M1 MacBook Air
The new MacBook Air with the M1 processor is part of the series that includes Apple's brand new supercharged M1 Apple Silicon chip. It has an amazing 13-inch Retina Display featuring Apple's universal True Tone optimization. It starts at $999.00, making it the most affordable MacBook on Apple's lineup.
● Released on November 10, 2020
● 13-inch Liquid Retina Display
● M1 Apple made Silicon chip
● Up to 8-core CPU, 8-core GPU, and 16-core Neural Engine
● Touch ID
● Up to an 18-hour battery life
● Starting at $999
Get Apple News Directly in Your Inbox
AppleInsider is supported by its audience and may earn commission as an Amazon Associate and affiliate partner on qualifying purchases. These affiliate partnerships do not influence our editorial content.
The new M1 MacBook Air quickly replaced the Intel-based 2020 MacBook Air. It uses the custom Apple Silicon called the M1 processor advertised by Apple as having "incredible performance, custom technologies, and industry-leading power efficiency."
In the Fall of 2020, Apple released three new Macs with the M1 processor — the MacBook Air, Mac mini, and 13-inch MacBook Pro. They later announced the 24-inch iMac with the Apple Silicon M1 Processor in April 2021, along with another iteration of the iPad Pro, which also uses the M1 Apple Silicon chip.
MacBook Air features
The M1-based MacBook Air has many new features that separate the latest laptop from the early 2020 model. It has increased battery life, faster CPU and GPU speeds, a Liquid Retina display with True Tone, and much more.
Keyboard and trackpad
The new MacBook Air features the same keyboard as the 2020 MacBook Air. The Magic Keyboard allows typing quietly and quickly using a refined scissor mechanism. It has an ambient light sensor, allowing users to type even in low-light environments.
The new budget laptop is keeping Touch ID featured in the early-2020 release. Touch ID allows unlocking the Mac, paying online with Apple Pay, making purchases on Apple stores such as the App Store, and opening protected documents.
Apple also includes a Force Touch trackpad on this new laptop. The Force Touch trackpad allows gestures for shortcuts, zooming, scrolling, clicking, and more.
One of the significant differences between the M1-based MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro is that the MacBook Air does not feature the Touch Bar, which allows for "gestures—like tap, swipe, or slide—directly on the Touch Bar to adjust settings, use Siri, access function keys, and do tasks in different apps," according to Apple.
The newest version of the MacBook Air features the same 720p webcam as previous models. However, Apple states that it will bring better natural-looking detail with the M1 Apple Silicon chip.
The webcam uses another processor called the image signal processor (ISP) to render the video images with better dynamic range, improved noise reduction, and adjust the white balance. Along with machine-learning-enhanced face detection, according to Apple, the user will look more natural on all video calls, including FaceTime, Zoom, Google Meet, and more.
Apple's new budget laptop features the new M1 Apple-made Silicon chip. Depending on which model you choose to get, it features up to an 8-core CPU, 8-core GPU, and 16-core Neural Engine. According to Apple, it's 3.5 times faster CPU processing performance, 5 times faster GPU performance, and 9 times faster Neural Engine or Machine Learning performance than the earlier generation models.
One of the most prominent features that Apple Silicon brings is its ARM architecture. Along with an ARM architecture comes better battery performance. The new Macbook Air brings a fanless design that the 2020 Intel-based model did not have. The 2020 Macbook Air's fan took up a lot of the battery life to keep the processor cool.
If something creates more heat, the more electricity it is using. And because of this and several other more complex differences between the Intel and ARM architectures, the MacBook Air has up to an 18-hour battery life, which is 6 hours longer than the previous generation.
Display and Graphics
The display on this unit features a Liquid Retina display. From corner to corner, the screen is 13.3-inch and has a 2560-by-1600-resolution. The screen displays 25% more colors than sRGB showing 227 pixels per inch, giving clear images and text. The device's display has True Tone technology, a feature that helps to reduce eyestrain by subtly adjusting the device's white balance to fit ambient lighting conditions.
One of the shortcomings of the budget laptop is the limited option for external displays. It supports just one extra display out of the box, which is a negative for people who use three monitors.
Thunderbolt / USB 4
For the first time, Apple is featuring USB 4 in its MacBook Air. While this is not a Thunderbolt 4 connection, it brings high-speed data transfer speeds of up to 40GB/s, fast charging, and support for 6k external displays.
There are only two Thunderbolt ports in the M1 MacBook Air. Due to a limitation found in the M1, users can only connect one external display at a time. Chaining displays across Thunderbolt docks will not work either.
13-inch MacBook Pro with M1 vs. M1 MacBook Air
The most significant is that the new MacBook Air does not have a fan, while the new 13-inch MacBook Pro with the M1 chip does. The cooling system allows larger workloads and keeps the processor cooler, enabling the MacBook Pro to run slightly quicker. The new MacBook Air has a shorter battery life and will last 4 hours less than the 13-inch MacBook Pro.
On the other hand, if you are looking at price and affordability, the MacBook Air is $300 less expensive. The new MacBook Air starts at $999, while the 13-inch MacBook Pro starts at $1299.
2020 MacBook Air vs. M1 MacBook Air
Both of these MacBooks came out in 2020, but they do have a few differences. The biggest is the performance with different processors. The 2020 MacBook Air features an Intel processor, while the laptop features the Apple M1 Apple Silicon ARM chip. Other differences include the M1-based MacBook Air having WiFi 6 (802.11ax) and the upgraded Thunderbolt / USB 4. It ships with the latest macOS Big Sur software and is not compatible with macOS Catalina.
They have quite a few similarities, including the design, the webcam, and only two USB ports. Both also started at the same price of just $999. While you can't currently buy the early-2020 MacBook Air brand new from Apple, you can buy it on Apple's online Certified Refurbished Mac store for $719.
Review: M1 MacBook Air is very transformative
Compared to the 2020 model of the MacBook Air, we found that this new MacBook Air is much faster. According to Geekbench, single-core speeds are 60% faster on the new machine. The multi-core speeds are almost 200% faster. The graphics benchmarks have improved over the years, achieving a 250% improvement over the 2019 model.
Storage reading and writing on this machine is fast. The T2-assisted storage controller can achieve read speeds around 2484 MB/s and write speeds around 2689 MB/s.
While some apps have not been wholly optimized for Apple's M1 experience, running iOS and iPadOS apps is a whole new experience. It's interesting to see these previously constrained apps to our palms on our laptop's monitor. It is possible to install iPhone or iPad apps, not on the App Store, on the new MacBook Air.
We launched every default app at the same time in just 14 seconds from clicking to fully operational. Other apps that aren't M1-compatible may not launch as fast using Rosetta 2, but that will most likely improve as more apps become Apple Silicon optimized.
We were thrilled to see Apple removing the fans out of this device. It made the device completely silent. The budget laptop is only slightly slower than the 13-inch MacBook Pro alternative making the fanless experience worth the tradeoff unless you need the extra speed.
It is upsetting that this device cannot support more than one external monitor without workarounds. However, the average user will not find this an issue.
The design of the MacBook Air is solid for its age. However, Apple could improve some aspects. For example, the company could slim down the bezels.
The new M1 MacBook Air is a fantastic machine. Barring odd software compatibility issues, its speed and fanless design make it a device that will be a good entry-level MacBook.
M1 MacBook Air Price Guide
The new M1 MacBook Air comes with several options to configure. The base model comes with 8GB of RAM, 256GB of Storage, 8-core CPU, 7-core GPU, and a 16-core Neural Engine, all for $999. Apple gives three different colors to choose from — Space Gray, Gold, and Silver with the base model and any upgrades.
Like with most of Apple's products, there are many upgrades available for an extra cost. One choice is to upgrade the RAM to 16GB for $200. Another option is to upgrade the storage to 512GB for an extra $200, 1TB for $400, or 2TB for $800. The last option adds an extra GPU core and extra storage for $250, but it is impossible to get the extra core by itself.