MacBook Air M1 review: Faster than most PCs, no fan required

Another shocker: the MacBook Air delivers this performance without a fan. It just relies on a heatsink and passive cooling, like the iPad. That’s great news for anyone tired of MacBooks that sound like they’re getting ready for takeoff. Dell’s XPS 13 2-in-1 from 2017 was one of the last fanless PCs we reviewed, and while I liked that machine, its Y-series Intel chip was undoubtedly sluggish. Apple has proven that slim machines can both be powerful and run efficiently. So much so that it lasted 16 hours and 20 minutes during our battery benchmark, which involves looping an HD video. That’s around five hours more than the last Intel-based MacBook Air, and it puts the system among the longest lasting PCs we’ve tested.

I haven’t talked much about how the new MacBook Air looks and feels, but that’s because it’s the same as the last MacBook Air we reviewed. It’s still thin and light, at 2.8 pounds. The unibody case feels as sturdy as ever. And it also has the same excellent keyboard, which has a satisfying amount of depth. Additionally, the 13.3-inch Retina Display looks fantastic — it’s ideal for binge-watching videos — though I would have liked to see Apple shave down more of its side bezels like Windows PCs. And, speaking of disappointments, I would still like to see more than two USB-C ports for accessories.

The M1-powered MacBook Air feels like an enormous leap forward for Apple in every way. But should you dump your current Mac for it right away? That’s a bit more complex. While it’s far faster than the last MacBook Air, that’s still a solid machine that’ll last you for years. But if you’ve got a system that’s several years old, or you’re looking to move over from an aging Windows laptop, the Air is certainly compelling. While it starts at $999, I’d recommend going for the $1,249 model for 256GB of storage and an 8-core GPU. Both models come with 8GB of RAM, but you can upgrade to 16GB for an additional $200. That’s worth springing for if you plan to use the Air for serious work.