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 the same, luckily — I started with an early-generation MacBook Air and went through several iterations of MacBook Pro. I use MacBooks because I feel most comfortable with them macOS, and 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 groundbreaking no-compromise experience with an Apple laptop.

The MacBook Air M1 changed my relationship with laptops forever.

Compromise, away

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

I’ve used MacBooks for so long, despite their well-described shortcomings. Early Airs had substandard screens, even the battery life on my most recent MacBook Pro 13 was never that great, I’ve had bad experiences with dying butterfly keyboardsand I was constantly making fun of the plane-loud fans even suggesting that I open more than two apps.

But now I don’t have to face it each of those issues. It’s like the MacBook Air M1 is my reward for sticking with MacBooks all along – it’s the MacBook idea, perfected. To be horrible cliché to say, but the Apple Silicon era has finally made the MacBook Air’s idealistic potential 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 brought no new compromises. The MacBook Air M1 is actually faster and more consistent in performance than my 2019 MacBook Pro it replaced. Wild.

When did I invoice?

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

At any point, I couldn’t tell you when I last charged my MacBook Air. Seriously. The battery life of the MacBook Air M1 is so good that I don’t even know how long it will last on a charge – because I’ve never been able to use it continuously long enough to kill it 100%. Once your laptop’s battery gets to the point where it doesn’t need to be charged every day, it’s not even worth keeping track of its typical lifespan. you are just know it’s going to take.

Traveling with the MacBook Air M1 really seals the deal for me. I flew from NYC to the west coast last week, I arrived at the airport at 6am, spent 90 minutes working for the week, then almost 6 hours on my flight to use it (yes, workaholic here ) … and still had over 50% battery when I went to plug it in at the hotel.

And I have this carefree freedom in spite of doing nothing to save power. I have my screen brightness set to what it should be. I use Chromenot Safari, and have no less than 15 tabs open at any one time — plus Microsoft TeamsOutlook, Messages and TweetDeck mostly. There are many laptops that can get great battery life, but they don’t, regardless of workload, like this MacBook Air M1 does.

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

I used to wear a huge 99-watt portable battery always with me when I left the house with my old MacBook Pro, which had enough energy to fully charge – because while I could expect four to five hours of use from the Pro, it was never enough to feel real confident† If I needed to edit some photos in Lightroom, make a few video calls, or just run on full screen brightness, the game was over in just three hours.

Long battery life also has a knock-on effect on charging. The power consumption is so low that I can easily charge 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 from a wall outlet in our kitchen with a few low-power USB ports. A little charge here, a little there, and I never have to think about it. This computer rarely gets to 100% unless I leave it plugged in overnight.

Sweet, sweet silence

This computer is silent. Blissfully quiet.

I know it sounds like a real champagne problem to be frustrated with how loud your laptop’s fans are, but it’s really annoying. Apple laptops in particular are the butt of jokes in the tech world for year thanks to their form-over-function fans of insufficient size that had to spin loudly and often for performance to be acceptable.

I used MacBook despite are well-described shortcomings. Now I use it because it is the best laptop out there.

It’s something that prompted me to use my iPad Air with a keyboard case more often than I wanted to, simply because I needed a break from my laptop to use a simple quiet computer. While the more expensive MacBook Pros with the M1 chip to do have fans — albeit only for when you’re hard at work — the MacBook Broadcasts do not. And I’m so glad that’s the case.

Even without fans, the MacBook Air M1 doesn’t get nearly as hot as my old MacBooks. No more sweaty legs when you use a laptop on your lap

iPad who?

The arm of a person holding an Apple iPad Air 2020.
Andrew Martonik / Digital Trends

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

But most of the time I only want to take one computer with me – and now the MacBook Air wins most of the time. The screen of the iPad Air is not quite big enough. The iPad keyboard cover is not quite good enough. And, at least now before iPadOS 16 shipsthe software does not quite powerful enough. That was a tough decision when the MacBook came up with its own compromises… and not anymore. Realistically, the only thing I miss on my MacBook Air M1 is a touchscreen — and that just doesn’t make me put it down and pick up the iPad.

Now all I think about is if I need a new MacBook Air M2 instead

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