January 27th, 2021
Hello everyone, today I'll quickly cover what I experienced by using the last i5 Macbook as a developer and student for 6 months, I won't give any numerical details I'll rather give different performance analysis for some typical use cases after short design focused entrance.
Before moving to MBA(Macbook Air) I was actually a desktop user myself and I was using Linux Mint for everyday tasks and personal use, the reason of me moving to a laptop was being have to move to Germany for study purposes. So maybe you should approach this review from that point of view.
I hope you enjoy it.
I believe from a aesthetics point of view no one would argue that MBA is an ugly device, actually still to this day most of the users of the MBA series choosing the device purely because of the look and the branding.
The metal and slim body gives you the premium feeling whenever you hold it, and being able to open it via only one hand is kinda cool and after you got used to it might feel like a necessity rather than a nice to have.
From what I heard before, the Macbook keyboards between 2016-2019 were a little bit problematic as far as I know. The butterfly keyboards couldn't bring too much comfort of use while taking a huge amount of robustness away. MBA 2020 uses Apple Magic keyboard and I don't have anything bad to say about, I'm kinda tall so my hands are a little bit bigger than the average yet the travel distance between the keys felt totally balanced to me.
Heat is a big issue with MBA and that's an intentional flaw to not to make MBP(Macbook Pro) obsolete. Without heat problems the difference between two devices could be downgraded to screen and touch bar only in my opinion. I'm not an expert so I'll skip the details.
Yet even though I say the heat is a big issue, I didn't really experienced any performance issues when I run any type of development work. Even with Docker and multiple containers running at the same time. The problem about the heat is when you want to use the device on top of your lap or on a bed. Because when you use it on a desk the overall heat on the keyboard surface is never too high to bother you even when the CPU is around 100 degrees C, yet when you try to use it on your lap you can totally feel the heat and that's not great. Similarly using it on a bed might even downgrade the performance while you run some resource intensive tasks.
Another note about the heat, when you try to watch 4k video on Youtube, that's totally possible but after like 15 seconds into video fans will start to spin like crazy, similarly when you make a multi participant Zoom meeting if the overall quality of the videos is a little bit decent, the fans will do the same thing again.
When it comes to performance I don't really have anything bad to say other than some edge cases about the heat as I stated above.
My device is a 8gb ram and 256 ssd version and I was a little worried about how memory intensive jobs are going to fail in my environment, it turns out that all those assumptions were wrong and ram was just enough even the use of containers and other resource demanding jobs didn't bother me at all. I done all sorts of frontend and backend work together with libraries like React or Frameworks like Next or Express on the backend. I have to add that I haven't run any VMs(Virtual Machines) on my device ever and I do think that could cause some problems, if you are using VMs daily basis maybe you should consider the ram upgrade then.
About browser graphics side however I experienced a strange problem, when I want to use libraries or frameworks like three.js or Phaser to put some graphic stuff in motion a disabled HA(Hardware Acceleration) in Chrome will decrease your experience so much that you'll feel like you are using a 10 years old laptop, but when you enable HA performance will come with a strange tradeoff that I couldn't find a solution yet, whenever you play a video while HA enabled whenever the screen switches the video output turns into something green and weird for like a second, I couldn't find a solution for that back when I bought the device and since then if I'm not developing something like as I stated above I just disable HA.
I think the pricing is okay given the quality and overall experience yet of course that can be a little bit cheaper all the time but going cheaper models purely because of that reasons didn't make much sense to me since it's basically a trade-off between money and developer experience.
I'm totally okay with my MBA at the moment and I can see myself using the same device for a long time too. Only possible change for me in the future is to move on a newer gen Apple silicon Macbook when I experience some serious performance issues with the one that I have at the moment.
I hope you enjoyed the post and I'll see you in the next one. :)