Apple has today unleashed its latest MacBooks powered by its in-house M1 chip. Not much has changed when it comes to the design, as the key upgrades are all under the hood. Apple has made bold promises regarding the performance gain offered by its M1-powered MacBook Air and how it opens a new world of software experience by allowing it to run iPhone and iPad apps natively. The decision to switch from Intel to in-house silicon is a big one, and we are eagerly waiting to know how real-world performance turns out. If you’re excited to know about the new MacBook Air, here’s everything we know about it.
New MacBook Air, same old design
The new MacBook Air is based on the M1 chip looks identical to its Intel-powered predecessor, comes in the same three colors (silver, space gray and gold), and even has matching dimensions and weight. However, a big change is that the new MacBook Air has a fanless design, which definitely raises some questions regarding thermal management. The Intel-powered 2020 MacBook Air had some well-documented noisy fan and overheating issues, so it would be interesting to see how the new MacBook Air fares under stress.
A slightly better display
The new MacBook Air features a 13.3-inch Retina display with a resolution of 2560×1600 pixels that translates to a pixel density of 227 pixels-per-inch, while the brightness output stands at 400 nits. The aforementioned figures are the same as the Intel-powered MacBook Air that was launched earlier this year, but there is a difference.
The Retina display on the M1 chip-powered MacBook air supports the wider P3 color gamut, while its predecessor is limited to the sRGB color palette. Apple notes that the P3 color gamut paves the way for “wide color results in an even more vibrant, true-to-life Retina display.”
Older battery, but it lasts longer
Apple’s latest MacBook Air packs a 49.9Wh battery that is claimed to last up to 15 hours of wireless web browsing and a maximum 18 hours of video playback. The bundled USB C power adapter is rated at 30W. Apple has used the same battery and charger as the Intel-powered MacBook Air launched earlier this year, but the M1 chip has helped increase the battery life from 11 hours to 15 hours of web browsing and an additional 6 hours of movie watching, up from the rated 12-hour longevity of its predecessor.
Internal upgrades on the latest MacBook Air
There are two USB Type-C Thunderbolt ports that support USB 4 standard, an upgrade over its predecessor. There is a 3.5mm headphone/mic combo hack as well. Authentication is handled by the Touch ID fingerprint sensor that is now backed by a secure enclave. Plus, the new Apple offering now supports Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) standard too, promising a better wireless internet connectivity experience, while Bluetooth 5.0 handles accessory pairing.
A brand new chip
As mentioned above, Apple has armed the new MacBook Air with the in-house M1 chip. Based on the 5nm process, Apple’s silicon has 16 billion transistors – the highest number Apple has ever packed inside a single chip. Just like a mobile SoC, Apple has integrated all components such as GPU, memory, and Neural Engine on a single package. Doing so has also helped reduce the stress from the battery, ensuring a drastic improvement in battery longevity compared to the latest Intel-powered MacBook Air.
Coming to the M1 chip, it has an octa-core design that includes four performance cores and four efficiency cores. Apple touts a CPU performance gain of 3.5x compared to a MacBook Air powered by Intel’s Core-i7 processor. Plus, it is also significantly more power-efficient. Apple says the M1 chip offers 3x CPU performance per watt, while the graphics performance gain stands at 2X, courtesy of the new 8-core integrated GPU.
Talking about the GPU, Apple is calling it the “world’s fastest integrated graphics in a personal computer,” one that matches the performance of a comparable system while consuming just 33% of the power. As for the new 16-core Neural Engine, Apple is claiming a 15X boost in Machine Learning performance.
Talking about real-world performance, Apple has shared the following details about the M1-based MacBook Air compared to its Intel-powered predecessor:
- Export a project for the web with iMovie up to 3x faster.
- Integrate 3D effects into video in Final Cut Pro up to 5x faster.
- For the first time, play back and edit multiple streams of full-quality, 4K ProRes video in Final Cut Pro without dropping a frame.
- Export photos from Lightroom up to twice as fast.
- Use ML-based features like Smart Conform in Final Cut Pro to intelligently frame a clip up to 4.3x faster.
- Watch more movies and TV shows with up to 18 hours of battery life, the longest ever on MacBook Air.
- Extend FaceTime and other video calls for up to twice as long on a single charge.
How much you pay for the updated MacBook Air?
Coming to the heart of the device, Apple is offering the MacBook Air in two configurations with the same M1 processor, but with a different GPU and storage space. Here’s how the two configurations differ:
|Entry-level MacBook Air||Higher-end MacBook AIr|
|8-core Apple M1 chip||8-core Apple M1 chip|
|7-core GPU||8-core GPU|
|8GB / 16GB RAM||8GB / 16GB RAM|
|256GB / 512GB / 1TB / 2TB SSD||512GB / 1TB / 2TB SSD|
|Starts at $999||Starts at $1,249|
Apple will charge you an additional $200 to double the amount of RAM (or unified memory in the company’s words) from 8GB to 16GB. Talking about the storage, going from 256GB to 512GB SSD on the entry-level MacBook Air will cost you $200, while the jump to 1TB SSD will cost you an extra $400. On the top-end MacBook Air model, you pay an extra $200 to go from 512GB to 1TB storage, while the 2TB model will ask you to pay a premium of $600.
Apple will also ship the MacBook Air with Final Cut Pro X pre-installed on it for an additional $299,99, while the bundle with Logic Pro X will cost you an extra $199.99. But if you are a student, Apple will offer the Pro Apps Bundle for Education for just $199.99 that offers Final Cut Pro X, Motion 5, Compressor 4, Logic Pro X and MainStage pre-installed on the machine. Also, the RAM and storage upgrades will cost you less for purchases made under the education program.
For buyers in India, the latest Apple offering starts at Rs. 92,900, while the starting price for students under the education program has been set at Rs. 83,610. As for color options, you can choose between silver, space gray and gold trims. The new MacBook Air is now up for pre-orders and will start shipping next week.
The software side
The new MacBook Air will ship running macOS Big Sur, the latest version of Apple’s Mac operating system. But thanks to the new M1-chip, Apple is also offering a few additional software upgrades such as hardware‑verified secure boot, automatic high‑performance encryption for all your files, instant wake, snappier animations, and quicker load times.
The biggest change, however, is the ability to run iPhone and iPad apps directly on the MacBook Air, thanks to the shared architecture. Apple adds that all Mac software is now Universal, which means it runs natively on the M1-powered machie.
As for existing apps that are yet to be updated to the Universal standard, they will also run seamlessly by taking advantage of the Rosetta technology. Talking about support from third-party developers, Apple mentioned during the presentation that Lightroom will be updated next month, while Adobe Photoshop will receive the same treatment early in 2021.