The Complete Guide to Apple MacBook Air M1
Apple is never afraid to break with tradition, especially when it leads to the best laptop available. By dropping floppy disks and going all-in on USB, for instance, it decided that it was outdated. In the same way, it swapped Motorola CPUs for Intel when the PowerPC was no longer able to keep up. With the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro 13, and Mac mini, Apple has once again replaced Intel with its own ARM-based silicon. The Apple M1 might be a scary proposition to some MacBook fans since ARM has only shown off Windows 10 on ARM so far. You already know the answer to that question if you’ve read our MacBook Pro 13 M1 review. On that machine, there’s no need to worry. The MacBook Air M1 was put through its paces to see if it performs as well as the fanless version of Apple’s initiative.
The Performance Of MacBook Air M1:
It’s not fair to imply that the Apple M1 represents some sort of magic trick. As an eight-core CPU, it has four high-performance cores and four others that perform lesser tasks or consume less power. It’s just that ARM-based technology has, for a while, lagging behind Intel’s Core CPUs when it comes to perceived performance. In other words, if the MacBook Air performs well, then it’s not magic. The MacBook line will be able to take advantage of this impressive new technology in the future.
There’s no need to keep you waiting: The MacBook Air M1 surprised me with its performance. Not just when comparing it with Intel’s current MacBook Air, which uses 9-watt Core i3 and i5 CPUs that fall short of their 15-watt Windows 10 equivalents. The MacBook Air with the 10-watt Apple M1 keeps up with Intel’s newest 12- to 28-watt Tiger Lake processors (Intel gives a range this time around rather than one single value), beating them in many cases. Let’s clear up one thing before we move on to the numbers.
Software written for Apple’s M1 architecture runs most efficiently on M1-based machines. In addition to Apple’s software, there are a few other apps and utilities included as well. Those not written for the M1 will run through Apple’s Rosetta 2 emulation layer. The result is that it will not be as fast as native software. There are times, however, when an application may not run at all, especially when it requires hardware drivers.
MacBook Air M1’s design remains the same as the Intel version. Quite literally. It’s the same wedge of machined aluminum that feels like an alchemical fusion of glass and metal. There is no twisting, bending, or flexing anywhere on it. There are some things that Apple does right, and designing and producing laptops that ooze robust elegance is one of them. Three colors are available – space gray, gold, and silver – and they’re all lovely.
MacBook Air M1 Display:
In addition to the design, Apple kept the display the same for the MacBook Air M1. There is a 2,560 x 1,600 IPS display that looks fantastic. You won’t get the same performance as the MacBook Pro line, but it still offers good performance for all but the most demanding creative professionals. 389 nits of brightness are adequate for the average productivity laptop, but not as bright as Apple’s high-end devices. Most Windows 10 laptops are around 98% sRGB and 73% AdobeRGB – this laptop is slightly wider than average, with 100% of sRGB and 79% of AdobeRGB. Although those aren’t huge differences, you’ll appreciate the extra few percentage points if you want to edit photos and videos. With a precision of 1.39, the MacBook Air M1 exceeds the standard of excellence and is indistinguishable from human vision at 1.0. It has a contrast ratio of 1130:1, which is above average (we like to see at least 1000:1). It’s safe to say that you’ll love this display and have few complaints about it. Choose the Pro line if you’re a creative professional looking for the widest color gamut. A higher-quality display is available with the MacBook Pro 13 M1. The MacBook Pro 13 M1 offers the same performance and battery life as the MacBook Pro 13 M2 but has longer battery life.
The Speakers are:
The MacBook Air M1 can’t quite keep up with its Pro siblings when it comes to audio quality. There are some pretty nice speakers here, I understand. With excellent mids, highs, and just a hint of bass, they’re clear and bright. There is no distortion at maximum volume – the only problem is, the maximum volume isn’t very loud. You can listen to it alone, but if you want to share it with a crowd, external speakers are necessary. If you are a rocker, you may want to pull out your favorite headphones.
The Keyboard’s Performance:
The MacBook Air M1 comes with Apple’s new Magic Keyboard, replacing its ill-fated butterfly keyboard. This laptop has a great keyboard, perhaps my favorite among all the laptops I have used, and it tops HP’s excellent Spectre version. Butterfly keyboards, I’m talking to you.) The keycaps are nicely sized, and the travel of the keys is sufficient. Atop all that, the switches are top-notch, with superb precision and a perfect bottoming action that lets you know when you’ve hit a key. With this keyboard, I can type faster than with any other, and I hate giving it up when I upgrade to Windows 10.
The Touchpad is:
Even with its haptic nature, the touchpad is superior. This touchpad is larger than most on 13-inch laptops, it’s buttery smooth, and once you’ve gotten used to the haptic aspect, you’ll feel more in control than you would with most touchpads. Even though Windows 10 touchpads have improved in recent years, they still haven’t caught up. The Power Button also features a Touch ID sensor that lets you log in without a password, and it works perfectly. Apple’s MacBook line does not yet feature facial recognition, although it is easily comparable to Microsoft’s Windows Hello technology. My MacBook Air M1 lacked that feature, even though I prefer fingerprint readers in the end.
Duration of battery life:
Aside from performance, the Apple M1 promises to make significant improvements in a number of other areas as well. In addition to battery life, this is an ARM chip at its core, which is designed to be efficient. When a laptop provides the same level of performance as CPUs that are solely focused on power, how efficient can it really be? Come on, let’s find out. My first step was to run a series of popular websites through our standard web benchmark. It’s the benchmark we use to simulate productivity longevity.
During the test, the MacBook Air lasted for 15.5 hours, one of the longest results we’ve ever seen. There’s a catch to the Lenovo Flex 5G with its own ARM processor – the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx. The Lenovo was running a Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) display, while the MacBook Air M1 has a Retina display with a 2,560 x 1,600 resolution. It’s Apple’s advantage, big-time. Give it a Full HD display (not that you’d want to) and we’d expect it to last longer. Next, I ran our video benchmark that looped through a Full HD Avengers trailer until the laptop shut down. There was an 18.5-hour battery life on the MacBook Air M1. This isn’t the longest-lasting laptop we’ve tested, but it’s by far the longest-lasting machine with a high-resolution display. Its lower-resolution display again helped Lenovo Flex 5G, which again lasted almost 28 hours.
When we test a laptop’s CPU and GPU under high load, we use the Basemark web benchmark test. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to complete the test on the MacBook Air M1, so I can’t report on its durability under heavy use. The MacBook Air M1’s inherent efficiencies, however, should let you get quite a bit of time out of it even when you’re asking for a lot.