Apple MacBook Pro (M1) Review

Posted on April 20, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Uncategorized with 45 Comments

The M1 version of the MacBook Pro for the most part delivers on the performance, compatibility, and battery life that Apple promises. But this is the low-end version of MacBook Pro, the non-Pro MacBook Pro, if you will. And it’s hard for most to justify its additional expense compared to the very similar MacBook Air.

So we should explain that bit first.

Forgetting for a moment about the M1 chipset, Apple’s MacBook lineup has consisted of four basic models for a few years now: The MacBook Air, the entry-level MacBook Pro 13 (with two Thunderbolt 3 ports), the MacBook Pro 13 (with four Thunderbolt 3 ports), and the MacBook Pro 16 (previously the MacBook Pro 15). The first two of those, the MacBook Air and the entry-level MacBook Pro 13, comprise the low-end of the MacBook family, and the latter two are higher-end, prosumer-class devices.

In late 2020, Apple replaced all three of its entry-level Macs—the two entry-level MacBooks noted above plus the Mac Mini desktop computer—with new models based on its M1 chipset. Its higher-end Macs—including the other MacBook Pros, the iMac, and the Mac Pro—are still offered with higher-end Intel chipsets, often with dedicated graphics, and with support for more RAM. Apple is expected to replace them with Mx chipsets of whatever flavor in the next 1-2 years.

I’ve never understood the logic of having two different types of MacBook Pro 13, one set with two TB3 ports and one set with four. There have always been other differences, of course—the higher-end MacBooks ship with the controversial Touch Bar, for example—and the lower-cost MacBook Air was always the better value for most consumers. But the difference was greater in the latest two generations of the Intel era, when the MacBook Air came with a (relatively) underpowered Y-series Intel CPU.

The arrival of the M1 confuses matters. Now, the low-end MacBook Pros and the MacBook Air share the same M1 chipset (with one very minor difference I’ll get to in a moment). Both Macs have just two TB3 ports. The MacBook Air uses passive cooling—that is, it has no fans and is thus silent—but the MacBook Pro 13, with its active cooling, can run more demanding workloads without throttling the performance over time. And while the M1 chipsets are identical between the two, the base model MacBook Air, the version you can get for just $999, features 7 graphics cores, where the version in the MacBook Pro, and in MacBook Airs with upgraded configurations, has 8 graphics cores.

7 vs. 8 graphics cores is a subtle distinction that probably shouldn’t impact most buying decisions. But if you’re a true prosumer with advanced needs—a videographer, perhaps, a developer, an engineer, a graphic artist, or similar—then the MacBook Pro 13 may sway you with its promise of sustained higher-end workloads. Otherwise—that is, if you’re a “normal” user—the MacBook Air is almost certainly the better choice. (There are rumors that Apple is killing off the Touch Bar in a future MacBook Pro generation, so its appearance on the higher-end M1 MacBook Pros is possibly the end of that differentiator.)

Looked at another way, the M1-based MacBook Pro isn’t really all that “pro,” it’s more like a slightly different MacBook Air with better performance in specific prosumer workloads. It’s also $300 more expensive for the same 8 GB/256 GB base configuration.

Still interested? Let’s take a look at the M1-based MacBook Pro 13.

Design

Depending on your view, the MacBook Pro design is either a classic or it’s getting a bit long in the tooth, a byproduct of Apple’s decision to stick with the same design as its predecessors.

I see both sides of this debate. The MacBook Pro is handsome and professional-looking, with a minimalist business-class design. But it’s also more of the same: Apple has been using this form factor for a long time. It’s due for a refresh. Overdue, really.

Whatever, it’s a classic. And while a smaller, lighter version with smaller display bezels is no doubt in the cards for some future revision, the MacBook Pro is the Porsche 911 of portable computers, an instantly recognizable icon of its industry.

Display

Surrounded by anachronistically large bezels given its price class, the MacBook Pro 13 (M1) nonetheless provides one of the better laptop displays I’ve used in recent years. The Quad HD+ Retina display panel offers a native resolution of 2560 x 1600 and it’s stunningly bright, crisp, and colorful.

Its 16:10 aspect ratio is also a delight, providing a great compromise from the too-wide 16:9 displays found in most laptops and the even-taller 3:2 displays that are more common in PC tablets and 2-in-1s.

What’s missing, of course, are multitouch and smartpen capabilities. Apple addresses the former, sort of, with a Touch Bar that is discussed below but that won’t help anyone hoping to use iPhone and iPad apps and games on the Mac. And to be fair, using a smartpen like Apple’s excellent Pencil on a traditional laptop display, which can’t lay flat anyway, is not in any way useful. Still, these features are major advantages for some on the PC side of things.

Internal components

Apple currently only offers one basic version of the entry-level MacBook Pro, with a single version of its M1 chipset providing 8-core compute, 8-core graphics, 16-core AI capabilities, and more all on the same silicon. What you can do is upgrade the RAM and storage. The base model, which I’m reviewing here, features 8 GB of integrated and non-upgradable (after design time) RAM and 256 GB of storage. At design time, you can upgrade to 16 GB of RAM and/or 512 GB, 1 TB, or 2 TB of storage.

Performance is excellent, and that’s true regardless of which types of apps you use. This is no gaming PC, of course, but the MacBook Pro will satisfy the needs of any productivity worker and, as more and more apps are made to be M1-native, prosumers with higher-end needs as well.

Aside from the alacrity at which the MacBook Pro 13 (M1) launches native apps, the most impressive thing about this machine’s performance is how little heat and noise it generates. The MacBook Pro uses active cooling, so there’s a fan, but I almost never heard it during my testing. Most premium Windows PCs kick the fan on sometimes, often seemingly randomly, but that was never an issue with the Mac.

Well, almost never. I used Handbrake—which is available for the M1 natively in beta—to transcode the 4K video Tears of Steel to m4v format and the fan was on for the duration and was quite loud. When I transcoded the same video with an Intel Evo-based HP Spectre x360 14 that I’m also reviewing, the fan came on and off over time, but it was much quieter than the MacBook Pro, and the machine stayed cooler too.

More important, however, the Mac transcoded the video more quickly. It took just under 34 minutes for the Mac vs. just under 74 minutes for the HP. I also transcoded the video with the HP Z2 SFF G8 Workstation I’m also testing. That desktop PC is a beast, with an 11th-generation Intel Core i7-11700K processor, 32 GB of RAM, Nvidia Quadro RTX 3000 graphics, and a fast SSD. And it transcoded the video in just under 20 minutes while being completely silent. I know, different classes of devices. But it’s an interesting comparison, given all the hyperbole around the M1.

Anyway, it’s just a single data point, I know. But the M1-based MacBook Pro significantly outperformed the Evo-based HP in this test.

Connectivity

Connectivity is modern, with Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) and Bluetooth 5, and I never had any issues with connectivity, either at home or during a recent road trip to Washington D.C. But there’s no cellular data, even as an option.

Ports and expansion

The MacBook Pro 13 (M1) ships with only two ports and they’re both inconveniently located on the left side of the Mac; I’d prefer one on each side. On the left, you’ll find two USB-C ports that provide Thunderbolt 4/USB 4 capabilities, meaning up to 40 Gbps of data throughput, plus power, display, and expansion.

And on the right, there’s a standard headphone jack.

Those two ports are infamous for obvious reasons, but one of the weird limitations of all M1-based Macs is that Apple doesn’t officially support multiple external displays via Thunderbolt. There are workarounds for this online—here, Google Search is your friend—but this is just one of a few issues that make the M1 MacBook Pro a bit less than pro.

Audio and video

The MacBook Pro 13 (M1) provides two stereo speakers, and they’re apparently an improvement over the speakers in the MacBook Air (M1) but not as impressive as the multi-speaker system with force-canceling woofers provided by Intel-based MacBook Pros. I don’t have either for comparison purposes, but the Dolby Atmos-capable sound system is adequate for music and videos and offers nice stereo separation.

The MacBook Pro also provides a three-microphone array with directional beamforming, plus a lackluster 720p FaceTime HD webcam, for audio and video calls. Apple apparently does a bit of AI magic to help improve the quality of the webcam, but it’s still unimpressive.

Keyboard and touchpad

After inflicting its customers with the horrible and unreliable butterfly keyboard, Apple thankfully and recently moved back to a more traditional scissor-switch keyboard design. It’s a winner, too, with short, key throws and an ideal typing experience once you get past the weirdness Apple’s Mac-specific special keys. The only exception is the Touch Bar, which replaces the function row and includes a Touch ID button. I discuss those in the next section.

And while the house-sized touchpad on modern portable Macs is widely regarded as the best in the business, I don’t see it that way at all. In most operations, the touchpad is reliable and works well, and, no, the size doesn’t seem to trigger a lot in the way of false clicks. No, the problem is some interaction between the touchpad hardware, which “fakes” clicks using haptics, and the macOS software that makes it really hard to hold and drag on-screen objects. Instead, it routinely triggers some other long-press action, like a quick info preview. I find it infuriating and never really figured out the magical level of pressure required to make this thing work reliably.

Unique hardware features

Apple’s controversial Touch Bar sounds like a good idea, sort of, in that it offers a per-app customizable touch strip in place of a traditional function key row at the top of the keyboard.

But in practice, the Touch Bar’s customizability is what dooms it: Every app that supports it natively offers its own completely different user interface. I find myself repeatedly scanning its display to figure out what’s what.

I’m sure there are some who love this feature, but I can’t stand it, and if I were stuck with a Touch Bar-capable Mac like this one, I’d disable it. (Doing so puts a software version of a function key row in its place.)

The Touch Bar may be functionally dubious, but the Touch ID button at the far right of this interface is fantastic. It works like Touch ID on some iPads, or on the MacBook Air (which otherwise provides a traditional function key row), and it is fast, efficient, and reliable. It also doubles as the power button, as we’re starting to see on some premium Windows laptops.

Portability

The MacBook Pro 13 M1 weighs exactly 3 pounds, which is right on the edge of being too heavy for a portable PC with a 13.3-inch display. I’d rather see a 14-inch display at this weight class or a smaller and lighter body with the same display.

The batteries are almost certainly a big part of the machine’s heft. And on this point, I will simply apologize because I must punt on the battery life issue, though I will at least provide you with a few data points. The problem is that I’ve never found a way to accurately measure real-world battery life on a Mac (or a Chromebook) that I can fairly compare with the Windows PCs I typically review. And between that and the ongoing issues that I’ve had with measuring battery life during the pandemic, I don’t want to mischaracterize the results I’ve seen and mislead anyone.

That said, battery life is usually excellent, as is its sleep performance, and the MacBook Pro is clearly positioned somewhere in the upper ranks of the PCs I’ve tested in recent years. It can be a bit unpredictable, in that I sometimes see days of use with terrific sleep times, but I’ve also seen the battery drain completely after watching a few movies and doing some productivity work. Overall, however, I’m impressed.

This is doubly true when you consider what we’ve experienced on the Windows side of the fence. Some Intel-based Windows PCs get 10, 12, or more hours of battery life, but users deal with fan noise and heat. With Windows 10 on ARM, we can only achieve crazy battery life—20 to 25 hours, real-world—at the expense of compatibility and performance, but as those latter two issues are being resolved, battery life is declining. Apple, inexplicably, has figured out the secret recipe for moving to ARM while improving performance and battery life. If that’s not magic, I don’t know what it is.

Software

Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of macOS, but I really like the consistent visual refresh that Apple delivered in macOS Big Sur. It’s a modern, clean look.

Unfortunately, Apple ships a metric ton of crapware with its modern Macs and the MacBook Pro 13 (M1) is no exception. One could spend weeks just figuring out what all the apps do before deleting many of them, as I do. That said, there are always those customers who find value in preloads like this, and, of course, Apple’s lock-in strategy requires it.

From a software compatibility perspective, Apple really nailed it. This system can run M1 and Universal macOS apps natively, of course. It processes Intel executables through a translation technology called Rosetta 2 that adds a bit of a wait on the first run with normal operation thereafter. And it can run a growing library of iPhone and iPad apps and games too, though of course your mileage may vary because the MacBook Pro doesn’t have a multitouch display, and not all mobile apps have been adequately retrofitted for keyboard and touchpad.

But virtually all the traditional Mac apps that I threw at it ran great, and native apps launch with an alacrity that makes the entire system seem even faster than it is. Put simply, there is little risk in an existing Mac user making the switch to a new M1-based Mac. And where there is some risk, as with some of Adobe’s Creative Cloud solutions, it’s temporary: App makers are racing to natively support the M1, and those that do routinely report better performance than before.

That said, there are some nuances. OneDrive has never worked properly on the MacBook Pro 13 (M1). It’s like it can’t ever complete syncing my files, and when I try to open cloud-based files, doing so fails after a long wait. This app is key to my workflow, of course, so I recommend that anyone using a third-party cloud storage service—not just OneDrive, but Box, Dropbox, Google, and others—with the Mac be sure that that solution works. As with Creative Cloud, it’s inevitable that OneDrive will be ported to the M1.

For potential Windows switchers, the M1-based Macs are a bit hit or miss. Apple doesn’t provide Boot Camp with M1-based Macs, and won’t, so you can’t dual-boot between macOS and Windows. And while Parallels does now offer an M1-compatible version of its excellent Parallels Desktop virtualization software, you can’t use mainstream, shipping (x86/x64) versions of Windows with it. Instead, it only supports ARM-based platforms, and the only option we have on the Windows side is a preview release of Windows 10 for ARM which is not supported by Microsoft and needs to be constantly updated with new builds. It’s not ideal, and for many reasons.

Speaking of hit or miss, Apple doesn’t do a lot to help users find compatible iPhone and iPad apps, but if you look in the Mac App Store, you can at least view the iPhone and iPad apps that you previously purchased or download and are somewhat compatible with the Mac. (Many are there but “not verified.”) So I was able to test a range of apps. And the experience, overall, is not great. Apps run in the aspect ratio of their target platform, so iPhone apps appear as small vertical windows and iPad apps appear as larger square windows.

And if you maximize these apps, they don’t take up the full display (unless, presumably, they are customized to do so on the Mac). Instead, they’re the same form factor, just full screen. This is true even in content-based apps like HBO Max, where playing a movie full-screen displays black boxes on the left and right of the video. Ugh.

Another issue, of course, is that the Mac doesn’t support multitouch, so apps that were designed for that interaction style need to be tailored for keyboard and mouse—which some apps are thanks to recent iPads—or just make do with emulated touches. That means most games are tedious or impossible to play.

I expect iPhone and iPad compatibility and usability—and, hopefully, discoverability—to improve over time. But Apple has moved surprisingly slowly on this functionality so far.

Finally, I would also like to briefly discuss what I consider to be the Achilles Heel of the Mac platform, and this is true regardless of the underlying hardware platforms. Downloads and updates are very slow. Installing an app from the Mac App Store takes minutes, for some reason. Updating apps though the Mac App Store can take over an hour, which makes no sense.

And God help you if you need to install even a minor macOS software update: Those updates take a very long time to download and then require the Mac to be offline for installation for an even longer period of time. This is one of those rare areas in which Windows 10 is lightyears ahead of the Mac; we may need to install a lot of updates, but they all happen quickly and efficiently.

Pricing and configurations

Apple lists two MacBook Pro 13 (M1) configurations on its website, but as noted above, there’s really only one version of this product, and all you can do is upgrade the RAM and/or storage at design time; neither can be upgraded later.

The base model provides the M1 chipset with 8 GB of integrated RAM and 256 GB of integrated storage for $1299. A second configuration, with 8 GB of RAM and 512 GB of storage, costs $1499. But you can upgrade to 16 GB of integrated RAM, at design time only, for an additional $200. And you can upgrade to 512 GB, 1 TB, or 2 TB of integrated storage (again, only at design time) in $200 increments. So the most you could spend on a MacBook Pro 13 (M1) is $2299.

Those who need more power—up to 32 GB of RAM, dedicated graphics, or more ports—will need to purchase an Intel-based MacBook Pro 13 instead. At least until Apple shows up with truly pro-class MacBook Pro models based on more powerful Apple Silicon versions and, if the rumors are correct, a better port selection.

Recommendations and conclusions

There’s a lot to like about this Apple MacBook Pro 13 (M1), from its classic design to its epic performance and battery life gains. But this is a better upgrade for those already in the Mac camp than it is for potential switchers: The M1-based MacBook Pro offers dramatic improvements over its predecessors and excellent compatibility with legacy Intel-based Mac apps. But there’s no Boot Camp or Intel-based virtualization to ease the migration for Windows PC users, and the Mac’s performance and battery life are only amazing in context; we already have premium PCs that offer these benefits on the Windows side of the fence.

Until we have true MacBook Pros based on Apple Silicon, with more powerful chipsets, better graphics, and a more reasonable complement of ports, I will continue to point the Mac-curious at the cheaper but very capable MacBook Air (M1). Those prosumers who can justify the extra cost of the MacBook Pro understand their needs better than I do and can decide accordingly.

The MacBook Pro (M1) is highly recommended, assuming you know what you’re getting into.

At-a-glance

Pros

  • Excellent performance
  • Terrific 16:10 display
  • Excellent battery life
  • Great hardware and software compatibility

Cons

  • Only two Thunderbolt 4/USB-C ports, and they’re on the same side
  • Touch Bar is no substitute for a multi-touch display
  • $300 more expensive than the MacBook Air
  • Loaded with Apple crapware
  • No Boot Camp, no x86 virtualization for those that need Windows apps
  • iPhone and iPad app compatibility is lackluster
  • Dated hardware design

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Comments (53)

53 responses to “Apple MacBook Pro (M1) Review”

  1. Avatar

    andlewis

    The con "No Boot Camp, no x86 virtualization for those that need Windows apps" isn't 100% accurate, it's available via Parallels, and works great. Admittedly, it's not built in, but if you need it, you can get it.


  2. Avatar

    bettyblue

    Apple should remove the "Pro" label from their Macbooks. Just call them "Macbook" and you buy the model that fits your needs.


    Once they are past this transition, they will have a range of Macbooks with M1, M2, M3 etc, with various RAM options to fit whatever need you will have. At the same time that is finished any and all software you need will have been ported to run natively/better on the M series. And finally I would bet that developers start really taking advantage of their iOS apps running on Mac's by updating the UI to work on the Mac to include probably charging more for them.


    "Loaded with Apple crapware". Lol. Loaded with complete, non trial software that works and works across almost all Apple devices. It makes the eco system better, way better than any other eco system (Microsoft, Google, Amazon etc). It is far less the junk fest that Windows 10 and Chrome OS is, every day of the week. Non of it auto starts on the Mac either, like so much of it does on Windows...trial versions of McAfee or whatever slowing down a Windows PC. I have spent hours cleaning up friends and family new Windows PC's , removing this junk, multiple reboots, etc just to them back to "normal". You never have to do that on a Mac.


    I do not know why any Mac user would want to use Windows on their Mac in 2021. I used to use VMware Fusion on my Mac's to run some Windows apps but that was a good 5 years or more ago. Lots of software is web based and there are also some fantastic alternatives. Example being a network engineer I used to use Visio every day. OmniGraffle is a fantastic replacement for Visio, better in man ways and it is already M1 native. Bootcamp is simply not needed anymore.

    • Avatar

      Username

      In reply to bettyblue: I do not know why any Mac user would want to use Windows on their Mac in 2021.


      there are various Windows tools that I can live without, but not KeynoteNF and RightNote - thousands of hours invested in populating these apps. Many seem similar, but I’ve not seen MacOS alternatives with same feature set. For foreseeable future I’m stuck in Wintel shoddy BIOS, drivers and services hell.

  3. Avatar

    hrlngrv

    Re OneDrive, I just tried out rclone for Windows on my Windows 10 Insider build VM running on a Linux host under VirtualBox. After configuration, using the command line

    rclone mount OneDrive: x:\y\z\OneDrive --vfs-cache-mode full

    I can open Excel workbooks read-write, and performance is OK, certainly comparable to using Citrix with my home internet connection for work. Maybe rclone for macOS would work better than what you've used. I'm assuming there's an M1 macOS version of rclone; I haven't checked.

  4. Avatar

    prebengh

    In your first look on the Macbook Pro M1 you said that you wanted to do a comparison between the Macbook and the the Razer Book 13.

    You have now made a review of each. Do you expect to do a comparison between them?

    In the Razer Book review you stated that you get between 6.5 and 8 hours of usage on a charge and on the trip to Washington the Razer Book easily outdid the Macbook in real world use and video viewing. But on the Macbook you cannot evaluate battery life. Can’t you run the same applications and view videos on the Macbook? I mean most if not all Microsoft Office applications are available natively on the Macbook. What other applications do you use?

    How is the performance between the two? I get a lot of information about the keyboard, screen, trackpad and interfaces, but not a lot of how they perform.

    • Avatar

      Paul Thurrott

      Yes there is more Evo v. M1 to come. This is just a straight-up review. The other questions are just hard to answer. I can't "just" replicate the exact same workloads exactly, because what I'm doing over time is different. But yes, I did notice a weird lack of battery life in DC with the Mac, while the Razer did great. But overall, the Mac's battery life has been exceptional. Just hard for me to measure. I'm not interested in video rundown tests because they don't represent real-world anything. In day-to-day use with productivity software, the performance seems about the same. The difference is that M1 apps launch very quickly, which is what gives people that impression of better performance.
  5. Avatar

    melinau

    Not tempted to bin my (relatively) new HP Wintel ....yet. However, if MS & partners can't get their act together & Apple delivers some more powerful systems which run my normal productivity apps & workflow, I'll revisit that.


    Computer hardware is almost interesting again...

  6. Avatar

    crunchyfrog

    For now, I'm sticking with my Intel MacBook Air which is a phenomenal device. Just to take a dip in the M1 pool, I traded in my i5 Mac Mini for the M1 Mini and since then many software devs have updated on a regular basis to include M1 support. Overall, it's a Mini and it performs at least as well as my i5 Mini for most of the tasks I run but for me the biggest change is the cooling. I used to call my Intel Mini the, "space heater" but this new M1 just sits there quietly.

  7. Avatar

    crunchyfrog

    Paul, I am curious, will you be keeping this laptop or does it go back?

  8. Avatar

    hrlngrv

    In reply to djross95:

    Indeed, macOS is like most Linux distributions in this respect: out of the box, it should be possible to perform nontrivial computing tasks without having to install anything. In contrast, Windows at most provides a dozen ways to waste time. I don't consider accepting the MS Office trial and the time spent getting it running as out of the box.

    And in fairness, many Linux distributions provide minimal versions which come with at most GUI browser, text editor, and file manager though more comprehensive terminal facilities. No such choice with macOS.

  9. Avatar

    glenn8878

    I don't get why people want to run Windows on a Mac. It's even worse when it's the ARM version of Windows. The M1 Macbooks are a novelty at this point. It's best to wait to see what the real Pro MacBooks are like.

    • Avatar

      bkkcanuck

      In reply to glenn8878:

      I would not call it a novelty -- it fits the needs of the vast majority of users who have a laptop ... they just need it to do some basic stuff, maybe some small development (for dev tinkerers), may have a printer (which is often wireless these days), don't have 3 monitors connected and don't max on things like memory and storage... The vast majority of these users would not be running Windows and have no need for it. When it comes to the refresh (probably maybe March 2022 or greater) with the updated enclosure etc... It will be almost a perfect computer for the vast majority of laptop users.

      What is happening now is since the M1 entry level machines are the only new architecture machines out -- you have a lot of people that are looking at it that would not have given the MacBook Air serious consideration since they consider themselves more of a power user in comparison. When the rest of Macs are introduced, this will fade into looking at the machines that you would normally look. I am more in this other camp, where I need/want something more but I am also knowledgeable enough to realize that the current M1 machines were never meant for me... and those are to come. (i.e. minimum configuration I would consider is 32GB RAM (all my machines are 64GB), 1TB SSD, 10Gb ethernet, support for 3 monitors, more expansion bandwidth (i.e. minimum 4 USB 4/Thunderbolt ports), probably around at least 2 (preferrably at least 4) times the graphics performance.... and of course run macOS (I do have a Windows based machine for contracts that are mainly Windows environments).

    • Avatar

      bettyblue

      In reply to glenn8878:

      "M1 Macbooks are a novelty at this point"


      Lol. Apple has promised to make a complete switch to the M series in two years. Just this week Tim Cook repeated that claim in the Spring Forward event they had and backed it up with iMac's now on the M series CPU's. The only thing "novel" about the M1 is that it will be the slowest M series chip Apple makes, as everything else will be better in probably every way.


      With the crazy rate that software (all Apple) especially from 3rd parties is being ported to native M series chipsets, there is simply no turning back now.


      My company which runs a couple hundred Mac's, stopped buying all Intel Mac's staring in January. We have quite a few of the M1 Macbook Pro's and a handful of the Mini's. When the bigger iMac's get new M series chips we will upgrade to them. Our marketing/corporate communications department is all Mac and they heavily use the Adobe CC suite. With Lightroom, Photoshop already ported I bet the rest will be by the end of 2021.

  10. Avatar

    bluvg

    "And it transcoded the video in just under 20 minutes while being completely silent."


    Thank you, Paul--this set of comparisons is super helpful (albeit anecdotal as you mention). I haven't found as succinct and broad a comparison elsewhere yet. The M1 is impressive, yes, but just like Apple's "Supercomputer" claims in the past when they switched to IBM, perspective is necessary, though often lacking in the breathless reporting found elsewhere.

    • Avatar

      prebengh

      In reply to bluvg:

      But it was a desktop computer with a desktop CPU and a top discrete graphics card, against the Macbook Pro entry level laptop. No wonder it was faster!

    • Avatar

      bettyblue

      In reply to bluvg:

      There are literately dozens of videos on YouTube, from November on with great sets of M1 testing.


      Both optimized apps, like Final cut rendering on a M1 Mac with native M1 Final cut vs Final cut on a Intel Mac with the Final cut for Intel. The videos go into many other apps as well, ones that hit the CPU hard, like Adobe Premiere running through Rosetta 2.


      There are lots of battery, heat, and fan noise tests as well.

      • Avatar

        bluvg

        In reply to bettyblue:

        I don't usually go to YT for these types of things because it seems like a waste of time for me when I just want stat charts I can read in a few seconds, which is why I thank Paul for the succinct summary. The comparisons I've seen thus far have typically been against like machines, not inclusive of the broader PC space. Admittedly, I only looked at a dozen comparisons or so.

  11. Avatar

    rmlounsbury

    I recently made the leap from a 2018 MacBook Air to the M1 version of the same device and I'm incredibly pleased with the experience. The M1 MacBook Air is significantly more performant and best of all there is no obnoxious fan constantly hissing away trying to keep the chip cool. Paul pretty well covered the MBA/MBP situation with the M1 chips perfectly.


    Now that the new iPad Pro's are out I'm very curious to see what Apple does at WWDC in regard to iPadOS updates. Since the Pro units now have the M1 chip and Thunderbolt backed USB-C the iPad Pro is effectively a MacBook Air with a touch screen and no clamshell unless you buy the Magic Keyboard. It puts the M1 lineup in a curious place and really demands that Apple justify the iPad Pro's existence at it's configuration and price by way of software improvements for iPadOS. Or, perhaps the most wild solution, allow users to run a virtualized instance of macOS on an iPad Pro when docked to a Magic Keyboard or external mouse/keyboard device.


    My personal technical usage could probably exist solely on an iPad Pro/Air + iPhone. But, sometimes I need access to some developer tools or terminal and for that I still have to use macOS which keeps a MacBook Air in my device list. If I could do those things from an iPad Pro I might have to re-think my personal tech setup.


    WWDC should be a very interesting especially on the topic of iPad's. Apple really needs to bring some muscle to the iPad experience. I'm planning on getting either an iPad Pro or an iPad Air and WWDC will probably inform me what direction I'll go.

  12. Avatar

    winner

    I wouldn't call Windows updates "quick and efficient".

    Linux updates are quick and efficient.

  13. Avatar

    xamzara

    macOS software that makes it really hard to hold and drag on-screen objects”


    Enable three finger drag from the settings. It’s fantastic and utterly puzzling why it’s not the default.


    When enabled, you can drag and resize windows and whatnot just by placing three fingers on the trackpad (no pressure) and moving your fingers.

  14. Avatar

    captobie

    Interesting, I haven't experienced the issues with app installs and updates. Most app updates take only seconds for me, the one exception is Xcode. For some reason (I assume massive file size) it takes FOREVER to update.


    OS updates are a different story. Those are painful, even fairly small updates can take an hour or more to install.

    • Avatar

      retcable

      In reply to captobie:

      MacOS updates do seem to take forever, and I think this is because when you do an update, rather than just updating whatever components are new, it downloads and installs the entire OS again pretty much from scratch. MacOS keeps a copy of the OS in a separate partition where it can be used to restore in case of a problem, so this copy needs to be replaced with every system update, plus when your computer updates, it actually boots from this separate partition for a while, while it is installing the updates to the main partition.

      • Avatar

        Paul Thurrott

        Yeah, that could be. I have this weird half-memory from the early days of OS X that because it was based on FreeBSD (I think), had to "touch" every single file on the system during a version upgrade. I'm not sure this is completely accurate or whether that's even the case anymore. But those updates still take forever. It's crazy.
    • Avatar

      Paul Thurrott

      Yeah, I spent some nights just babysitting app updates while we watched TV. It's crazy how slow they are.
  15. Avatar

    wunderbar

    This is my current work computer for a job I started in February and its easily the best laptop I've ever owned. I still prefer Windows to MacOS, but the cohesion that Apple does provide in MacOS is hard to deny. As long as you're ok living in the Apple ecosystem, these are fantastic computers.


    The only two things I will highlight is battery and display outputs.


    Battery life really does feel magical. I can get two full work days out of the battery of this device. That's mostly productivity work and browser based stuff, but generally it'll get through 2 days. I plug it in when I have a video meeting and unless I go 2 days without a meeting I basically never have to worry about the battery. Battery life on the M1 platform really is that good.


    The other thing to highlight is only supporting 1 external monitor is huge pain. My workplace used to buy two 1080p monitors for all staff, and for users with the M1 Mac we had to switch to buying a single 1440p or 4k display. some may actually prefer that, but some aren't super happy. That seems to be a hardware limitation, and I do hope we see it resolved in the M2.


    Otherwise, I really, really like this computer. While I'm still a windows guy, and have a gaming PC, the next time I'm looking to buy a personal laptop to replace my 2017 era XPS 13 I'd definitely consider a MacBook Air.

  16. Avatar

    SyncMe

    Hilarious that you talk about crapware when you compare it to Windows.

    • Avatar

      Paul Thurrott

      In reply to SyncMe:

      I meant it seriously. I criticize Windows PCs for crapware as well, of course.

      • Avatar

        nbplopes

        In reply to paul-thurrott:


        True. But I don’t recall that to be an issue on other Windows laptops that are reviewed to the point of reaching the summary. I guess its a good fill in for cons.


        It would be interesting to know how long took the Razer Book to perform the same task, 70 mins?. Than the hyperbole could have been granted?


        Probably “Excellent Performance” means entirely different things depending on the starting point. Its like the Einstein theory of relativity: What’s the time? It depends how fast you are going. In relationship to what? Exactly! Well try both of us and tell me the time please.


        Apart from minor details such as this, nice review.

        • Avatar

          Paul Thurrott

          This is one very specific workload, and there's a reason many creatives turn to the Mac. In typical productivity work, there's no difference at all.
          • Avatar

            nbplopes

            In reply to paul-thurrott:


            It depends on what is typical. If typical is word processing and web browsing, PPTs and web apps even a 500 euros laptop does the job relatively well.


            But for the majority of non tech professionals that rely on tech, and that now includes for instance teachers, what is typical is no longer that.


            Looking at her use cases I find myself thinking, heck my wife a math teacher demands more local performance and multi tasking ability than say a web developer ... it’s quite interesting really. This people are not bound to preconceptions of how a computer should behave or have their workflows modeled by the PC, they go as far as the computer gives and stop when it does not (starts stuttering .....), total open mind.

      • Avatar

        bkkcanuck

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        There is no trial-ware on macOS, nothing that expires after 90 days.... and all of the apps generally are of good quality not crap. They are basically a reasonably slice of functionality that is provided out of the box to anyone that buys a Mac. There are a few demo apps for frameworks that I could not care a less about (i.e. Stocks, Launchpad) but the apps are all good apps, and better than free versions available for Windows for the most part. macOS 11 download I believe was 12GB and a fresh install takes up around 20GB of space on your drive... Basically most if not all of the base install with the default apps are useful and none are 'advertisements as applications in disguise'.


        A list of apps is listed :

        en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_macOS_components



        • Avatar

          Paul Thurrott

          Look, we can argue over semantics, I guess. So let's call it bloatware. It's just a collection of stuff aimed at keeping people from looking at third-party solutions. Nothing more.
          • Avatar

            bkkcanuck

            In reply to paul-thurrott:

            I don't know if I would even consider it bloatware - and it's purpose is not to keep people looking at third-party solutions per se. What it is is that when you go and buy a computer and set it up - it effectively satisfies the 80/20 rule (or there abouts). 80% of users can bring it home and be productive right out of the box (it has the basics: Pages (word processing, Numbers (spreadsheet), and Keynote (powerpoint alterntive), it has a Safari a browser and a Mail client, calendar and contacts.... each of these applications are in themselves good applications themselves... and each of them satisfy effectively the 80/20 rule of users that are looking for that functionality have it provided right out of the box. The 20% that have specific needs for more power for specific applications can then focus on the apps that are important to them (such as Fantastical instead of the built in Calendar which works for 80% of the people). I also don't consider the core Windows install of things like Wordpad, Notepad, Windows Media Player, Mail etc. to be bloatware on the Windows platform... these are core functionality of Windows that you get right out of the box (though I think Apple puts much more effort into their included utilities than Microsoft does). Obviously with things like Wordpad - since it could take away from Office 365, Microsoft does not want to cannibalize their own products so they basically put nothing into it and never put any effort into improving it. What I consider bloatware/crapware is all the 3rd party applications vendors install that are either paid for advertisements or just plain take up space for most of the users with little in the way of functionality that would satisfy the overall aim of providing a functional system right out of the box.

          • Avatar

            ianbetteridge

            In reply to paul-thurrott:

            At least it's not in the egregious camp of crapware that used to plague Windows back in the day: the crapware that would reappear if you uninstalled it. Now that really was crapware hell! :)

            • Avatar

              Paul Thurrott

              All I can (and did) say in the isolation of a review of a particular product is that Apple puts a metric ton of bloatware on the Mac, just as it does on the iPhone and iPad. And that while some may find that useful or even comforting, others will need to take the time, as I do, to remove most of it.
  17. Avatar

    JonHK

    I have had this exact computer since it launched and I very much endorse Paul's review above, especially the day to day performance and battery life findings, namely excellent in both cases. The other thing I am glad Paul has picked up on is the time it takes for system and app updates to complete. These take so long that I really wonder at times whether the machine is working properly.

  18. Avatar

    prebengh

    I don’t understand how you get problems with Onedrive, updates via Appstore and the trackpad.

    I recall you also had big problems with Onedrive on the Mac Mini M1. I use Onedrive for my Office files and it syncs with no problems at all between my iPad and my Macbook Pro M1.

    My installed apps from the Mac Appstore updates in a matter of seconds or a few minutes for large apps, I have never seen it take hours. I have seen it a couple of times not complete the first time and give me a message about the download not possible at the current time, but a retry have then completed swiftly.

    And on my Windows computers I mostly use a mouse but on my Mac I use the trackpad, almost never a mouse.

  19. Avatar

    prebengh

    You say the webcam is lacklustre, which may be true.

    Have you ever seen a good webcam on a computer with a thin screen?

    As far as I know it is a problem to get a good webcam in the little space available. The Surface Pro has a much better webcam but is also has the room for it.

  20. Avatar

    brduffy

    Plus one on software updates. This continues to baffle me. I wish they would focus on that issue and make the update process smoother.

  21. Avatar

    brduffy

    At least the base config comes with 256G nowadays. When I bought my Mac back in 2014 I opted for the 128G model. Its been an excellent machine but updates are a nightmare when it comes to finding room to fit them.

  22. Avatar

    argrubbs

    I was in the market for a new laptop back in March and ended up with an M1 MacBook Pro. I couldn't find any PCs that really ticked all the boxes that this machine did. Perhaps I didn't look hard enough, but I am more than happy with this device. I appreciate the review, Paul. I may disagree with some points you made, but it's all good. We all have different use cases and expectations. I happen to have many Apple devices, so this fits well into my world. I wanted to try switching to Windows, but just couldn't find a laptop that was reasonably priced that really worked for me.

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