Apple MacBook Air (M1) 2020 Review
The Apple M1 is the first SoC for Macs announced and is currently available on the new MacBook Air, the 13-inch MacBook Pro, and the Mac mini. The M1 SoC is based on the architecture of ARM, similar to Apple’s Apple SoCs, and prides itself on better performance and energy efficiency than the previous Intel CPU. This also means that non-traditional software that can be updated to work on M1 will work in simulation mode. We’ll go into all these details a little bit. First, let’s take a look at what your options are in India when you buy a new M1 MacBook Air.
Price of MacBook Air (M1, 2020) and variety
Apple has removed the Intel-based MacBook Air models from India’s website, while the M1Book with M1 enabled M1 starts at the same price of Rs. 92,900. This model gets you 8GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, and a 7-core GPU version for Apple M1 SoC. You can configure it to have 16GB of RAM up to 2TB of SSD storage before your test.
Alternatively, the MacBook Air pre-configured is available for M1 SoC with 8-core GPU, 512GB of storage, and 8GB of RAM for Rs. 1,17,900, which is what I am testing. RAM and storage have been upgraded but you can’t upgrade anything in the long run.
The MacBook Air is available in three colors: Space Gray, Gold, and Silver. 13-inch MacBook Pro and Mac mini versions with Intel CPUs are still available, but those are higher configurations and are sold at a much higher price than M1 versions.
MacBook Air Design (M1, 2020)
The visual design of the MacBook Air (M1, 2020) is almost identical to that of the MacBook Air Retina model that was updated earlier this year. The size and weight of both models are the same, and even if you sit on the sidelines, it is impossible to separate the two. You will have to wait until next year if you are hoping to get a redesigned MacBook Air. I have no problem with this. I think the current construction is practical and stylish, and it is more than just achieving the goal.
The MacBook Air (M1, 2020) has two USB Type-C ports on the left and a headphone jack on the right. C-type ports support Thunderbolt / USB 4 with high-speed data transmission, fast charging, and external connectivity up to 6K display. The MacBook Air has the same 13.3-inch IPS display with 2,560 × 1,600 resolution and 400nits brightness as Retina models, however, Apple has added support for the DCI-P3 wide color gamut, which should give creators more flexibility when coloring grading projects.
The layout of the keyboard, trackpad, and rest area of the palm is also similar to the Intel model. You get stereo speaker cuts across the keyboard, and Dolby Atmos reinforcement is supported. The glass-covered Force Touch trackpad works brilliantly as usual, and the scissors keys are free to type.
There are a few changes to the key itself though. The ‘fn’ button in the lower-left corner has a new globe icon and now brings the emoji menu on one machine. The F4, F5, and F6 function keys are now double as shortcuts for Spotlight, Dictation, and Do Not Disturb, instead of Launchpad and keyboard background light correction as in the previous model. I personally remember the adjustment of the light, but that’s because I like the quality of it being set that way. The auto-correction works well though, and you can add a shortcut to this menu bar if you need it.
The new M1 MacBook Air looks and sounds very familiar to Intel models, and that’s a good thing. However, one major difference is that the M1 models do not have an output fan and have declined idle. This makes the New Spirit completely silent, even if it carries a heavy burden.
Details of MacBook Air (M1, 2020) and software
The M1 is Apple’s first SoC for Mac and is built with a 5nm processor, similar to the A14 Bionic in the iPhone 12 and iPad Air (4th Gen) series. It features an 8-core CPU (four-core functionality), a seven-core or 8-core GPU (depending on your preference), and a 16-core Neural Engine. The M1 SoC also incorporates other features such as an I / O controller, RAM, and Secure Enclave coprocessor, all in one package. This, according to Apple, allows faster and more efficient data transfers and commands, resulting in more than double the CPU, GPU, and machine learning performance compared to the Intel-based MacBook Air. Apple also claims that the SSD on the new M1 MacBook Air is twice as fast as before.
The Apple M1 SoC supports Wi-Fi 6 with high bandwidth connectivity on compatible routers. One feature released on the new M1 Macs enabled external GPUs such as the Blackmagic GPU, so if your workflow requires the use of these devices, you should stick to Intel Macs for now.
With the hardware on the way, let’s take a look at the software. The MacBook Air (M1 2020) uses the macOS Big Sur, optimized for the M1 SoC. Updated apps to run on M1, as well as Intel CPUs, are now known as Universal apps, and all Apple first-party apps and many third-party apps have already been moved. However, there are many popular applications such as Black and Adobe’s Cloud computing suite, which have not been updated to work traditionally on M1.
These apps are still working, almost or less, thanks to Apple’s translation tool called Rosetta 2. It is a simulation program, invisible to the end-user, which automatically translates the instructions intended to be built from one to another so that the x86 system works normally. We will work on the next phase.
Since the M1 is similar to Apple’s iPhone and iPad SoCs, it is now possible to use multiple iOS and iPad OS applications on the M1 MacBook Air. If you search for an app in the App Store, you will now see two more tabs, ‘Mac Apps’ and’ iPhone & iPad Apps. ‘It is for app developers to determine if they want their mobile apps to run on Macs. For example, Netflix is not available (yet) but you can play Crossy Road or use the Flipkart app. IOS apps work in window mode, and some can be resized. You also get menu bar options, like the Mac app.
This is still a work in progress, and the experience doesn’t always work like running the same apps on an iPad or iPhone because you have to install other touchpad touch keys and keys. Available iPhone apps but not configured have clear warnings on the subject — “Not verified for macOS.”
MacBook Air performance (M1, 2020)
To get a better experience of real-world performance, I moved all my data (about 300GB) from my existing MacBook Air (Retina 2020) to a new one. Apple’s Migration Assistant tool makes this a lot easier, and it’s all done through a peer-to-peer Wi-Fi connection.
The first thing you will notice when you switch to the new M1 MacBook Air is that it wakes up as soon as you open the lid. It’s much faster than any Intel-based MacBook Air I’ve used. If you have an Apple Watch, your Mac can detect your presence so you don’t even have to use a fingerprint sensor, which makes the process even more efficient.
The macOS Big Sur feels a little shorter on the M1 MacBook Air than the previous model. A small drop of animation when swiping with apps in Launchpad or loading heavy apps for example is no longer visible. If you are using a non-traditional app for the first time, you are receiving information requesting that you download Rosetta 2 for use. This installation only happens once and does not take long. After this, non-native applications only work without additional intervention.
You can check whether the app works traditional or simulated using Activity Monitor, or using a simple app like Silicon Info. Simulated apps take longer to load than others, but compared to the Intel-based MacBook Air, it’s almost the same. Once uploaded, all the apps I tried worked fine, without any loss or interruption. Third-party applications such as Telegram have been upgraded to run traditional M1 loading faster than the Intel MacBook Air.
The second thing that immediately seems to be how cool the new M1 MacBook Air is. When I was reviewing the Intel Core i3 version of the MacBook Air (Retina 2020) back in July, it got very warm when it was even slightly pressed. Since then, I’ve been using a different Core i5 laptop similar to my main work computer and this one is also warm even if it doesn’t work. With the Menubar Stats running in the background, I noticed my Intel Core CPU i5 Retina MacBook Air idling at about 45 degrees Celsius, while the M1 MacBook Air would operate at about 33 degrees Celsius. At the moment I am starting to use simple apps like Pages or Slack, palm rest area and the space above the keyboard on the Intel Mac became very warm, and the system temperature quickly accelerated.
The M1 sees a slight increase in temperature when performing the same functions, and the palm rest area, floor, and surface of the keyboard are not just warm enough to be seen. The fact that this laptop is able to maintain such low temperatures without a fan is a great advantage.