I’ve just finished deploying the base model 2020 MacBook Air to our entire faculty and I have been using an upgraded model myself for the past few weeks as well. After spending time with both models, I’ve concluded that the 2020 MacBook Air for K-12 is a device that has few compromises for teachers and students.
About Making The Grade: Every other Saturday, Bradley Chambers publishes a new article about Apple in education. He has been managing Apple devices in an education environment since 2009. Through his experience deploying and managing 100s of Macs and 100s of iPads, Bradley will highlight ways in which Apple’s products work at scale, stories from the trenches of IT management, and ways Apple could improve its products for students.
The 2015 MacBook Air was a dependable machine, but the screen was terrible by today’s standards. The MacBook and 13-inch MacBook Pro brought a retina screen to the small size, but it took some time for the Air to get the upgrade. At the $899 price point, a retina screen in a 13-inch laptop is a great value. Apple’s ability to include a retina screen in the MacBook Air at a price point that’s workable for school makes it a fantastic deal.
8GB of RAM is the minimum I would buy in a laptop in 2020, but it’s still useable for light usage. As long as you aren’t doing audio/video editing, heavy photo editing, or other high-end tasks, 8GB of RAM will be perfect for Safari usage, Microsoft Office, etc. While I upgraded my laptop to 16GB of RAM as I do editing for my Apple @ Work podcast, I had no issues not upgrading our teachers’ laptops past the baseline model.
While Apple offers a K–12 only model at $799, it only includes 128GB of storage. While it might be workable for some, we ran into issues with it when our earlier laptops only had 128GB of storage. It became a support issue for me as teachers would quickly fill up their laptops. I had no problems upgrading all of our laptops to 256GB of storage, which will save me a headache in the future.
The MacBook Air has been a workhorse for our school for 8+ years at this point. I had no issues with the previous models other than that butterfly keyboard. Since the new laptops revert to a different keyboard, I had no qualms about purchasing this model for our entire faculty. When I look at the 2020 MacBook Air, I see the best of the 2018 MacBook Air and the 2015 MacBook Air from a hardware dependability perspective.
Wrap-up on 2020 MacBook Air for K-12
The 2020 MacBook Air for K–12 is the first laptop that I’ve deployed that I have almost no complaints about. The price point is fair, it includes plenty of power, and it has a reliable hardware setup.
Using Jamf School and Apple School Manager, I was able to deploy them to our entire faculty in just a few days. The only complaint I would have, which is something that affects all Apple laptops is that the built-in webcam has an inferior quality. While all models include a 720p camera, the camera in the 2020 MacBook Air is particularly poor for a reason I don’t understand. A number of our teachers noticed it very quickly. It certainly works, but it’s just a shame it’s not 1080p. Overall, that’s the only complaint I have about the laptop. It’s an incredible value for what it offers.
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