The 2021 M1 Pro and M1 Max MacBook Pros are probably the best laptop Apple–or anyone–has ever made. The 14-inch version I’ve been using for the past two months is certainly the best laptop I’ve ever used. This one has Apple’s 10-core M1 Max processor with 32 GPU cores, 64GB of memory, and 2TB of storage. It’s about as high-end as you can get without spending $1,000 more on a few extra terabytes of storage.
Most importantly, it’s all of the things people were asking for. It has a gorgeous display. It has ports that you can use without needing adapters and dongles. It’s the fastest and most powerful computer I’ve ever used. I thoroughly enjoyed using it.
Despite that, I’m getting rid of it. And no, it’s not because I can’t stand the notch–I almost never notice that it’s even there. I’m getting rid of it because as good as it is, in other ways, it’s not that great at all. Or, more importantly, in the ways that matter most, it’s just not for me.
It doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for a laptop like this. If you produce videos or are a photographer that does batch processing of images, all of that extra GPU power could come in handy. For everyone else, not only is it overkill, it comes at the expense of things you probably value far more, like battery life.
I’m a columnist. As my children like to remind me, I type words for a living. I could literally do my job on my iPhone, or my iPad Pro, or my 2020 M1 MacBook Air. Any of those have more than enough computing power.
Most of my day is reading and responding to emails, researching things online, attending video meetings, and, well, typing words. You might have a different job, but I imagine that your day looks a lot more like mine than it does your average YouTube content creator.
For most people,the M1 MacBook Air is so good, there’s no other laptop worth considering. The only thing it lacks is the ability to add more than 16GB of memory. That said, I’ve never noticed a problem. It’s fast enough for everything you probably do on a daily basis, with the added benefit of being lighter and getting far better battery life.
That matters more for most people than whether it can render 20 streams of 4K ProRes video footage–most of whom have no idea what ProRes video is because they aren’t video producers. It matters because I also travel a lot, which means having something that doesn’t add much weight to my backpack, and can last more than a few hours, is a priority.
I literally took my MacBook Air to Denmark for two days in September and forgot to take the appropriate power adapter. Still, after five and half hours of video meetings, recording an interview, and writing and publishing three articles, the MacBook Air still had 40 percent of its battery by the time I returned to an airport that had a standard U.S. power outlet.
Here’s why I think this is worth mentioning, and it’s not to pick on the MacBook Pro–which, again, is the best laptop I’ve ever used. I think it’s worth mentioning because it can be easy to be distracted by the shiny new thing and think that somehow it will make you more productive or better at your job. I fall into that trap all the time, and, if you’re reading this, there’s a chance you do as well.
It’s understandable. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have the best tool for whatever task you have to do. The thing is, more often than not, the tool you’re already using is probably pretty good. Even if it’s time for an upgrade, ask yourself what you actually need instead of just assuming the newest, fanciest, shiniest piece of tech is a must-have.
All the time and energy you spend pursuing that shiny new thing is time and energy you aren’t using to do your job. Never mind, all the money involved. There’s a $2500 difference in price between the M1 MacBook Air I’m writing this on, and the 14-inch MacBook Pro I used for the last two months. There’s almost no way to justify that for most people–it’s just not better at the things they’ll really care about.
It doesn’t mean the new things are inherently bad. Apple is likely to introduce a completely new MacBook Air next year, probably with an M2. If we’re lucky, it’ll have a new form factor, a few more ports, and be even lighter and more powerful–all while maintaining incredible battery life. I’m sure it will be shiny, and I’ll probably be very interested when that happens. The point is, don’t let it become a distraction for actually doing whatever it is you do. It is, after all, just a tool.