Apple MacBook Air with Apple M1 Processor Review with Pros and Cons by 2010 MacBook Pro User

After 10 years of working with my aging Apple MacBook Pro with busted speakers, undetectable Airport card, and regular work files crashes, it was time for me to get a new gadget companion that can help me create documents, edit publications, and polish my book drafts.

My 2010 Apple MacBook Pro (MBP), which I named "Celestina" (Yes, I give my gadgets personal names), has joined me in many, many adventures and misadventures. I consider my MBP a friend and it sure has been through a lot. Like when my boarding house was flooded while I was in Gigantes Island during my typhoon Haiyan assignment (thank God, it remained dry inside my drawer); Or whenever my dog, Sniffy - all 15 pounds of him - would lie down on my MBP's keyboard to get my attention because I would be working even while at home; Or during that trip we took to Cotabato for my peacekeeping job and the electric outlet blew a fuse; Or even just those many hours playing music while on assignment in Cagayan de Oro City for an out-of-town coverage.

2020 Apple Macbook Air with Apple M1 Processor, Macbook Air M1 Review, Chayie Maligalig, Rosary Diane Maligalig
The article contributor, Chayie Maligalig, with her 2010 MacBook Pro (left) and her new 2020 MacBook Air with Apple M1 Processor

Imagine: 10 years with my Macbook Pro. A decade felt like infinity with my formerly reliable companion.

But thankfully, with the help and kindness of family members, I was finally able to get my long-awaited Apple MacBook Air M1 upgrade just before January 2021 came to a close. I got the one with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of SSD for around PHP 55,000 at an official and authorized Apple reseller in a major mall in QC.

Truly, my 2010 MBP had been a trusted companion over the last decade of my life. But now, I have a new friend to help me accomplish more: My 2020 Apple MacBook Air M1.

First Impressions and Design Check: Sleek, Powerful, Quiet

When I first held my Apple MacBook Air M1, the very first thing I noticed was the thermal pad and then my attention turned to the most obvious difference in front of me, coming from my old MBP: The keyboard layout. It took me a while to familiarize myself and find my way around. But after around 10 minutes of using the device, I felt more comfortable. Upon set-up, I decided to skip the Touch ID and to just imprint my fingerprint later.

I tested my new Mac and its sleekness impressed me. Thin, yet solidly built. Weight wise I like that it’s super thin but not super light because of its solid metal build.

The new keyboard design, though, really sold it for me. After using the old MBP keyboard design for 10 years, the scissor mechanism felt like "second skin". As a writer, I felt like I was always in my element typing on the new Magic Keyboard of the 2020 Macbook Air, like I was using a typewriter in a newspaper office (Well, not exactly -- but you get what I'm saying). It's fast, responsive, and such a breeze to use.

2020 Apple Macbook Air with Apple M1 Processor, Macbook Air M1
The 2020 Apple MacBook Air features the Cupetino Company's new Magic Keyboard which has deeper feedback or key travel than the flat Butterfly Keyboard that many users didn't particularly like.

New Features: Apple M1 Processor and Big Sur

I have been a Mac OS 10.6.8 (Snow Leopard) user for 10 years, I never updated because I Iiked the stability and ease of the familiar, so, truthfully a new Mac OS took me a few days to get used to and wrap my head around.

Big Sur brings lots of new features with it that takes the Mac user experience to the next level.

The first main feature I noticed was the Touch ID (though other Intel Macs and OS had this previously it is the first time I am experiencing it). It is indeed very convenient but when you first log in you still have to type your password. I made the mistake of pressing the power button not knowing that to access the Touch ID I just needed to put my finger on top of the power button and not press it. Take note that for other apps and websites (third party) Touch ID hasn’t been optimized yet.

2020 Apple Macbook Air with M1 Processor vs 2010 Macbook Pro, Apple Macbook Air M1
Check out the size and design difference between the 2020 Apple Macbook Air (left) vs 2010 Apple Macbook Pro (right)! Look at the display bezels on both notebooks.

Turning on, you just lift the lid and Mac should power up just fine. This is a good alternative, no need to use the power button anymore and that’s a plus at this time of the pandemic.

So far the “fanless” MacBook Air M1 been quiet. I think the thermal pad has been doing its job well. I haven’t pushed it on full throttle yet but so far no noise and very minimal heat if any at all. Indeed, fanless laptops are ushering in our way to the future in technology.

I tried to shut down and turn it on right away and it was almost instant. In this fast-paced world, that is truly something that leaves a benchmark.

Performance: Benchmarking, Battery, and Bugs

Another feature is the new MacBook Air M1’s screen. Though I’ve never really explored other laptops before this aside from my trusty MBP I noticed the picture quality has improved greatly especially while video chatting on some apps (Messenger, still have yet to use Zoom). On Photo Booth though, I noticed that the picture quality though brighter still is a bit grainy. Using regular apps and Safari, the screen is much clearer and the appearance of the fonts is much smoother. After all, this is a huge, huge leap from my MBP of 10 years.

It’s great to watch videos on livestream as buffering is seamless (this maybe dependent on internet connection speeds). I consider the speaker and sound very dynamic, “surround-sound-like” effects. For a slim machine, the sound truly packs a punch which makes it a joy to listen to music and watch Youtube videos.

As for the battery longevity, I did basic benchmarking. For the first 24 hours, I was mainly using just Safari and a few apps, I noticed that every hour about three (3%) percent of the battery would be consumed. After 24 hours of not turning it off, Wifi connected, battery performance was still very impressive. I had some periods of lull in working the first week I had my new MacBook Air M1 but the battery life is remarkable. On a single charge, for my usual workload I think this will last me an entire workday or two even (on eight-hour workdays) and maybe a few more hours to catch up on emails and social media.

One cannot talk about the performance of the New MacBook Air M1 without mentioning the Big Sur bugs that have been reported by other users. This includes the initial feedback about Bluetooth connectivity issues. I tried pairing with my Huawei Y6 2018 phone and the connection was intermittent and I wasn’t able to pair successfully. I also paired with my MBP but the connection was a bit more stable but slow and buggy and I would get the beach ball. I managed to receive files from my MBP though.

Another Big Sur bug that users reported is the random restart with a pink screen. I experienced it once after my first 36 hours with my new Mac. I kept observing if the issue will resurface and I even brought it to the store where I got it for a diagnosis. Thankfully, my M1 - whom I call Charlaine - is okay now. Apparently, it was just a hiccup. I do notice, though, that pressing the power button to activate the Touch ID after a lull may initiate a restart without you having the intention to do so.

Reports have surfaced that the Big Sur OS 11.2 updates should fix these bugs, particularly connectivity problems and screen issues when connected to an external display. I am eagerly awaiting those fixes in the next updates. I have actually been monitoring buyer feedbacks and reviews even before I updated to my new Mac.

Value for Money

The new MacBook Air M1 really takes the cake in this department. I’ve read reviews that it is
comparable to Dell XPS 13. What is clear though is that aside from the new Mac OS that comes with it, the highlight of this machine is really the Apple silicon chip inside it.

2010 Apple Macbook Pro vs 2020 Apple Macbook Air M1
The sleek and elegant backs of 2010 Apple MacBook Pro and 2020 Apple Macbook Air

Coming from a MacBook Pro 7.1 with a Core 2 duo processor, this M1 chip with an octa-core is a big leap and productivity wise I am feeling satisfied. It is fast and responsive for the tasks I need to do. Also, this MacBook Air M1’s fanless operation is really a breeze. I no longer have to worry about thermal issues and the like.

As a Mac user for about 12 years, I really wanted to remain using the Mac OS ecosystem and this MacBook Air M1, really fit the bill in terms of the features I am looking for, innovations including a new OS and the pioneering Apple silicon chip I wanted to try and of course in terms of budget for a new Mac.

Recommendation: Pros and Cons

For me the Pros are the following:

1. Silent, fanless operation very very minimal heat if at all
2. Very long battery life means not worrying about charging often and continuous productivity for me
3. The new M1 chip is really the future of computers as my dear friend TechPinas founder Mark Milan Macanas said. After a week with my MacBook Air M1 I completely agree!
4. The new keyboard design is really making typing and working so much faster.
5. Light, sleek, solid design
6. Affordable price for the specs especially for an M1 chip which is 8CPU/7GPU.

The Cons for me are the following (some are not really cons just things you have to consider before purchasing and enhancements or peripherals needed):

1. No USB slots so you need a USB dongle (I am already eyeing a hub/dongle that has been recommended by other users and is at an affordable price point).
2. Microsoft Office doesn’t ship with it and the license is an add-on expense you really have to factor in. I got the Microsoft 365 Personal subscription for a year which comes with a cloud storage drive as well as the regular office productivity Apps and for the price I paid for it I’d say it’s pretty worth it.
3. The new un-Magsafe charging port is okay, though not a deal-breaker, but I still miss having the old Magsafe that detaches quickly.
4. Support, availability, and compatibility of Apps meant for Intel Macs are still unfolding in a lot of aspects. I have not yet fully delved into this.
5. The other day Apple just released its OS Big Sur 11.2 update, and I, along with other M1 users are definitely looking forward to it fixing the kinks that I and other users have encountered so far.

2020 Apple Macbook Air M1 Processor Big Sur

MacBook Air M1: Buy now or Wait It Out?

At the end of the day, depending upon your needs, the new MacBook Air M1 is truly worth purchasing. For me, the MacBook Air M1 is an impressive machine in many, many aspects, but because it is the first release of the Apple Silicon chip, there are still - admittedly - some bugs. In terms of the new OS running on the first-ever native Apple chip (Mercury retrograde notwithstanding) I feel that there are still kinks to iron out which I hope the upcoming software updates will take care of.

I’d recommend this new Apple MacBook Air M1 for older MacBook users such as myself looking to upgrade but don’t want to spend an arm and a leg and for those who want to try the Apple ecosystem and are buying their first Macs - this an entry-level yet sleek and powerful machine is a good choice. This being said, since there are still emerging issues in the integration of the new OS to the Apple silicon chip, as well as applications compatibility, it’s best to still hold on to your old Intel Macs just in case. To those who are using top of the line Intel Macs, it may be best to hold out for the next generation of M1 macs.

Overall, the new user experience that the MacBook Air M1 offers is definitely praiseworthy. In some aspects, I admit it has wowed me. But perhaps because it is a pioneering effort, the integration between the first-ever Apple Silicon chip and its OS needs time to fully complement each other as an efficiently working and a more stable ecosystem. I am no tech expert but it would be nice if Apple released Big Sur OS updates to address M1 bugs more specifically and OS updates to also address Big Sur issues for older Intel Macs separately? That way, this trailblazing effort of coming up with the new Apple silicon chips integration into the Mac OS ecosystem will not leave any Mac behind, M1 or otherwise.

About the Contributor

Rosary Diane "Chayie" Maligalig is a communications professional with various professional engagements which have taken her from working with the traditional media to eventually finding herself in development work. She was introduced to her first Mac, a gift from her father back in 2008 when she was in graduate school.

As a writer, she feels the Mac OS ecosystem allows her to work with ease and enhances her creativity, thus it is her OS and device of choice.

Chayie is a geek at heart, loves R2D2, Star Wars, and has probably watched Avenger movies more than she can count with her hands. And yes, like many other females her age, she does indulge in SATC episodes from time to time.

Her life motto is to use her writing as a means of "helping and reaching out to others." This she likes doing in different capacities including sharing her tech thoughts and experiences from time to time. And besides, having a new Mac has been giving her Carrie-like moments to move on from the “past” and look forward to the future.

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