The MacBook Air (M1, ) has given Apple’s slimmest laptop line a giant leap forward. With the manufacturer’s highly-acclaimed Apple M1 processor, the ARM-based chip that’s replaced the Intel CPUs of prior models, under the hood and the macOS 11 Big Sur pre-loaded, it has become among the most powerful thin and light laptops.
Thanks to this new chip, the MacBook Air (M1, ) not only gets additional performance boosts but also better power-efficiency and longer battery life. That’s while sticking with the same pricing as its predecessor ($ / £ / AU$1,), the MacBook Air (). This new Air, therefore, offers upgraded internals, particularly that M1 chip, without any additional cost.
If you weren’t swayed by the Intel-based model, then maybe this one will change your mind. That’s especially considering that its premium Windows 10 competitors, the HP Spectre x and Dell XPS 13 (Late ), are both pricier, making the MacBook Air (M1, ) all the more competitive.
Considering the price points of premium Windows 10 competitors like the HP Spectre x and Dell XPS 13 (Late ), both of which are pricier, the Air’s price tag looks even more competitive.
You can also go for a more powerful MacBook Air with extra storage for $1, / £1, / AU$1,, and both of these can be further customised with more memory and even more storage.
Price-wise, then, we think Apple has nailed it. Of course, this certainly isn't a cheap laptop, but nor does it feel overpriced, especially compared to its similarly specced rivals - something that Apple has been accused of in the past.
Apple has also been accused of caring more about aesthetics of its products than the actual features and functions, but with the MacBook Air (M1, ), we actually think the opposite is true. This is because while the new MacBook Air has some huge changes on the inside - most noticeably the new M1 chip - on the outside, nothing has really changed.
So, this model looks (and feels) just like the last model (and the model before that). For people who love the look of the MacBook Air, this may be good news, but we feel it's a bit of a missed opportunity. The M1-based MacBook Air is such a revolutionary and exciting device, we'd have loved to have seen Apple take a few risks with the design as well, even if it was just by making it lighter, or slimming the bezels down that surround the screen.
The fact is, HP and Dell have now overtaken Apple when it comes to designing thin, light and gorgeous laptops - a fact that would have seemed unthinkable a few years ago.
When it comes to performance, however, we have no qualms. The M1 has proved to be a complete beast that puts Intel to shame in many respects. During our time with the MacBook Air (M1, ), we were incredibly impressed with how it performed.
Big Sur runs well, and the visual overhaul of the operating system offers a nice change, while still feeling familiar. The fact that both new and legacy apps run well on the M1 chip is very commendable, and so far there don't seem to be any issues with running apps built for Intel Macs using Rosetta 2, the tool used by Apple to allow older Mac apps to run on the M1. Also, the fact that you can now run thousands of iOS apps and games pretty much flawlessly is a huge win as well.
Battery life also seems to be fantastic, and the fanless design is nice, as it means the laptop runs silently; we do have our concerns about how it manages heat, however.
In the end, we'd have liked Apple to have been a bit more ambitious with the design of the MacBook Air (M1, ) – a bold reinvention of the laptop to match the internal hardware and software overhauls would have made this an even more exciting device.
Price and availability
Here is the MacBook Air (M1, ) configuration sent to TechRadar for review:
CPU: Apple M1 (8-core)
Graphics: Integrated 7-core GPU
RAM: 8GB Unified PDDR4X MHz SDRAM
Screen: inch, 2, x 1, Retina True Tone display (backlit LED, IPS)
Storage: GB PCIe SSD
Ports: 2x Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C), mm headphone jack
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5
Camera: p FaceTime HD webcam
Weight: pounds (kg)
Size: x x inches ( x x cm; W x D x H)
Apple made preorders for the MacBook Air (M1, ) available as soon as it was announced, with units shipping from November 17 worldwide. Many Apple Stores are closed due to the global pandemic, so your best option for getting one right now is by ordering online.
Prices for the new MacBook Air () start at $ / £ / AU$1, As usual, there are a number of specifications available at launch, and you can further customize these to get the MacBook Air () that best suits your needs and budget.
The base model features an M1 chip with an 8-core CPU and 7-core GPU, 8GB of RAM and GB SSD.
There's also a higher-specced model, priced at $1, / £1, / AU$1,, which has an M1 chip with an 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU, 8GB of RAM and GB of storage. So, for that extra money you're getting an additional core in the GPU, and double the storage.
You can also configure these models to have 16GB of RAM (for $ / £ / AU$ extra), and up to 2TB of SSD storage (for $ / £ / AU$1,).
For comparison, the MacBook Air () launched earlier this year for $ / £ / AU$1,, which was actually cheaper than the launch price of the MacBook Air ().
So you're getting the new MacBook Air (M1, ) for the same price as the earlier model, which we commend Apple for. If you bought a MacBook Air a few months ago, however, you may feel a little annoyed that it’s already outdated.
That $ / £ / AU$1, entry point isn’t just the cheapest way of getting a new Apple laptop; it’s an incredibly competitive price point that undercuts many of the best inch laptops running Windows 10, such as the Dell XPS If you thought Apple’s laptops were overpriced compared to the competition, think again.
We've mentioned how, thanks to its competitive price, the MacBook Air (M1, ) is helping challenge people’s preconceptions about MacBooks – but the new MacBook Air, along with the MacBook Pro inch (M1, ) and Mac mini (M1, ), also offer strong rebuttals to the criticism, often leveled at the Apple, that its products are more style than substance.
People often dismiss Apple as making products that look good, but that don’t do anything particularly revolutionary when it comes to the actual hardware. With the MacBook Air (M1, ), however, it's the complete opposite.
With this laptop, Apple has actually done some really exciting things on the inside – switching to its own M1 chip, and building macOS Big Sur from the ground up to take advantage of it – while leaving the actual design of the device completely unchanged. This is both good news and bad news.
First, the good news. For many people, the iconic design of the MacBook Air is pretty much perfect, so they don't see the need for any radical change. At the same time, by simply offering minor spec bumps every year, the MacBook Air was in danger of being outclassed by more ambitious rivals. So, by concentrating on revolutionizing the hardware of the MacBook Air, and not tinkering with the design, Apple is doing something many of its critics have argued it should do: focus on the unglamorous, yet essential, stuff.
But what about the bad news? Well, because the MacBook Air (M1, ), along with macOS Big Sur, promises to be such a big revolution, the fact that it looks – and feels – exactly the same as previous MacBook Airs is a little disappointing, to put it mildly.
The MacBook Air (M1, )’s dimensions of – x x inches (– x x cm) and weight of pounds (kg) are exactly the same as those of both the MacBook Air () and the model, and virtually the same as those of the Air, which is a bit lighter.
On the outside, then, this new MacBook Air looks identical to the three previous models – and it means that the excitement that comes with pulling the new MacBook Air from its packaging is somewhat dulled, particular if you've owned one of those earlier machines.
There had been rumors that the move to Apple’s own silicon would result in lighter devices, but this isn't the case. One big design change that has been enabled by the M1 chip, though, is that the MacBook Air (M1, ) is now fanless. This means the internals keep cool enough under workloads without the need for fans to kick in and cool them down. There’s a catch to this (which we’ll get to in a bit), but it means the MacBook Air (M1, ) runs virtually silently, and it’s very impressive.
The lack of fans could have allowed Apple to make the new MacBook Air thinner and lighter, so it’s interesting that it remains the same size and weight as its predecessors.
On opening up the MacBook Air (M1, ) you’re again presented with a sight that's familiar, and in a good way. The best addition to the previous MacBook Air’s design, the new Magic Keyboard, is again included here. It really is a lovely keyboard to work on, feeling tactile and responsive despite how flat the keys are.
A Touch ID button is again situated above the keyboard, and it remains the best fingerprint scanner we’ve used on a laptop. Too many of the fingerprint scanners on Windows laptops struggle to log us in reliably, but the Touch ID button here logged us in successfully pretty much every time, even when we’d not completely covered the scanner with a finger.
The screen is also virtually the same as the one on the MacBook Air (), except for one big difference. So, it’s still inches with a nit LED backlit display, and a Retina display of x resolution, and comes with Apple's True Tone technology, which automatically adjusts the color temperature on the screen based on the ambient light.
What’s new here is that the MacBook Air (M1, )’s screen now supports the P3 wide color gamut, which results in more accurate, true-to-life images. P3 support used to be only found in the more expensive MacBook Pros, so it’s great to see Apple bring this feature to its more affordable MacBook Air lineup. If you’re a photographer or video editor who requires accurate colors, you no longer have to automatically go for a MacBook Pro.
The screen is also surrounded by those big thick bezels that have been a staple of the MacBook Air’s design for ages now, and which leave this laptop feeling a little dated. Devices such as the Dell XPS 13 and the Huawei MateBook X () offer incredibly thin bezels around the display, and not only does it make these devices look more modern, it means the makers can actually reduce the overall size of the laptop further while offering the same-size screen.
Yep, you read that right: we think Huawei has the edge over to Apple when it comes to thin and light laptop design. Strange times indeed.
The webcam above the screen is also unchanged from last time, with the same p FaceTime webcam. The p resolution feels distinctly outdated when most competitors offer p, and with more people spending more time working from home these days, we’d have liked Apple to have given the webcam a boost.
However, the company claims that thanks to the M1 chip, the image signal processor has been overhauled, giving the webcam supposedly better noise reduction and dynamic range, along with auto white balance. We’ve only used the webcam for a limited time so far, and it seemed fine, if not mind-blowing.
Port-wise you get the same two Thunderbolt 3 ports and an audio jack as on recent MacBook Airs. The Thunderbolt 3 ports support charging, and can be used to power external monitors, and transfer data up to 40Gb/s. We’re glad to see that Apple’s move to its own M1 chip, rather than Intel, hasn't meant the loss of the Thunderbolt ports (Thunderbolt is an interface developed by Intel).
The best Mac laptop for most people is the inch MacBook Air with Apple’s M1 processor. It’s more than fast enough for the things most people use a computer for—web browsing, working on documents, and light photo and video editing—but the M1 even handles professional work like 3D rendering or compiling code pretty quickly. Plus, it has a great keyboard and trackpad, a colorful high-resolution screen, and outstanding battery life.
|Processor:||Eight-core Apple M1 CPU||Storage:||GB SSD|
|Graphics:||Seven-core Apple M1 GPU||Screen:||× IPS|
|Memory:||8 GB||Tested battery life:||hours|
We recommend the basic $1, version of the MacBook Air, which has enough speed, memory, and storage for most day-to-day computer tasks. Apple’s new M1 processor is much faster than the low-power Intel processors in previous MacBook Airs, and its battery life is so good that you should almost never need to charge it during the day if you don’t want to. And unlike previous MacBook Air models, the M1 version doesn’t require a cooling fan, which keeps it dead silent even when you’re maxing out the processor by exporting a video or playing a game. Like its predecessor, the M1 version of the Air includes a much-improved keyboard with a deeper, more satisfying feel and improved reliability compared with MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models released between and The only downside is that some Mac apps that run well on Intel Macs haven’t yet been optimized for the Apple M1 chip, and you might notice some performance lag until those apps are updated.
The Air includes only two USB-C ports (which support Thunderbolt 3) plus a headphone jack—but Thunderbolt 3 docks and USB-C hubs and adapters are common enough and inexpensive enough that this isn’t as big of a problem as it used to be. The Air also omits the older MacBook Pro’s (situationally useful but largely unnecessary) Touch Bar in favor of a row of physical function keys and a standalone Touch ID fingerprint sensor.
|Processor:||Eight-core Apple M1 CPU||Storage:||GB SSD|
|Graphics:||Eight-core Apple M1 GPU||Screen:||× IPS|
|Memory:||16 GB||Tested battery life:||hours|
If you regularly do the kind of tasks that use all the processing power you can throw at them, like encoding high-definition video and developing and compiling iOS, the $1, version of the inch Pro is a worthwhile upgrade over the Air. You won’t notice the difference for everyday browsing and document editing, but the cooling fan in the Pro allows its M1 chip to run faster for longer, providing 10% to 20% more performance than the Air when compiling code, exporting video, or doing anything else that uses all the processor’s cores for more than a few minutes. The configuration we recommend has the same improved keyboard as other recent MacBook models, uses a Touch Bar instead of typical function keys, and includes double the memory of the MacBook Air we recommend, which is useful if you edit large photos or high-resolution videos. You can add more internal storage if you like, though external SSDs are more economical than Apple’s storage upgrades.
Everything we recommend
Why you should trust us
Andrew Cunningham has been testing, reviewing, and otherwise writing about PCs, Macs, and other gadgets for AnandTech, Ars Technica, and Wirecutter since He has been building, upgrading, and fixing PCs for more than 15 years, and he spent five of those years in IT departments buying and repairing laptops and desktops as well as helping people buy the best tech for their needs. He has also used every Mac laptop that Apple has released over the past two decades.
Who this is for, and when to buy
The best reason to buy a MacBook is that you need or prefer macOS to Windows. The operating system is stable and easy to use, but more important, it integrates well with iPhones and iPads—for example, iMessages and SMS messages sent from your Mac also appear on your iPhone and vice versa, and features such as AirDrop and iCloud make it easy to share notes, pictures, videos, reminders, contacts, passwords, bookmarks, and other data between your devices.
Macs are also a good choice if you want great support. Apple’s tech support is routinely rated above that of most if not all other PC and phone makers, and Apple Stores and Apple authorized service providers offer accessible in-person tech support and repairs in many locations.
And MacBooks that use Apple processors (or “Apple silicon”) instead of Intel processors are better than Intel MacBooks and most Windows laptops in some key ways. Apple’s processors have much better performance and faster graphics, and they get stellar battery life. Their batteries are also less prone to draining quickly when you’re using an energy-hogging app like Zoom or Google Chrome.
Macs aren’t a great choice if you have less than $1, to spend on a laptop, if you want to run high-end games, or if you want to be able to make upgrades or repairs yourself. Windows ultrabooks provide decent performance and more kinds of ports at or below the price Apple charges for the MacBook Air. Budget Chrome OS and Windows laptops are a better choice if you have only $ to spend, while business laptops make it easier to fix and upgrade components over time. And Windows gaming notebooks and pro laptops, while typically large and bulky, usually have newer and faster dedicated graphics processors than Apple’s laptops do (and you can buy some of them for less than half of what a inch MacBook Pro costs).
The Best Laptops
From budget-friendly options to thin-and-light ultrabooks to powerful gaming laptops, we’ve spent hundreds of hours finding the best laptops for most people.
If you need a new laptop today, you should buy one instead of waiting around for Apple to release a new one—it’s difficult to predict when or how often the company will release new hardware. But Apple is currently in the process of phasing out Macs with Intel processors in favor of its own, which (at least in our testing so far) offer dramatically improved performance and battery life compared with the old Intel models. According to Apple, it will take until sometime in for all the Intel Macs to be replaced. Right now, if the Mac you want includes an Apple processor, it’s safe to buy. If it uses an Intel processor, buy it if you need it, but wait if you can.
Once a Mac has been available for a few months, you can save a substantial amount by buying from Apple’s refurbished store. Apple-refurbished products look and work the same as new ones and have the exact same warranties, including optional AppleCare coverage, so buying one is a great way to save a few hundred dollars. If you’re looking to buy a particular configuration, the third-party Refurb Tracker site can alert you when specific models are in stock.
How we picked
As of this writing, Apple offers three different laptops in multiple configurations. We considered the following criteria when deciding which ones to recommend:
- Performance: Any MacBook with an Apple processor like the M1 is going to be more than speedy enough for day-to-day browsing and communicating as well as heavy multitasking, editing videos, or compiling code. All MacBooks include at least 8 GB of RAM, which is plenty for everyday tasks, but you should consider upgrading to 16 GB or 32 GB if you edit a lot of large files or want to run Windows apps in a virtual machine.
- Display: A high-resolution IPS display is a must on any laptop priced at or above $1, All of Apple’s current Retina displays are sharp and color-accurate and capable of displaying nearly % of the sRGB and DCI-P3 color gamuts.
- Ports: All of Apple’s laptops now use Thunderbolt 3 ports, for everything from data to video to charging; Thunderbolt 3 ports are fully compatible with all USB-C accessories and cables, but Thunderbolt 3 offers better performance. All MacBooks include at least two of these ports, so you can charge the laptop and connect a second device at the same time. Newer MacBook Pros do feature an HDMI port and SD card slot. We have picks for both Thunderbolt 3 docks and USB-C docks, as well as for USB-C monitors, and USB-C data cables and video cables, spare or replacement USB-C chargers, and other accessories that will help you connect all of your old stuff to these new ports.
- Keyboard, Touch Bar, and Touch ID: You shouldn’t buy a MacBook that still has the low-travel butterfly-switch keyboard that Apple installed in all of its MacBooks between and , mostly because of its unsatisfying, flat feel and well-documented reliability problems. Our picks all have the newer scissor-switch keyboard, which is nicer to type on and shouldn’t be as susceptible to dust and dirt. All current MacBooks include the Touch ID fingerprint sensor; the presence or absence of the Touch Bar didn’t factor in one way or the other into our decision-making since it’s a neat feature but still mostly superfluous.
- Size and weight: All of Apple’s laptops are relatively thin and light compared with similar laptops from other manufacturers, but the inch models tend to offer the best combination of size, weight, and performance.
- Price: Macs cost a lot, but most people don’t need to buy the most expensive versions. Our recommended configurations balance performance, storage, and price—we especially recommend relying on cloud storage or external storage, if you can, instead of buying a larger SSD, since Apple’s expensive storage upgrades add hundreds of dollars to the price of its laptops.
- Battery life: When you’re performing basic computing tasks such as browsing or emailing, all of Apple’s laptops should be able to get you through most of an eight-hour workday on a single charge. And Macs with Apple processors last for hours longer than that, with less battery drain when using common energy-draining apps like Zoom or Google Chrome.
The best all-around Mac laptop: MacBook Air (M1, )
The best Mac laptop for most people is the inch MacBook Air with Apple’s M1 processor. It’s more than fast enough for browsing, working on documents, and making light photo and video edits, and it has an excellent high-resolution screen, a great trackpad, a totally silent fanless design, and a reasonable price. Its battery life is excellent, long enough to survive through a full day of work or classes and then some. The Air’s light weight, solid construction, and industry-leading support make it a great laptop, especially if you also own an iPhone or other Apple devices. The biggest downside is its mediocre webcam.
We recommend the $1, model, which includes an Apple M1 with a seven-core GPU, a GB SSD, and 8 GB of memory. If you regularly work with a couple of dozen browser tabs open or if you edit large image files or videos, consider upgrading to 16 GB of memory for an extra $ If you need more storage, we recommend adding an external hard drive or portable SSD rather than paying Apple’s upgrade prices. Don’t spend extra for the version of the M1 with the eight-core GPU; most people won’t notice the difference. We talk more about the M1’s performance later in this guide.
The MacBook Air has a bright and colorful inch × IPS screen—that display has a higher resolution than the p screens in most of the PC laptops we recommend, and text and images look sharp and detailed. The Air’s display supports both the sRGB color gamut and the wider DCI-P3 color gamut, which can display more shades of certain colors, though this feature isn’t hugely important unless you’re doing high-end film or photography work. The Air’s screen also supports the True Tone feature, which subtly changes the screen’s color temperature to match the ambient lighting in the room.
The MacBook Air has two USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports on its left side. You’ll need adapters or dongles to plug in other kinds of accessories. Photo: Andrew Cunningham
There’s also a headphone jack on the right side. Photo: Andrew Cunningham
The Air has a headphone jack on its right side plus two Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports on its left side for connectivity and charging, so you need adapters or new cables to connect your other devices. Each port supports charging, gigabits-per-second data transfers, external displays (up to × resolution, or 6K, though you can only connect one external monitor at a time), and basic USB peripherals like flash drives, printers, and mice. More expensive versions ($1, and up) of the inch MacBook Pro include four Thunderbolt 3 ports, as does the inch Pro, but even with those models you’d still need a dongle, hub, or dock to connect most accessories.
The Air uses Apple’s Magic Keyboard, which it introduced to replace the stiff, shallow, breakage prone butterfly-switch keyboard that came with most MacBook Airs and Pros released between and The Magic Keyboard still isn’t as springy as the pre MacBook keyboards (or Lenovo’s excellent ThinkPad keyboards), but it’s a huge improvement. The keyboard is now a scissor-switch design, which keeps most of the firmness of the old butterfly-switch keyboard but adds another mm of key travel (for a total of 1 mm). If you have a or older MacBook Air or Pro, and you’ve been waiting to upgrade because you didn’t like the keyboard of and newer models, this keyboard is good enough for you to stop putting off the purchase. The MacBook Air skips the Touch Bar in favor of a row of physical function keys and a standalone Touch ID fingerprint sensor, but most people don’t need the Touch Bar, so we don’t really consider that to be a negative.
All of our picks include the same Force Touch trackpad, which remains the best trackpad we’ve used on a laptop because of its large size and its accuracy. It has no hinge, so it will recognize presses anywhere on the surface, but it also offers haptic feedback that makes it feel and sound as if it were “clicking” even though it doesn’t move. The Air’s trackpad isn’t quite as large as the Pro’s, but the difference isn’t noticeable if you’re not comparing the two side by side.
If you need more storage, we recommend adding an external hard drive or portable SSD rather than paying Apple’s upgrade prices.
The MacBook Air weighs pounds and is almost imperceptibly thicker than the and models, due entirely to the space needed for the extra key travel. It’s pound lighter than the inch MacBook Pro, and about the same amount heavier than Dell’s XPS 13 (). The Air is not an exceptionally thin or light laptop, but it is as slim as it needs to be, and it is comfortable to carry in a backpack or shoulder bag.
The M1 MacBook Air soundly beats its predecessors in battery life. The early version of the MacBook Air with a Core i5 processor lasted around eight hours in our Google Chrome–based battery test, which is decent but not exceptional. The M1 version of the MacBook Air lasted longer than 14 hours in the same test. We also found that the M1 MacBook Air’s battery didn’t drain as quickly when using video-chatting apps like Zoom, which are typically pretty hard on a laptop’s battery.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
Apple continues to include a basic p webcam in all of its MacBooks. This is OK for casual video chatting where all the person on the other end of the call needs to do is see your face, and the M1’s image processing does help with exposure and white balance. But the webcam in the $1, MacBook Air (or even a $2, inch MacBook Pro) is still noticeably inferior to the front-facing camera Apple includes with the $ iPhone SE, or any of our less-than-$ standalone webcam picks.
Current MacBook models use Thunderbolt 3 for all connectivity, including power. (The only other port is a mm headphone/mic jack.) This means that if you own any hard drives, scanners, printers, thumb drives, or card readers that use USB Type-A ports, you need a hub or adapter; similarly, if you want to use an external display or projector, you need the right video adapter.
The M1 MacBook Air is missing one thing that older Intel models had: the ability to connect to more than one external display. That external screen can have a resolution as high as 6K, which covers Apple’s astronomically expensive Pro Display XDR, but even if you just want to connect a basic p budget monitor to your MacBook, the laptop can only handle one of them.1 That said, the M1 MacBook Air feels faster and its animations look more fluid in day-to-day use than the previous Intel MacBook Air when connected to an external 4K display, and it’s also quieter since there’s no fan to kick on.
Most Mac apps will run just fine on Macs with Apple’s M1 chip, and many apps (including all of Apple’s) have already been optimized to take advantage of its extra speed. But apps made to work only with Intel Macs can be a mixed bag. Many, including games, run as fast or faster than they did on Intel Macs. But occasionally when using apps with a lot of scrolling or interacting with the user interface, apps sometimes looked choppier or felt marginally less responsive. And software used to run Windows apps inside of a virtual machine, like Parallels Desktop or VMWare Fusion, don’t currently work at all. This will mostly be worked out over the next year or so as developers update their apps, but it can be annoying or inconvenient in the short term. We talk more about the benefits and caveats of the M1 chip later in this guide.
Better for video and coding: inch MacBook Pro (M1, )
The M1 version of Apple’s inch MacBook Pro is better than the MacBook Air for specific kinds of work that benefit from additional processor speed, and it has a larger battery that lasts for a few extra hours. Otherwise, the Pro has most of the same, well, pros and cons as the Air, including its good keyboard and trackpad, great screen, limited port selection, and mediocre webcam.
Most common tasks—opening apps and browser windows, playing videos, making a few photo edits—need peak processor performance for only a few seconds at a time, so you won’t notice a difference between the Air and the Pro for those things. But the Pro has a fan inside to help it dissipate heat, which means the M1 processor can run at its peak speed pretty much indefinitely, where the Air eventually has to slow down to prevent overheating. In our tests, this made the Pro between 10% and 20% faster at time- and processor-intensive tasks like encoding video, compressing files, and compiling apps for distribution via any of Apple’s various app stores.
The inch MacBook Pro has the same Magic Keyboard as the inch version, including the Touch Bar. Photo: Andrew Cunningham
Like the Air, the M1 MacBook Pro only has two USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports on its left side. The version of the laptop with four of these ports still uses Intel processors. Photo: Andrew Cunningham
The Pro also has a headphone jack on the right side. Photo: Andrew Cunningham
The Pro we recommend comes with 16 GB of memory and GB of storage—the extra memory will help if you open dozens of browser tabs at once, or edit large high-resolution images and videos. If you don’t need that extra memory because you don’t do that kind of work with your computer, get the Air instead. You can add a larger SSD if you want, but you should still consider external storage before you pay Apple’s sky-high SSD prices.
The rest of the Pro’s features are similar or identical to those of the Air. Its Magic Keyboard has the same improved travel you get in other recent MacBook models, though it does include Apple’s Touch Bar rather than a row of physical function keys. The large multi-touch trackpad is identical. The Pro’s inch × IPS screen supports the same DCI-P3 color gamut, which can display more shades of red and green than a typical sRGB screen. The Pro uses the same disappointing p webcam as the Air. And while the 3-pound Pro is a little heavier than the pound Air, that’s not a difference you’ll really feel once you’ve tucked the laptop into a shoulder bag or backpack.
The biggest difference you’ll notice between the Pro and the Air, even more so than the performance, is the Pro’s battery life. The two laptops use the same screen and a similar processor—the two biggest drains on your laptop’s battery—but the Air uses a WHr battery where the Pro uses a WHr battery. That extra capacity let the Pro run our battery test for four more hours, for a total of You could go multiple days without needing to plug in the Pro.
What you need to know about Apple silicon Macs
Starting with the MacBook Air and inch MacBook Pro, Apple is embarking on a multi-year journey to replace the Mac’s typical Intel processors with its own chips, similar to the ones already used in iPhones and iPads. If you’ve used Macs for a couple of decades, you might remember the last time Apple did this, when it traded PowerPC chips for Intel processors in the mids.
Apple’s processors (or Apple silicon) are much faster than the Intel chips they replace, and they allow these new Macs to get significantly better battery life. But there are some wrinkles; Apple and Intel processors each use different “instruction sets”—essentially, macOS and the apps you run need to talk to each processor in slightly different ways to get them to do the same things.2 Many apps, including all of Apple’s software, Google Chrome, and others, have already been updated to work with Apple’s new chips, which means they can take full advantage of their speed.
But as of late , there are still some major apps, including some of Adobe’s software, and some scientific research and 3D drafting software that haven’t been optimized for Apple’s chips yet. New Macs can still run almost all of these apps, but macOS needs to “translate” them so that they can run on the new chips. Apple calls this translation software Rosetta, like the stone. The extra computational effort needed to translate these apps means they run just a bit more slowly than apps that have been optimized for Apple silicon (though in some cases, Apple’s chips are fast enough that even translated apps run faster than they did on Intel Macs).
Aside from a notification you’ll see the first time you attempt to run an Intel app on an Apple silicon Mac (and a short wait the first time you launch an Intel app while it’s being translated), you’ll almost never actually notice Rosetta doing its thing. Most apps, especially straightforward productivity apps like Microsoft Office, work great with Rosetta. Others, especially apps where you’re continuously scrolling or interacting with different buttons and controls, can feel just a bit choppy or laggy by comparison. I noticed this to varying degrees when using the Microsoft Edge browser, the Steam game client, an older unoptimized version of Adobe Photoshop, and the Audacity audio editor.
Scrolling in the Steam game client, which is made for Intel Macs. Scrolling is noticeably choppier on the M1 Mac. Most apps aren’t nearly this bad, but you do notice minor delays that add up over time.
These small slowdowns can be annoying, but they never actually kept me from getting work done in any of these apps—on that front, Rosetta is successful. But there are a handful of apps that just won’t run on Apple’s chips, most prominently virtualization software like Parallels Desktop or VMWare Fusion that let you run Windows apps within macOS. Apple’s Boot Camp, which allows installation and booting of Windows on Macs, is also unsupported. These developers are working to make their software run on Apple silicon Macs, and Microsoft could release a version of Windows that runs on Apple silicon.3 But for now, all of this is up in the air, and it may be a few months before we know how (or if) Windows compatibility is going to work.
Goodbye, Intel: Testing the Apple M1
Once all of this transitional dust settles, M1 Macs are going to be significantly faster across the board compared with the Intel Macs that preceded them. To demonstrate, we ran a handful of tests on our recommended M1 MacBook Air and Pro configurations, the Intel Core i5 MacBook Air configuration that we recommended earlier in , and a fully loaded Intel Core i9 iMac from 4 Here’s what we ran:
- The Geekbench 5 benchmark, which is good at showing how processors do when performing for short periods of time. This includes both a single-core test, which measures the processor’s speed when just one of its cores is active, and a multi-core test that uses all available processor cores.
- Maxon Cinebench R23, which can be used to demonstrate how processors perform over longer periods of time. It also has both single- and multi-core tests, and we ran the minute version of the test.
- Transcoding an minute movie using HandBrake’s p30 Fast preset, to test how quickly each Mac can encode a video.5
- Running devMEremenko’s Xcode Benchmark in using Apple’s Xcode development environment. This tests how long it takes a Mac to compile code, as you’d do before you uploaded an app to one of Apple’s App Stores.
We chose all of these tests because they’ve already been optimized for Apple silicon, and because they represent a mix of basic benchmarks plus activities that actual people do with their Macs.
|Geekbench 5 single-core||Geekbench 5 multi-core||Cinebench R23 single-core (30 min)||Cinebench R23 multi-core (30 min)||HandBrake p transcoding||Xcode Benchmark|
|Core i5 MacBook Air, 16 GB||1,||2,||2,||50 minutes, 20 seconds||seconds|
|M1 MacBook Air, 8 GB||1,||7,||1,||6,||18 minutes, 56 seconds||seconds|
|M1 MacBook Pro, 16 GB||1,||7,||1,||7,||15 minutes, 29 seconds||seconds|
|Core i9 iMac, 32 GB||1,||10,||1,||13,||9 minutes, 13 seconds||seconds|
Higher scores are better for Geekbench and Cinebench. Lower times are better for HandBrake and Xcode.
It’s not surprising that the M1 MacBooks outperform older MacBooks; the processors in Apple’s iPad Pros have been good enough for long enough that this was easy to predict, and the new M1 Air is between 50% and and % (!) faster than the Intel one depending on what you’re doing. The M1 MacBook Pro’s fan also helps a small but noticeable amount when all of the processor’s cores are busy for more than a couple of minutes, though the Air and Pro perform pretty similarly overall.
What is surprising is how well even the $1, MacBook Air does compared with a high-end $3, desktop computer. The iMac is certainly faster, and it’s got much better graphics performance, way more memory, and the ability to connect to more external displays. But it’s also way more expensive and uses way more power.
What to look forward to
We previously advised readers who were considering replacing their MacBook Pros to hold out, if they could, for the new models without Intel processors to arrive in Anyone able to hold off is about to reap the benefits; Apple’s heavily updated MacBook Pro is faster and more powerful than the previous generation in almost every metric.
The new MacBook Pro will be available in inch and inch, each with options for the M1 Pro or M1 Max processors. The former can support 16 or 32 GB of memory, while the latter can support up to 64 GB. Apple claims the new chips can handle multiple displays at once with ease. The updated MacBook Pro also comes with a built-in keyboard based on Apple’s Magic Keyboard to replace the Touch Bar, MagSafe charging and slots for an HDMI cable, and SD Card slot. Apple claims the inch Pro has a hour battery life during continuous video play while the inch gets 17 hours. Even the speakers and microphone have been improved. We will be doing a deep dive test of the new MacBook Pros soon.
All of Apple’s current laptops include the much-improved scissor-switch Magic Keyboard, so you’ll run into the old failure-prone butterfly-switch keyboard only if you buy a refurbished model released between and Apple’s refurbished store is usually a good way to save money on a like-new laptop, but only if you can buy the versions of the MacBook Air or inch MacBook Pro, or the inch MacBook Pro. Avoid the and versions of the MacBook Air, inch MacBook Pros made between and , and any inch MacBook Pro (the inch replaced the inch model in late ).
Although they have the improved keyboard, you should also avoid the Intel versions of the MacBook Air and Pro unless you need them for a specific reason, like running Windows apps in virtualization software or via Boot Camp. These laptops still run fine (though you should avoid the Core i3 version of the MacBook Air because of its performance; get the Core i5 or Core i7 version instead). But the Apple M1 versions are faster and get better battery life, especially if you don’t rely on high-end apps that haven’t been optimized for Apple’s processors yet.
Apple’s inch MacBook and the inch non-Retina MacBook Air were discontinued in July , and the inch Pro went away in November You may still be able to find them at a discount in Apple’s refurbished store. But we don’t recommend that most people buy any of those laptops at any price. The inch MacBook is slow and includes only one USB-C port—since that port also serves to charge the laptop, the inch MacBook is much less flexible than even the two-port MacBook Air and Pro models we recommend. The old MacBook Air’s four-year-old processor and × TN LCD screen are far inferior to the components in anything else Apple currently sells. And the inch Pro still has a pretty high price tag, uses the inferior butterfly-switch keyboard instead of the new scissor-switch version, and offers slower graphics processors and worse battery life than the inch version.
The Wide Gamut World of Color — iMac Edition, Astramael.com, April 25,
Wayne Manion, Apple admits butterfly keyboard problems and promises free repairs, The Tech Report, June 25,
Use external monitors with your Mac, Apple Support, November 17,
About your guide
Andrew Cunningham is a senior staff writer on Wirecutter's tech team. He has been writing about laptops, phones, routers, and other tech since Before that he spent five years in IT fixing computers and helping people buy the best tech for their needs. He also co-hosts the book podcast Overdue and the TV podcast Appointment Television.
Nearly eight months after testing a new MacBook Air, I'm reviewing another one (insert DJ Khaled meme here). A surging pandemic hasn't stopped Apple from churning out devices—in fact, it feels like Apple's vying for the Most Products Launched in a Single Year award.
On the surface, the new MacBook Air is identical to its older-by-eight-months twin. It has the same recycled aluminum case, an identical (and great) Magic Keyboard and … only two damn USB-C ports—though these use the USB4 standard for speedier data transmission.
Inside however, the two machines couldn't be further apart. The new model is one of the first Macs to use an Apple-designed processor, the M1.
Apple has been building its computers using Intel chips since But this year, it began the process of rolling out laptop and desktop PCs with in-house chips. By manufacturing its own silicon, Apple gains greater control of the hardware and software—the same control it enjoys on the iPhone and iPad, which also use Apple-designed chips.
Spend a day with the new MacBook Air and the improvements are immediately noticeable. The thing's as powerful as many of the higher-end Intel-powered Macs, blowing past the speed limits of the higher-tier MacBook Air from earlier this year. The M1 is no Mac evolution, it's a Mac revolution.
Chip and Dip
The only laptops with the M1 available so far are the $ MacBook Air and the $1, entry-level inch MacBook Pro. The base MacBook Air has one less graphics core than the pricier Pro, but for the first time, you're mostly getting the same performance across both. I say mostly because the MacBook Air doesn't have a fan. That means it won't be able to eke the most out of the chip, whereas the fans on the MacBook Pro will keep it cool and allow the processor to work harder for longer.
Does the lack of a fan matter? For most people, no. The MacBook Air easily crushes its predecessor in performance. In a Geekbench 5 CPU benchmark test, the new MacBook Air's single-core score (1,) outperformed 's inch MacBook Pro (1,), and nearly matched it in multi-core performance (7, versus 7,). In real-world terms, the first place I noticed a drastic improvement was Safari. It's buttery smooth, handling more than 30 tabs with ease. (I like pinned tabs, OK?)
Apps like Safari, which are engineered for the new M1 processor, are fast and snappy. I've yet to see a single stutter or pause from them. The good news is that apps made with Intel in mind can still launch perfectly fine thanks to Rosetta 2, a translation process that helps apps made for the old xarchitecture work on Apple silicon. You'll see a prompt to install Rosetta when you first try to download one of these apps. The installation takes a few extra seconds, and the rest of the process is just business as usual.
These Rosetta apps run better than they did on the previous MacBook Air. I had no trouble editing a simple minute 4K video in Adobe Premiere Pro, and it only took eight minutes to export. (I didn't add any effects or grading.) Adobe Lightroom's media library stuttered for a few seconds upon launch, but I edited and exported RAW files with the elegance and speed of a concert pianist.
Developers like Adobe will eventually release new versions of their apps that make use of all the frameworks in the M1 chip, which will add more performance gains as well as new tricks that take advantage of the expanded machine-learning processors in Apple's chip. (A beta version of the Photoshop app is available now, and Adobe says a Lightroom beta arrives next month.)
It's clear some apps could use this optimization sooner than others. When using Google Chrome, I ran a similar amount of tabs to Safari. I found it sometimes took longer to load pages and switch tabs—Chrome performed much better with 15 or so tabs, less than half of what Safari could handle. (Update: Google has released a native Chrome app already and it's performing significantly better than the Rosetta version and is very similar to my Safari experience.) Scrolling through my library in the Steam PC gaming platform for the desktop, it was a lot laggier on the MacBook Air than on the older inch MacBook Pro. The onus to update is on the developer, and it will take some time before most Mac apps are optimized for the M1.
With the previous MacBook Air, I often felt like I hit a performance threshold that limited the work I was able to do. That's not the case anymore, for the most part. I feel like I can do a lot more with the M1. Driving in Asphalt 9 was speedy, as it should be, whereas I could sometimes see stutters on the predecessor when playing heavier games like Gris or running more intensive apps like Premiere Pro.
I managed to play Batman: Arkham City with a stable 60 frames per second on the highest graphical settings, albeit at a lower 1, x 1, resolution. (At the max resolution, I averaged around 45 fps.) The Air never got uncomfortably hot, even after an hour of play; there is an aluminum heat spreader to help dissipate heat. Yes, the inch MacBook Pro with its dedicated graphics card manages the same game just fine with 60 fps at the highest screen resolution, but during gameplay, that laptop sounded like a jet plane getting ready for takeoff. The MacBook Air was silent, and that's key. It's something I found myself appreciating over and over again in the course of my week of testing. I never heard a peep. Whenever my ears picked up the distracting whirr of a fan in my apartment, I'd find it was coming from my partner's older MacBook.
After performance, my two favorite upgrades thanks to the M1 are battery life and the ability for the computer to instantly wake up. The latter works exactly as described: The MacBook Air is ready instantly when you wake it from sleep, just like when you tap the screen on your iPhone or iPad. If you're coming from an older Mac, this is huge. I spent minutes just opening and closing the Air—the screen lights up before I can finish fully opening it, and it's ready to go.
If you look at my MacBook Air review from March, one of the cons I listed was how battery life could be improved. That older model needed to be plugged in around 4 pm (after starting the day around 9 am), even after mostly working in Safari. Well, with a similar workload using Safari on the new Air, I … didn't need to plug it in before the workday ended. I hit 38 percent at 5 pm.
The next day, I did the same type of work on Google's Chrome browser and got almost exactly the same results. I kept using the machine until 7 pm, and by then it reached 22 percent. You can quite literally keep using this machine from morning til night.
One more perk of the M1 is that you can run iPhone or iPad apps on the Mac. This is possible because iOS and iPadOS both run on Apple-designed chips similar to what's in the new Macs. When you search for an app on the Mac App Store, you'll now see a new tab for "iPhone and iPad apps." I installed the Facebook iPhone app, and it worked! The interface is clunky and obviously designed for a touchscreen, something Apple has so far shied away from adding to its laptops. But again, it's up to developers to optimize the app for the screen. Devs can prevent their mobile apps from being accessible on Macs too. Apps from Netflix, Instagram, and Google, for example, are missing.
It's hard to see why accessing these apps can be useful in the current implementation, but when developers do spend the time optimizing them, expect transitioning from your Mac to your iPhone to be much more seamless.
The Mac for Most
Not much else is new compared to the Air's predecessor. Documentaries like Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb look really sharp on the inch screen, and as Safari now supports 4K HDR with Netflix in the latest Big Sur update, series like Planet Earth show off some dazzlingly rich colors.
The speakers and microphones on this machine are solid, though I really wish Apple would upgrade the webcam already. It's still a p camera (with no Face ID authentication), and while Apple says it performs better due to improved imaging algorithms, the quality isn't all that great. In fact, the colors aren't accurate. On one particular work call, my colleagues and I noted that my skin looked too reddish, and my room had an overall green hue. Not to mention it still looks terrible if you're not in a well-lit room.
Still, the MacBook Air gives you a fairly complete package in an amazingly slim and lightweight body. It's still costly at $ ($ if you're a student or teacher), but since this is a powerful machine that will easily handle most tasks with ease, the price isn't too hard to stomach.
As for which exact model you should buy, get the $ MacBook Air with its seven-core GPU and gigabytes of storage. Unless you need gigabytes, I don't think the extra GPU core is worth the $ jump in price. (You might want to upgrade to 16 GB of RAM if you tend to run a lot of apps at the same time.)
If you usually use more intensive apps day-to-day (and not just Chrome), then get the $1, inch MacBook Pro. I haven't reviewed that machine yet, but since it has (mostly) the same chip, you should see a decent boost in performance with the fan and extra GPU core, plus longer battery life. However, if pro-grade work is all you do, I would wait if possible until Apple releases a higher-tier MacBook Pro with an M-series chip. That will give developers time to release better-optimized apps, and considering how much of a jump the M1 MacBook Air has made over its eight-month-old predecessor, the stage is set for another dramatic leap.
M1 MacBook Air review: After 3 months use, here's what I wish I'd known
I bought a gold 8GB//7 core GPU MacBook Air in early January. The MacBook Air form factor is my favorite -- the early '90s HP Omnibook spoiled me for any notebook over 3 pounds -- and I've owned a half dozen since the 2nd gen SSD version.
Also: The Mac price crash of
This review is written from my perspective as an analyst and writer. I do lots of research, and I commonly have two dozen or more open browser tabs, plus Mail, Messages, Preview, and a dozen more apps open. I also edit video and make video calls, but I keep 25TB of storage attached to a desktop iMac for bigger projects.
First, the good news
I had a 64GB " iPad Pro with Magic keyboard as my mobile workstation for over a year. Performance and battery life was great, no fan noise, and it ran almost every app I needed.
But the MacBook Air does all that and more, in a lighter and less costly package. Better performance. Two times the memory and 4x the storage. Dead quiet. Great battery life. Larger trackpad and display. Flexible multitasking and window layout. Excellent I/O options with Thunderbolt 3 and USB 4.
But depending on how you prefer to work there are some real deficits. No Apple Pencil. No touch screen. No Face ID. No 4k camera. No snapping off the tablet from the keyboard.
None of these are deal killers for me, but they might be for you. I do miss Face ID, but thanks to the Air's Touch ID and Watch unlocking, not much.
Now for specifics.
No regrets with 8GB memory
Apple charges an exorbitant $25/GB for RAM. However, the excellent performance of the 4GB iPad Pro gave me the confidence to buy the 8GB MacBook Air.
One day I wanted to see what it would take to overwhelm 8GB of RAM, so I left every app, window, and tab open all day. Safari and Firefox each with a dozen tabs open, Mail, Messages, Preview, Calendar, one or more Notes apps, Scrivener, and Final Cut Pro, and utilities including Copyclip, iStat Menus, Magnet, Default Folder, Typinator, Thesaurus, and a VPN.
Also: Best iPad: Which model should you buy?
After several hours of adding load I started seeing beach balls. I killed a few unused apps and all was good.
I interpret this casual test to mean that for other than all-day, heads-down Pro users, 8GB of RAM is plenty. If you're using the MacBook Air to make money, then splurge on 16GB.
Everyone else, save your pennies. Considering that the 13" MacBook Pro performance is essentially identical, and its other specs -- 20 percent brighter screen, slightly better mics, 12 percent faster graphics, another couple of hours of battery life (with 4 oz (gm) more weight), the Touch Bar -- it isn't worth the percent cost uplift to me. Maybe it is to you.
I'll have another money-saving tip in a future piece. Stay tuned.
The not-so-good news
Despite all the goodness of the MacBook Air, there are issues. I'll save the worst for last.
iOS apps and games
The iOS apps that are available on macOS work pretty well. For example, the iOS video editor LumaFusion works well and costs a fraction of FCP X.
If iOS games are your happy place, you'll find that touch interfaces don't transfer well to a trackpad and keyboard. Keep your iPad for gaming.
Changing security settings to add kernel extensions is a pain. Kernel extensions now requires a reboot or two and some non-obvious navigation. It'll get harder as Apple enhances macOS security.
Screen brightness eats battery life
This is an FYI nit, or nits. Apple Silicon sips power, but today's LED backlights don't. If you crank the display up full, there's a noticeable -- hour -- reduction in battery life. Better than Intel MacBooks, but this is why Apple is pushing micro-LED backlighting.
Backups may not work at all
This is something that pros especially should be aware of: bootable backups are possible, but if your internal SSD completely dies, that bootable backup will fail too. I'm still investigating the issue, and Apple doesn't have a clear statement of direction, but this may mean the end of 3rd-party backup utilities.
Also: The M1 Mac write issue: What's going on with Apple's SSDs?
The workaround? A second Mac. Sub-optimal. More on this soon as well.
Apple MacBook Air (M1): The Take
All in all, the basic MacBook Air is an incredible bargain. Take the extra cost of a MacBook Pro and buy a big display and a Thunderbolt dock instead and you'll have a reasonable and cost-effective desktop. More on this too, real soon now.
View now at Apple
Comments welcome. Apple will have to really up the ante on future Macs to compete with the MacBook Air. But if you see if differently, let me know in the comments.
Air reviews of macbook
Apple MacBook Air with M1 review: new chip, no problem
The new MacBook Air with Apple’s M1 chip is a triumph.
In a week of testing, I have pushed this computer and its new Apple-made processor to its limits and found that those limits exceeded my expectations on nearly every level.
I’ve also used it in the way a MacBook Air is really meant to be used: as an everyday computer for workaday tasks. When doing so, I clocked eight and sometimes 10 hours of continuous use on battery.
Coming into this review, I had a catalog of potential pitfalls that Apple could have fallen into when switching from an Intel chip to its own processor. Chip transitions are devilishly hard and don’t usually go smoothly. This MacBook Air not only avoids almost all of those pitfalls, but it gleefully leaps over them.
Not everything is perfect, of course. Apple’s insistence on using dumpy webcams continues to be a bummer, and running iPad apps is a mess. But as I used the MacBook Air, I often found myself so impressed that I had a hard time believing it.
Believe it. The MacBook Air with the M1 chip is the most impressive laptop I’ve used in years.
Read more: inch MacBook Pro with M1 review and Mac mini with M1 review
MacBook Air hardware
On the outside, the new MacBook Air is nearly identical to the Intel-based one Apple released earlier this year. It has the same well-loved wedge-shaped design, x screen that maxes out at nits of brightness, Touch ID fingerprint login, reasonably good speakers, Apple’s revised scissor-switch keyboard, and that massive trackpad.
It also has the same starting price: $ for a model with 8GB of RAM and GB of storage. That base model also has one less core on its graphics processor compared to pricier configurations, though I can’t speak to what impact that might have. (I bet it’s not much.) The model I’m testing has 16GB of RAM and 1TB of storage for $1, As before, you can’t upgrade anything later on if you need to.
There is only one exterior difference between the new one and the last model: Apple swapped out some of the buttons on the function row for more useful ones. Now, you get a button for Spotlight search (which, on macOS Big Sur, finally can do Google searches), Do Not Disturb, and Dictation. If, like me, you haven’t used Dictation much before this, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how good it is.
The other differences are all on the inside. There’s no fan anymore, for one thing, just an aluminum heat spreader. But even when pushing this machine to its absolute limit, I never felt it get more than a little warm. Apple knows what the thermal ceiling for this system is, and it keeps the MacBook well within it.
Unfortunately, that similarity extends to the webcam, which is still p resolution and still terrible. Apple has tried to borrow some of its real-time image processing from the iPhone to try to spruce up the image — and I do find that it does a better job evenly lighting my face — but mostly what I notice is that it looks bad (only now it’s a more processed version of bad).
One other internal change that will affect pro users and developers more than the average MacBook Air user is that Apple has switched to a unified memory architecture, so there’s no separate graphics memory. Apple claims this is more efficient. Unfortunately, I can’t speak to whether the 8GB model has enough RAM to comfortably handle both CPU and GPU needs, but I haven’t had any problems with the 16GB on my review unit.
In fact, I have yet to run into any sort of performance problem at all — because this MacBook Air is fast.
MacBook Air performance
The MacBook Air performs like a pro-level laptop. It never groans under multiple apps. (I’ve run well over a dozen at a time.) It handles intensive apps like Photoshop and even video editing apps like Adobe Premiere without complaint. It has never made me think twice about loading up another browser tab or 10 — even in Chrome.
Last week, I wrote that Apple was “astonishingly confident in its new M1 Mac processors,” rattling off huge claims and declining to lower expectations in any way. Having used one, I’m simply astonished.
I’ve used Windows laptops with Arm processors from Qualcomm, and they are slower, buggier, and more complicated than Intel machines. Even though I figured Apple would handle this Intel-to-Arm transition better, I didn’t expect everything to work as well as it does.
I knew that macOS and Apple’s own apps would be fast, many of which have been coded specifically to work with this processor. What has shocked me is how well every app runs.
Some background: apps are usually built to work with a specific kind of processor, so when they are run on a machine with a different processor, some kind of extra work has to happen under the hood. On the Mac, that work is done by a piece of software called Rosetta 2, which you install the first time you run an Intel-based app.
Unlike on Windows, Rosetta 2 isn’t really emulation but translation. It means those apps take a beat longer to launch, but once they’re running, they just run. I have yet to run into any app compatibility problems (though there may be some I haven’t been able to track down).
We, of course, ran a suite of benchmarks. The chart below shows some of our results. But I just want to call out one, in particular: the frame rate on Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Thirty-eight frames per second is a respectable number for a gaming laptop with a low-end graphics card. It’s nigh unheard of for a computer with an integrated GPU. I am doing work on this MacBook Air that would have brought my old MacBook Air to its knees.
M1-based Mac benchmarks
|Benchmark||MacBook Air||MacBook Pro||Mac mini|
|Cinebench R23 Multi|
|Cinebench R23 Single|
|Cinebench R23 Multi looped for 30 minutes|
|Geekbench CPU Multi|
|Geekbench CPU Single|
|Geekbench OpenCL/ Compute|
We run a standard Adobe Premiere export test, and the MacBook Air beats the latest Intel laptops with integrated graphics and holds its own with some laptops with proper discrete GPUs.
The thing to pay attention to isn’t the numbers. I admit they’re impressive, and also they reflect my real experience with the computer. Instead, the thing to pay attention to is that Tomb Raider and Adobe Premiere haven’t been optimized for this chip yet. They’re running through Apple’s Rosetta 2 translation layer. Apple has intimated that the M1 chip was designed in collaboration with the Rosetta team, so it’s likely that there are lots of optimizations in the hardware itself.
(We did find one odd bug, however: Premiere encoded video at half the usual bitrate we expect when using variable bitrate on a YouTube 4K preset export. We had to set the slider to 80 to achieve the same bitrate Intel computers export on the default settings. Weird! We’ve let Adobe know, and as of publish time, the best answer is that Premiere isn’t officially supported on the M1.)
If you currently have a MacBook Air, I am confident this new MacBook will perform better in every way. I think it beats the pants off Intel-based ultrabooks running Windows, including its most recent chips.
MacBook Air battery life
Apple is claiming that this machine can get 18 hours of video playback and “15 hours of wireless web,” both of which are very large claims. The company tells me I should expect battery life to be as much as 50 percent better than the last Air, and the battery inside this computer isn’t any bigger than the previous models. All of those improvements come down to increased efficiency.
My actual results? I’m getting between eight and 10 hours of real, sustained work depending on how hard I am pushing it. That’s not quite 50 percent better than the last MacBook Air, but it’s very close.
To be very clear, I’m getting those numbers using the apps I actually use, which, of course, includes Chrome and various apps that are also based on the Chrome engine, like Slack. What’s remarkable about that is, for some applications, Rosetta 2 needs to do a bunch of real-time code translation, which further eats into battery life.
If and when these apps are rewritten to be “universal” apps that work natively on the M1, I expect to see even better battery life.
It might seem odd to mention this in the context of battery life, but the MacBook Air now wakes instantly from sleep, and apps that were running before you shut the laptop are much quicker to catch themselves up with the world. It’s subtle, but I have found myself willing to shut the Air closed more often than I usually do with other laptops because waking it from sleep is so seamless.
If you’re trying to choose between the new inch MacBook Pro and this MacBook Air, I think that battery life is going to be the deciding factor for most people. In Nilay’s testing, the Pro is consistently getting a couple more hours on a charge. The Pro also has a Touch Bar and a slightly brighter screen, but the other major difference is that it has a fan. That allows it to run heavy workloads for extended periods of time. Same deal with the new Mac mini.
iOS apps on the MacBook Air
One benefit of the MacBook using the same processor architecture as the iPhone and iPad is that it can now run iPhone and iPad apps natively. To find them, you need to specifically filter for them in the Mac app store. Developers are not allowed to distribute iOS apps to users directly, unfortunately.
When you do head over to the Mac app store to find your favorite apps, prepare to be disappointed. Click on your name in the lower left, then click the tab for “iPhone & iPad apps,” which will show you all of the apps you’ve installed on your iOS devices.
What I found there was a gallery of abandonware, mostly apps from developers that haven’t been updated to be aware of newer devices. Developers have the option to opt their apps out of being made available on the Mac, and many, many developers have done so. Instagram, Slack, Gmail, and many others simply aren’t available. I suspect these developers made that choice because they wanted to make sure they didn’t have a messy, weird app experience on the Mac.
Because iOS apps on the Mac are a messy, weird experience. Apple should have slapped a beta label on this feature.
Apps that have been coded to work with the latest iPad coding standards are great. Overcast, a podcasting app, is quite good and feels totally usable. HBO Max, on the other hand, is a mess. It appears in a little window that you can’t resize, nor can you full-screen videos. What?
The experience is also a little buggy, though Apple tells me the following issue I experienced will be resolved soon. I installed the Telegram messaging iOS app, which works well at first. But when a new message comes in, the app opens up on top of my other windows. The larger bug is that I was unable to delete it using the usual method of clicking an X button in Launch Center. Even when I deleted it manually in the Finder, it still seemed to stick around for a few minutes until I rebooted, receiving notifications.
Apple has built a new system for every iOS app that is available in the Mac menu called “Touch Alternatives.” It is a series of buttons, gestures, and other eldritch incantations to make apps that need a touchscreen work on a Mac.
It’s frankly ridiculous and the clearest sign yet that Apple is bending itself into knots to avoid doing what obviously needs to be done: put a touchscreen on the Mac.
Luckily, you can ignore all of these iOS apps until developers optimize them or Apple figures out a better way to clean up the weird stuff.
At the same time that it launched the new MacBook Air with an M1 processor, Apple discontinued the Intel-based version of the Air. It was a bold move; the MacBook Air is Apple’s best-selling computer, and Apple also just made more money selling Macs last quarter than it ever had before. But it was the right decision. There is not a single reason I can find to want the old Intel version.
For pro users, there are still improvements Apple needs to make to increase performance on the top end for intense workloads. You can’t run an external graphics card, and you’re limited to just one external display at a time, for example, and it’s likely that a true pro would find the ceiling on this integrated GPU fairly quickly. But as an everyperson computer, there is nothing like this MacBook Air. It has very good battery life, incredible performance for its class, and yes, a good keyboard. Too bad about the webcam, though. It’s the main reason we couldn’t give this laptop a 10/10, which we were considering.
Processor transitions are supposed to be messy and complicated. Early adopters of the new chips usually sign up for broken apps, slowdowns, and weird bugs. Through careful integration of its new processor and its software, Apple has avoided all of that.
You don’t have to worry about any of the technical details that have enabled the MacBook Air to successfully navigate that transition. The fact that I can say that is perhaps the most impressive thing of all.
Because it just works.
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Apple’s ‘One More Thing’ event: rumors, news, and announcementsView all 33 stories Sours: https://www.theverge.com//apple-macbook-air-m1-review-price-specs-features-arm-silicon
MacBook Air with M1 review: Specs
Price: $ (starting), $ (education)
CPU: Apple M1
Display: inch, x pixel
Memory: 8GB to 16GB
Storage: GB to 2TB
Dimensions: 12 x x inches
The new Apple MacBook Air with M1 took your idea of what a MacBook Air is, and threw it in the recycling bin. Yes, it's still got the same iconic wedge aesthetic, but Apple Silicon makes it far more powerful and capable than ever before. Thus, a new era kicked off for the MacBook Air — one with Pro-grade power that challenges Intel-based Windows PCs — and often beats them.
As a prospective MacBook shopper myself, I'm happy to say that the new MacBook Air offers serious performance gains over its predecessor, and many more hours of battery life as well. This MacBook Air with M1 review will show why this is one of the best laptops, period. And as of October it has some new siblings, as Apple unveiled the new inch MacBook Pro and inch MacBook Pro
Most of the apps I've used on the MacBook Air are still the Intel versions, which macOS Big Sur uses Rosetta 2 to translate for working on its ARM-based processor. Once app developers make Universal versions, their apps will run even faster on the Apple silicon systems, like this M1-based MacBook Air.
Not only am I going to pit the new M1 MacBook Air against the best PC laptops in this review, I'm also comparing it against the Intel-based MacBook Air released earlier this year, to show how much has changed (or hasn't). And since we've just released our Dell XPS 13 OLED review, we're going to mention how it compares on color output and battery life.
MacBook Air with M1 review: Price and release date
The MacBook Air with M1 starts at $, though educational customers can get it for $ That model has an 8-core CPU and 7-core GPU, 8GB of RAM and a GB SSD. The $1, model is a little more stacked, with GB of SSD storage — plus an 8-core GPU.
Currently, you can get $ off the GB MacBook Air M1 at Amazon for $1, and $ off the GB MacBook Air M1 for $.
The MacBook Air with M1 debuted on November 17, , but those who are still waiting may be rewarded. The MacBook Air is rumored to have thinner bezels and MagSafe charging.
But if you don't need a new laptop right now, you may want to wait a few months. The latest report out of Bloomberg suggests a revamped MacBook AIr will come after the Pros (which is expected as early as this summer). This laptop would have the "direct successor" to the Apple M1 chip, which would have as many computing cores — but running faster. The graphics cores will increase by two: from 7 or 8 to 9 or
MacBook Air with M1 review: Performance
The MacBook Air's performance — powered by the M1 processor and 16GB of RAM — is phenomenal. When I split its screen between 20 Chrome (Intel, not Universal) tabs and a p YouTube video — plus Apple's Mail and Photos app, Pixelmator (again, an Intel app) and 1Password (Intel, again) in the background, I never saw anything close to a hiccup. Oh, and in the background, 20GB of 4K video was being AirDrop transferred, while everything stayed smooth and stable.
During a group call, I even found time to play around with iOS apps, downloading and opening the Overcast podcatcher, HBO Max and the game Among Us. All while a 4K YouTube video of a chef cooking played on my laptop monitor, I played around in each of those apps, so I could start an Adventure Time episode, download a podcast and drag my lil Among Us guy around on screen. Yes, I'm very good at multitasking.
Most of the time, the MacBook Air with M1 felt — performance-wise — like it was identical (if not faster) than the Core i5 MacBook Pro I've used to test Big Sur, or the Core i7 MacBook Pro work computer I replied upon. This includes when I connected an external monitor. Before this, I was a bit skeptical, even with Apple's boasts of x improved performance vs the Intel MacBook Air released earlier this year, because I've always pushed my MacBooks to the limit, and needed a MacBook Pro, and not an Air, to do my work. This MacBook Air? It feels like a Pro.
And let's see how that shakes out in benchmarks — and I'll note that not all of our tests were done with Universal versions of apps, and Intel versions aren't optimized for the M1.
The Air scored 5, on the Geekbench (Intel) multicore test, which was practically in a dead-heat with the 5, from the M1 MacBook Pro. The Air soundly beat the 5, from the ZenBook 13 and the 5, from the XPS 13 (both tested with the Intel Core iG7 CPU and 16GB of RAM), on the comparable Geekbench test. The old Intel MacBook Air Y-series Intel CPU mustered only 2,
On our Handbrake (Universal) video conversion test, which transcodes a 4K video to p, the MacBook Air finished the test in 9 minutes and 15 seconds and the MacBook Pro took (on a Beta version of Handbrake that's optimized for Apple silicon). Those times obliterate those from the ZenBook 13 () and XPS 13 (), as well as the time from the Intel MacBook Air from earlier this year.
Apple also promised twice as fast storage speeds, and they delivered. The 1TB SSD in the MacBook Air we tested hit a read speed of MBps on the Black Magic Disk Speed Test (Intel), literally more than twice the 1, MBps read rate from the Intel MacBook Air.
The MacBook Air scored a on the PugetBench Photoshop (Intel) test, which beats the from the XPS 13, but falls to the from the ZenBook 13 (a rare wn for the x86 crowd). The MacBook Pro came pretty close, with a
MacBook Air with M1 review: Graphics
Our test MacBook Air has the 8-core GPU configuration, which (by the feel of it) could reshape the Mac in the minds of some gamers. I started it off easy, running Bioshock 2 Remastered (at the native x resolution) and that game played smoothly, as rippling water flowed through the rooms I navigated, electro shocks hit enemies and all the underwater life outside the hallways I explored moved without a glitch.
But since that's an older game, I brought out Rise of the Tomb Raider (also at x , and set to Medium graphics) which looked great on the MacBook Air — and I never thought I'd see a MacBook Air run a demanding AAA game at all. Whether I was climbing a snowy arctic mountain, or exploring the deserts of Syria, Lara Croft moved as she should. Oh, and both of these games are Intel versions running via Rosetta 2, so they're not Universal versions (yet).
When we benchmarked Sid Meier's Civilization VI: Gathering Storm (Intel) on the MacBook Air (where x was the highest resolution supported), it ran at 37 frames per second, walloping the 7 fps score we got from the Intel MacBook Air and coming in slightly under the M1 MacBook Pro's 38 fps time. The ZenBook 13 and XPS 13 (which could run that game at a slightly sharper p) posted rates of 21 and 16 fps, respectively.
Interestingly, the GFXBench Metal Aztec Ruins graphics benchmark (Universal) gave the Air and Pro practically similar scores: a 54 on High and 60 on Normal (both rounded down).
MacBook Air with M1 review: Battery Life
Apple declared its M1 chip would enable all-day battery life, and the company has hit that mark. On the Tom's Guide battery test (web browsing at nits), the new MacBook Air lasted an epic 14 hours and 41 minutes (while the new MacBook Pro hit ) — times that beat both the ZenBook 13 () and XPS 13 (). The OLED XPS 13 () put in a much lower time.
And for those who just want to compare against the previous Intel Macs — they're left in the dust. The Intel MacBook Air () and MacBook Pro () times have now been beaten by 5 and 6 hours, respectively.
MacBook Air with M1 review: Webcam
I've wanted Apple to give its MacBooks a higher-resolution camera, but they found another way to improve the MacBook for the Zoom era. The M1 chip features an image signal processor that makes you look better in a couple of ways.
I put the New MacBook Air's webcam in a head-to-head face-off with the early Intel-based MacBook Pro, with both joining the same Google Meet call. My boss, looking at two of me at the same time, noted that the video from the M1-based MacBook Air offered better colors, including skin tones, and an overall brighter picture. Other calls I made on the MacBook Air, where we didn't have a live comparison, didn't wow anyone with the video quality, which goes to show that a better webcam would still be welcome.
MacBook Air with M1 review: Design
The MacBook Air with M1 looks and feels exactly like the early MacBook Air I reviewed back in March. And that's arguably the point. This MacBook Air has the same wedge-shaped machined-aluminum chassis (available in gold, silver and space gray) that we're used to, as Apple seems to want to ease users into the Apple Silicon era.
So, the 12 x x inch, pound M1 MacBook Air looks exactly like its Intel-based predecessor ( x x inches and pounds). And to be honest, it still has room to shrink. The pound Asus ZenBook 13 ( x 8 x inches) is a bit lighter, while the pound Dell XPS 13 has a smaller x x inch footprint, thanks in part to its razor-thin InfinityEdge bezels.
Apple sells the MacBook Air in gold, silver and space gray. I prefer gold, so much so that I really wish Apple would offer it for the MacBook Pro (which it does not).
MacBook Air with M1 review: Ports
The M1 MacBook Air has 2 Thunderbolt 3 USB 4 ports, just like its Intel-based predecessor, plus a headphone jack on the side (which I pray Apple never removes). While its USB-C ports are both on the left side, the XPS 13 splits them between the left and right side, making it easier to connect devices on your right.
Other laptops simply offer more ports. The XPS 13 also has a microSD reader, which the MacBook Air does not. The ZenBook 13 has a full HDMI-out and a USB-A port, but no headphone jack.
Annoyed that the MacBook Air doesn't have the old MagSafe charging? Worry no more, rumor has it that the MacBook Air will pack the more convenient charging standard.
Plus, the ZenBook is also designed for serious durability, having passed multiple MIL-STD G certifications (including extreme temperatures and altitudes, drops, shocks, and vibrations).
MacBook Air with M1 review: Display
As I watched Spider-man: Into The Spider-verse on the MacBook Air M1, I noticed how the pinks, yellows and blues of the graffiti popped off the screen, as did the greens of the arachnid that bit into young Miles Morales. As for detail, the MacBook Air's 2, x pixel Retina display provided fine details, with the hairs on that spider, the myriad of Ben-Day dots in the entire film, as well as the grains of the wood floors in Bong Joon-Ho's Parasite. The starting configurations of the ZenBook 13 and XPS 13 both rock p screens, which are not as sharp.
We're still waiting on an OLED MacBook, as the Dell XPS 13 OLED just came out to get tons of applause for its gorgeous panel. That said, its improved screen comes at a big downside, as I mention in the battery life section.
According to our Klein KA colorimeter, the MacBook Air with M1 produces % of the sRGB spectrum, which is slightly above the scores of the M1 MacBook Pro (%) Asus ZenBook 13 (%) and the Dell XPS 13 (%). The Intel MacBook Air posted a similar %, and the OLED XPS 13 hit a hair higher, at %
Our colorimeter also rates the new MacBook Air's display as producing up to nits of brightness (a bit below the company's nit estimate), which makes it similar to the display of the Intel-based MacBook Air ( nits) and the ZenBook 13 ( nits). The M1 MacBook Pro ( nits) and the XPS 13 ( nits) get brighter. That extra brightness could help it prevent colors from darkening a bit when you view the panel 30 degrees to the left and right.
MacBook Air with M1 review: Keyboard and touchpad
Testing out the MacBook Air's Magic Keyboard on the 10fastfingers typing test, I clicked my way to 74 words per minute, not far from my 80 wpm average. As was the case with the early MacBook Air, this keyboard was the upgrade Apple needed, after its too-shallow Butterfly-switch keys proved controversial, with many arguing they were prone to sticking when small detritus or dust got into the keys.
The MacBook Air's x glass Force Touch trackpad offers accurate input recognition, and smooth scrolling. Apple continues to substitute haptic feedback for clicks, a decision that seems to have been a success (though I preferred it the old way).
MacBook Air with M1 review: Audio
Turning on Rage Against The Machine's "Bulls on Parade" I noted how the MacBook Air's stereo speakers get loud enough to fill my pretty-large living room with sweet sound. Synths and guitar riffs sounded accurate, Zach De La Rocha's vocals came out clearly and the speakers have a decently large soundstage, giving a somewhat immersive feel.
Also, the MacBook Air supports Dolby Atmos, so when I watched Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse on the Air, I felt like I heard the movie's booming score more than I have on previous laptops. Whether that was Post Malone and Swae Lee's "Sunflower" or the timbre of Nicolas Cage's voice for the Spider-Noir character, the movie just sounded better.
When you’re making video calls, and the trio of built-in microphones means that Siri can hear you (correctly) even when you're speaking away from the laptop.
MacBook Air with M1 review: Heat
When I used the MacBook Air in my lap, while writing this review, watching video, and syncing my personal and professional email in Mail.app I noticed the Air get a little warm. Not to an unpleasant degree, though. That’s good news, since the new Air doesn’t have a fan.
After we streamed 15 minutes of full HD video on the MacBook Air, our heat gun picked up low readings on its touchpad (78 degrees Fahrenheit), keyboard ( degrees) and underside (83 degrees), which all fall under our 95 degree comfort threshold.
MacBook Air with M1 review: Software and iOS apps
As you've doubtlessly noticed, multiple applications we used to test and benchmark the MacBook Air were applications made for Intel processors. The Apple M1 chip, and all upcoming Apple silicon, will not natively run these applications. Fortunately, Rosetta 2 — Apple's tool for translating applications to run smoothly — is here and it performs that action up upon installation, so those applications can run unhindered. Hopefully, developers will create Universal versions of these apps sooner, rather than later, so the M1 Macs can run to their potential.
Apple silicon chips like the M1 will also allow you to run iPhone and iPad apps on your Mac. They'll be distributed in the Mac App Store, but look for the text "Not verified for macOS" — if you see that, the developer hasn't confirmed that their app runs smoothly on the Mac. Apps will default to arrive on the Mac App Store, but developers can opt out, so don't expect everything. I've tried out some of my favorites, including Overcast, and it's nice to get the HBO Max app on the Mac, so you can save movies for watching offline. Playing Among Us without a touch screen had a bit of a learning curve.
Finally, macOS Big Sur is at the heart of the new MacBook Air, and I've enjoyed it as I spent the summer playing around with it in betas. Its bright interface uses transparency and translucency a lot, which might require some adjustments based on your personal preferences. The biggest update to Big Sur is how Safari is getting competitive with Chrome, by gaining a customizable home screen and new tab previews.
MacBook Air with M1 review: Verdict
This MacBook Air with M1 review has shown why its amazing endurance and shockingly good speed combine to take the MacBook Air to new heights. If only it packed a couple more ports and slimmed down its bezels, the new MacBook Air might be 5-star perfect.
The Dell XPS 13 has much smaller bezels, but it trails behind the MacBook Air in performance and battery life. You could save $ with a similarly configured $ Asus ZenBook 13, and get a few ports too, but you'd be sacrificing performance and around an hour of endurance. For those who live and work in the Apple ecosystem, though, the new MacBook Air is the easiest buying decision you've had in ages.
Henry is a senior editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past six-plus years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.
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MacBook Air vs Pro: Which should you buy?
The MacBook Air vs Pro conversation is evolving at a remarkable pace, even as these laptops grow more and more similar. Right now both of these Apple laptops are better than ever thanks to the M1 chip and Magic Keyboard.
Things just got more complicated with the introduction of the $1, MacBook Pro inch, which offers even more powerful M1 Pro/M1 Max chip options, a larger mini-LED display, more ports and a sharper p webcam. There's also a new inch MacBook Pro with all of the same upgrades plus a larger, sharper display and longer battery life.
In the meantime, Apple's reaping the rewards of ditching Intel's processors for its own Apple silicon and the results are staggering, ensuring both have a high slot in our best laptop list. As we've seen in our MacBook Air with M1 review and MacBook Pro with M1 review, upgrading these MacBooks with Apple's M1 chip has given them surprising speed and crazy battery life.
Here's everything you need to know to find the best MacBook for you when choosing between the MacBook Air vs Pro. And stay tuned for our full reviews of the new inch and inch MacBook Pros.
MacBook Air vs Pro: Specs
|MacBook Air||inch MacBook Pro||inch MacBook Pro||inch MacBook Pro|
|Screen||inches ( x )||inches ( x )||inches ( x ) min-LED||inches ( x ) min-LED|
|Battery life||of web browsing (M1, tested) | Up to 18 hours of video playback (M1, claimed) | (Intel, tested)||of web browsing (M1, tested) | Up to 20 hours (Apple M1, claimed) | (Intel, tested)||17 hours of video playback (rated)||21 hours video playback (rated)|
|Processor||Apple M1 (8-core)||Apple M1 (8-core)||Apple M1 Pro, M1 Max (core)||Apple M1 Pro, M1 Max (core)|
|Graphics||Integrated 7-core M1 GPU | Integrated 8-core GPU||Integrated 7-core M1 GPU | Integrated 8-core GPU||core or core||core or core|
|Storage||GB to 2TB||GB to 4TB||GB to 8TB||GB to 8TB|
|Memory||8GB, 16GB||8GB, 16GB, 32GB||16GG, 32GB||16GB, 32GB, 64GB|
|Ports||2 Thunderbolt||2 Thuderbolt||3 Thunderbolt, HDMI, SD Card, MagSafe||3 Thunderbolt, HDMI, SD Card, MagSafe|
|Security||Touch ID||Touch ID||Touch ID||Touch ID|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, Dolby Atmos support||Stereo speakers, Dolby Atmos support, 3-mic array||6-speaker array, Dolby Atmos support||6-speaker array, Dolby Atmos support|
|Dimensions||12 x x inches||12 x x inches||x x inches||x x inches|
MacBook Air vs Pro: Design
The M1 MacBook Air and Pro share machined aluminum shells, come in silver and Space Gray, and all have the little lip at the front of the base, for easily opening the screen. The Air has a tapered-wedge design, as it always has.
The new MacBook Pros deliver slim bezels and ditch the Touch Bar in favor of a dedicated function row (we say good riddance). There's a notch at the top for the p webcam, but it's not too distracting. The MacBook Air could also have thinner bezels and a notch for the camera, based on the latest renders.
While the MacBook Air's tear-drop (it's more like a wedge than a rectangle) design is iconic, my favorite distinct feature about the Air is its gold color option, which just looks so much more attractive than the light and dark silver options.
When it comes to portability, the pound MacBook Air is still the lightest followed by the 3-pound inch MacBook Pro. But the inch MacBook Pro is still fairly portable at pounds. The inch goes to pounds.
Unfortunately, the new MacBook Pros are limited to Silver and Space Gray.
Winner: MacBook Air for portability, new MacBook Pros for slimmer bezels
MacBook Air vs MacBook Pro: Ports
If you want plenty of ports, the MacBook Air is not the best choice. It offers only two Thunderbolt 3 ports. The M1-powered inch MacBook Pro also has only two Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports
The new inch and inch MacBook Pros deliver the most ports, including three Thunderbolt 4 ports, an HDMI port and SD Card slot. Plus, there's MagSafe charging.
Winner:New MacBook Pros
MacBook Air vs MacBook Pro: Display
The Retina displays in the MacBook Air and inch MacBook Pro are both sharp and colorful, and while it's close, there's a reason to go Pro: brightness.
Based on our lab test results, the MacBook Air (M1) maxes out at nits of brightness, while the M1 MacBook Pro (inch: nits) got even brighter.
On color output, though, they're more similar. The Air (M1) netted a % sRGB rating from our colorimeter, which slightly beats the % rating we got from the M1 inch Pro.
The new MacBook Pros take display quality to the next level with their Liquid Retina XDR displays. They're rated for 1, nits of brightness and offer mini-LED technology for superior colors and contrast. Plus, you get a Hz ProMotion display for smoother performance.
Winner:New MacBook Pros
MacBook Air vs MacBook Pro: Keyboard and Touch Bar
All of the MacBooks you can buy offer Apple's Magic Keyboard, which deliver strong tactile performance and comfort.
The MacBook Air doesn't feature a Touch Bar, while the inch MacBook Pro does, and this OLED bar frankly doesn't offer a lot of value. It's perhaps telling that the inch MacBook Pro and inch MacBook Pro ditch the Touch Bar for a dedicated function row of physical keys.
Winners: It's a draw
MacBook Air vs Pro: Performance
Apple's claims of amazingly improved performance in the M1-based MacBook Air and Pro have been proven out in testing. On the Geekbench 5 benchmarks, the new MacBook Air (M1, 16GB RAM) scored a 5, and the new Pro (M1, 16GB RAM) netted a pretty similar 5,
On the Handbrake video transcoding test converting a 4K video to p, though, the M1 MacBook Pro won with a time of , beating the Air's time.
The SSDs on the M1 Pro (inch) are the fastest of them all, with BlackMagic Disk Speed Test read rates of 2, MBps, beating the 2, MBps from the M1 Air and the inch Pro's 2, MBps speed.
During the Sid Meier’s Civilization Gathering Storm test, the M1 MacBook Air notched fps, slightly behind the M1 Pro's fps. Rise of the Tomb Raider (at Very High settings at x resolution) ran at 29 fps on both M1 laptops.
We've yet to test the new MacBook Pros, but they promise dramatically better performance. The MacBook Pro with M1 Pro delivers 10 cores (up from 8 cores on the M1) as well as a core GPU (up from 7 cores). For example, Apple says that the MacBook Pro has up to 70 percent faster CPU performance.
Both the inch and inch MacBook Pros also support an even faster M1 Max chip with up to 64GB of unified memory and a core GPU.
Winner: MacBook Air for value, new MacBook Pros for sheer speed
MacBook Air vs Pro: Battery life
Battery life is the other place where Apple's move to its own M1 processors has delivered serious wins. The M1 MacBook Air lasted for 14 hours and 41 minutes on our battery test (web surfing at nits), while the M1 Pro () lasted even longer. Both times leave the inch MacBook Pro () in the dust.
The new MacBook Pro inch and inch promise even longer endurance, as those laptops are rated for 17 hours and 21 hours, respectively.
Winner: Waiting on testing
MacBook Air vs Pro: Audio
While the MacBook Air and the inch MacBook Pro offer great stereo sound (the latter has more dynamic range) — the new MacBook Pros are on another level.
That's because the inch and inch MacBook Pro offer a six-speaker setup. And you now get more bass along with an octave lower sound for even more robust audio profile. Plus, the new MacBook Pros support Dolby Atmos in speaker as opposed to just headphones.
Winner: New MacBook Pros
MacBook Air vs Pro: Value and price
The MacBook Air is still the value leader with its $ starting price and it arguably gives you more band for your buck in terms of performance than the inch MacBook Pro. Yes, the inch Pro gives you longer battery life, but it may not be enough to justify the $1, price.
The MacBook Pro inch represents a big jump in price over the inch, but you get a lot for your $1, This includes a much faster M1 Pro chip, larger and superior inch mini-LED display with Hz refresh rate, a shaper p webcam and more ports. But you'll likely need to have a demanding workload to appreciate all of these benefits.
The inch MacBook Pro is the ultimate Apple laptop for people who need the biggest display, and it's priced accordingly at $2, And you'll get a longer lasting battery.
MacBook Air vs Pro: What should you buy?
This is a tough call as we need to test and review the new MacBook Pros to come to a verdict. But based on what we know now the MacBook Air is the best MacBook for most people, delivering awesome M1 performance and longer battery life in a fairly portable design.
The inch MacBook Pro is still good, but it's outshined by the more premium inch MacBook Pro and all of its upgrades. But we're guessing at least some shoppers will think twice about jumping from $1, to $1, The inch MacBook Pro is the ultimate splurge machine for power users for those who want the most screen real estate they can have at home and on the go.