The new M1 might just be the most interesting thing that Apple has done in computers since, well the last interesting thing it did. Seriously though, the move to Intel was ok, but a bit ‘me too’ PowerPC was hot for a while then too hot for its own good. The iMac was blue and plastic and, err, Blue, Bondi Blue. Sure, sure, that Mac that you like with the fancy thing was also ‘revolutionary’ and had ‘bleeding edge’ industrial design with physics defying welding techniques and a range of other nonsense, but was it really all that? No. No not really.
And, while I’m here putting my mouth where there is no money I should add that I bought a MacBook Air M1. That’s likely not all that interesting, in fact, I know it isn’t, but you’re read this far so you may as well keep on going. The last new Mac I bought was a 2013 MacBook Pro – for those of you not up with the ancient art of maths that is seven years ago. A laptop that lasted 7 years, and is still going strong. The battery was a bit lazy, but all in all it’s still a very, vary capable laptop. The reason I had a 7 year old Mac was because every time I looked to the One More Thing Machine the lens on the reality distortion field was askew. Nothing particularly new or interesting came along – TouchBar people? Are you off your Rokr? Steve Jobs would have given that particular feature all the effort of the Motorola iTunes Phone launch.
Let’s be honest here though, this brand new MacBook Air I have before me is basically the old MacBook Air with new gizzards. It is, though, you’ll be entirely shocked to discover, beautifully well made.
The keyboard is lovely, they fixed that and given my elongated upgrade orbit I missed out the painful butterfly effect anyway so I’ve gone from the (trademark symbol incorrectly used) best laptop keyboard ever ever ever to the new version of that. It is honestly a delight. There is something tactile there and not there about it – reassuring clattering and travel and yet not too far apart or too close keys. I am 100% sure it is just my personal taste and desire to justify the cost, but I make fewer errors and words flow more freely from the meat muscle in my head and down the AppleTalk network that is my nervous system to the delicate pinkies that are bashing this crap out more quickly and accurately than they do on the keyboard that no-doubt looks identical to this one but isn’t the same somehow on other non-Apple laptops I own or use. This laptop keyboard is so nice that I am considering writing my work emails and longer messages on it and sending them from the Mac. That’s nuts, but really, it is that much better.
The trackpad is, as all Mac trackpads have been for time immemorial wonderful. This may seem a tiny point and the sort of people who say things like “you can buy a laptop for half the price and it will have 17 USB 4 Ports!” will scoff, but the MacBook trackpad is and has been for many years one of its best features. Unsung, dull, an ‘expected’ feature, but I Stan for the Mac touchpad. In my day-to-day I have to use a work issued HP laptop – it is perfectly serviceable and does everything I need a work machine to do. With one very specific exception. The trackpad is AWFUL. Terrible. Naff. Crap. Infuriating to the level that I have a mouse at all times. Even when I’m mobile – 2020 says LOL at that, but you get me. Trackpad superiority is an oft overlooked feature of Macs. Now, I’m sure there are 4 million settings I could try to fix the trackpad on the HP and I’m equally sure that the £250 Toshiba you picked up at the car boot has a ‘perfectly serviceable’ trackpad and I don’t know what I’m talking about, but no, I do, and the Mac trackpad is worth the £1000 entry fee alone. A. Lone. Do not @ me.
The screen is perfect. I say that with no pretension to know about these things in a deep technical sense. I just mean that when you look at it, it is wonderful to look at. It “pops”, just like Bob Mansfield said it does, or whoever it was at Apple that coined the phrase “pops” for a description of something visual. It is balanced and bright and like the trackpad, better and different for almost entirely blasé reasons like ‘because’ and ‘I can’t explain it, but’ – it is the best.
I have never, not once ever when using a laptop thought to myself “hey, I’d like to just touch the screen to control that”. You may take a different view, but a lack or touchscreen is no problem for me. Also, you aren’t good looking enough to be allowed to touch this thing of beauty with your grubby digits – it’s a miracle that Apple allows you access to it at all. You should think yourself lucky they let you buy them – honestly you don’t deserve it.
So far, keyboard, trackpad and monitor are all wonderful – it’s almost as if Apple really does look at the interaction points and designs experiences rather than computers. Not that I buy any of that nonsense, natch. However, one does have to think that once you’re past the gimmicky nonsense of ‘computer needs to have x’ – keyboard and trackpad and screen are just about all that matters. Oh, and battery life, which is life-y.
The operating system has a fancy name, but between you and me, does it really make any difference? I say this as someone who used Macs since OS 6 – barely anything has changed really – double click here, pull a menu down there, it’s all the same. There are some nice touches if you are a dreadful fanboy sucking on the teat of Mother Apple – logging in to services, unlocking with Apple Watch, TouchID, that sort of thing. Slick, smooth and simple. Absolutely worth the Apple Tax.
Which leaves us with just the M1 to talk about – which, given that it is the most interesting thing Apple has done in computers for years you’d think I have lots to say about it. I don’t, there are loads and loads of other places you can go to see how fast the M1 is when it’s importing 4K HD video and audio and also opening Microsoft Word, but in the real world I and I’m guessing 99% of you do not do that. However, what I can say is that this Mac does just work – no awkward hesitations, no spinning beachball of doom, just click and do. Even with the Intel app versions. And that is all you or I need to care about really. This is a marvellous laptop and yes it only has two thunderbolt ports and a, no sniggering at the back, 3.5mm headphone socket.
I got the 16GB of RAM version, because getting the most RAM you can is a mantra I live by – with absolutely no justification or understanding, it’s just something I heard one time and I’ve kept at it. Otherwise the MacBook Air I have before me is the base model. It is currently marvellous. But then for the money you’d have to expect that. Of course, you should never ever buy the version one of anything Apple as in 6-8 months they will release a much better one, but if you were to buy this laptop it would be the best 6-8 months of your entire life.