M1 Macs: Biggest quality of life improvement since... the Mac

M1 Mac Mini Macbook Air Macbook Pro Bench Hero
M1 Mac Mini Macbook Air Macbook Pro Bench Hero (Image credit: Rene Ritchie)

By now, everyone has heard about how fast Apple's new M1 MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac mini run. Speed force fast. And it should, because the system-on-a-chip, the SoC, inside is basically an A14 like you'd find in the latest iPad Air or iPhone 12, but with the extra performance and graphics cores you'd expect in an A14X, and some bonus Mac-specific silicon for things like Thunderbolt, Hypervisor, and Rosetta2, thrown in to top it all off.

But after several days of benchmarks and tests, there are a few things about these new M1 Macs that impressed me far more than just the raw speed.

M1 Macs: So hot they're cold

First, the M1 Macs stay way, way, way — just to the nth degree way — cooler than the Intel Macs. The Intel Mac Mini during these tests could keep your coffee warm while the M1 Mini stayed just cool to the touch. Legitimately, the only area of regression that I've found in the M1 Macs is… heat generation.

If you do want to use your Mac Mini to keep your coffee warm or your MacBook Pro as a heat blanket alternative, then you are going to have to stick with Intel because the M1 Apple silicon versions are just cool as LLJ.

M1 Macs: Keep going and going

Second, the M1 MacBooks have startling battery life. With the obvious exception of the Mac mini, all the MacBook tests I ran were done purely on battery. No plugs.

From beginning to end, starting everything at 100%, after all those tests, the Intel Air was down to 40% battery while the M1 was still at 64%. The Intel Pro was down to 27% battery, while the M1 Pro was still at 70%.

Which is good enough when I'm just thinking about working from home while watching virtual events and making my own damn coffee, but when I think about life after the world stops ending, and I'm traveling again, and bouncing between airports and hotels and venues, the ability to write and record and edit and render and upload with that much battery is just… transformative.

Literally transformative as in changing the way that I will be able to do my work.

I imagine that will be true for a lot of people across a wide range of types of work.

M1 Macs: Not quantity but quality

Third, and the biggest one, for me, is just the quality of life difference brought on by the M1 Macs. Which is a weird thing to talk about but just something I couldn't get out of my head while running all these tests.

With single-core performance like this, it just makes everything feel immediately responsive. That same feeling you get when you use an iPad — the reason everybody wants Final Cut Pro on an iPad — the M1 Macs are delivering right now.

The lack of waiting for things to happen and the absolute lack of beach balls so far feels like it's giving me slices of my life back.

All those little interstitial things, all those times I have to wait, for frames that don't render, for icons to stop bouncing and apps to launch, for beach balls that pop up… All of those things add up. Yes, a few seconds at a time, but a few minutes over the course of an hour and probably an hour or more over the course of the week.

Speed is terrific. Battery life is great. But this literally feels like it's giving me those pieces of my life back. Similar to how the original Mac wasn't just a revolution in terms of its input method, of how we used it, but in terms of its interface — of how we felt using it. This change isn't on the surface. It's deep inside. But it's every bit as meaningful.

Sure, these are brand new, completely clean machines. So, it remains to be seen how that feeling sustains, persists over time. If it's anything like the iPad, though, I do not expect it to change at all.

The efficiency means that even on the machines with fans, those fans stay off or quieter longer, which means less noise.

Sure, you get used to the noise, but there is nothing like the feeling of suddenly noticing there is no noise.

In terms of quality of life, that is just another significant improvement. And these are the low-power, low-end entry-level Macs — all of them.

M1 Macs: Hello (Again) (Again)

It's not hyperbole to say very, very soon we'll all be looking back and seeing a very clear, very bright dividing line between the Intel Macs of old and these new M1 rocket ship Macs now and going forward.

Kudos, Apple. You've rocked the desktop world and used the Mac to change everything. Again. Again.

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.