Why I would not buy MacBook Air/Pro with M1

Why you should wait for second gen MacBook Air/Pro with M1

Congrats to Apple for successfully starting a journey of transition from Intel-based MacBook Air/Pro to Apple’s own M1 processor. This is gigantic accomplishment that should be lauded by both press as well as consumers. Unfortunately, I will not be joining you in this journey by not upgrading to new MacBook Air/Pro with M1 for the following reasons:

Reason #1: Look and Feel of MacBook Air/Pro did not change

I use MacBook Air/Pro for personal purposes; to take to coffee shops, to co-working spaces, to library, or other similar places. I like the ascetics of MacBook Air/Pro and to show other people who also use MacBook Air/Pro that I am one of them. I would dare to say people exudes understated elegances using MacBook Air/Pro, instead of Windows machines we all use in offices.

I also like latest and greatest gadgets and I like to feel people are noticing that I am using the latest and greatest gadgets. When Apple iPhone 10 came out, I promptly upgraded to that, same for Apple iPhone 11 Pro (Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max is bit too big) and same for Apple iPhone 12 Pro. The last three generations of iPhone were improved upon where the look and feel of iPhones did change. I am not sure about you, but I sometimes checkout other people’s iPhone and count number of lenses to see if they are like me.

The problem with MacBook Air/Pro with M1 are that the look and feel of these devices did not change. How is anybody going to notice that I am using fast and efficient M1 processor, instead of slow and loud Intel processor. It is not like I can tell people I am using MacBook Air/Pro with M1, that would be lewd. I always thought Jony Ives’s relentless pursuit of thinness over things like functionality was ruining MacBook Air/Pro, but this is first time I really do miss him. We need him back to release incredible thin MacBook Air/Pro where I can show off both my understated elegance and latest and greatest gadget.

Reason #2: MacBook Air/Pro with M1 is first gen hardware, wait for second/third gen hardware

Make no mistake, MacBook Air/Pro with M1 is first gen hardware. To release the products on a timely basis, Apple has wisely chosen evolutionary approach of evolving their iPhone/iPad technologies to their laptops. In order to accomplish this, they had to take few compromises where some of them are:

  • Apple decided to use their System On a Chip (SoC) design used in both iPhone/iPad to their new laptops. Downside of this approach is maximum amount of RAM is 16GB where they are not upgradable. By the way, this is vast improvement over current gen iPhone Pro/iPad Pro of 6GB of RAM.
  • There are only two Thunderbolt 3 / USB 4 ports on these devices, instead of 4 ports in previous gen MacBook Pro devices. I am not sure why this limitation exists on MacBook Air/Pro with M1 since Mac Mini with M1 has two additional USB-A ports as well as both HDMI and Ethernet port. Additionally, it is unlikely Apple will use new Thunderbolt 4 ports in future generations of their devices since Thunderbolt 4 technology is owned by Intel.
  • Maximum amount of disk storage space for MacBook Pro is 2TB where previous gen MacBook Pro can be equipped with up to 4TB of disk storage space. By the way, this is vast improvement over current gen iPhone Pro/iPad Pro of up to 1TB of disk storage space.
  • MacBook Air/Pro with M1 does not support eGPU. This may not be big deal since very small percentage of mac users use eGPU, but this is odd decision since MacBook Air/Pro with M1 has two Thunderbolt 3 ports.

Reason #3: macOS 11 Big Sur is new operating system for both new hardware and existing hardware, wait for second/third revision of new macOS (i.e., either macOS 11.1 or macOS 11.2)

It took more than 19 years for Apple to release a major new version of macOS. Last time Apple released a major version of macOS was all the way back in March 2001 when they released macOS X 10. This is really big deal. Developing a good software without major bugs (I like to say unexpected features) is really hard, but developing a good software with more than million lines of code that requires 100s or 1000s of developers without major bugs is impossible where everyday feels like gladiatorial pit of warring teams where only the fittest survive.

Make no mistake, Apple has been preparing for new macOS for at least 4 years:

  • macOS 10.13 High Sierra (2017) : Switched to Apple File System — a proprietary file system for all Apple devices
  • macOS 10.14 Mojave (2018): Require a GPU that supports Metal where metal compatible GPUs are Apple designed SoCs, Intel GPUs and AMD GPUs
  • macOS 10.15 Catalina (2019): Dropping support for 32-bit applications

Even with years of preparations and development, they had a hard deadline to ship a product by end of the year, in time for holiday shopping. You can see not fully baked solution in macOS 11 Big Sur and they are:

  • No touch support on MacBook Air/Pro with M1. You can see glimmering of possibilities of touch support in macOS 11 Big Sur, but it is not quite there yet. Why do I have a feeling that Apple had awesome hardware ready to go, but they had to fall back to old hardware because touch support on macOS 11 Big Sur was not ready.
  • Running iOS Mobile apps are just bad. I was wondering why they never mentioned running iOS Mobile apps when they introduced MacBook Air/Pro with M1 and we now know why.
  • You cannot run x86 Homebrew apps on MacBook Air/Pro with M1 without painful work around and most of these Homebrew apps do not support M1 as of yet.

One of the known issue is that attempt to restore and reinstall macOS on those machines right away could result in an installation error that would leave your Mac non-functional.

I expect Apple to release regular updates to fix the bugs since they are more likely to have thousands of bugs with high importance tag associated with it in their backlog. The thing is you will always have a doubt in back of your mind that there are some unexpected features and you will need work around to complete your workflow. For some people this is acceptable risk, but for most of us, it will leave bad taste in back of our mouth.

Reason #4: Rosetta 2 is decent and expect issues

Rosetta 2 is included starting with macOS 11 Big Sur to aid in the Mac transition to Apple’s own M1 processor from Intel processors. In addition to the just-in-time (JIT) translation support available in Rosetta, Rosetta 2 includes support for translating an application at installation time. The verdict is that Rosetta 2 is bit better then Rosetta, which was horrible nightmare transition that lasted years, but not much better.

It seems Rosetta 2 does encounter issues running your existing Intel x86 apps on new MacBook Air/Pro with M1 where Rosetta 2 can add up to an 50% CPU performance penalty on non-Apple and non-M1 native code applications.

  • Microsoft this week indicated that when launching any of its Mac apps for the first time on Apple Silicon Macs, the apps will bounce in the dock for approximately 20 seconds while the Rosetta 2 translation process is completed, with all subsequent launches being faster. They will work, but expect these apps to be slow, buggy and lags in certain workflow. This applies to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, and OneDrive.
  • Adobe products are not certified to run under Rosetta 2 emulation modes and older versions of their software simply do not work since they use 32-bit licensing components and installers.
  • Adobe Reader does not install.
  • If you want to play games via Steam. You are out of luck since Steam does not work on Rosetta 2.

For a complete list of if the application works on Apple Silicon M1 machines then refer to here => https://isapplesiliconready.com/

Reason #5: It will take awhile for native applications to appear

Here are a list of big apps for macOS and my forecast on when they will release native applications for M1 processor:

  • Microsoft Office: Microsoft does not even have Office applications for their Windows ARM/Surface Pro X. This may take awhile.
  • Microsoft Applications: Microsoft does not even have Skype for their Windows ARM/Surface Pro X. This may take awhile. It took them years to release their Edge browser to Windows ARM, which was released this year.
  • Adobe Applications: Adobe applications like PhotoShop and Premiere Pro have been around for a very long time and have tons of legacy codes that works somehow and developers are loathe to touch. This may take awhile.

For a complete list of the application has been ported to Apple Silicon M1 machines then refer to here =>https://isapplesiliconready.com/for/m1

Reason #6: If your peripheral is not made by Apple or does not work with iPad Pro then you may encounter issues

Here is a list of peripherals that may have issues with MacBook Air/Pro with M1:

  • MacBook Air/Pro with M1 does not support eGPU. This may not be big deal since very small percentage of mac users use eGPU, but this is odd decision since MacBook Air/Pro with M1 has two Thunderbolt 3 ports.
  • External webcams like Logitech C922 may encounter issues like camera bouncing between Logitech C922 and built in camera.
  • Samsung Portable SSD Software does not install.
  • MacBook Air/Pro with M1 only supports one external display.

Reason #7: You will get better battery life in MacBook Air/Pro with x86 than MacBook Air/Pro with M1

Apple touts over 20 hours of battery life on new MacBook Air/Pro with M1, but since most of the applications still runs on emulated mode using Rosetta 2, expected real life battery life of about 4 hours or so since it draws far more power in emulated mode.

Reason #8: Apple touts 15x faster machine learning performance, but it only has 16GB of memory

Apple’s M1 features their latest Neural Engine that is 15x faster machine learning performance, but did I say the memory is up to 16GB. I need at least 64GB of memory on my machine so I can load decent sized dataset, not constantly prompted with out of memory error. If I cannot load the dataset to memory, it does not matter if the machine learning performance is faster or not since I cannot start the machine learning process.

There are more reasons that are not listed for holding off on purchasing these new MacBook Air/Pro with M1, but I were to purchase one of these machines then I would purchase Mac Mini with M1 since it would be very difficult to show off desktop computers in coffee shops and I really do miss working in coffee shops.

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