How the MacBook Air M1 changed my relationship with laptops

How the MacBook Air M1 changed my relationship with laptops

I’ve been using a MacBook as my primary computer for over 10 years. Not the same onethankfully — I started with an early-generation MacBook Air and went through several iterations of MacBook Pro. I use MacBooks because I’m the most comfortable with MacOSand I love their designs. But it wasn’t until early this year, when I got my first M1-powered MacBook Air, that I had a truly game-changing no-compromise experience with an Apple laptop.

The MacBook Air M1 has changed my relationship with laptops forever.

Compromises, gone

MacBook Air sitting on a table in an airport.
Andrew Martonik / Digital Trends

I’ve used MacBooks for so long despite their well-chronicled shortcomings. Early Airs had subpar screens, even my most recent MacBook Pro 13’s battery life was never that great, I’ve had bad experiences with dying butterfly keyboardsand I constantly poked fun at the aircraft-loud fans kicking in at even the suggestion that I might open more than two apps.

But now, I don’t have to face any of those issues. It’s like the MacBook Air M1 is my reward for sticking with MacBooks all this time — it’s the MacBook idea, perfected. It’s terribly cliché to say, but the Apple Silicon era has finally made the idealistic potential of the MacBook Air a reality. A machine that’s thin, light, and portable — but also one that’s quiet, cool, and has incredible battery life.

And this generation didn’t bring any new compromises into the equation. The MacBook Air M1 is actually faster and more consistent in performance than my 2019 MacBook Pro it replaced. Wild.

When did I charge?

A close up of the gold MacBook Air M1's keyboard.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

At any given time, I couldn’t tell you when I last charged my MacBook Air. Seriously. The battery life on the MacBook Air M1 is so good, I don’t even know how long it lasts on a charge — because I’ve never been able to use it continuously long enough to kill it from 100%. Once your laptop’s battery gets to the point of not needing to be charged every day, it’s not even worth trying to keep track of the typical longevity. You just know it’s going to last.

Traveling with the MacBook Air M1 really seals the deal for me. Flying from NYC to the West Coast last week, I got to the airport at 6 a.m., spent 90 minutes getting set with work duties for the week, and then nearly 6 hours on my flight using it (yes, workaholic here) … and still had over 50% battery when I went to plug in at the hotel.

And I have this carefree freedom despite doing nothing to conserve power. I set my display brightness to whatever it needs to be. I use Chromenot Safari, and have no fewer than 15 tabs open at any time — plus Microsoft Teams, OutlookMessages, and TweetDeck most of the time. There are lots of laptops that can get great battery life — but they don’t do it irrespective of workload as this MacBook Air M1 does.

At any given time, I couldn’t tell you when I last charged my MacBook Air.

I used to carry a huge 99wH portable battery with me anytime I left the house with my old MacBook Pro, which had enough juice for a full recharge — because even though I could expect four to five hours of usage out of the Pro, it was never enough to actually feel confident. If I needed to edit some photos in Lightroom, take a couple of video calls, or heck just run it at full display brightness, it was game over after just three hours.

Great battery life has a knock-on effect on charging as well. The power draw is so low that I can easily charge up the MacBook Air M1 with a smartphone’s 30W USB-C charger that’s a fraction of the size of the old 61W Apple bricks. I regularly charge my laptop off of a power outlet in our kitchen that has a couple of low-power USB ports. A little charge here, a little there, and I never have to think about it. This computer rarely hits 100% charge, unless I leave it plugged in overnight.

Sweet, sweet silence

This computer is silent. Blissfully silent.

I know it sounds like a true champagne problem to be frustrated with how loud your laptop’s fans are, but it really is annoying. Apple laptops in particular have been the butt of jokes in the tech world for years thanks to their form-over-function inadequately-sized fans that had to spin up loudly, and often, to keep performance acceptable.

I used to use MacBook despite its well-chronicled shortcomings. Now, I use it because it’s the best laptop available.

It’s something that pushed me to use my iPad Air with a keyboard case more frequently than I wanted to, just because needed a break from my laptop to use a simple silent computer. While the higher-end MacBook Pros with the M1 chip do have fans — albeit only for when you’re working intensely — the MacBook Airs don’t. And I’m so happy that’s the case.

And even without fans, the MacBook Air M1 doesn’t get anywhere near as warm as my old MacBooks did. No more sweaty legs when you’re actually using a laptop on your lap.

iPad who?

A person's arm holding an Apple iPad Air 2020.
Andrew Martonik / Digital Trends

Now that I have a MacBook Air M1, my iPad Air spends most of its time collecting dust. My iPad still has a place — it’s a great machine for the most casual browsing and media watching (particularly the latter, with this great display), and with the addition of a keyboard I can knock out messages and emails or even write some articles when I want to focus on just one task at a time.

But typically, I only want to carry one computer — and now, the MacBook Air wins a vast majority of the time. The iPad Air’s screen isn’t quite big enough. The iPad keyboard case isn’t quite good enough. And, at least right now before iPadOS 16 shipsthe software isn’t quite powerful enough. That used to be a tough decision when the MacBook came with its own trade-offs … and now it doesn’t. Realistically, the only thing I’m missing on my MacBook Air M1 is a touch screen — and that just isn’t going to get me to put it down and pick up the iPad.

Now, all I’m thinking about is whether I need a new MacBook Air M2 instead.

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