The arrival of the new MacBook Air marks a new chapter for the Mac. How well does the Air perform with the brand new M1 chip and what other improvements are there? You can read it in this review.
Review of the MacBook Air with M1 chip
The announcement of the first Macs with Apple Silicon last month came as no surprise, but it was received with great enthusiasm. As with the iPhone and iPad, which have an A chip from Apple, the company now also makes the chips for the Mac (Book). As a result, the company is no longer dependent on Intel, which previously provided the processors in Apple computers.
The first result of this big switch is the M1 chip, which is standard in the new MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and Mac mini . The new chip brings a lot of changes and although we don’t want to get too ahead of things, they are working out very well. We have tested the new MacBook Air (with M1 chip) and in this review you can read our experiences.
M1 chip is extremely powerful and efficient
The M1 chip improves the MacBook Air on two things: performance and battery life. You will notice this immediately in practice, because the laptop is very fast and flies through the software. Thanks to the M1 chip, apps start up very quickly (especially those from Apple itself) and you hardly have to wait for an application to be ready for use.
Although developers have to adapt their apps for the M1 chip, this does not mean that all existing Mac applications will not work properly. Apple has developed Rosetta for this, a piece of software that ensures that apps made for Intel chips still work properly.
Fortunately, that is really the case; during the testing period, all of our favorite Mac apps worked fine. Rosetta is installed once on your new MacBook (with us this happened after downloading Slack) and after that you really don’t have to look after it anymore.
Apps like Telegram, Pixelmator, Google Chrome and iA Writer all run like a charm and all in all, this is a technically great achievement from Apple. You only notice that the ‘Intel apps’ need a little more time to start up, but this is not disturbing.
A small, but very nice side effect of the M1 chip is that the MacBook Air starts up from sleep mode very quickly. If you close the laptop and go for lunch, for example, all your apps are immediately ready for use when you open the screen again. Normally, it takes a few seconds for your Mac to ‘wake up’ again, which saves time now.
The battery life of the new MacBook Air is also impressive thanks to the M1 chip. The laptop is more efficient than its predecessor and lasts almost a whole working day on a full charge. Furthermore, the laptop is as quiet as a mouse: it has no fan and, moreover, it does not get hot, even if you use much heavier apps at the same time.
Design is (unfortunately) unchanged
So a lot has changed under the hood, but strikingly (and especially unfortunately) you don’t see anything of that on the outside. The new MacBook Air looks exactly the same as its predecessor, which is a bit disappointing, because the major innovations of the M1 chip might have been the perfect time to tweak the look.
It is not a real downside. The MacBook Air still looks sleek and simplistic. It is not heavy and has a very nice Retina screen. The edges around the display may be a bit thick in 2020, but we can live with that. We are also happy with the Magic Keyboard, which returned earlier this year with the MacBook Air (2020). It simply ticks a lot better, is less fragile and more reliable in the long run.
Incidentally, it is not the case that Apple has not made any changes on the outside at all. At the top of the keyboard are now also buttons to use Spotlight, Do Not Disturb and Voice Memos. This is useful in itself, but we didn’t use them often during our testing period.
In addition, we are not impressed by the FaceTime camera, which is so important during this period. The 720p resolution is low and provides mediocre images. It is also important to know that the MacBook Air only has two USB-C ports. The more expensive MacBook Pro also has to do with the same limited amount of connections.
Big Sur was made for M1
The M1 MacBook Air runs on macOS Big Sur , so you can immediately take advantage of the improvements this update has to offer. Consider the new design, which is more in line with the appearance of iOS and iPadOS. Also cool is the Control Panel, where all kinds of frequently used options are brought together.
Perhaps more importantly, Big Sur is fully optimized for Macs with an M1 chip. This makes apps start faster and – as we described earlier – your Mac wakes up immediately when you open it. Running iOS and iPad apps (more on that later) also only works on Apple computers with the new chip.
Do you want to know more about the update? We have written an extensive review of macOS Big Sur in which we tell all about the improvements. The update is available for almost all recent Macs.
iOS and iPad apps on the Mac is mediocre
With the M1 chip, Apple has implemented another major innovation: running iOS and iPad apps. However, that sounds more interesting than it is at the moment. Many developers have chosen not to make their apps available on macOS and this means that the offer is limited.
Popular apps from, for example, Facebook, Google and Instagram are not available and the applications of almost all streaming services are missing. You search for iOS and iPad apps by diving into the Mac App Store and tapping the ‘iPad and iPhone apps’ button after a search, but the results are often disappointing.
There are exceptions: the Pathé Thuis iPad app, for example, works fine and looks good. The popular game Among Us is also downloadable and playable, but you’ll be stuck with the iPad version’s touchscreen controls, which just don’t work very well on the Mac.
All in all, it is especially nice to see which iOS / iPadOS apps currently work on the MacBook, but no more than that. Of course, this can change as soon as developers make their apps available on the Mac app.
Conclusion MacBook Air (with M1 chip) review
Although you don’t see it from the outside, Apple is doing a lot of new with the MacBook. The M1 chip lives up to expectations and makes the Air feel like a MacBook Pro, mainly due to its excellent performance. In addition, the battery life is very good, the design is neat and we like that the laptop is so quiet.
All in all, it’s hard not to be impressed with the new MacBook Air. Apple is heralding a new era for the Mac with the new M1 chip, which we believe has already succeeded.
Buy MacBook Air with M1 chip
Have you become enthusiastic after reading this review and do you want to buy the MacBook Air with M1 chip? In the MacBook Air price comparator below you can see the current prices and all (web) stores where the laptop is available.
The new M1 MacBook Air has a suggested retail price of 1129 euros and 256GB storage space. If you choose the variant with 512GB storage (and a slightly more powerful GPU), you pay 1399 euros .