I didn’t think I’d be talking about the MacBook Air quite so much this summer. But that’s exactly what I’m doing, because a lot of people are going to buy one over the next couple of months.
That’s all well and good, but there’s a problem this time around. We now have two distinctly different models to choose from, and the buying process is consequently rather tricky.
For some people, it’ll be obvious. Long-term advocates of the wedge-shaped MacBook Air who have zero interest in the latest and greatest will opt for the M1 version. Those who have been dying to get their hands on the next generation will opt for the M2 edition.
But what about the rest? What about the consumers and businesses who are now agonising over whether or not to buy the ‘old’ MacBook Air?
If you sit within that camp, and you’re concerned that the M1 MacBook Air could be a bad purchase right now, this guide is for you!
Starting with the price
The base-spec M1 MacBook Air is the cheapest MacBook you can buy before opting for the refurb store or second-hand market. It comes with an 8-core CPU, 7-core GPU, 8GB of unified memory, and 256GB of storage.
That lot will set you back £999/$999, which is a £250/$200 saving over the new M2 version. If you take the unified memory up to 16GB, you’ll pay an extra £200/$200.
The most you can spend on an M1 MacBook Air these days is £1,999/$1,999, which nets you the aforementioned unified memory upgrade and 2TB of storage. That’s an expensive laptop, but you’re getting one hell of a machine as a result.
By comparison, if you spec up the M2 MacBook Air as far as possible, you’ll pay a trouser-filling £2,549/$2,499. Sure, you get a few more GPU cores, 8GB of additional unified memory, and that new M2 chip, but we really are entering Planet Silly at that price.
If you want to spend as little as possible on a MacBook Air without sacrificing performance, stop reading this now and buy yourself an M1 MacBook Air. Honestly – I’d rather lose the reading time than have you waste any more of your own time on this buying decision.
Still confused? Worried? Keep reading.
What type of user are you?
Apple doesn’t make buying a MacBook particularly easy these days; there are so many different models and configurations to choose from.
However, beyond your budget, the most important factor to take into consideration is the user bracket in which you reside. These range from casual users who undertake basic tasks such as email and web browsing, to professional users who rely on their MacBook Airs either functionally or creatively.
As I’ve said since the launch of the M2 MacBook Air, the majority of users (be they casual or professional) will be perfectly happy with an M1 version. Mine (which is the base spec) remains one of the quickest Macs I have to hand and I use it every single day to run this business. If you’ve been holding off buying an M1 MacBook Air because you’re concerned that it won’t deal with what you have planned for it, Apple now has you covered with the M2; it’s time to join the preorder queue!
I’ll get onto who I think is the ideal candidate for an M1 MacBook Air in a moment, but let’s quickly dispel some myths and concerns that might still be running through your mind.
Dispelling myths and easing concerns
There’s an awful lot of guff talked about the M1 MacBook Air – particularly the base spec version (trust me – I’ve seen it all within the comments sections of my videos).
So, let’s debunk that stuff right now – because I’m concerned that it’s holding you back from making an utterly brilliant MacBook Air purchase.
We’ll start with that 7-core GPU. It’s no longer possible to upgrade the M1 MacBook Air beyond that point (there used to be an 8-core option before the M2 arrived). This doesn’t matter at all. I have successfully edited 10-bit, 4:2:2, 4K videos on my 7-core MacBook Air with barely any slowdown. The 7-core thing is a non-event (plus, if you need more GPU cores, you now have lots of options).
I’d also like to settle your mind if you’re considering the 8GB version. You’ve probably heard about out-of-memory error messages and something to do with “too much swap file usage”. There’s merit to both of these arguments: running out of memory on any computer is always a possibility, and the swap file refers to the fact that macOS may deem the amount of memory you have available inefficient, thus putting needless strain on the SSD.
I haven’t received an ‘out-of-memory’ error message once on my M1 MacBook Air. I don’t even know what it looks like. And as for the swap file thing, I’ll report back in a few years’ time when* my SSD dies.
You may also be concerned about the wedge design. After all, with the new M2 MacBook Air swanning around and looking all modern in its mini MacBook Pro suit, the M1 version is, clearly, absolute garbage now, right? You’d look a right fool with one sat in front of you in a coffee shop, surely?
If there’s one thing that has become abundantly clear since I published my first video about the M2 MacBook Air, it’s that people miss that wedge design. It has already reached classic status.
Perhaps you think the M2 is going to be noticeably quicker than the M1 version. Well, the benchmarks certainly suggest that’s the case; reports from Geekbench show that the M2 chip is around 11.6% faster in single-core performance and nearly 20% quicker during multi-core tasks.
But benchmarks only tell a portion of the story. What does that 11.6% single-core performance boost feel like in real life? Will macOS boot quicker? Will apps open quicker? Will the system feel even ‘snappier’? I’m going to put my hat on the table right now and say – no; the M2 MacBook Air will feel identical to the M1 MacBook Air for the vast majority of non-power users.
Aha, but the M1 will now become obsolete at some stage, you say. And that is indeed true, but boy are we a long way from that reality. If you buy an M1 MacBook Air today, Apple will support it for several years to come. You’re safe.
The perfect M1 MacBook Air buyer is…
If I’ve done my job, I think you’ll have a pretty good idea as to whether or not you should buy an M1 MacBook Air now. However, to avoid further doubt, let’s consider what I believe to be the perfect M1 MacBook Air buyer.
This person has a budget to which they’d like to stick. It isn’t huge, and they don’t like the idea of spending north of £1,000/$1,000 on a laptop unless a feature or the promise of extra longevity really justifies it.
They’re not fussed about the latest and greatest. In fact, they’d rather not be right at the front of the queue for something which is completely untested outside of Apple’s own testing regime. Equally, the thought of buying something just for the pleasure of others noticing it doesn’t cross this person’s mind.
Our wannabe MacBook Air user isn’t a professional video editor, nor someone who makes a living from writing code, making music, or conducting complex mathematical experiments. They do, however, value speed, efficiency, and products that feel like money well spent.
Despite 95% of their workload being geared towards ‘normal’ computer use, our friend does have an eye on some extracurricular stuff. For instance, they’ve always wanted to start a YouTube channel, and there’s that Swift For Beginners book someone lovingly bought them for Christmas that has remained untouched until now.
This is why our plucky buyer bites the bullet and purchases an M1 MacBook Air. Once it arrives, they never look back.
Does that person sound familiar?
There’s a reason Apple is keeping the M1 MacBook Air in the lineup. It isn’t going anywhere, which means it’ll remain supported and relevant for a considerable amount of time.
What are you going to do? Is the M1 MacBook Air for you?
Curious is M1 MacBook Air worth buying to do graphic design work on the go (mainly using Photoshop and Indesign, occasionally Premiere). I will be traveling soon and may have to take work on the road and was considering this and using sidecar with iPad for extra screen space. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
[…] are wonderful laptops. I can say that confidently about the M1 MacBook Air, because it’s my favourite laptop of all time, and while I’m yet to try out the M2 edition, […]