My First Week With the M1 MacBook Air

Mark Ellis
Dec 7, 2020 · 5 min read
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“eBay is flooded with MacBook 16,” said one comment on my 5 things I’ve learned about the 16" MacBook Pro video.

I’ve not been on the world’s largest second-hand marketplace to check this claim, but he may well be right.

However, I won’t be selling mine just yet — even after having used this M1 MacBook Air for a week and being more impressed by it than any other computer I’ve ever owned.

There’s one very good reason for not letting go of the 16", which I’ll get onto later, but first, here’s a completely random list of the things I’ve discovered after a little over a week with the M1 MacBook Air.

I’ve not done any scientific tests or benchmarks with this. I’ve not even bothered to look at the battery performance stats in macOS (naughty reviewer, right?). As always, I’m far more interested in how this device feels.

The M1 MacBook Air feels iPad-like when it comes to battery life. It is no longer something I worry about. That’s the easiest way to describe it. I know it needs charging occasionally, but not to the point where I fear for my productivity life whenever it hurtles below 50%.

However, it’s the standby time which is most impressive for me, and which doesn’t appear to get much coverage. It just doesn’t seem to budge when left closed overnight on my coffee table. Again, I’ve not done any kind of technical comparison with this, but I swear it never loses a percentage point, battery-wise when left dormant.

The battery life is as brilliant as everyone says it is, and it genuinely makes a difference to the impact the device has on your life — more than any other feature, in my book.

You can, apparently, run iOS apps on these M1 Macs, relatively easily.

I haven’t bothered. And it’s for the same reason I haven’t attempted to run Windows on it or shoehorn Linux into its Apple internals.

It just feels utterly pointless and primed for disappointment.

This is a Mac without a touchscreen. I’ll wait for iOS apps I yearn for on this platform (there aren’t any) to become properly available. There’s a reason most people who have tried iOS apps on an M1 Mac have been disappointed with the results.

Here’s a list of the non-Apple software I use on this machine:

  • Fantastical
  • Chrome (occasionally)
  • Spark email client
  • Omnifocus
  • Toggl
  • Teams
  • Trello
  • Slack
  • Ulysses
  • Word
  • Excel
  • Photoshop
  • Lightroom
  • Day One
  • Twitter

Now, if truth be told, I don’t know how many of the above are M1-native, but I know many are running through Rosetta 2.

They all work flawlessly. Even Microsoft’s stuff.

However, I still don’t really understand why we have to manually install Rosetta 2 — even if it’s a one-time affair. Why isn’t it included in the macOS install by default? It’s not big deal, but it just strikes me as odd and a little bit too ‘behind baseball’ for Apple.

My recent M1/Intel test revealed that the M1 with just 8GB RAM struggles when given two relatively taxing concurrent tasks. It surprised me. But it didn’t surprise others, as you’ll note in the comments.

The more these machines are used, reviewed and pondered upon, the more we see articles comparing the RAM options and providing buying guides centred almost entirely on that topic.

However, I tend to agree with some analysts who believe we’re heading for a ‘RAM-less’ future where that part of the Mac’s internals is simply abstracted away. Let’s be honest, that’s nearly always been the case with iOS devices; we only know how much RAM they have because of Geek Bench. Apple doesn’t think we should care.

I don’t.

The 8GB in this Air I’m typing on right now is ample for 95% of everything I want it to do. It never feels hamstrung, underpowered or ‘lacking memory’. That in itself means RAM has pretty much been abstracted away from my daily workflow — but it’s also why I still use my iMac and 16" MacBook Pro.

Put simply, if your workflow doesn’t require sustained, intensive workloads, an 8GB M1 laptop is absolutely fine.

I purchased the base spec M1 MacBook Air with the 7-core graphics.

I don’t know what’s happened to that other core, or why Apple deemed it necessary to remove it if you wanted the cheapest iteration of this machine. But I don’t think I miss it. At all.

A case in point; this Air flies through 4K video editing and rendering in Final Cut Pro. And it’s absolutely stunning in Lightroom, which isn’t even running natively for the chip.

The Lightroom performance is one of the highlights for me, actually. It is no different whatsoever to the £3,500+ 16" MacBook Pro on which I normally edit my photos. Yikes.

It doesn’t. I’d like smaller bezels too. But the Air is still a beautiful machine and an iconic design.

I really do.

It’s amazing how quickly you get used to four ports on the Pro laptops, if nothing more than for the simple convenience of being able to plug the charger in on either side.

Thank god for that battery life, right?

I’ll be exploring this a little more in future articles, but I no longer pick up my iPad Pro with magic keyboard for writing duties or light work. I also doubt I’ll bother taking it out and about with me when working from coffee shops. The iPad Pro, for me, has returned to ‘media consumption’ status.

That makes this M1 MacBook Air an iPad Pro replacement. Kinda ironic, right?

So, the rub, as they say; why am I not throwing my 16" MacBook Pro onto eBay now that I have this little monster of an M1 Air?

It’s mainly because I spent so much money on the former. It was an investment for my business, and one from which I intend to wring every ounce of value. It’s still blisteringly fast (despite the fan noise and heat), and has one huge advantage over the Air: that 16" screen.

It’s big, cumbersome and heavy, but the 16" MacBook Pro’s screen is important for video editors like me. It’s too big to be a portable writing device, but that’s where the Air slots in nicely. And yes, I know not everyone has the resources — or inclination — to have two laptops, but for my business, it works brilliantly.

And, regardless, my next Apple Silicon-powered Mac is going to be an iMac.

Join the gang and get early access to my content: https://markellisreviews.ck.page/newsletter

Originally published at https://markellisreviews.com on December 7, 2020.

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