M1 MacBook Air vs Intel MacBook Air: What’s the Difference?

Apple recently announced its new Silicon-powered MacBooks. While you can’t notice any difference at first glance, there are some major under the hood changes which focus on performance increase and stronger battery life. So, if you’re wondering which device is better, read on to check our M1 MacBook Air vs Intel MacBook Air comparison to find out.

What is the Difference Between M1 MacBook Air vs Intel MacBook Air?

At the “One More Thing” event, Apple revealed that the major change in this new M1 MacBook Air lies in the internal materials. This means the new M1 MacBook is better in almost every key department despite sharing the same form factor and design.

Display & Dimensions

M1 MacBook Air has the same 0.16–0.63 inch x 11.97 inches x 8.36 inches, 1.29 kg

Despite having a major gut change, the M1 MacBook Air looks pretty much the same as the 2020 Intel-based version. Actually, it’s really great because the original design is already very sleek and ultraportable.

In terms of the display, the new Mac laptop is still exactly the same as the Intel-based MacBook Air released in March 2020. Well, I’m not a fan of chunky bezels but this is probably the best display we can get from a 13-inch right now. M1 MacBook Air and Intel-based MacBook share the same display: 

  • 13.3-inch Retina display
  • 2560 x 1600 pixels
  • 400 nits brightness
  • True Tone
  • Wide color

Performance and Specs

  •   Intel-based MacBook Air M1 MacBook Air
    Base 1.1 GHz dual-core Intel core i3 M1 chip, 8-core CPU, 7-core GPU
    High-end 1.8 GHz quad-core core i7 M1 chip, 8-core CPU, 8-core GPU

The $999 MacBook Air with a dual-core Core i3 Intel CPU is a good option if you’re on a budget. However, things have changed.

In fact, Apple offers 2 variants (256GB and 512GB storage) for the M1 MacBook Air. Both models feature the same M1 chip while the 512GB version comes with an 8-core GPU instead of a 7-core GPU found in the Intel Air. Plus, the good news here is the price is still the same!

M1 Chip vs Intel Chip

Apple new M1 chip

Let’s move on to the main point here! Apple has been using Intel’s chips in the Mac lineup since 2006. It means that Apple has to follow Intel’s release timelines, chip delays, and security issues. All of that negatively affected Apple’s own devices. And, that is why they decided to move on from the Intel chip to create their own M1 chip.

MacBook Air lineup once required multiple chips in order to deliver all of its features. Now, with the SoC technology, M1 chip combines all of that in a single one. This means the M1 chip offers more space and power efficiency than Intel chip. In fact, Apple claims the M1 is the world’s fastest CPU core.

M1 MacBook Air vs Intel MacBook Air

With 8-core (4 high-performance and 4 high-efficiency cores) compared to quad-core in Intel i5 and i7, the M1 chip delivers significantly higher performance than its Intel counterpart. But, surprisingly, the high performance of Apple M1 comes with a very low power level – only 10 watts. Meanwhile, the Intel core i5 and i7 is still at between 38 and 59 watts.

To confirm Apple’s statement, here are the results of the first M1 MacBook Air’s Geekbench tests:

  • The new M1 MacBook Air registered about 1,687 points in the single-core test and 7,433 points in the multi-core benchmark on Geekbench
  • On the other hand, a 2019 Macbook Pro 16 with Intel Core i9 only achieves 1,096 and 6,870 points when compared to the M1 Air.

With that data, now we can confirm that the first Apple M1 MacBook does beat its previous high-end model. Not to mention, we’re talking about comparing the Air vs the Pro here!

Even though the Intel core i5 is no match for the new M1 chip now, the i7 can still put up a fight against the newcomer. While the Apple M1 comes with a frequency of 1.80 GHz, the i7 rises at 2.30 GHz. Besides, the All Cores Turbo power of M1 is very close to i7’s 3.21 GHz with 3.10 GHz. This means the i7 still offers a bit higher data rate than the M1 chip does. However, the price for that small advantage is still too high ($2249 Intel core i7 MacBook Air compared to $999 base M1 MacBook Air)

Overall, when it comes to performance, the M1 MacBook Air is way ahead of the Intel-based one. Also, here are some performance improvements that the new M1 MacBook Air offers:

  • Exporting a project 3x faster with “iMovie”.
  • Integrate 3D effects into video in “Final Cut Pro” 5x faster.
  • Playback and edit multiple videos in “Final Cut Pro” without dropping a frame.
  • Exporting photos from “Lightroom” is twice as fast.
  • Using features like Smart Conform in “Final Cut Pro” to frame videos around 4.3x faster than normal.

Connectivity and Other Features

The new M1 MacBook Air finally comes with Wi-Fi 6 which means it will offer better Wi-Fi connectivity and higher speeds. However, you need to have a Wi-Fi 6 router for this. And, sadly, Apple only gives us 2 USB-C ports on the 2020 MacBook Air.

Even though the M1 MacBook Air sticks to the same old 720p camera, its quality has been improved thanks to the inclusion of an ISP in the M1 chip. Besides, with the launch of macOS Big Sur, both models are allowed to access all of Big Sure new features including instant wake from sleep.

In addition, the M1 MacBook Air will be the first Mac to have a “silent design” or no fan design since the days of the 12-inch core M MacBook. This means no annoying fan noise problems. Also, you don’t need to worry about overheating here because the new Air has its aluminum heat spreaders to keep it cool instead.

Battery

Intel MacBook Air M1 MacBook Air
  • 49.9 Wh battery
  • Up to 11 hours of web browsing
  • Up to 12 hours of video playback
  • 49.9 Wh battery
  • Up to 15 hours of web browsing
  • Up to 18 hours of video playback

Apart from its improved performance, the M1 chip does help to bring in a better battery life as well. What’s impressive is that the new M1 MacBook Air still has the same battery capacity like the Intel model does. With up to 15 hours of use, this is truly the longest battery life ever in a MacBook Air!

Price

M1 MacBook Air vs Intel MacBook Air

The 2020 M1 MacBook is available to order online now! Starting at $999 for the base model and $1249 for the high-end M1 MacBook Air.

Better performance and battery life for the M1 MacBook Air and yet the starting price is still the same! Additionally, the new MacBook Air is available for only $899 for students, making it an even better deal.

Related articles: 2020 Apple M1 MacBook Air vs MacBook M1 Pro

The Verdict

If you are now in the market for new MacBook, we advise you wait until we get our hands on the new M1 MacBook to see how it stacks up against Intel-based models. It’s theoretically faster, but we are not sure yet. We will keep you updated when we are done running some performance tests on both devices.

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