MacBook Air 2020 review: Apple’s M1 power means the future looks very bright for the Mac


MacBook Air 2020 review: Apple’s M1 power means the future looks very bright for the Mac

Apple MacBook Air M1 review

Apple MacBook Air M1 review (Image: APPLE)

Apple only just rebooted its MacBook Air back in April, but a little over six months later, this iconic laptop is back with one of the most important changes since its launch. Now, before you get too excited, there’s no big redesign, fully edge-to-edge screen, or Face ID to admire as, other than a slight tweak to the function keys on the Magic Keyboard, this very latest machine looks absolutely identical to its predecessor. In fact, Apple hasn’t even thrown-in a new colour to show that you’ve splashed the cash on the latest model.

So, what’s so unique about this latest Mac and why is it such an important release? Well, hidden under the hugely-popular aluminium design is Apple’s all-new M1 processor, which marks the first time the firm has produced its own silicon for a Mac.

We already know what a success Apple’s own-brand chips have proven to be in products like iPhone and iPad, with its rivals constantly playing catch up when it comes to raw performance. Apple is now hoping to bring the same magic sauce to its laptop and desktop computers, with the firm ditching Intel in a bid to make things faster and much more efficient.

The new brains, known as the Apple M1, is the first system on a chip (SoC) designed specifically for Mac and has been built using a cutting-edge five-nanometer process technology. This basically means the most important components are tightly packed into one neat bundle, which makes processing data much faster and requires less energy.

READ MORE: New MacBook Pro unveiled by Apple with more power and the longest ever battery life

Apple MacBook Air review

Apple MacBook Air gets an improved battery life thanks to the M1 chip (Image: APPLE)

We’ve been using the Air for almost a week and there’s no question that the future looks very bright for the Mac.

The M1 is clearly a very powerful processor with Apple’s suite of apps launching before you have time to blink. Software such as Safari, Pages and Photos all seem so much smoother than before and even switching on this machine to check your morning emails is improved – with the Retina display springing into life before you’ve even opened the laptop lid.

Apple has designed the M1 chip to perform in perfect harmony with its latest version of macOS, known as Big Sur, and there’s not a hint of stutter as you switch between Apple apps, launch the settings menu, or check your messages in the new Notification Center.

The new M1-powered MacBook Air is an absolute joy to use and there’s another bonus of this processor as its far more efficient. In fact, Apple has even been able to ditch the fan from inside the Air, which means your meetings won’t be interrupted by the whirl of the cooling system.

Apple MacBook Air review

The new Air is powered by Apple’s M1 chip (Image: APPLE)

We have had some complaints in the past about Apple MacBook’s feeling the heat, but the new Air has stayed very cool on our lap despite being put through some memory-munching tasks.

Along with being able to include a fanless design, there’s also a big boost to the battery life which is definitely noticeable. We’ve used the MacBook Air for a full day of work and the battery hasn’t run flat on us.

Another test we performed was video streaming via the Apple TV app with a 2hr 20-minute movie using less than 20 percent of the battery with the screen pumped up to the max brightness. It’s impressive stuff and if your current MacBook’s battery life is driving you mad then the new Air will certainly fix this gripe.

And there’s more good news about the M1 chip.

Apple MacBook Air review

Apple MacBook Air gets a 13-inch Retina screen (Image: APPLE)

All of Apple’s own apps have been optimised to work seamlessly with these brains and it seems more applications are now primed for this processor.

During our initial tests, we were left frustrated by a poor experience using Chrome but Google has just announced the release of an M1-compatible version of its popular browsers which fixes all of our worries.

Once downloaded, the terrible launch times and slow user experience have all been irradicated and Chrome actually now feels faster on the Air than it ever has before.

For those apps that are yet to be updated, Apple has also launched its Rosetta 2 translation software which is designed to ensure all of your favourite apps work on this new machine.

Adobe’s Photoshop works well on the Air despite the firm announcing that an M1 version won’t launch until early next year.

Of course, like Adobe, most developers will be planning to release updates in the near future which will be optimised for Apple’s M1 chipset and although some Intel-based apps can feel slightly slow it clearly won’t be long until the most popular software have upgrades available.

Apple MacBook Air review

Apple MacBook M1 Air review (Image: APPLE)

As we mentioned earlier, other than the new processor and improved battery life, little else has changed on this MacBook Air. But that’s not a bad thing. The Air still looks fabulous and is the ultimate MacBook for those that want something that’s lightweight but powerful.

The 13-inch Retina screen still dazzles and the new Magic Keyboard, which arrived on the Air earlier this year, offers a fabulous typing experience. There are also some tweaks to the function keys with Spotlight Search, Dictation and Do Not Disturb keys all now making an appearance.

Of course, the Air features the market-leading Force Touch trackpad which its rivals still can’t get anywhere close to matching and there’s a fast Touch ID fingerprint scanner for easy access to your files and Apple Pay.

Some other improvements include faster SSD storage, which should speed up export times and there are better video calls thanks to the M1-powered FaceTime HD camera. We’ve run a few tests on this video-calling camera and it appears to be better than some of Apple’s previous laptops with the image appearing slightly sharper despite still only being 720p quality.

If you’re looking for the ultimate video call machine, it still worth plumping for the new iMac, which offers much better video quality.

Finally, the MacBook Air has the usual two USB-C ports for charging and plugging in accessories. Sadly, like the previous Air, these are both positioned on the same side which is mildly annoying as you won’t be able to charge from either side of the laptop – so some desk rearranging might be necessary.

The Air still looks just as good as before with a design that will easily survive life in your backpack.

Apple MacBook Air review

Apple MacBook Air review (Image: APPLE)

Apple MacBook Air review: Final Verdict

PROS: Apple apps are supremely fast • Fan-less design makes the Air cool and silent • Much-improved battery life
CONS: Only two USB-C and both on the same side • No dramatic redesign or edge-to-edge screen

There’s no question that the future is looking very bright for the MacBook. This brand-new Air demonstrates what the next generation of laptops will be capable of, thanks to the fast loading times and better battery life.

When running Apple’s own apps, like Safari and Pages, the experience is supremely slick with everything opening in the blink of an eye. The battery life is also much improved and the fanless design means this Air is totally silent – no matter how hard you’re pushing it.

Despite some initial concerns about apps, such as Chrome, it seems developers are rushing out upgrades at a rapid rate with Google already pushing out a new version of its web browser which fixes the glitches we found on the Intel-based software.

Things look hugely promising for the future and one thing is certain – it’s an incredibly exciting road ahead for Mac fans.

Published at Sat, 28 Nov 2020 06:43:00 +0000


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