As discussed in my previous post, I decided
to trade-in my 2019 16” MacBook Pro and replace it with a new 2020 M1 MacBook
Air. So far, I think making the swap was a terrific idea. Here are
my initial thoughts…
Background (what I ordered)
The MacBook Air Box
To recap, I got the ‘second tier’ 2020 M1 MacBook Air (Silver, 8 gpu
cores, 512GB ssd) and upgraded the RAM to 16Gb. I wanted to maintain the same
RAM and storage that my MBP had. After an eternity (3+ weeks), the air
What I Like
Side of the MacBook Air
First, lets start with the good. There is a lot to say here, but these are my
It’s cool and quietsilent. It hardly heats up, and when
it does, it is barely noticeable.
It is very portable. I can easily pick it up with one hand, and set it on my
lap nearly anywhere.
I like having physical function keys again. I even learned
how to utilize BetterTouchTool for window management
using keyboard shortcuts, instead of the touch bar.
The instant wake is nicer than I thought it would be
Instant wake is actually delightful. I initially thought my sleep settings
were misconfigured, and that the laptop wasn’t turning off when I shut
the lid. It’s a feature that I thought “who cares” when it was announced, but
after I tried it, my 16” suddenly felt unbearably slow for the few days I had
Rosetta II is amazing at what it does. Most apps just work because of it,
even if they haven’t been ported to Apple Silicon yet. This has made the transition
It works surprisingly well at my desk on the laptop stand, possibly even
better than the 16”. The laptop is about the same size as the stand, so I’m
able to push it further back, out of the way, and it is much sturdier. The
smaller screen hasn’t been an issue with the content I usually play on it at
my desk (background videos or music). With how cool it runs, I also feel
safer closing it to focus solely on my external monitor, as if I was using a
New tabs in my terminal lagged for some reason on the MBP. Not on the Air.
My terminal instantly opens! For some reason on my mac, it always took
a second to load the shell prompt in iterm with my config. On the air,
it is instant.
Garage band works much better. It opens immediately and is ready. My 16”
would freeze while loading, then sometimes beach-ball and crash.
The battery life is great. I don’t really think about it.
What Could be Better
The Air has thicker bezels compared to my old 16” MacBook Pro.
The screen bezels are rather thick, even compared to the 16” and could use
More TB ports. The air has two Thunderbolt ports, on only one side of the
laptop. I use hubs, so I don’t usually require more than the two ports, but
it can be an issue to only have them on one side depending on where I want to
place my laptop. Having one port on either side wouldn’t solve the issue
either, because I wouldn’t like wrapping the power cord all the way around to
the other port when my hub is plugged in. The only true solution is to have
more than 2 TB ports, split across both sides of the laptop, even if you
don’t need them all at the same time.
Some applications are still tricky to install. For example, I had to
compile neofetch in homebrew (which was simple enough to do). I imagine
this issue should resolve with time. Overall though, I haven’t really had any
major installation issues.
The MacBook Air does not have a touchbar
There were a few things that were neither good nor bad, just different coming
from an Intel 16” MBP:
Surprisingly, not having the touch bar. Not that I miss it, but I
apparently got used to checking the time there and had to slowly break that
The Efficiency cores are weird at first. I would look at my CPU usage when
only running background tasks and wonder why the first four cores had such
high usage, especially when compared to the other four. Eventually, I
realized it was because the tasks were running using mostly the efficiency
cores. So while it looked like there was a heavy load that it wasn’t being
properly balanced across the cores… the work was actually shifted to be
more efficient. This is the desired functionality, but weird to get used to
at first if you’re someone that is constantly watching CPU usage like I do.
The smaller screen space. I got used to the smaller screen quicker than I
anticipated, and I think the trade-off is worth it for the portability of
this laptop. But it is different.
The speakers. The air has great speakers… but the 16”
had truely amazing speakers. Like the screen resolution, this is mostly a physical
size limitation, and I think the trade-off is well worth it here as well.
The MacBook Air with my coffee
This laptop has been remarkable. It reminds me of some of my previous
portable laptops, like the x230 thinkpad and my x201e. That is a good thing.
I loved both of those computers and their ability to be thrown in a bag on
the go. It is a setup that pairs nicely with a powerful workstation, which I
currently have. While the air has
about the same footprint as both of those previous laptops, it is thinner,
lighter, has more screen space, and is
magnitudes more powerful. I can’t complain with that.