Apple MacBook Air M1 long-term review 

Siddharth Mathew Cherian | Updated on: Jul 21, 2022

A slim entrant to the Apple Silicon lineup 

Now that the MacBook Air M2 is available for purchase albeit at a premium, its predecessor - the Apple M1 MacBook Air is still a device worth purchasing for those who are looking for an excellent Ultrabook for school, or college, and office work and priced under 1 lakh. 

Here’s the long-term review of Apple’s first foray into Apple Silicon – The M1 MacBook Air. 

Design –An ‘Airy’ scent of nostalgia 

Everyone is familiar with the moment when the late Steve Jobs pulled out a wedge-shaped laptop from a Manila envelope and surprised everyone with the size and portability of the MacBook Air at the 2008 Macworld Keynote address. 

Since then, the design has stayed constant over the years with just the keyboard type, the ports changing sides, and the glowing translucent Apple logo being replaced by a solid silver one. 

The wedge-shaped laptop design starts thinnest from the trackpad and increases in size as it proceeds towards the display when seen from the side. 

The M1 MacBook M1 Air hasn’t changed in a while, and this Ultrabook has been Apple’s entry-level price offering in the laptop segment for the Mac OS ecosystem. The Air is seeing an overall design makeover with the M2 MacBook Air. 

Weight 

Weighing in at 1.2 Kilos, the M1 Air is by no stretch of the imagination featherlight in terms of weight as the Air features a machined aluminum case. But the weight is well distributed across the M1’s body which makes it easy to carry around in a backpack or messenger bag.  

Display 

The M1’s display is a 13.3-inch 2560* 1600 retina screen and can get bright up to 400 nits. The display can get quite bright and is decently legible in sunlight/ shade and for outdoor use. 

The colors and contrast seem to give emphasis to the blacks and the Air is an excellent display to consume OTT/YouTube content on. The M1 features a truetone display that adjusts the brightness automatically according to the ambient surroundings. 

The display bezels have always been a bone of contention for the Airsand Pros, but with the M1 Air–It is not that noticeable in the long run. 

Ports 

The Air features minimalist ports with 2 USB type-c/ Thunderbolt 3 on the left-hand side (Hello and welcome to Dongle life) with the 3.5 audio jack on the right-hand side of the laptop, this as a quirk makes it hard to charge and use the USB ports at the same time, being quite a crammed fit even with USB hubs.  

I wish Apple had put one USB Type-C port on each side and put the 3.5 mm audio port on the LHS (aka like the older MacBook Airs(pre-2018).  

Keyboard 

The MacBook Air M1 features a scissor-switch key design which was brought back with the 2020 refresh of the MacBook Pro and Air. If one compares the key travel of the older pre-2015 devices then M1 Air is much shallower. Despite the shallower travel, the keyboard provides a satisfying experience while writing lengthy documents for a longer duration.

Trackpad 

Here the difference between the glass trackpad of the Air and the plastic touchpads of other laptops is quite visible. It has an interesting mix of form and functionality with a wide enough trackpad that’s even better than a mouse. The force feedback and haptics on the trackpad is something that Apple is known for and works out for trackpad-based gestures in Mac OS. 

Performance

The M1 MacBook Air is a fanless Ultrabook and has an 8-core processor clocking in at 3.2 GHz.  

The unit I have been using as my daily driver for the last 6 months is the MacBook Air M1, with 8 Core CPU, 7 Core GPU, and 16 GB RAM with 256 GB SSD.

Despite being fanless, the M1 Air doesnt heat up much and this is one of the advantages of the chip’s thermal design and Apple’s engineering

The previous Intel-based Air with a fan inside, would turn into a toaster within just half-an-hour of moderate use during peak Chennai summers. 

The M1 chip manages to stay cool even in peak Chennai summers and still manages to chug along with the workloads. 

For light multimedia consumption/content creation, the M1 can handle with ease all that you throw at it -including 20 plus tabs opened for news stories, and YouTube tutorials running in the background besides social media sites and web-based apps., It performs well handling apps like Audacity and Final Cut Pro X. 

Battery

The M1 air’s battery exceeded my expectations. 

Coming from a 2013 Intel MacBook Air which gave 5-7 hours unplugged,the M1 is a step up. 

The M1 MacBook Air comfortably flies through the day handling a 9 AM to 5 PM routine, losing just only 40-45 per cent over 8 hours.

This would get me to the end of the work day and about 4-5 hours more left to consume OTT, and YouTube, and write the next story before the laptop needs to be charged..

The laptop takes over 2 hours to charge from 0-100% with the 30-Watt USB type C charger and would be ready for work.  

App compatibility 

The transition to the Apple Silicon platform, brought with it the challenge of App compatibility, given that 90 per cent of desktops and laptops use the X86 platform. To sort that out, Apple bundled its Rosetta 2 translation engine, which helps non-native apps run on the new Apple Silicon ecosystem. 

Close to two years later, most popular programmes such as Chrome, Firefox, and Davinci resolve have been updated for the new platform. However, Audacity, is still an Intel-based app, runs fine via Rosetta-2. 

Quirks 

Since all the USB ports are on the left-hand side, charging and using accessories at the same time is inconvenient, with USB Type-C hubs costing a bomb. 

The M1 MacBook lacks the Bootcamp feature, which allows users to dual boot macOS and Windows on the same system. But, given that M1 is built off the ARM architecture as against X86 architecture, which most Windows devices are built around. While there are workarounds they are few and way too technical. 

The price: The device is priced at Rs 92,900, and each upgrade doesn’t come cheap, Rs 20,000 for RAM or storage upgrades.

Conclusion 

Apple M1 MacBook Air
Pros: Price to Performance, great battery life, display, and portability. 
Cons: Ports on the same side, no SD card slot, and the ‘Apple’ Tax on upgrades. 
Price: ₹99, 900(current price)
₹1,12,900 as configured at purchase. 

The base entry-level MacBook Air M1, 8 Core CPU,7 Core GPU, 8GB RAM, and 256 GB storage is the best option for those looking to enter the macOS ecosystem. This device is ideal for school and college students, content creators on a budget, and those who would like to have a play/ work laptop on the same device. 

For those looking for better choice and performance, Windows desktops and laptops offer more upgradability in terms of RAM and storage.

The unit reviewed is the writer’s personal laptop, views expressed are personal. 

Published on July 21, 2022
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