When Apple released the latest their latest M1 chip (Apple Silicon) based on ARM, everyone went out to get one. I should know because I ordered my Macbook Air (customed configured) on the 5th of January and I am still waiting for the unit to arrive (it is now the 11th of February). If you must know, I ordered the MBA M1 with 16Gb unified memory and 512Gb of storage. This Macbook Air (MBA) is going to replace the ageing Macbook Air Late 2011 at home where both my wife and I use. Anyway, I digress.
When people started receiving their M1 Macs, whether it may be the Pro, Air or Mini, the benchmarks were insane. If you had applications that are optimised to run on Apple Silicon, everything would just work. If you needed to run applications that aren’t ready, there is always Rosetta, an emulation tool built into MacOS Big Sur to enable your M1 Macs to run older applications. For those of you who are wondering which applications are already optimised, you can head over here (https://isapplesiliconready.com/) to find out if your essential apps are optimised for it.
So when I received an Apple Macbook Pro M1 at the office, I was wondering how things would work out. Mind you, after speaking with the folks at Apple (our account manager and also tech support), I was worried that the many internal applications might have issues. Then right at the opportune moment, the firm went and started using Google Workspace which meant that all of my productivity work would be browser based. Thankfully, Chrome was already optimised for Apple Silicon so using Chrome on a day to day basis wasn’t a big issue at all.
Since it was sitting in an enterprise environment, that meant the machine has to be hardened with additional security software such as endpoint protection and others. This would then become an interesting observation as I started to get the laptop set up. Interestingly, Rosetta worked its magic and all software although not optimised for Apple Silicon, still worked as its intended purpose. But of course that meant certain downsides such as longer application bootup times (initially). After it is up and running, it all works fine. With the exception of OneDrive which tended to have issues of the software hanging and the dreaded beach ball would constantly appear.
The Touch Bar
This is my first experience using the Touch Bar and initially it was novel but I realised that I constantly wished I had my F3 button available so that I could go into Mission Control quickly to navigate through between my application windows. Touch ID was a nice feature but thanks to the new norm where I am working from home, the laptop lid stays closed as I connect it to an external monitor so I can’t really enjoy the full benefits of the Touch Bar. Still I do get the complaints of users who preferred to have physical buttons instead of the Touch Bar (one of the reasons why I ordered a Macbook Air for the home instead).
The Butterfly Keyboard
After having gone through the various versions of butterfly keyboards which Apple introduced with their 12″ Macbook (yes, I had that laptop as well previously), I had sort of gotten used to the short travel. That does not mean that I enjoyed it, I truly hated using it and always opted for an external mechanical keyboard. The latest generation definitely has improved in terms of its feel and key travel and finally I am really comfortable using them. Feedback is good and each keystroke feels tactile. It can’t compare to my mechanical keyboard of course but its an improvement.
This Mac really has amazing battery life. I can definitely go through an entire day of work without really needing to charge the battery. As long as you utilise apps that has been optimised you would notice that battery life would be prolonged and whenever you run older apps, there will be some battery drain on it. Usually if you run a lot of conference calls with the video turned on, then I saw battery life lasts about 5-6 hours for me.
The one key difference between the Macbook Air and Pro is the addition of a cooling system. The Air uses a passively cooled system with no fans whilst the Macbook Pro has fans in it. This allows for the system to run prolonged loads without thermal throttling coming into play. Again, the keyword being prolonged loads, means do you process things over a long period of time say 30 minutes non-stop? Otherwise if you are like me, who just use productivity apps and do simple edits and powerpoint slides, I would say a passively cooled system is sufficient. One thing I should point out that the heat generated from the system is a lot cooler as previously whenever I put a Macbook Pro laptop on my lap over time, it would get way too hot.
What I dislike about the Macbook Pro M1
2 Thunderbolt Ports
The Macbook Pro only has two thunderbolt ports. With the recent cases of Macbook Pro and Macbook Air being bricked when they are charged via power delivery on external USB-C hubs, that meant that one of the port would be used for charging and another just for the hub.
The design has been around for a while now and the bezels around the screen look horrendously large compared to other windows based laptops in the market
Bluetooth Mouse Lag
Bluetooth mouse lag will still be an issue, I have a Logitech Master MX 3 mouse and it feels laggy on the Mac. It works fine on a Windows machine but there are numerous complaints about this online.
Again everyone hoped that Apple would have equipped the laptop with a better webcam. Although it provided a better software to enhance your image, it still lags behind.
Overall, I would say that this is a decent upgrade for those of you whose Macs are ageing. If you are thinking of using it purely for work, I think the Macbook Pro can be a bit overkill. Even with all of the Chrome windows I have opened and Microsoft Productivity suite apps opened such as Excel and Powerpoint and MS Word, the machine still performs flawlessly. The only time when I started seeing the beachball effect is when I use the non-optimised apps which I don’t interact often anyway. If you were to really ask me, I would choose the Macbook Air purely because it is cheaper (the base Macbook Air is RM4,399 and the base Macbook Pro is RM5,599) and I don’t think that based on my usage, I would need a additional cooling for it.
Should you get one now? Rumours are strife with a M1X or M2 chip in the horizon with the soon to arrive 14″ Macbook Pro and a refresh of the 16″ Macbook Pro. If you ask me, technology will always improve and if you really need one now, might as well get it instead of constantly waiting.