M1 MacBook Air #

I bought the M1 MacBook Air in March 2021, four months after it was released in November. I honestly don’t remember the last device I used that brought me so much joy. It’s so responsive and it runs so cool and the battery lasts for so long that it just feels like a completely new class of computer. It’s certainly the most significant upgrade to a computer since SSDs replaced spinning hard drives (reminder: it feels like we’ve had SSDs forever but this was less than a decade ago, my first SSD laptop would have been in 2012).

There have been a lot of problems slowly introduced into Apple’s laptop line over the last five years, culminating in their current high-end MacBook Pro offerings from 2016-18, with the almost universally loathed butterfly switch keyboard and Touch Bar. But there were subtler problems that all added up to a very poor overall experience: the lack of a physical escape key, the weird arrow keys on the keyboard, the fairly pathetic battery life as the computer aged, how hot it ran, and the frustrating random shutdown bugs you’d get when connecting or disconnecting USB-C hubs from the Thunderbolt ports. Infuriating.

The M1 MacBook Air (and I presume also the 13" M1 MacBook Pro, which I will ultimately replace it with when there is a proper redesign, but which currently just doesn’t seem like a very good deal) solves every single of one of the problems above, and at the same time drastically improves the performance and the battery life, even over the high-end configurations of the previous generation. It’s hard to understate how significant Apple’s achievement is here and I think it will be very disruptive to the current processor market.

Installing stuff was a bit annoying - I still haven’t been able to get a Python environment manager working and talking with emacs the way I like - but only a little bit, and only at the very beginning. Rosetta 2 is the real key here, and it means that even if something hasn’t yet been written for the new Apple Silicon instruction set, the translation layer works so well, and the M1 is so powerful, that performance is often noticably better than on my old Intel MacBook Pro. It only took me a few days to get everything working the way I like (I did a fresh install, this probably would have been easier if I restored from an iCloud backup or transferred). And anyone who only wants the computer for what 99% of people do with a computer won’t even notice that there are some things not ready for the M1. So the only people who wouldn’t enjoy it right now (and the situation has probably already improved in the month since I bought the machine) are people who do hacky stuff with their computer but aren’t very good at it yet (thinking of myself around ten years ago).

2021-05-18 #

The M1 is making me more of an introvert. Bought my wife one as well to replace my old hand-me-down 2013 Air. I just love spending time with this computer. Considering asking work to get me one.