Review: Apple MacBook Air With The M1 Processor

It has begun.

Apple has begun transitioning away from using Intel processors to their own Apple Silicon processors. And one of the first computers to make the transitions is the MacBook Air. A client of mine managed to get the base model MacBook Air and asked me to help her set it up. I did it for free in exchange for playing with it for a couple of hours. So keep that in mind as I detail what I think about it.

First of all, the M1 powered MacBook Air doesn’t look any different than an Intel powered one. Some may find that disappointing. But Apple has done this before and it makes sense. By that I mean that when Apple transitioned from PowerPC to Intel in the mid 2000’s, they used the existing cases and ripped out the PowerPC bits and replaced them with Intel bits. And this was done because they knew what these cases could handle in terms heat for example. In other words, it was a known target that allowed them to quickly start the transition. It was the following year that Apple rolled out new case designs. And I expect to see that with the M1 processor. But having said all of that, this case design is perfectly fine. It’s light, has a great keyboard, a great trackpad, and feels like a quality product.

One area where Apple did upgrade something was the screen. Apple has upgraded the 13″ screen to one that supports P3 wide color gamut. What does that mean in English? The screen is more color accurate which matters if your editing photos for example. And that’s a good thing because you used to have to go up to at least a 13″ MacBook Pro to get that feature. Now you can get it at lower price point. One area that Apple didn’t upgrade is the front facing webcam. It is still 720P, but Apple is taking the video and pumping it through the image signal processor that is part of the M1 chip to try and make it look better. The key word is TRY because it only looks marginally better. It’s still sub par when compared to pretty much any notebook with a 1080p camera or even Apple’s most recent iMacs with 1080p. The bottom line is that if there is one area where Apple really dropped the ball with the MacBook Air, it’s the camera. In an age where people are on Zoom all the time, you’d think Apple would have upped their game in this area. But I guess I expect too much from them.

Performance however is clearly where Apple spent most of their time when it comes to the MacBook Air. I won’t post benchmarks as YouTube based tech reviewers have done that and have found that the MacBook Air destroys anything with an Intel processor in it. But this machine is FAST. I installed the M1 version of Microsoft Office on it and putting together a PowerPoint slide deck felt smooth and fluid. For fun, I took the video that I made for my iPhone 12 Pro review and did an export of it. That took seconds. As in 5 or less seconds. I also ran Intel apps using Apple’s translation layer which is called Rosetta 2. Those apps were faster than any Intel based Mac that I have used. And what’s blows my mind about this level of performance is the fact that the MacBook Air has no fan to keep the M1 processor cool. That makes me wonder what level of performance the 13″ MacBook Pro with the M1 processor, or the Mac Mini with the M1 processor will get as those have active cooling. Speaking of cooling, I never ever felt the MacBook Air get warm. Contrast that with Intel MacBooks which get warm simply by opening Chrome.

There’s two other things of note:

  • The speakers are decent and so are the microphones.
  • I didn’t really test the battery life myself, but when I checked in with the client, she reported that she has gone three days without charging it and is at 41% battery life. That’s pretty mind blowing.

If Apple bothered to upgrade the webcam, I would say that would be the perfect notebook for people with basic needs such as word processing, surfing the net, and answering emails. But as it is, I can only say that it is almost perfect and Apple missed an opportunity here to really make a perfect notebook.

So should you get one? What I will say is this:

  • Apple’s M1 processor is their first Apple Silicon processor. Which means that future processors will be faster and better. So you may be better off waiting to see what Apple puts out because of that.
  • If you must buy now, and to be frank this machine is so fast that I wouldn’t blame you if you did, keep in mind that nothing is upgradable. Thus if you think you need 256GB of storage, buy 512GB. If you think you need 8GB of RAM, buy 16GB. Otherwise, you may regret it later.

The bottom line is that the MacBook Air is an outstanding machine save for the webcam. If this is the entry level Apple Silicon processor, I can’t wait to see what else Apple has in the pipeline. And Intel should simply feel embarrassed that they don’t have anything that can go this fast with great battery life.

3 Responses to “Review: Apple MacBook Air With The M1 Processor”

  1. […] inbox got flooded with questions about the M1 Mac starting moments after I posted this review on the MacBook Air with the M1 processor. The main question being if one should get 8GB or 16GB of […]

  2. […] Apple MacBook Air With The M1 Processor: Apple goes 2 for 2 with their new M1 based Macs. I had the chance to test the new MacBook Air and this computer is FAST. It absolutely destroys anything with an Intel processor in any and every way. And the kicker is that this Mac will be the slowest Mac Apple will ever make. Which means that anything after this MacBook Air is going to be way faster. And I can’t wait for those Macs to come out. […]

  3. […] it was only a matter of time before they started to show up in Macs. And based on my look at the MacBook Air with Apple’s new M1 processor, they perhaps should have done it years ago as the M1 processor is miles ahead of Intel on multiple […]

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