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The difference between the Macbook Air and Pro this time is simply the fact that the Pro has a fan inside.
The difference between the Macbook Air and Pro this time is simply the fact that the Pro has a fan inside.

Apple Macbook Pro M1 review: A fork in the road

  • Like Microsoft, the iPhone maker also built-in an emulator into its operating system, which is meant to make legacy apps run smoothly on the new chip

Laptops are changing, and though Microsoft was first off the mark - Apple’s taking over. The company’s new M1 chip is going to replace Intel processors on its laptops and computers over the next two years, and this, the Macbook Pro is the first of the lot. Apple made some big claims for this one, and for the most part and it’s living up to those claims.

Let’s face it, none of us really expected Apple to make a device that’s not fast enough, did we? The real challenge for these new Macbooks was how they will support legacy apps and software meant that have been designed for Intel processors for years. The M1 chip is based on ARM architectures, which means they’re similar to processors running on iPhones and iPads. For computer software, that’s like learning a new language — the ARM processor that will power these software just doesn’t speak the same language that the apps do. In the Macbook Pro’s case, that includes some very important apps, like Adobe’s Creative Cloud apps, which most creators use.

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Like Microsoft, the iPhone maker also built-in an emulator into its operating system, which is meant to make legacy apps run smoothly on the new chip. Whereas the Surface Pro X suffered from some slowdowns and crashes in this department, the Macbook Pro does not. Most legacy apps seem to work just fine and well enough to take care of the tasks a Macbook Pro is meant for. Even benchmark tests return stellar results.

To be clear, the Macbook Pro isn’t so ready that companies like Adobe will suddenly start recommending this over an Intel processor. That will take more time. Additionally, niche software like Adobe Indesign, or Tally, which is used in accounting aren’t ready for this new chipset yet. Apple’s Rosetta 2 (that’s what the emulator is called) will make things work just fine, but just fine may not be enough for professionals to put all your eggs in this basket.

On the other hand, this is perhaps the fastest laptop you’ll find for regular usage. Web Pages and apps load faster than ever, and even the memory heavy Chrome seems to run faster and smoother than the Intel-powered Macbook Air. You almost never see an app icon bouncing away for long on the Dock when you click on it. If all you do is web browsing, spreadsheets and word processing, this is perhaps the fastest laptop you can buy. However, that’s what the M1-powered Macbook Air is meant for.

The difference between the Macbook Air and Pro this time is simply the fact that the Pro has a fan inside. Unlike Intel processors, which increase their clock speed as required, the M1 chip runs at its fastest all the time. While Apple expects Macbook Air users to keep things simple, the Pro is where the processor will be taxed by creator apps. Hence, the fan.

Essentially, an app like Adobe Premiere Pro will heat up the processor really fast and processors throttle (slow themselves down) when that happens. This is where the fan will kick in to cool things down, so the processor can continue performing at its fastest. Simply put, a Macbook Air will slow down under pressure, while the Macbook Pro will hold on longer, and that’s important for creators.

And most importantly, the Macbook Pro does this while lasting well over 10 hours on each charge. It blasts past the industry standard set by ultrabooks and lasts at least 15 hours on regular usage, which is about two work days. Essentially, an ARM powered laptop like this is finally the solution we needed to leave our chargers home.

But is that enough to buy this laptop right away? The answer to that question is tricky.

The truth is that Apple has achieved a lot here, but there’s much more to be done still. For instance, the M1 chip allows the company to bring every iPad and iOS app to the Macbook now, and they’ll all show up on the App Store alongside MacOS apps. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll work though. In fact, many popular iPad and iOS apps aren’t available despite Apple allowing them. For those that are, many won’t work. Primarily because most apps designed for the iPad and iPhone are designed for touchscreens, something the Macbook doesn’t have.

And that brings us to an important reason for why you shouldn’t buy the M1-powered Macbooks just yet. ARM chips don’t just promise long battery life and fast performance, they are about always-on connectivity and touchscreens too. Apple may not have added these features just yet, but we have to believe the company will add those features soon enough. It might be worth waiting for that.

If the M1 chip signals a new beginning for Macbooks, then these 2020 laptops are the fork in the road, for both Apple and its customers. You could choose to go down this path right away, but waiting to find out how things turn out may be a better idea. What we know for sure now though, is that ARM works on laptops and Apple knocked one out of the park.

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