MacBook Air vs MacBook Pro with M1 chips

AlanF

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I'm thinking of upgrading my MacBook and would appreciate any advice on choosing between the two new Mac products. There doesn't seem to be much between them on paper so direct experience or expert advice would be appreciated.
 

VegasCameraGuy

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My carry around laptop is a 2015 MacBook Air but I use Windows 10 machines normally. The new M1 processor speed tests and battery life are unbelievable. You can now get 20 hours advertised on an Air. The thing I love about a Mac is that it holds the battery charge for days and starts up within a few seconds of opening the lid. I have three Windows laptops (yeah I'm a nerd) and a Windows 10 machine in sleep mode will exhaust its battery in one or two days. If you are a touch typist, the MBA is as close to perfect as you can get. The only question I'd have is whether the software you use will run on the M1 processor. It's my understanding that the latest versions of Microsoft Office will run on it.
 
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usern4cr

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I'm thinking of upgrading my MacBook and would appreciate any advice on choosing between the two new Mac products. There doesn't seem to be much between them on paper so direct experience or expert advice would be appreciated.
I'm also waiting to upgrade my 2016 MacBook Pro 15". But I'm not going to consider buying a new one until the MacBook Pro 16" with M1 chip comes out. My logic is: There's no point to upgrade unless you get the M1, and there's no point to upgrade if you can only get a 13" one. One thing I hate about my current Mac is the touchbar (it's much too easy to trigger false presses accidentally), but I may be stuck with that in the future. I also hate the half-size up & down keys - they are some of the most used keys for me and I've already had one set fail mechanically and they're hard to use due to the too-small size. But it looks like I may be stuck with that bad design in the future, too.

One thing I want in a future Mac is the biggest internal memory I can get. I don't mind paying for it, as I really don't like running out of memory due to the big photo sizes and number of them I now take (it'll only get worse in the future) which causes me to have to offload them to an external device which is awkward and negates the beauty of a slim stand-alone Mac. That's the main reason I wouldn't consider the Macbook Air as it doesn't offer nearly as much internal memory AFAIK.
 
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Viggo

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Dec 13, 2010
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I went for the Mac mini M1, but between the Air and the MacBook Pro, the MacBook Pro has 8 cores and the Air 7 cores . The MBP also has fans so under heavy load it will perform better since it has active cooling. They are more similar than different, but for photo and video I would either wait or go for the MBP.
 

usern4cr

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I went for the Mac mini M1, but between the Air and the MacBook Pro, the MacBook Pro has 8 cores and the Air 7 cores . The MBP also has fans so under heavy load it will perform better since it has active cooling. They are more similar than different, but for photo and video I would either wait or go for the MBP.
I didn't know the MBAir didn't have fans. That'd be another reason to get the MBPro. When I do any work with DXO PL4 it's almost always maxing out the machine and usually has the fans going strong - I wouldn't want to imagine doing the same with a laptop that didn't have fans.
 
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Viggo

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I didn't know the MBAir didn't have fans. That'd be another reason to get the MBPro. When I do any work with DXO PL4 it's almost always maxing out the machine and usually has the fans going strong - I wouldn't want to imagine doing the same with a laptop that didn't have fans.
The thing is that M1 gives astonishing performance pr watt, so where an intel Mac uses 150W the M1 uses 10-20W. I’ve seen a few hundred geekbench tests where the Mac mini M1 is really going at it, and still doesn’t turn it’s fan on. We need to forget every reference of power and tasks and performance when considering the M1.
 

privatebydesign

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Alan, the M1 chip is a game changer and if possible I'd wait until the MBP gets it. I wouldn't buy a MBP at this point as they truly are EOL on this generation and I have used MBP's as my primary computer for 15 years.

As for fans, my iPad Pro renders video faster than my $5,000 MBP and never gets hot.
 
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gruhl28

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Jul 26, 2013
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Alan, the M1 chip is a game changer and if possible I'd wait until the MBP gets it. I wouldn't buy a MBP at this point as they truly are EOL on this generation and I have used MBP's as my primary computer for 15 years.

As for fans, my iPad Pro renders video faster than my $5,000 MBP and never gets hot.
I think Alan was referring to the new 13 inch Macbook Pro that has the M1 chip.
 
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usern4cr

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Alan, the M1 chip is a game changer and if possible I'd wait until the MBP gets it. I wouldn't buy a MBP at this point as they truly are EOL on this generation and I have used MBP's as my primary computer for 15 years.

As for fans, my iPad Pro renders video faster than my $5,000 MBP and never gets hot.
Wow, so heat with any M1 MBP or MBA should not be an issue - thanks! That makes me wonder if the M1 MBP would need fans at all?

Now, I would choose to wait until they have a 16" version before choosing either (M1) one.
Then, I would look at the max internal mem you could buy. If it's drastically more with MBP then I'd get it (yes, even if expensive).

Are there any other main issues that anyone can mention that I should be looking at regarding (M1) MBP vs MBA?
(Will either have a main touch screen? I also don't like touchbar or half size up/down keys, in case one doesn't have them)
 
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Joules

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Wow, so heat with any M1 MBP or MBA should not be an issue - thanks! That makes me wonder if the M1 MBP would need fans at all?
To achieve optimal perfomance under sustained loads, a fan is a benefit even for efficiency optimized chips. Also keep in mind that the 8 cores mentioned so often are really just two sets of 4 cores, with one being more powerfull than the other. If Apple's larger devices will also feature larger core counts for applications that benefit from it, those will likely be extra high performance cores and therefore expand the heat output quite a bit.

Also worth noting is that the supposed difference in core count between these two M1 models is just GPU cores, not CPU. Just mentioning it, because it did not appear clear to me from Viggos post.

For an in-depth technical review including lots of performance and also thermal and battery life comparisons between these two M1 models (and other comparable devices), LTT's review is worth a watch in my opinion:

Don't read too much into the title, it is click-bait, as is the norm for large creators on YT. The video is too packed with data for me to make any meaningfull summaries in text form unfortunately. If you don't like his voice, just mute and skipping through it to view the charts may still be worth while as they are well produced and clearly labeled most of the time.
 
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privatebydesign

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I think Alan was referring to the new 13 inch Macbook Pro that has the M1 chip.
My mistake.

One thing we haven’t really touched on is what’s Alan actually uses his laptop for and hence what kind of functionality he needs. For years I ran a desktop and a MBP, now I use a MBP as the de facto but mobile desktop, and an iPad as my effective laptop, iPad functionality and abilities have changed dramatically over the generations and OS’s.

For travel use, emails, documents etc etc (and forums!) I use my iPad. With a USB-C Sandisk HDD and a little ‘dock’ I find I have all the functionality I ever need on a trip, with iCloud all the work I do on documents etc is synced and with Adobe you can import to LR on the iPad and it appears on your desktop. The m obile workflows we were clamoring for a few years ago are here. But if that isn’t what Alan needs then a four port laptop might be a minimum. However if he is coming from a two port MacBook maybe the larger MBP is overkill.
 
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Codebunny

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Sep 5, 2018
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We have both at work and I have had a chance to use both and the mini: The Air's is for bursts and the Pro is for prolonged workloads. The pro sounds better and its microphone is better. The Pro also has a multi workday battery life. Ether way consider the 16 GB RAM for photography. Affinity Photo was snappy on both machines. Capture One 20 and 21 feel snappy on both machines too and I wasn't able to get the fan to fire up on the Pro when trying it out for photo editing.

Work won't let me trade in my 2018 MBP 15 inch yet as I need the Intel chip for developing on and I am not due a new machine until later in the year.
 
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AlanF

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Thanks so much for so many useful replies so quickly. A few points that I have read. The 7 core chips are actually 8 but they are the "rejects" that are slower. The fan doesn't seem to be as important for the previous MacB Pros - see https://photographylife.com/reviews/apple-macbook-air-m1
In reply to PFD, I was thinking of getting a 13" now for my travel machine and then a 16" later for main machine at home (I always have two of everything as a back up). I plug in to a large external monitor as well. There's very little difference in weight between the two. I was interested in Codebunny's comment about the fan rarely coming on - that's a real plus as it extends battery life as well less noise. I saw one site that argued that 8 G ram was enough with the new chap - but it sounded like a rant. This extended battery life makes it have the cord-free work time of an iPAD.
 
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Codebunny

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8 GB RAM is enough for most users. But most users wont want to edit a 45 MP RAW image in Lightroom or Capture One. It is a very efficient design but there still comes a issue where that RAM is soldered on and you can just push it that wee bit more with 16 GB. There is a wee holy war that 8 GB is enough, and I didn't feel too limited by 8 GB as the SSD is super fast when it pages, but it is a unnecessary compromise for the whole extra £200 it costs.
 

privatebydesign

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...In reply to PFD, ...
That is an hilarious typo/autocorrect. In another life I was a marine captain and regularly informed crew of the differences between a life jacket and a PFD (personal floatation device) so guests were correctly outfitted at appropriate times! After all, you don’t want to be going waterskiing with a life jacket on.....
 
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Joules

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8 GB RAM is enough for most users. But most users wont want to edit a 45 MP RAW image in Lightroom or Capture One. It is a very efficient design but there still comes a issue where that RAM is soldered on and you can just push it that wee bit more with 16 GB. There is a wee holy war that 8 GB is enough, and I didn't feel too limited by 8 GB as the SSD is super fast when it pages, but it is a unnecessary compromise for the whole extra £200 it costs.
The thing to note with RAM is that in those instances where it isn't enough, performance often REALLY tanks. Especially in a device that allows no upgrades, going with 8 instead of 16 GB seems a move only appropriate for very tight budgets in my eyes.

I don't know what you guys are doing in terms of editing, but when I stitch large panoramas or process stacks of images for astro photography, 16 GB is a bare minimum especially when running browser based content in parallel. This is on Win 10 Pro though, the only Apple device I own these days are the Airpod Pros.
 
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usern4cr

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Sep 2, 2018
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I have a question about iPad usage, if any
To achieve optimal perfomance under sustained loads, a fan is a benefit even for efficiency optimized chips. Also keep in mind that the 8 cores mentioned so often are really just two sets of 4 cores, with one being more powerfull than the other. If Apple's larger devices will also feature larger core counts for applications that benefit from it, those will likely be extra high performance cores and therefore expand the heat output quite a bit.

Also worth noting is that the supposed difference in core count between these two M1 models is just GPU cores, not CPU. Just mentioning it, because it did not appear clear to me from Viggos post.

For an in-depth technical review including lots of performance and also thermal and battery life comparisons between these two M1 models (and other comparable devices), LTT's review is worth a watch in my opinion:

Don't read too much into the title, it is click-bait, as is the norm for large creators on YT. The video is too packed with data for me to make any meaningfull summaries in text form unfortunately. If you don't like his voice, just mute and skipping through it to view the charts may still be worth while as they are well produced and clearly labeled most of the time.
The video mentions that the M1 MBP only allows 2 external USB slots, with no option for 4 (like before). That would be a pain for me, but something that I could live with if I had to. The M1 MBA still has 2 like before, so if I wanted no touchbar then I'd have to get the MBA and live with it anyway. The MBP is reported to have a much longer battery run-time, which is nice. I don't remember the video mentioning max internal SSD memory, which is what I like to max out to avoid (if possible) external drives for all those photos or videos.
 

AlanF

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Aug 16, 2012
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I have a question about iPad usage, if any

The video mentions that the M1 MBP only allows 2 external USB slots, with no option for 4 (like before). That would be a pain for me, but something that I could live with if I had to. The M1 MBA still has 2 like before, so if I wanted no touchbar then I'd have to get the MBA and live with it anyway. The MBP is reported to have a much longer battery run-time, which is nice. I don't remember the video mentioning max internal SSD memory, which is what I like to max out to avoid (if possible) external drives for all those photos or videos.
The MBP has the same number of 2 external ports. The battery life isn't that much longer. Both will go up to 2TB SSD.
 
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usern4cr

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The MBP has the same number of 2 external ports. The battery life isn't that much longer. Both will go up to 2TB SSD.
I'm just comparing it to the 4 external ports on my 2016 15" one. I will miss the extra 2 ports, but can live with just 2.
You're saying both the MBA and MBP max out at 2TB? I didn't know that. (I haven't been looking into any of this until I hear they come out with a 16" M1 MBP by the way).

It may be if they come out with a 16" MBA that it'd be better for me (with no touchbar). I guess we'll see when it arrives. I'm hoping my current MBP survives till that day (a small part of my touchbar display alternates between being normal and a flashlight :eek: ).
 

Codebunny

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It may be if they come out with a 16" MBA that it'd be better for me (with no touchbar). I guess we'll see when it arrives. I'm hoping my current MBP survives till that day (a small part of my touchbar display alternates between being normal and a flashlight :eek: ).
The newer version with the real esc key gives you the best of both. The Touch Bar adds so many handy shortcuts to what used to be dead space.
 
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