom Apple CPUs have a slightly higher TDP and therefore higher clock rates. These CPUs also have smaller package sizes, even though this is not really interesting for the customer.

This leaves us with the cooling solution and how it handles the new CPU options. The SoC of the MacBook Air is once again passively cooled. Yes, there is a small fan inside the chassis, but there is no heat pipe that connects it with the heat sink. It is only supposed to improve the air flow in the chassis. As we have heard in the review of the predecessor, the small fan can get really loud (during the installation of applications or when you run more complex tasks, for example). The heat sink of the new 2020 MacBook Air is a bit bigger than before, but there is still no direct connection to the fan.

Our test unit is the Core i5 model of the MacBook Air for 1499 Euros or $1299 US, respectively. We purchased the unit in Apple's standard online shop. In addition to the quad-core processor, the laptop is equipped with 8 GB LPDDR4X-RAM and 512 GB SSD storage which should be completely sufficient for many users.

Performance: Ice-Lake-Y Core i5 with Iris Plus Graphics G7

Our initial benchmarks show that the cooling solution is basically identical to the previous model. Thanks to the new processor architecture and the additional cores, the performance has improved, but it is still clearly behind the rivals equipped with regular 15W CPUs. The best Cinebench R15 Multi result is the first run with 448 points with an average of around 400 points after 25 iterations. By the way, the Core i5-1030NG7 performs almost identically on battery power.

Cinebench R15
CPU Single 64Bit
Apple MacBook Pro 16 2019 i9 5500M (macOS 10.15.1)
184 Points ∼100% +31%
Apple MacBook Pro 16 2019 i9 5500M
184 Points ∼100% +31%
Apple MacBook Pro 15 2018 (2.6 GHz, 560X)
177 Points ∼96% +26%
Acer Swift 3 SF313-52-71Y7
175 Points ∼95% +25%
Dell XPS 13 9300 i5 FHD
166 Points ∼90% +19%
Apple MacBook Pro 13 2019 2TB3
159.33 Points ∼87% +14%
Apple MacBook Air 2020 i5 (macOS 10.15)
140 Points ∼76%
Apple Macbook Air 2019
127 Points ∼69% -9%
CPU Multi 64Bit
Apple MacBook Pro 16 2019 i9 5500M (macOS 10.15.1)
1435 (min: 1401, max: 1435) Points ∼100% +220%
Apple MacBook Pro 16 2019 i9 5500M (Win 10)
1362 (min: 1268.87, max: 1362.31) Points ∼95% +204%
Apple MacBook Pro 15 2018 (2.6 GHz, 560X) (macOS Software Update)
1064 Points ∼74% +138%
Apple MacBook Pro 15 2018 (2.6 GHz, 560X) (macOS Software Update 2)
1057 Points ∼74% +136%
Apple MacBook Pro 15 2018 (2.6 GHz, 560X) (macOS)
953 Points ∼66% +113%
Dell XPS 13 9300 i5 FHD (Ultra-Performance)
667 Points ∼46% +49%
Dell XPS 13 9300 i5 FHD (Optimized)
659 Points ∼46% +47%
Apple MacBook Pro 13 2019 2TB3
637.97 (min: 611.7, max: 637.97) Points ∼44% +42%
Acer Swift 3 SF313-52-71Y7
615 Points ∼43% +37%
Apple MacBook Air 2020 i5 (macOS 10.15)
448 (min: 363, max: 448) Points ∼31%
Apple Macbook Air 2019
252 (min: 241.29, max: 254.07) Points ∼18% -44%
Geekbench 5
64 Bit Multi-Core Score
Apple MacBook Pro 16 2019 i9 5500M (Win 10)
7161 Points ∼100% +178%
Apple MacBook Pro 16 2019 i9 5500M (mac OS 15.1.0)
6841 Points ∼96% +166%
Apple MacBook Pro 15 2018 (2.6 GHz, 560X) (Mac OS 10.15.1)
4860 Points ∼68% +89%
Acer Swift 3 SF313-52-71Y7
4368 Points ∼61% +70%
Apple MacBook Pro 13 2019 2TB3
4181 Points ∼58% +63%
Apple iPhone 11 Pro
3575 Points ∼50% +39%
Dell XPS 13 9300 i5 FHD
2972 Points ∼42% +16%
Apple MacBook Air 2020 i5
2572 Points ∼36%
Apple Macbook Air 2019
1433 Points ∼20% -44%
64 Bit Single-Core Score
Apple iPhone 11 Pro
1343 Points ∼100% +32%
Acer Swift 3 SF313-52-71Y7
1301 Points ∼97% +28%
Apple MacBook Pro 16 2019 i9 5500M (mac OS 15.1.0)
1239 Points ∼92% +21%
Apple MacBook Pro 16 2019 i9 5500M (Win 10)
1186 Points ∼88% +16%
Apple MacBook Air 2020 i5
1020 Points ∼76%
Apple MacBook Pro 15 2018 (2.6 GHz, 560X) (Mac OS 10.15.1)
1006 Points ∼75% -1%
Apple MacBook Pro 13 2019 2TB3
989 Points ∼74% -3%
Dell XPS 13 9300 i5 FHD
936 Points ∼70% -8%
Apple Macbook Air 2019
660 Points ∼49% -35%
Geekbench 5.1
64 Bit Multi-Core Score
Apple MacBook Pro 15 2018 (2.6 GHz, 560X)
5711 Points ∼100% +98%
Acer Swift 3 SF313-52-71Y7
4374 Points ∼77% +52%
Dell XPS 13 9300 i5 FHD
4372 Points ∼77% +52%
Apple iPhone 11 Pro
3531 Points ∼62% +23%
Apple MacBook Air 2020 i5 (macOS)
2881 Points ∼50%
Apple MacBook Air 2020 i5 (Win 10)
2539 Points ∼44% -12%
64 Bit Single-Core Score
Apple iPhone 11 Pro
1342 Points ∼100% +15%
Acer Swift 3 SF313-52-71Y7
1316 Points ∼98% +13%
Dell XPS 13 9300 i5 FHD
1229 Points ∼92% +5%
Apple MacBook Air 2020 i5 (macOS)
1167 Points ∼87%
Apple MacBook Air 2020 i5 (Win 10)
1010 Points ∼75% -13%
Apple MacBook Pro 15 2018 (2.6 GHz, 560X)
1154 Points ∼86% -1%
Blackmagic RAW Speed Test - 12:1 8K CPU
Apple MacBook Pro 16 2019 i9 5500M
39 fps ∼100% +129%
Apple MacBook Pro 15 2018 (2.6 GHz, 560X)
34 fps ∼87% +100%
Apple MacBook Air 2020 i5
17 fps ∼44%

Legend

 
Apple MacBook Air 2020 i5 Intel Core i5-1030NG7, Intel Iris Plus Graphics G7 (Ice Lake 64 EU), Apple SSD AP0512
 
Apple Macbook Air 2019 Intel Core i5-8210Y, Intel UHD Graphics 617, Apple SSD AP0256
 
Apple MacBook Pro 13 2019 2TB3 Intel Core i5-8257U, Intel Iris Plus Graphics 645, Apple SSD AP0256
 
Dell XPS 13 9300 i5 FHD Intel Core i5-1035G1, Intel UHD Graphics G1 (Ice Lake 32 EU), Toshiba XG6 KXG60ZNV512G
 
Acer Swift 3 SF313-52-71Y7 Intel Core i7-1065G7, Intel Iris Plus Graphics G7 (Ice Lake 64 EU), Intel SSD 660p 1TB SSDPEKNW010T8
 
Apple MacBook Pro 15 2018 (2.6 GHz, 560X) Intel Core i7-8850H, AMD Radeon Pro 560X, Apple SSD AP0512
 
Apple MacBook Pro 16 2019 i9 5500M Intel Core i9-9880H, AMD Radeon Pro 5500M, Apple SSD AP1024 7171
 
Apple iPhone 11 Pro Apple A13 Bionic, Apple A13 Bionic GPU, 256 GB NVMe
0102030405060708090100110120130140150160170180190200210220230240250260270280290300310320330340350360370380390400410420430440450460470480490500510520530540550560570580590600610620630640650660670Tooltip
Apple MacBook Air 2020 i5 Iris Plus Graphics G7 (Ice Lake 64 EU), i5-1030NG7, Apple SSD AP0512; macOS 10.15: Ø401 (363.09-448.1)
Apple Macbook Air 2019 UHD Graphics 617, i5-8210Y, Apple SSD AP0256: Ø252 (241.29-254.07)
Apple MacBook Pro 13 2019 2TB3 Iris Plus Graphics 645, i5-8257U, Apple SSD AP0256: Ø634 (611.7-637.97)
Dell XPS 13 9300 i5 FHD UHD Graphics G1 (Ice Lake 32 EU), i5-1035G1, Toshiba XG6 KXG60ZNV512G; Ultra-Performance: Ø526 (443.49-666.89)
Dell XPS 13 9300 i5 FHD UHD Graphics G1 (Ice Lake 32 EU), i5-1035G1, Toshiba XG6 KXG60ZNV512G; Optimized: Ø528 (367.46-659.7)
Acer Swift 3 SF313-52-71Y7 Iris Plus Graphics G7 (Ice Lake 64 EU), i7-1065G7, Intel SSD 660p 1TB SSDPEKNW010T8: Ø553 (544.51-599.88)

We can see the biggest performance increase in the graphics section thanks to the Iris Plus Graphics G7 with 64 EUs. Compared to the old MacBook Air, we are talking about roughly twice the graphics performance according to our initial synthetic benchmarks. The results is about on par with the "small" MacBook Pro 13 2019 with 2x Thunderbolt 3. The smaller UHD Graphics G1 (see XPS 13 9300 Core i5, for example) is also beaten, but it cannot keep up with the Iris Plus Graphics G7 of the more powerful XPS 13 9300 Core i7 (+42%). Furthermore, there is significant throttling in the 3DMark stress test (-20%).

3DMark 11 - 1280x720 Performance GPU
Apple MacBook Pro 16 2019 i9 5500M
Radeon Pro 5500M, i9-9880H, Apple SSD AP1024 7171
14725 Points ∼100% +404%
Dell XPS 13 9300 Core i7-1065G7
Iris Plus Graphics G7 (Ice Lake 64 EU), i7-1065G7, Intel SSDPEMKF512G8 NVMe SSD
4508 Points ∼31% +54%
Acer Swift 3 SF313-52-71Y7
Iris Plus Graphics G7 (Ice Lake 64 EU), i7-1065G7, Intel SSD 660p 1TB SSDPEKNW010T8
4138 Points ∼28% +42%
Apple MacBook Pro 13 2019 2TB3
Iris Plus Graphics 645, i5-8257U, Apple SSD AP0256
2985 Points ∼20% +2%
Apple MacBook Air 2020 i5
Iris Plus Graphics G7 (Ice Lake 64 EU), i5-1030NG7, Apple SSD AP0512
2924 Points ∼20%
Dell XPS 13 9300 i5 FHD
UHD Graphics G1 (Ice Lake 32 EU), i5-1035G1, Toshiba XG6 KXG60ZNV512G
2578 Points ∼18% -12%
Apple Macbook Air 2019
UHD Graphics 617, i5-8210Y, Apple SSD AP0256
1509 Points ∼10% -48%
Blackmagic RAW Speed Test - 12:1 8K Metal
Apple MacBook Pro 16 2019 i9 5500M
Radeon Pro 5500M, i9-9880H, Apple SSD AP1024 7171
48 fps ∼100% +153%
Apple MacBook Air 2020 i5
Iris Plus Graphics G7 (Ice Lake 64 EU), i5-1030NG7, Apple SSD AP0512
19 fps ∼40%
Blackmagic Disk Speed Test
5GB Read
Apple MacBook Pro 16 2019 i9 5500M
2788 MB/s ∼100% +121%
Apple MacBook Pro 15 2018 (2.6 GHz, 560X)
2424 MB/s ∼87% +93%
Apple MacBook Air 2018
1884.3 MB/s ∼68% +50%
Apple MacBook Air 2020 i5
1259 MB/s ∼45%
Apple Macbook Air 2019
1007 MB/s ∼36% -20%
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 13 inch 2013-10
730 MB/s ∼26% -42%
5GB Write
Apple MacBook Pro 16 2019 i9 5500M
2880 MB/s ∼100% +117%
Apple MacBook Pro 15 2018 (2.6 GHz, 560X)
1674 MB/s ∼58% +26%
Apple MacBook Air 2020 i5
1328 MB/s ∼46%
Apple Macbook Air 2019
1320 MB/s ∼46% -1%
Apple MacBook Air 2018
1008.3 MB/s ∼35% -24%
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 13 inch 2013-10
674 MB/s ∼23% -49%

Legend

 
Apple MacBook Air 2020 i5 Intel Core i5-1030NG7, Intel Iris Plus Graphics G7 (Ice Lake 64 EU), Apple SSD AP0512
 
Apple MacBook Pro 16 2019 i9 5500M Intel Core i9-9880H, AMD Radeon Pro 5500M, Apple SSD AP1024 7171
 
Apple MacBook Pro 15 2018 (2.6 GHz, 560X) Intel Core i7-8850H, AMD Radeon Pro 560X, Apple SSD AP0512
 
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 13 inch 2013-10 Intel Core i5-4258U, Intel Iris Graphics 5100, Apple SSD SM0256F
 
Apple Macbook Air 2019 Intel Core i5-8210Y, Intel UHD Graphics 617, Apple SSD AP0256
 
Apple MacBook Air 2018 Intel Core i5-8210Y, Intel UHD Graphics 617, Apple SSD AP0256

Keyboard is good, fan is still annoying

The switch to the new keyboard is definitely a welcome change. Some users were pretty happy with the old Butterfly keyboard thanks to its very precise (yet shallow) key travel, but there have been plenty of reliability problems over the last couple of years. The new keyboard is pretty similar to the larger MacBook Pro 16 in terms of subjective typing experience.

The fan behavior is also very similar to the predecessor and longer workloads (not only synthetic load, but also longer installations, for example) results in a very loud fan noise. At around 30% CPU load (installation of OS updates), the fan is clearly audible and we are already above 40 dB(A), which is hard to understand considering the low performance level. We can even measure up to 45 dB(A) under heavier 3D workloads. We will continue to observe the situation until the review is complete.

Speaking of the full review: It will be published in the next couple of days. Please leave a comment if you have specific questions or suggestions for the test.

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2020 03 > The new 2020 MacBook Air Core i5 has arrived: Faster CPU, but still way too loud
Andreas Osthoff, Klaus Hinum, 2020-04- 1 (Update: 2020-04- 1)
Andreas Osthoff
Editor of the original article: Andreas Osthoff - Managing Editor Business Notebooks
I grew up with computers and modern consumer electronics. I am interested in the technology since I had my first computer, a Commodore C64, and started building my own PCs after that. My focus here at Notebookcheck is the business segment including mobile workstations, but I also like to test new mobile devices. It is always a great experience to review and compare new products. My free time is filled with a lot of sports, in the summer mainly on my bike.