New MacBook Air M1

Apple released new MacBooks last fall running on Apple Chips known as the M1. These use arm architecture chips to keep power use low but still run really fast. Its the same type of chips that the iPhone and iPad have been using for 10 years. They replace the Intel style x86 chips that have been in use for well over 10 years in all Apple computers.

The last time I purchased a new MacBook was in 2012 when the MacBook Pro Retina’s first came out. That machine allowed me to run my business making websites and editing videos for small businesses to get exposure on Youtube. It was powerful and still a laptop. I still have it though its performance has decreased.

The machine I have been using for a few years now is a hand-me-down 2014 MacBook Pro Retina from my wife. It has been a great machine but suffers from the failed butterfly keyboard in the R and more recently E keys. The R key working 70% of the time has been tolerable for about 8 months now but the E key gets used so much more that it has become untenable.

So I got a MacBook Air with the M1 chip last night. This machine has been pretty well hyped up not just by Apple and its fanbois but by multiple PC people such as Linus Tech Tips:

So my expectations are pretty high for this machine. The battery life and performance had a pretty high bar set from the various reviews I have poured over in the last few weeks. Even though I no longer do any video work it appears that I could use this machine for those tasks.

Last night I pulled it from the box and got to work getting it ready to use for work the next morning. I went with the 8 Core, 16 GB RAM, 1TB SSD, Gold model:

Apple has a Migration Assistant tool that helps copy your old Mac files and software to the new one. However I decided to go with a fresh install and gradually add the preferences and software that I use for work.

My goto article for setting up a MacBook is this MacOs setup guide by a Google Machine Learning Engineer Sourabh Bajaj. In the past I have tried to do everything he has in the guide. It turns out that this is overkill for what I need and do. So this time I took it easy and did just what I need for work.

I am going to briefly cover what I took from his guide here. If I don’t mention a section it means I did not use anything from there:

System Preferences – Pretty much everything here I did on my setup.

Homebrew – Pretty much everything in this section but here are the apps I install, this week:

brew install --cask \
    alfred \
    google-chrome \
    firefox \
    visual-studio-code \
    keyboardcleantool \
    dropbox \
    clocker \
    iterm2 \
    1password \
    rectangle \
    zsh \
    qlcolorcode \
    appcleaner \
    qlmarkdown \
    betterzip \
    qlprettypatch \
    cheatsheet \
    qlstephen \
    quicklook-csv \
    quicklook-json \
    suspicious-package \
    webpquicklook \
    

iTerm2 – Pretty much everything on the first page then zsh and Oh My Zsh. I use the terminal all day for work and iTerm2 is so much better than the app that comes with MacOS that this should be the app that comes with MacOS. For now I have gone with the Synthwave Everything iTerm2 theme and am enjoying having more color in my terminal.

Thats pretty much it as I am not a programmer. If you are then you should check out any of the sections that are applicable to you.

Trackpad

The new Macs have a new trackpad that has a force click option. Basically there are 2 clicks available. The first click is what allows you to select items or text. The second or Force Click allows you to look up things like dictionary definitions for works.

Personally I was having issues distinguishing between the two and would often end up Force Clicking when I was just trying to select some text. I have changed Force Click to only occur when I tap with 3 fingers. I am playing with adjusting the strength of the first click. All of this is located in System Preferences > Trackpad. I also have set the Tracking speed to a little bit faster. I will try to remember to keep speeding that up till it is on max.

First Impressions

This new Mac is the best one I have ever owned. It is small but capable. I have now spent 13 hours working on it, including 2 one hour Zoom video calls and the battery is only down to 10%. My old machine had 3 hours of battery life down to 5%.

With my old machine I had to use a plastic wedge to keep the heat of the laptop from melting my legs. I have spent the entire day with this laptop on my lap and have not felt any heat from it at all. There is no fan so I haven’t heard anything other than my typing.

The brightest I have had the screen has been 50% and that was more than enough. 100% brightness is unbearable indoors. Maybe I need to start working outside to test it?

The Air does not have a Touch Bar and I am very pleased with that. I don’t know anyone who has a Touch Bar and is happy about it. Considering I have to spend more for the Pro model to get a Touch Bar I am even happier that I don’t have one.

Overall I am extremely happy with this purchase and look forward to having this machine for years to come.

1 comment

  1. Nice! I have pretty much the same thing, except different color, smaller SSD (~500 GB), and I did get the Pro — although based on everything I’ve read so far, I’d have been just as happy with the Air. Definitely the most powerful Mac I’ve ever used.

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