M1 MacBook Air vs. MacBook Pro

Yesterday I purchased a new M1 MacBook. I want to have something running Apple Silicon to experiment with and cover here and on the podcasts. The question was, which one?

Both the new MacBook Air and MacBook Pro feature the same M1 chip. But are they? Apple said nothing in the keynote to differentiate the chips themselves. There was no explanation of clock speeds or chip yields. Does the MacBook Pro only get the very best of the crop of new M1 chips so they can run them faster than those that make it in the MacBook Air? We don’t know. The only thing covered in the keynote was the inclusion of a fan in the MacBook Pro vs. the MacBook Air’s fanless design. With an active cooling system, I’m sure Apple will feel more comfortable pushing the M1 in the MacBook Pro harder. I expect that once we do get benchmarks, they’ll show that the MacBook Pro can do longer operations faster, like encoding video.

I wish Apple had done a better job of differentiating the two computers, but I suspect that when the benchmarks arrive, we’ll find that there isn’t that much difference between them. It is, after all, the same chip driving both machines.

Apple explained it would take two years to complete the transition to Apple Silicon Macs and what we got yesterday was only the first step. Even though it looks like the M1 will be a beast compared to other chips on the market, it will also be the lowest power M-series chip ever released. I can’t help but think that sometime next year, we’ll get a different Apple Silicon chip that will be even more powerful than the M1 for use in the 16 and 14(?) inch MacBooks Pro. Put simply, Apple is just getting started. I expect if you are looking for a pro workflow machine, the Apple Silicon Mac you are really going to want isn’t out yet.

So getting back to my decision as to which MacBook to buy, I was considering the pluses and minuses when my daughter came into the room to show me a video she made for a class using Final Cut on her very-much-not-top-of-the-line Intel MacBook Air. It was five minutes long and moved boxes of video contributed from seven different UCLA drama school students. There were visual and audio effects, and the non-M1 MacBook Air was doing it all without breaking a sweat. That was the moment where I realized all I need is a MacBook Air.

I have such fond memories of the first wedge-shaped MacBook Air from ten years ago. I used one for three years before giving it to my daughter, who used it for an additional five years. I do all of my production heavy lifting on an iMac Pro. The idea of a thin, light, fanless laptop that is wicked fast and can run iPad and iPhone apps sounds perfect. So I ordered a MacBook Air. (I did upgrade the RAM and storage. I am MacSparky after all.) I’ll have it in a week or two and report back once I receive it.

One additional point is Apple’s buyback program. I’m selling my existing laptop back to Apple as part of the purchase. I made some price comparisons with other reputable vendors, and Apple had the best price. I know I could make more selling the machine through eBay, but every time I try that, the buyer turns out to be a bozo. Selling it back to Apple is painless.