First M1 Macs blow reviewers’ socks off

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Apple M1 Mac mini
M1 makes the Mac exciting again.
Photo: Apple

Still on the fence over Apple’s new M1 Mac mini, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro despite their stellar benchmarks? Find out what tech experts think of them in new reviews and hands-on videos.

Spoiler alert: They’re all fantastic!

Apple Silicon has finally landed and it doesn’t disappoint. No matter how much you love Intel, there’s no denying that the new M1 chipset shreds its rivals in both processing and graphics performance.

It all points to an incredibly exciting future for the Mac — a future that kicks off today. Find out what reviewers are saying about the new Mac mini, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro on launch day.

M1 Mac mini

“Outside of benchmark world, the Mac mini feels wonderfully fast day to day,” wrote Chris Welch for The Verge. “Once Intel-optimized apps are open, performance feels indistinguishable from how they run on my fully loaded 16-inch MacBook Pro.”

The Mac mini’s performance, according to The Verge’s test, is similar to the new MacBook Pro’s. That makes sense given that both of these machines feature active cooling, while the new MacBook Air sports a fan-less design that can’t get as hot.

Having said that, every reviewer says that the Mac mini runs incredibly cool and surprisingly quiet. Although it does have a fan that will sometimes spin up, it’s rare the little desktop will require maximum cooling.

“In the course of testing, one big thing we noticed: Through all these benchmarks, pressing the CPU and GPU to their presumptive limits, the Mac mini was whisper quiet,” described John Burek for PCMag. “It didn’t rev up noticeably at even the peak of a Handbrake conversion grind, or after a series of six consecutive GPU game benchmarks. And the chassis stays remarkably cool throughout.”

“The Mini remains the least expensive entry point for MacOS, and this new version offers performance on par or slightly better than the M1 MacBook Pro, which costs nearly twice as much,” noted Dan Ackerman for CNET.

M1 MacBook Pro

As we mentioned, it seems the new MacBook Pro offers very similar performance to the new Mac mini. And that’s certainly not a bad thing — all of Apple’s new M1 machines are insanely fast.

“There’s a lot of technical detail to get into around the M1, how it handles running apps built for Intel chips, and what that tells us about the future of the Mac,” wrote Niley Patel for The Verge. “The short answer is that it’s very impressive, and the MacBook Pro is an excellent laptop with great performance and impressive battery life.”

“Apple’s M1 offers tantalizing improvements to computing performance, graphics output, and battery life” in the new MacBook Pro, according to Tom Brant of PCMag. “The M1-based MacBook Pro demonstrates equal or better performance than its predecessors and many Windows competitors, even on apps that run natively on older machines but use Rosetta 2 emulation.”

“It was even more impressive that this new M1 MacBook Pro could scream through such a task even faster than my year-old Intel 16inch MacBook Pro,” said Daniel Eran Dilger for AppleInsider. “Even more impressively, the M1 MacBook Pro never got hot enough to kick on its fan, remaining entirely silent through the entire process.”

Reviewers also praise the MacBook Pro’s insane battery life, with some saying the didn’t have to charge the machine once during several days of testing. Apple’s claims about big battery life increases certainly seem to be holding up.

M1 MacBook Air

The big difference between the new MacBook Pro and the new MacBook Air, when it comes to performance, at least, is that the MacBook Air is passively cooled. That means it has no fan and runs completely silently — no matter how hard you push it.

This gives the ultraportable a slight disadvantage. Without a fan to cool down its M1 CPU, it must throttle a little more aggressively than the other two machines. But don’t let that put you off. As the benchmarks suggested, the new MacBook Air is a beast.

“The new M1-based MacBook Air is simply an amazing laptop,” wrote Matthew Buzzi for PCMag. “The build quality is among the best you can find, the debut of the Apple M1 SoC is very impressive (even if the jury is still out in some areas), and the battery life is longer than all but a few alternatives.”

“The MacBook Air performs like a pro-level laptop,” added Dieter Bohn for The Verge. “It never groans under multiple apps. (I’ve run well over a dozen at a time.) It handles intensive apps like Photoshop and even video editing apps like Adobe Premiere without complaint. It has never made me think twice about loading up another browser tab or 10 — even in Chrome.”

“Apple’s new MacBook Air is its most refined ultraportable yet, mostly due to the new M1 system-on-a-chip. It’s incredibly fast and completely silent, since it has no fan,” wrote Devindra Hardawar for Engadget. “It’s the first step towards unifying Apple’s hardware and software on Macs, and just like the iPhone and iPad, the result is a sleek and polished experience.”

The verdict

There are lots of other reasons to love these machines, like their outstanding build quality, features like Touch ID and the Magic Keyboard (on the MacBooks), and macOS Big Sur. But Apple Silicon is the big reason to buy one today.

It puts Apple’s most affordable machines way ahead of their competitors in performance, graphics, and battery life. And we haven’t even seen what Apple Silicon can do inside a high-end machine like the iMac or Mac Pro yet.

TechCrunch sums things for Intel at the top of its MacBook Pro review: “Apple’s new M1 powered MacBook shows impressive performance gains that make Intel’s chips obsolete overnight.”