Apple has released three new low-end computers. They are remarkable. Both performance and battery life tests from various reviewers show that this is the beginning of a huge change in the Mac ecosystem.
These first three computers are essentially the same as a the Intel-based Macs that they replace, keeping the industrial design, battery system, displays and keyboards essentially the same.
Apple has started the transition to Apple Silicon at the low-end of their line. This is also where the volume is. We can expect that sometime in 2021 there will be more Apple Silicon Macs. More powerful Apple Silicon Macs
But as Rene points out, this is just the beginning.
And keep in mind while I’m saying all this, M1 is the first, and therefore worst Mac silicon Apple is ever going to ship.– Rene Ritchie, ReneRitchie.net, and on YouTube
The Macbook Air is now once again the default computer that’s a great choice for just about everyone. Even in its base configuration, it’s a powerhouse, and its battery life is astounding. It also gets a nice upgrade to the display, now with P3 color, and also gains WiFi 6 support. There is no fan in this new Macbook Air, and from the testing so far it seems that only the most demanding tasks, ongoing for many minutes, will heat up the M1 SOC (System On a Chip) enough that it needs to slow down. Starting at $999 in the US (and $899 for Education), it’s a great value.
The 13” MacBook Pro and the Mac Mini have internal fans, so they don’t have any thermal slowdown. And early testing has shown that even under the most demanding loads, the fan is almost silent.
But the 13” Macbook Pro and Mac Mini with the M1 are only available in low-end configurations for these models. Only two thunderbolt ports and limited memory and storage expansion. Intel-based models are still available for those who need those expansion features.
Echoing Rene’s comment above, I expect Apple will release more powerful Apple Silicon versions of the 13” MacBook Pro and the Mac Mini in the next year, as well as filling out the MacBook Pro line with an Apple Silicon version of the 16” MacBook Pro. Apple will also put Apple Silicon in an iMac, and even a Mac Pro sometime in the next 18-months or so. Apple has said that the transition of the Mac line to Apple Silicon will take two years. But inside that remaining eighteen months or so, we don’t know what will come, or when. And all my nerds are happily arguing about what other new models Apple should create. (Mac Pro Mini!!!)
More powerful Apple Silicon Macs will likely not be using the same M1 processor. It’s clear, I think, that the M1 is the low-end Apple Silicon processor for Mac. A more powerful Mac will no doubt have options for upgrading to more memory and storage, and more ports, and that will all require a more powerful SOC, and likely other supporting chips to handle multiple processors and more I/O.
So anyone considering a one of these new Apple Silicon Macs, has a decision to make. Will one of these powerful, efficient, quiet little computers serve your purpose for years to come? Or are you better served by waiting for something more powerful, or even by getting one of the Intel-based Macs that are still available?
My own decision process is illustrative. My old late-2012 13” Retina MacBook Pro is still running along fine. but it can’t be upgraded to Big Sur, and it’s battery no longer holds up for more than a few hours. So while it serves me well as a bench machine and extra portable computer, I really do need a new laptop.
And these days my needs in a laptop are different from when I bought that MacBook Pro about 8 years ago. Something lighter and with great battery life is very attractive. it doesn’t need to be my main development machine, or my home server, or my main video and audio editing machine.
So my plan is to get a MacBook Air. I’ll bump up to the $1249 version for the 512GB of storage, so that it won’t be too cramped. but this little computer should be great for me.
Besides, Apple is allowing returns until well after the holidays, so I can trade up easily if I find I really want more memory or more storage.
Pretty easy decision.