Going from a tricked-out 27-inch iMac to an M1 MacBook Air [Setups]

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What happens when you go from a 2017 27-inch iMac to a 2020 M1 MacBook Air?
What happens when you go from a 2017 27-inch iMac to a 2020 M1 MacBook Air?
Photo: 1st_thing_on_my_mind@Reddit.com

Redditor 1st_thing_on_my_mind posted about replacing the main machine in his computer setup. He swapped out a 2017 27-inch iMac stacked with 64GB of RAM in favor of a 2020 MacBook Air flexing 16GB of integrated memory. “THATS A DOWNGRADE” hollered one commenter.

And yet the switch pretty much worked out for 1st_thing.

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In his setup, 1st_thing uses the M1 MacBook Air with a 27-inch LG 4K monitor. He plans to replace that with a 5K model.

He’s got a Logitech MX Keys Advanced Wireless Illuminated Keyboard and a Magic Trackpad.

His other machine is an iPad Pro with a Magic Keyboard. For sound, he pairs two HomePod minis in stereo.

From 27-inch iMac to M1 MacBook Air: How was the ‘upgrade?’

1st_thing said the M1 chip capabilities suprised him. He went with 16GB of RAM, the premium option for integrated memory on a 2020 M1 MacBook Air, as opposed to 8GB. And how could he not go with 16GB, coming from an iMac with 64GB of RAM?

His comments on the transition might surprise you, at least in one way.

“Going from a maxed out 27″ with 64gb of ram, [the MBA] is actually faster with my photo needs. Lightroom, photoshop and photo mechanic are used quite a bit,” he said. “I am a little bummed with the lack of plugs but it has helped me pare down what I had plugged in. Also it doesn’t support multiple external monitors natively which I understand the M2 or M1x chip will support.”

Hearing that the M1 MBA outdoes the iMac for photo needs is surprising. The concerns over networking and multiple monitors, not so much.

He found his cable managment situation messier than he’d like, considering the MBA’s lack of ports compared to the iMac. He figured a new 5k monitor will actually help with that a bit, as well as improve resolution over his 4K.

A commenter suggested he get a Plugable dock for added ports, a less messy cable situation and easier dual-monitor use.

HomePod minis in stereo

For all the setups we see, it’s not terribly common to spot one with dual HomePod minis paired for stereo use. We’ve seen a few. Commenters wondered how 1st_thing likes his pair.

“I like them,” he replied. “Better sound than the speakers on the iMac. I had just the one HomePod across the office but I got the 2nd one tonight and set them up as a stereo.”

One person inquired specifically about whether system sounds play through the minis. Initially, 1st_thing said no, but he hears those sounds through his MBA.

Then he made some adjustments and got the system sounds, but still found it a bit onerous to have to switch the mini pairing back and forth from the MBA to the iPad, depending on what he was doing.

Happy with peripherals

Another commenter wanted to know how 1st_thing likes his Logitech MX Keys keyboard in place of a Magic Keyboard.

“The keyboard is decent,” he said. “I mainly have it for the multiple Bluetooth connections as I have a Windows laptop from a side gig and the work there I need an external keyboard for faster entry. Laptop keyboards are just too small for me.”

And how about that Magic Trackpad?

“I love that thing,” 1st_thing said. “When I switched to the MBA I had to look up how to do the three finger drag setting. By far one of my favorite gestures.”

We’ve noticed the Magic Trackpad tends to get rave reviews.

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If you would like to see your setup featured on Cult of Mac, send some high-res pictures to info+setups@cultofmac.com. Please provide a detailed list of your equipment. Tell us what you like or dislike about your setup, and fill us in on any special touches or challenges.