M1 MBA, not as quick as I expected!

Am I missing something? Upgraded our old trusty i7 MacBook Air to an M1 one a while back. My wife is away on a trip, so I’ve been using it a bit to see what it’s like.

It’s nice, but I was expecting more from the performance TBH after all the reviews. There’s still a lag opening apps, switching users there’s a 3-second pause, my photo editing app is no different to my Windows laptop.

Just a bit surprised, I thought everything was going to be instant.

I’m not an Apple user, nor have I really used anything with their ARM SoC extensively, but I believe the main benefit most users will see from the M SoC chips is power efficiency rather than increased responsiveness. These days it’s the hard disk that cause the most noticeable bottleneck for the user experience rather than the CPU.

What’s been your experience as far as power usage? Does the device heat up like the Intel one used to? How about battery life?

Yes, battery life is excellent, and it’s fanless and runs cool, so you’re right, it’s very efficient.

Are the apps you’re using native to ARM?

Yes, they are, although my wife’s expensive music composing software is still Intel annoyingly.

Tried a side-by-side comparison this morning. M1 vs 12th-gen Intel i7. So first gen Apple silicon vs Intel’s first gen hybrid, similar priced machines.

Startup to login, i7 quicker
Login to desktop, i7 much quicker
Switch users, i7 much quicker
Open browser (Safari and Edge), same, although Edge had to open my 22 tabs
Luminar, the M1 has this tiny delay when you select things, which makes it seem sluggish. Don’t get that on the i7. Tried the Mask AI feature, where Luminar analyses the image and offers you things to mask (Tree, Water, Person etc), the i7 is much quicker (although its fan started up)

i7 was in its optimised performance mode, not maximum. Both on battery.

I’m surprised.


By chance, did you do the migration assistant? I wonder if that brings over some unnecessary cruft. You can reinstall the OS w/o affecting data by booting into the recovery mode. I will agree, I’ve never seen macOS as speedy as some reviewers show opening all apps with no bounce.

No, I never use migrations assistants. Just login with the ID, data is in the cloud, manually install apps I need, so there shouldn’t be any cruft from old Macs.

So an example, I think, where the user experience doesn’t reflect the benchmarks.

Hit the nail on the head there. Benchmarking really has very little correlation with what the average user does with a computer anymore. It’s mostly about marketing now, with some manufacturers going so far as to modify their processors to specifically do well on certain benchmarks.

I would be curious to know the wear level on the MacBook’s SSD, however, seeing as it’s a 2020 model. Could be tired NAND. Not sure how to check that on Mac - I’m sure there’s some snazzy-named application that will show you.

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Even though it’s the 2020, it was bought in January as a new device in a sale, so under 4 months old. We’re N-1 here :slightly_smiling_face:

Oh gotcha. Well I’d still check the health of the disk just to be sure.

I switched from a Windows 10 Ryzen 1700 desktop to a Mac mini M1 16GB and it feels just as fast, when running Capture One, for example.

Interestingly, running a Windows on ARM VM, Windows 11 feels about as quick as my Lenovo Core i5 8th Gen. laptop running Windows 11.

I’ve never done any benchmarks, they are pretty pointless, but it uses a fraction of the electricity of the Ryzen 1700, whilst the user experience isn’t any worse. And, with the current electricity prices, that is a huge factor. I haven’t used the Ryzen 1700 much for over a year and haven’t turned it on since November, it is just sitting in a corner of my office.


Wonder how much more efficient Intel can make their designs? This hybrid isn’t bad, it will last all day if just browsing and email, doesn’t need the fan. But that M1 will last 2 days I think doing the same. The Windows one is OLED though.

I don’t have much faith that Intel or any manufacturer working with the x86 architecture can catch up to power efficiency we see in modern architectures. There’s just so much overhead in that instruction set in comparison to what is in the ARM or RISC-V architecture.

Also, on the OLED point - an OLED panel’s power efficiency is hugely dependent on what you’re displaying. If you’re displaying lots of bright images (i.e web pages with white space, word processor docs with a white page, etc) then you’ll be using considerably more power than a standard LED display.


One area where Apple Silicon really stands out is video editing. I have an M2 MBP and it performs considerably smoother for video editing than my PC desktop with an i5-12400 and RTX 3060. As much as a PC guy as I am, I’ve pretty much fully switched over to Mac for laptop stuff, due to the coolness and battery life, and media production, due to optimizations and quietness.

A lot of the general performance hype probably comes from people who were using the pathetic 2019 MBA. I had one of those for work until recently and it was outdated at its price point the second it was released.


I retired a 2011 17" MacBook Pro quad core i7 with an M1. First thing is apps designed to utilize Apple Silicon are off the charts. I use Capture One 23 with Affinity Photo - with Nik Plug in’s, as well as Final Cut Pro. You have to keep in mind that I/O devices using Thunderbolt 3 or 4 will be relatively the same depending on what it is. i7 on a laptop sounds like a jet engine when exporting big files. After almost 2 years of using this M1 MacBook Pro, I can count the number of times the fan engaged on one hand. So I don’t really know what your experience is and what specifically you are doing. My experience here is no comparison. I am a heavy duty user here. All my main apps are Apple Silicon streamlined.

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I think what is different is I’m comparing 2020 Apple Silicon with 2020, not 2011 Intel. From a more consumer perspective.

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Also if you got the base model you got a relatively slower SSD.


Notice fan usage on that i7 - does it get a little hot? That’s one of the biggest differences.


Thanks for the article. I think this M1 still has the two NAND chips, so doesn’t have the slower SSD that the base M2s had?

This i7 is pretty good compared to older ones I’ve had, gets warm if I’m editing pics, otherwise runs cool. The Apple Silicon def beats it for efficiency though.

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Obviously the Steve Jobs reality distortion field is still around. IMHO, the only people who would benefit from the efficiency are those who use a laptop constantly and these in the main are writers, including journalists (you must also remember that Apple kit runs must faster on US electricity :grin:).

My wife runs 5 businesses on a laptop - a Surface Pro i7, 16GB it ru a her 2 days on a charge 2/3 the price of a Macbook, just saying

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On the other hand, my MacBook Air and Mac mini M1 run Windows 11 on ARM faster than my ThinkPad T480 runs Windows 11 on Intel…

It is swings and roundabouts. Office takes a bit longer to load on M1, but feels more responsive than it does on my Windows laptop. Teams is much better on Mac than on Windows, with a 5 way conference, the ThinkPad grinds to a halt & starts swapping like mad, the fans spin up & I have to kill everything (Outlook, RDP, browser etc.) so that it is the only thing running, otherwise it does 1 frame a second video & the audio breaks up. The Mac doesn’t even blink…