Showcased during the Apple November event, the MacBook Air is among the first Macs to get the Apple Silicon treatment. At the heart of the new MacBook Air is the Apple-designed M1 chipset, offering a huge jump not only in performance but battery life when compared to the Intel-based version released earlier in 2020, and that’s only scratching the surface of what the M1 offers.
Here’s all you need to know about the new MacBook Air and its M1 chipset, including release date, pricing and what it is about the new MacBook Air that makes it so exciting. For more, take a look at our MacBook Air M1 (2020) review.
When will the MacBook Air with M1 be released?
The new MacBook Air with M1 chipset is available to pre-order from the Apple Store right now, following the announcement at Apple’s November Event on 11 November. The actual release date is unknown right now, but Apple has confirmed that pre-orders will ship sometime during w/c 16 November.
How much will the new MacBook Air cost?
Despite the huge jump in performance on the new MacBook Air, Apple is selling it at the same $999/£999 as the Intel-based MacBook Air released earlier this year. It makes sense – Apple wants a smooth transition from Intel to its own chipsets, and making it more expensive is just an additional barrier. It has decided to stop selling the Intel-powered MacBook Air at the same time, which should make the transition easier.
£999/$999 gets you an entry-level MacBook Air with an M1 comprised of an 8-core CPU 7-core GPU alongside 256GB of storage, but if that’s not enough, you can opt for the high-end £1249/$1249 variant with a boosted 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU and 512GB of storage. And, like with all Macs, you can customise the RAM and storage further before completing your purchase.
You can pre-order both variants of the MacBook Air with M1 right now from the Apple Store in the UK and the US, with orders shipping on an unspecified date next week.
To see how the MacBook Air compares to the top laptops out there right now, take a look at our selection of the best laptops.
What’s new with the MacBook Air with M1?
So, what is the big deal with the new MacBook Air?
The headline feature is, of course, the introduction of Apple’s new M1 chipset. The company has been designing the A-series chipsets for its mobile products for over a decade and has achieved great things, with the A14 Bionic of the iPhone 12 boasting the best CPU performance of any smartphone right now in our benchmark tests, so it makes sense for Apple to do the same with its Mac range.
The Apple M1 is the first Apple Silicon chipset, and it comes out throwing punches. Apple claims that the CPU performance is 3.5x faster than the Intel-based MacBook Air from earlier this year, and it’s a similar story in the graphics department too, with an incredible 5x jump in performance.
Apple claims that this translates to not only a significant increase in performance in games and apps, but allows for more Pro-level features including the ability to edit and render multiple streams of 4K ProRes video on the MacBook Air for the first time. Apple claimed at the reveal that it’s faster than 98% of PC laptops sold in the past year, which is a bold claim, and also one that’s hard to verify. We’ll be interested to see how the MacBook Air’s M1 chipset stacks up once we get one to Tech Advisor towers for testing.
The other exciting element to the M1 chipset is that it’s based on the same architecture as the A-series chips in the iPhone and iPad, meaning you’ll be able to run iPhone and iPad apps natively on your Mac for the first time. This should usher in an explosion of apps and games on the Mac App Store, although it’s unclear at this time just how many will be ready to go at launch.
Despite the huge increase in performance, Apple decided to ditch the fan in the MacBook Air. The improved efficiency of the M1 chipset means that the MacBook Air doesn’t get as hot, meaning it should stay truly silent in operation. No more fighter jet noises once you start editing video on-the-go – hopefully, anyway!
With such a jump in performance, you’d expect a drop in battery life. After all, there’s a reason why high-end gaming laptops last an hour or two before needing a top-up – more performance means more power. That’s not the case with the MacBook Air though; Apple claims that the 5nm process it’s built on is incredibly energy efficient, and can manage 15 hours of web browsing or 18 hours of video playback.
There are other welcome improvements to the MacBook Air, including an updated 13.3in Retina display capable of displaying the P3 wide colour space, the same Image Signal Processor as the iPhone for improved webcam quality and performance and the use of faster memory to speed up read/write and data transfer too.
If this is what we can expect from the thinnest and lightest laptop Apple does, we’re excited to see how Apple Silicon will transform the iMac and other Apple desktops over the coming months.