Were Charles Darwin here today, once he’d finished screaming at us for tinkering with necromancy and demanding to know what the heck a Lexus was, I think he’d want to see the new MacBook Air. Apple’s M1-powered notebook is one of a trio of Apple Silicon showcases and, as the “Father of Evolution” was well aware, some generations take a leap forward, not just a step.
Though at $999 the M1 MacBook Air isn’t the cheapest model to use Apple’s homegrown chipset – the new Mac mini starts at $699, albeit before you budget for a display and peripherals – it’s arguably the purist example of Cupertino’s strategy. Fanless and self-contained, it promises a beguiling combination of flexible performance and battery life, wrapped up in a familiar design.
The aesthetic explains how Apple could bring its first Apple Silicon models to market so rapidly, since it didn’t need to retool for new laptop or desktop chassis. In fact you’ll need to slap an “M1 Inside” sticker on the lid if you want people to know you’re at the cutting-edge. Some of the function key labels are tweaked versus the Intel-powered Air, but otherwise this is the same ultraportable we’ve known for a few years now.
That means a 13.3-inch 2560 x 1600 Retina display, a full-sized Magic Keyboard, Touch ID built into the power button, a sizable trackpad, and a 720p FaceTime HD camera above the screen. The port selection remains as controversial as ever, with two Thunderbolt 3 on the left side (that also work as USB 4 Type-C), and a 3.5mm headphone jack on the right. While I agree that two ports on a MacBook Pro seems miserly, I think the selection is just about acceptable on the slimmer MacBook Air.
Inside, 8GB or 16GB of memory, between 256GB and 2TB of SSD storage, and both WiFi 6 802.11ax and Bluetooth 5.0 wireless can be found. Star of the show is the Apple M1, of course, though the specifications differ very slightly depending on which MacBook Air configuration you buy.
The entry-level $999 machine with 8GB of memory – the one I’m reviewing – uses an M1 variant with an 8-core CPU, a 7-core GPU, and a 16-core Neural Engine. The $1,249 version of the…