Macbook Air M1 Laptop Review

About Macbook Air M1

Apple’s thinnest (.63 inches) and lightest (2.8 pounds) laptop also features its newest M1 chip. The M1 chip is designed using the same architecture as the processors in its iPhones and iPads. This “Apple Silicon” has given the late-2020 MacBook Air a dramatic upgrade in performance and battery life over the Intel-powered laptop it replaced while retaining its elegant design.

However, the MacBook Air M1 can't run older Mac apps that haven’t been updated for Apple Silicon. This includes Mac apps that let you run Windows 10 inside the Mac desktop, which means using Windows side-by-side with macOS isn't yet an option for Macbook Air M1 owners.

The MacBook Air remains Apple’s cheapest laptop, starting at $999. But selecting a faster processor and maxing out its storage and memory from the base 8 gigabytes (GB) and 256 GB, respectively, can push its price past $2,000. And because the M1 only has two USB-C ports, you may need to budget for a dock to provide more connections for your peripherals.

Like every other Mac but unlike many Windows laptops, the Apple MacBook Air M1's 13.3-inch, 2560x1600 screen doesn't support touch input. It also doesn't include the Touch Bar of higher-end MacBook Pro laptops, although it does feature a Touch ID fingerprint reader next to the backlit keyboard for fast, secure biometric authentication.

Macbook Air M1

Apple’s new MacBook Air M1 (2020) looks a lot like earlier versions of the company’s thin-and-light laptop. But this version contains Apple's new ARM-based M1 processor instead of one of the Intel chips that have powered Macs since 2006. Reviewers have praised this “Apple Silicon” processor for giving the new MacBook Air dramatically better performance and battery life than its predecessors and its competitors on the Windows side. This model does, however, share the limits of earlier versions: a limited set of USB-C ports for external peripherals, high costs for more memory or solid-state-drive storage, and no touchscreen.

Macbook Air M1

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Macbook Air M1 Review

The M1 MacBook Air tied for fifth place in our Best Laptops of 2021 ranking and tied for third in Best Laptops for College of 2021. Reviewers rave about the new Air’s battery life, which they report easily exceeds Apple’s estimate of 15 hours of web browsing via Wi-Fi. (The Air, unlike older Mac laptops, supports Wi-Fi 6 connectivity.) They also laud this laptop’s speed, even when running older Mac apps through Apple’s Rosetta 2 translation software, and the quiet of its fanless operation.

At 2.8 pounds, the 13-inch MacBook Air isn’t quite as light as some Windows laptops or Chromebooks. But because it runs so long on a charge, you may find you don’t need to take its USB-C power adapter with you that often. You will, however, probably need to tote an adapter for older USB-A devices.

On the downside, reviewers have flagged compatibility issues with some older Mac apps using the Rosetta 2 translation software, as well as with iOS apps, which can run inside macOS on Apple Silicon machines. They’re also not too enthusiastic about the relatively low-resolution 720p webcam and the limit of two USB-C ports, one of which may be occupied by a charger. And Apple continues to charge a steep premium for additional memory or storage.

Is the Macbook Air M1 Right for Me?

Best for those who:

✓ Don't need to run Windows alongside Apple’s macOS

✓ Prioritize battery life

✓ Are on a relatively limited budget

Not recommended for those who:

- Have a large collection of peripherals

- Want the most memory and storage without paying the maximum price

- Regularly need to run Windows apps

For years, the Apple MacBook Air was the obvious Apple laptop for home users to get, thanks to its combination of a relatively low cost and light weight. The new model retains those advantages but also vaults ahead of much of the rest of Apple’s laptop lineup thanks to its M1 chip. The battery life and performance that chip delivers are good enough that some Windows users may be tempted to switch as well, assuming they can find Mac equivalents to their everyday Windows apps.

Other Products Offered By Apple

The Air sits at the bottom of a Mac laptop lineup in transition. The new 13-inch MacBook Pro, starting at $1,299, also features Apple Silicon, while the slightly older 16-inch MacBook Pro, at $2,399 and up, still ships with Intel processors. For Mac users with an eye on long-term compatibility, the decision should come down to the two smaller and cheaper laptops with Apple Silicon; the Pro’s addition of the Touch Bar, a touch-sensitive strip of icons that replaces the function keys, may or may not represent a huge upgrade for a particular user.

Apple’s iPads, especially the larger-screen iPad Pro models, may also fit the bill for someone looking for a portable computer even lighter and thinner than the Apple MacBook Air, and who can live with using iPad apps.

Apple also sells a lineup of desktop Macs, but among them only the newest configuration of the $699-and-up Mac mini supports Apple Silicon. The all-in-one iMac, $1,099 and up, should soon, while it’s unclear when the far more expensive iMac Pro and Mac Pro will transition to Apple’s own M1 processors.

How Much Does the Macbook Air M1 Cost?

The new MacBook Air starts at $999, making it one of the cheapest new Macs available. But it doesn’t stay cheap if you start upgrading its memory or storage, on account of the high prices Apple charges for those upgrades. Increasing memory from 8 to 16 GB, for example, adds $200, while going from the default 256 GB solid state drive (SSD) to a 500 GB SSD adds another $200.

Apple also sells a slightly faster Air configuration with a 512 GB SSD on board for $1,249; upgrading that to a 1 TB SSD adds $200. Opting for a 2 TB drive and doubling the memory to 16 GB pushes the price to $2,049.

How to Buy a Macbook Air M1

The obvious place to buy an Apple computer is through Apple’s site or in one of its own retail stores, but you can also buy Macs through a wide variety of third-party resellers that sometimes offer slight discounts; be sure to check their prices.

1. Estimate your storage and memory needs. Many people end up wishing they had purchased more storage. Although you can always plug in an external drive to the Apple M1 MacBook Air, remember that it only has two USB-C ports.

2. Compare prices at Apple and third-party vendors. Other resellers can undercut Apple’s pricing by a small margin. If you have an Apple Card, don’t forget to factor in that credit card’s 3% cash back on Apple purchases.

3. Buy the laptop.

Macbook Air M1 FAQ

What Is the Apple Warranty?

Apple provides a standard one-year warranty. You can augment that by buying AppleCare+, a $249, three-year plan that covers two incidents of accidental damage a year (with a $99 deductible for screen repairs, $299 for others). If you want AppleCare+, you have to buy it with the laptop or within 60 days of purchase.

How do I contact Apple’s customer service?

Apple offers support via a toll-free, 24/7 telephone line as well as via email and web chat, plus the option of Twitter help from its @applesupport account. But the company also offers something most of its competitors don’t: in-person help at the Genius Bar in each of its stores.

Can a Macbook Air M1 be upgraded?

No. Apple hasn’t designed its laptops for user serviceability in years. In particular, the MacBook Air M1's memory modules and solid-state drive are soldered to its motherboard and thus can't be upgraded.

MacBook Air M1 vs. the Competition

Which Is Better: the MacBook Air M1 or HP Spectre x360?

With their screens shut, the Apple MacBook Air and the Spectre x360 can appear to have some family resemblances. But the Air sticks much closer to traditional laptop design; it has no touchscreen, much less one like the Spectre’s that you can rotate all the way back to turn the computer into a large tablet. On the other hand, the M1 chip in the Air enables significantly better battery life than the Intel chip in the x360 can deliver. Apple’s macOS remains less fussy than Windows, but while previous Mac laptops could still run Windows themselves – either alongside the macOS or in a separate window – that’s not possible on the Apple MacBook Air for now.

Which Is Better: the MacBook Air M1 or the Dell XPS 13?

The M1 MacBook Air and Dell XPS 13 owners can probably share a lot of stories about how using a laptop with only two USB-C ports forces them to juggle cables and peripherals. But the Air’s better battery life due in part to its M1 chip means that Mac users in this situation won’t have one of those ports occupied by a power adapter as often as Dell users. Dell shoppers, on the other hand, don’t pay nearly as much for extra memory or storage. In terms of customer support, the Genius Bars at Apple stores give it a big leg up on Dell, at least for users within a reasonable drive of one of Apple’s retail locations.


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