For over a week, I’ve been using a newly purchased MacBook Air (2020) as my daily driver for work. I bought a new laptop after giving my previous one, an ASUS Zenbook, to my sister since her current/old one was dying.
When I was shopping for a new laptop, I had a few requirements in mind. It had to be powerful enough for my work (because laggy computers are bad), lightweight (I intended to bring it everywhere), have good battery life (nobody likes lugging around chargers or being limited when deciding where to sit), and be something I could, of course, afford.
The MacBook Air ticked all the boxes. And this was before I had any first-hand experience using the machine. Reading up the specs and watching tons of videos about the laptop gave me all the information I needed to make my decision – it wasn’t something I took lightly. I spent a long time ruminating about the purchase because I had the time to do so (I had no opportunity to work outside due to the lockdown).
So what were my qualms about the MacBook Air? Initially, it was the new Apple Silicon. I had been exclusively using Intel processors when it came to laptops and desktops (minus the one time I had a prebuilt desktop with an AMD processor), so I was skeptical about how well an ARM-based processor could run a fully-featured desktop operating system.
Speaking of the operating system, how would I handle the transition? I had been using Windows for the better part of my life and the idea of having to switch to something else seemed daunting. Would I have access to all apps and programs that I needed?
Battery life for laptops is one of my biggest gripes. I’ve been let down way too many times by how poorly Windows laptops perform in this area. Many high-end devices I’ve tried out in the past have let me down. Even when I was still using the Zenbook, which had great battery life in the beginning, I didn’t feel safe leaving home without bringing my charger along.
Google and YouTube were my best friends during this period, and I looked up everything I wanted to know. Nothing swayed my opinion when it came to the laptop’s hardware – all the reviews said that the machine was a beast with killer battery life. As for the software, I wasn’t too concerned – if I could do my work on Linux/Android, I could survive on Mac OS.
With all that in mind, I chose the base model MacBook Air and upgraded the RAM and storage (16GB/512GB). I could have gotten by without the extra storage since I don’t plan to store large files on my laptop and always have thumb drives with me but I felt I could afford the additional peace of mind. As for the RAM upgrade, I’m glad I got it since Activity Monitor tells me I’m constantly using over 12GB (Photoshop, Chrome, and MS Teams are real resource hogs). If you use similar apps often, you’ll probably want the RAM upgrade if you don’t want your SSD being used constantly for memory swaps.
I’m still getting used to Mac shortcuts. It’s annoying when programs like Chrome have different hotkeys for Windows/Mac, so I spent a lot of time learning new ones to get back up to speed. I’m still clicking a bunch of stuff, but I’ll memorize it all eventually. Also, I’ve been absentmindedly using Mac shortcuts on my Windows desktop.
Mac OS felt familiar to me – it reminded me a lot of Ubuntu which I’ve used in the past. The main difference is me not having to use the terminal (at all, except when trying to get some apps running).
Transitioning to working on Mac OS wasn’t difficult since most of my work is done within Chrome (what can’t be done through your browser these days?). I did download a few additional apps, and even though they weren’t working natively on Apple Silicon, they ran without a hitch (besides the fact they consumed a lot of memory). Hopefully, those issues will be addressed in the future.
There were some things I had to get used to on MacOS – I couldn’t use hotkeys to quickly arrange/tile my windows nor could I launch pinned programs on my dock like you can on Windows. Fortunately, this was rectified by downloading Rectangle and Snap but I was surprised that the operating system didn’t have this built-in, in my opinion, they’re pretty rudimentary features.
Despite my MacBook Air having a 2560 x 1600 display, I couldn’t make full use of that resolution without the use of a third-party app (EasyRes). That felt odd to me. A lot of programs aren’t on the App Store (even popular ones like Discord/Spotify), I had to download them from their websites instead. Not a big deal since I don’t use the Windows App Store either but I had the impression the Mac App Store would be the main way to get popular apps.
Gestures are awesome, I enjoy using Mission Control for working on multiple desktops and switching between apps. The trackpad is intuitive, and I’ll never understand the complaints about Macs not having touchscreens. Having used touchscreen laptops and tablets in the past, I have never yearned for their inclusion in any laptop. External pointing devices get the job done better (and you don’t have to worry about finger stains).
Battery life is amazing – I can get a full day’s use and still have plenty left at the end of the day, so there’s no need for me to carry a charger around. One thing to note, this selling point goes away when you increase the laptop’s brightness. I experienced it the other day – 77% of battery life gone in 4 hours because I set it to the maximum. Since learning that, I’ve kept my MacBook Air at 50% brightness and lasts as long as advertised. At the time of writing, my MacBook Air has a screen on time of 11 hours and I still have 32% of juice left. If you’ve been waiting for tablet-like battery life on a laptop, the wait is over.
Performance is great. I know my workflow doesn’t push the machine to its limits, but you can check out the tests done by other folks to see what it’s capable of. The M1 processor is no slouch when it comes to running heavy-duty applications and multitasking. The fact that the MacBook Air can do everything it does without slowing down or heating up (it doesn’t even have fans!) is a bold statement by Apple. It no longer has to rely on Intel for its high-performance machines, and I’m happy to come along for the ride.
Touch ID is very useful. I like how fast and responsive it is, no complaints there. I wish it was on the iPhone too.
I’m very happy with my MacBook Air purchase. Would I have been satisfied with yet another Windows laptop? Perhaps, since I wouldn’t know what I missed out on. But I’m glad I made the purchase. It would suck having to lug around a power brick in my bag again. The quirks I’ve experienced with Mac OS have been solvable with some extra apps and everything else not mentioned is something I can live with. Will I switch to Mac desktops in the future? Probably not, since gaming on Windows is still king but I’m definitely open to staying on the Mac train when it comes to laptops for productivity.
MacBook Air – the best laptop I’ve ever spent my money on, would totally recommend 10/10.
One Month Update (24 December 2021)
I discovered some additional limitations of the default app switcher (CMD + Tab). You can’t tab through multiple instances of the same app (i.e. multiple Chrome windows). This led me to discover a new shortcut for doing that – CMD + Shift + ` – not great but it gets the job done. Today, I realized you couldn’t tab to minimized windows. The app will switch, but the app you tab to will stay minimized. Looking on the internet, I stumbled upon an app that solves both of those issues, essentially making CMD + Tab function like how Alt + Tab does in Windows. It’s called AltTab and if you’re like me, coming from Windows to MacOS for the first time, I highly recommend it. In addition to making your app switcher function like it does in Windows, it has many other customizable features too, and it does it all for free. This app has changed my life.