Determine battery cycle count for Mac notebooks
Learn how to determine the number of cycles your Mac notebook's battery has.
About battery cycles
When you use your Mac notebook, its battery goes through charge cycles. A charge cycle happens when you use all of the battery’s power—but that doesn’t necessarily mean in a single charge.
For example, you could use half of your notebook's charge in one day, and then recharge it fully. If you did the same thing the next day, it would count as one charge cycle, not two. In this example, it might take several days to complete a cycle.
Batteries have a limited amount of charge cycles before their performance is expected to diminish. Once the cycle count is reached, a replacement battery is recommended to maintain performance. You can use your battery after it reaches its maximum cycle count, but you might notice a reduction in your battery life.
Knowing how many charge cycles your battery has and how many are left can help you determine when a battery replacement is required. Your battery is designed to retain up to 80% of its original charge capacity at its maximum cycle count. For best performance, replace your battery when you reach its maximum cycle count.
Follow these steps to access information about your Mac notebook battery, including its cycle count:
- Hold the Option key and click the Apple menu , then choose System Information.
- Under the Hardware section of the System Information window, select Power. The current cycle count is listed under the Battery Information section.
Identify your computer
Cycle count limits vary between Mac models. For help identifying your Mac notebook, use the Tech Specs page or these articles:
Find your battery cycle count
Use the table below to see the cycle count limit for your computer's battery. The battery is considered consumed once it reaches the limit.
|Computer||Maximum Cycle Count|
|MacBook (Retina, 12-inch, 2017)|
MacBook (Retina, 12-inch, Early 2016)
MacBook (Retina, 12-inch, Early 2015)
MacBook (13-inch, Mid 2010)
MacBook (13-inch, Late 2009)
|MacBook (13-inch Aluminum, Late 2008)||500|
|MacBook (Mid 2009)|
MacBook (Early 2009)
MacBook (Late 2008)
MacBook (Early 2008)
MacBook (Late 2007)
MacBook (Mid 2007)
MacBook (Late 2006)
|MacBook Pro (14-inch, 2021)|
MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2021)
MacBook Pro (13-inch, M1, 2020)
MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020, Two Thunderbolt 3 ports)
MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020, Four Thunderbolt 3 ports)
MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019)
MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2019)
MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2019, Four Thunderbolt 3 ports)
MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2019, Two Thunderbolt 3 ports)
MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2018)
MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2018, Four Thunderbolt 3 ports)
MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2017)
MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2017, Four Thunderbolt 3 ports)
MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2017, Two Thunderbolt 3 ports)
MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2016)
MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2016, Four Thunderbolt 3 ports)
MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2016, Two Thunderbolt 3 ports)
MacBook Pro (Retina, 13-inch, Early 2015)
MacBook Pro (Retina, 13-inch, Mid 2014)
MacBook Pro (Retina, 13-inch, Late 2013)
MacBook Pro (Retina, 13-inch, Early 2013)
MacBook Pro (Retina, 13-inch, Late 2012)
MacBook Pro (13-inch, Mid 2012)
MacBook Pro (13-inch, Late 2011)
MacBook Pro (13-inch, Early 2011)
MacBook Pro (13-inch, Mid 2010)
MacBook Pro (13-inch, Mid 2009)
MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2015)
MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2014)
MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Late 2013)
MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Early 2013)
MacBook Pro (Retina, Mid 2012)
MacBook Pro (15-inch, Mid 2012)
MacBook Pro (15-inch, Late 2011)
MacBook Pro (15-inch, Early 2011)
MacBook Pro (15-inch, Mid 2010)
MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2.53 GHz, Mid 2009)
MacBook Pro (15-inch Mid 2009)
MacBook Pro (17-inch, Late 2011)
MacBook Pro (17-inch, Early 2011)
MacBook Pro (17-inch, Mid 2010)
MacBook Pro (17-inch, Mid 2009)
MacBook Pro (17-inch, Early 2009)
|MacBook Pro (15-inch Late 2008)||500|
|MacBook Pro (15-inch, Early 2008)|
MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2.4/2.2GHz)
MacBook Pro (15-inch, Core 2 Duo)
MacBook Pro (15-inch Glossy)
MacBook Pro (15-inch)
MacBook Pro (17-inch, Late 2008)
MacBook Pro (17-inch, Early 2008)
MacBook Pro (17-inch, 2.4GHz)
MacBook Pro (17-inch Core 2 Duo)
MacBook Pro (17-inch)
|MacBook Air (M1, 2020)|
MacBook Air (Retina, 13-inch, 2020)
MacBook Air (Retina, 13-inch, 2019)
MacBook Air (Retina, 13-inch, 2018)
MacBook Air (13-inch, 2017)
MacBook Air (11-inch, Early 2015)
MacBook Air (11-inch, Early 2014)
MacBook Air (11-inch, Mid 2013)
MacBook Air (11-inch, Mid 2012)
MacBook Air (11-inch, Mid 2011)
MacBook Air (11-inch, Late 2010)
MacBook Air (13-inch, Early 2015)
MacBook Air (13-inch, Early 2014)
MacBook Air (13-inch, Mid 2013)
MacBook Air (13-inch, Mid 2012)
MacBook Air (13-inch, Mid 2011)
MacBook Air (13-inch, Late 2010)
|MacBook Air (Mid 2009)||500|
|MacBook Air (Late 2008)|
See these resources for more information about the batteries in your Apple notebook.
Get help with your Mac notebook battery
Learn how to optimize the life of the battery in your Mac notebook, fix battery issues, and get service.
Optimize your battery life
Your notebook battery life depends on your computer's configuration and how you're using the computer. Here are some settings and steps that you can take to get the most from your computer’s battery.
Check Battery preferences
The Battery pane in System Preferences has settings to help improve the battery life on your Mac notebook. To view Battery settings, choose Apple menu > System Preferences, click Battery or Energy Saver, then select Battery in the sidebar.
The example above is from macOS Monterey. Some features such as Automatic graphics switching and Power Nap aren't available on all Mac notebooks or versions of macOS.
For maximum battery life, use the following settings:
- Turn on “Slightly dim the display while on battery power.” This setting lets your Mac adjust the display brightness to 75% when you unplug the computer from power.
- Turn off “Enable Power Nap while on battery power.” This setting prevents your Mac from checking for mail or other iCloud updates during sleep which improves standby time.
- Turn on “Automatic graphics switching.” This setting lets MacBook Pro models with multiple graphics processors automatically switch between them to maximize battery life.
- Turn on "Low power mode." This setting reduces energy usage to increase battery life.
Adjust display brightness
By default, your display automatically adjusts the brightness to conserve power. If you turn off automatic brightness, you should turn it back on later to preserve battery life. To set the brightness automatically, choose Apple menu > System Preferences, click Displays, then turn on ”Automatically adjust brightness”. Learn how to adjust your brightness manually.
Check battery health
You can check the health of your battery in Battery preferences or the Battery status menu:
- In macOS Big Sur or later, choose Apple menu > System Preferences, click Battery, select Battery in the sidebar, then click Battery Health.
- In macOS Catalina or earlier, hold the Option key and click the battery icon in the menu bar to reveal the battery status menu.
You'll see one of the following status indicators:
- Normal: The battery is functioning normally.
- Service Recommended: The battery's ability to hold charge is less than when it was new or it isn't functioning normally. You can safely continue to use your Mac but you should take it to an Apple Store or Apple-authorized service provider to get your battery evaluated.
To get service on your battery, contact Apple.
In earlier versions of macOS, the battery status might display Replace Soon, Replace Now, or Service Battery if your battery holds less of a charge than when it was new or needs to be serviced. If the battery's lowered charging capacity is affecting your experience, get your battery evaluated at an Apple Store or Apple Authorized Service Provider.
While some third-party apps report on battery health conditions, the data reported by these apps might be inaccurate and isn't a conclusive indication of actual diminished system run time. It's best to rely on the information reported in the battery health menu, described above.
Diagnose battery issues
Learn how to check your hardware, identify apps or features contributing to high energy use, and resolve charging issues.
A great place to start when troubleshooting battery issues is the built-in diagnostics that are available on your Mac notebook. Learn how to use Apple Diagnostics on your Mac.
If you don't find any issues with Apple Diagnostics, read on for more information about troubleshooting your battery.
Check the battery status menu
The battery status menu shows you how much charge your battery has and whether it's currently charging. This menu is at the right side of the menu bar.
The battery status menu also tells you if your display or any apps are using significant energy. Also consider closing any apps that are listed to save battery power.
If you use Optimized Battery Charging in macOS Big Sur or later, you'll see additional information when your Mac is connected to power, such as whether charging is paused or when your battery will be fully charged. If charging is paused and you need to have your Mac fully charged sooner, click Charge To Full Now.
Resolve charging issues
Get help with other issues such as if your Mac won't recognize a power adapter or charge to 100%.
If your Mac won't charge to 100%
If you use optimized battery charging in macOS Big Sur or later, or use macOS Catalina or earlier, occasionally the battery might not show a full charge (100%) in macOS, even after the power adapter has been connected for an extended period of time. This behavior is normal and helps prolong the overall life of the battery.
If charging is on hold and you need your Mac fully charged sooner, learn how to resume charging.
Servicing the battery in your Mac notebook
MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro computers with built-in batteries should only have their batteries replaced by an Apple Authorized Service Provider or at an Apple Store. Attempting to replace a built-in battery yourself could damage your equipment, and such damage is not covered by warranty.
Some older Mac notebooks have removable batteries that you can replace yourself. Contact an Apple Authorized Service Provider or an Apple Store for assistance servicing a removable battery.
Battery warranty information
Your Apple One Year Limited Warranty includes replacement coverage for a defective battery. If you purchased an AppleCare Protection Plan for your Mac notebook, Apple will replace the notebook battery at no charge if it retains less than 80 percent of its original capacity. If you don't have coverage, you can have the battery replaced for a fee.
Understanding batteries in Mac notebooks
MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro computers come with lithium polymer batteries to provide maximum battery life in a compact space. To understand battery technology and battery life, it's good to know common battery terminology:
- Cycle count: Batteries are expected to function for a certain number of cycles. This number represents the sum of total and partial discharge cycles throughout the life of the battery. You can see the cycle count limit for your computer by reviewing Determine battery cycle count for Mac notebooks.
- Full charge capacity: Measured in mAH (milliampere-hours), this refers to the amount of power the battery is capable of containing, less the energy required to shut down the device. This number lowers as the battery becomes depleted with usage and age.
- Remaining charge capacity: This number represents the current amount of power left in the battery as measured in mAh (milliampere-hours). Using the computer when not connected to AC power will cause this number to lower as power is depleted from the battery.
- Defective: Batteries are considered defective when they stop working due to a defect in materials or workmanship, or due to a manufacturing defect. Defective batteries are covered under Apple's one-year limited warranty and extended-service contracts.
- Load: The amount of activity being performed by a task or tasks. Certain power-intensive processes place a heavier load on the battery and result in a much-reduced runtime per charge.
Information about products not manufactured by Apple, or independent websites not controlled or tested by Apple, is provided without recommendation or endorsement. Apple assumes no responsibility with regard to the selection, performance, or use of third-party websites or products. Apple makes no representations regarding third-party website accuracy or reliability. Contact the vendor for additional information.
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MacBook Air and MacBook Pro M1 battery life tested — this is amazing
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By Henry T. Casey
The new MacBook Air and Pro have insane battery life
The M1 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro posted battery life numbers so fantastic that it made me look back into the history of our testing. And in the past decade of Tom's Guide battery test scores, only once has Apple ever come close to the new MacBook Air's time.
So we're here to put a "correct" sticker of Apple's claim that the new MacBooks are its longest lasting ever. As our MacBook Air with M1 review shows, it took 14 hours and 41 minutes of web browsing at 150 nits of brightness to drain Apple's most portable laptop — which beats the previous record-holder, the 2015 13-inch MacBook Pro (14:00). But wait: it gets better.
Not only was that the previous record-holder, it was also done at a slightly less demanding test: with its display at 100 nits, not 150.
But about the M1 MacBook Pro. Its battery test score — an amazing 16:32 — is one of the best scores on this test I've ever seen, and the longest lasting MacBook ever.
|M1 MacBook Air||14:41|
|M1 MacBook Pro||16:32|
|Asus ZenBook 13||13:47|
|Dell XPS 13||11:07|
|Intel MacBook Air 2020||9:31|
|Intel MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020)||10:21|
How did Apple pull it off? The Apple M1 Chip is a winner at efficiency, as it's a 5-nanometer processor that the company says offers the best performance per watt in a CPU.
These achievements in endurance make us wonder how the long the larger 16-inch MacBook Pro will last on a single charge, once it's moved to Apple Silicon in the coming years. But for now, the new MacBook Air and MacBook Pro are officially some of the longest-lasting laptops you can buy
Henry is a senior editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past six-plus years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.
Apple’s M1 chip has signalled a brand-new era for computing on the Mac. Seemingly gone are the days of “My RAM’s bigger than yours”, and endless arguments over who to blame for the slow progression of MacBooks (was it really always Intel’s fault?).
It has also revealed what many have claimed to be colossal improvements in battery life for Apple’s laptops.
I’ve been among them. I’ve referred to battery life as the M1 MacBook Air’s “best feature” and regularly call it “biblical” when answering comments on my YouTube channel.
However, recently, I stopped halfway through a morning of working solely on the M1 Air and found myself asking a rather simple question.
Is the battery life on these M1 MacBooks really that good?
Something had sprung a doubt in my mind. Maybe it was a cursory glance at the battery percentage which was lower than normal for that time of day, or perhaps it was because, deep down, I’m concerned that my opinion of the battery life has been shaped my marketing hyperbole and reviewer praise.
After all, is leaving a laptop to compile a bunch of code while unplugged really a decent reflection of how awesome its battery life is versus the outgoing model?
So, I decided to conduct my own M1 MacBook Air battery test. And the results were absolutely fascinating.
M1 MacBook Air battery life test: the rules
As always, I have zero interest in benchmarks. I want to know how the battery life translates to real-world productivity and convenience.
Thankfully, that made this particular test pretty straightforward. I’d simply pick a random day and use the Air for every task I needed to carry out that day.
I wasn’t allowed to tailor the tasks to push the battery, nor adjust my use of the laptop to either try and run it down more quickly or preserve the battery life. I would simply use it as though it was a desktop machine.
That meant forgetting about screen brightness, leaving apps open if I wanted to, and neglecting to close the lid when walking away from my desk.
So, the Air was charged overnight to 100%, and that’s where I started the journey early one Wednesday morning.
Time worked: 0hr 0min
Battery level: 100%
I start work ridiculously early, but that has always afforded me plenty of time to cram loads of work into one day. It also means I can grab a coffee, sit on the sofa and undertake relatively basic admin tasks before everyone else wakes up.
This particular morning, I had the usual round of YouTube comments to catch up on and reply to, a few emails to deal with and a bit of blogging to undertake.
Standard stuff. No hassle for the Air, which remained at 100% for at least the first 30 minutes of that initial work period.
Time worked: 1hr 46min
Battery level: 91%
That 9% of battery life was lost almost solely to web browsing and email.
When I say “web browsing”, I’m often referring to web apps too, such as Notion and Google Docs. I’m conscious these often cause Safari to chew through more battery but nearly two hours worked and 9% down didn’t feel too bad at all.
However, I’m one of those people who experiences that entirely unreasonable feeling of disappointment when a battery’s level dips below 100% for the first time. It’s confirmation that, actually, this battery is fallible, after all.
Time worked: 2hr 59min
Battery level: 78%
Just over an hour later, I’d again undertaken a fair normal variety of work, although, this time, it included some time in my members’ Discord server.
During that time on Discord (I was running the app, rather than the web service, which I feel it’s worth mentioning), a member known as Telly asked how the test was going and, specifically, what the screen brightness was set to.
So, I checked and discovered it was bang-on 100%. I didn’t feel like lowering it, either, and that’s an interesting aside if you’re currently considering between the M1 MacBook Air and M1 MacBook Pro. The latter has a slightly brighter screen, and it’s during bright days like the one I’d chosen for my test that it might be more useful.
Incidentally, if you need further help choosing between the two, I recently published a video guide:
Time worked: 3hr 48min
Battery level: 67%
It’s amazing how much work you can get done when you get up early, right? At this stage, I’d near as dammit worked half a day’s ‘normal’ shift (whatever that is), and the Air’s battery still had comfortably more than half left in the tank.
By this time, I was conscious of how I was using the laptop and, specifically, how many apps I was leaving open.
At this time of the day, the active apps on my dock looked something like this:
- YouTube Studio
- Google Drive
- Spark email client
- Toggl Track
- Day One
Add to that a couple of Safari tabs, and it was a fairly busy machine. Although, I won’t lie – the battery life was starting to make me question whether the Air would make it to a 17:30 finish.
Time worked: 4hr 39min
Battery level: 60%
An hour gone, 7% lost.
I had to remind myself at this stage of how far I’d come. I was now approaching five hours of work and the battery still hadn’t hit the 50% mark. That’s pretty impressive, by any measure.
However, it’s at this time of the day that I usually open and use Microsoft Teams. I’ve heard about its tendency to leak memory like water through a sieve, but I’ve never really paid much attention to its impact on battery life.
It felt like this was a pivotal moment for the M1 Air. How would it handle Teams running for the rest of the day and an impending – although admittedly simple – Final Cut Pro video edit?
Time worked: 5hr 13min
Battery level: 55%
Lunch and run time!
Reflecting on the morning’s work, it had been completely non-intensive – as far as the MacBook Air was concerned. I never once pushed the CPU or asked it to do anything more than track the cursor on the screen and respond to text input.
The afternoon would be different, owing to the fact I had some Teams calls to join and the aforementioned video edit to take care of.
Time worked: 5hr 25min
Battery level: 53%
After lunch, I returned to the Mac, having closed the lid out of habit. It had somehow lost 2% in that time, which may be due to the number of apps I had left running in the background, but it’s still pretty impressive nonetheless.
I must admit, being able to happily leave a laptop unplugged for an hour with little worry about how much battery will be left when you return is rather lovely.
Time worked: 6hr 00min
Battery level: 41%
Fairly big drop that, right? Less than an hour worked and 10% gone.
Something was different. It was beginning to feel like the battery was draining quicker during the afternoon.
This prompted me to have a quick scan of the menu bar to assess what background tasks might be running. They included Dropbox, Day One, Toggl, Creative Cloud and Fantastical’s helper app. Not particularly strenuous.
I had undertaken that Teams call, mind.
Six hours of work and 60% battery consumed isn’t bad, but it isn’t “biblical”, is it?
More pressingly, I had a couple more Teams calls on the horizon and that video edit to undertake. Not to mention three and a half (at least) hours of work remaining.
Things were suddenly beginning to look rather bleak on the M1 battery front.
Time worked: 7hr 00min
Battery level: 23%
Due to the perennial problem of having to wait on other people, the video edit was still on my to-do list. However, in a little over one hour and 15 minutes, the M1 MacBook Air had chewed through 18% of its battery, and all I’d done was open and close Final Cut Pro and continue working in apps like Ulysses and Safari.
Surely, this thing wouldn’t hold on until the end of the day?
Time worked: 7hr 32min
Battery level: 14%
If you’ve ever watched the Top Gear episode where Jeremy Clarkson attempts to drive the length and breadth of the UK on a single tank of fuel, you’ll know how I felt at this stage.
Fourteen percent is dangerously low. I know that at 10%, macOS issues a battery warning and, at that stage, it’s pretty much game over – you have to plug in if you want to avoid losing anything.
During the 30 minutes since the previous update, I still hadn’t undertaken the video edit and had continued the very basic work (as far as the Mac is concerned) which had defined my day.
I’d plugged in an external USB drive for the video footage, but that’s pretty much the only sizeable change in state during that time.
Time worked: 7hr 47min
Battery level: 10%
Game over. Nearly eight hours into my workday, macOS signalled that now really would be a good time to plug that charging cable in, if I valued my work and livelihood.
I never got as far as the Final Cut Pro edit and I couldn’t risk trying it on 10% battery.
The party was over. The M1 had been defeated in less than my working day.
I immediately jumped onto my Discord server and asked members to guess how much battery I had left, nearly eight hours in.
“I’m thinking 75%,” said one member.
“By 5pm I’d have said 42% remaining,” said another.
They were shocked when I explained that the red battery indicator of death had appeared. And I kinda see why – I was disappointed, to be honest.
Then, someone (hey, Justin!) pointed out that I’d been Teams running for a large portion of the day and that it would be worth testing again without it spewing its memory leaks all over my pristine M1 MacBook Air.
So I did exactly that yesterday, and… well, the results were worse. I reached the dreaded 10% mark at 15:45 with nearly 7.5 hours worked. The only difference in terms of workload was a brief bit of time spent in Lightroom, but the rest of the day was the normal, processor-lite stuff I’ve noted before, and I didn’t once open Teams.
I now have two questions:
- Do I have a defective M1 MacBook Air battery?
- Has there been too much hyperbole about the battery?
My use constitutes ‘normal’ business stuff, right? Is this the reality of the M1’s battery capabilities?
YouTube guy. I review and talk about tech.
Battery life air macbook
Apple MacBook Air (M1) review: gamechanging speed and battery life
The MacBook Air is the first of two new laptops with Apple’s first-of-its-kind, own-brand M1 processor, which makes for a giant leap in performance and battery life.
The MacBook Air with M1 chip starts at £999 and is Apple’s entry-level laptop, sitting below the MacBook Pro with M1 that starts at £1,299. Alongside the new Mac mini, they are the first models in Apple’s wholesale transition away from traditional Intel x86 processors to Apple’s Arm-based chips similar to those used in iPhones and iPads.
From the outside, almost nothing about the M1 MacBook Air has changed since the one from April. They match in size and weight, the number of ports, microphones and speakers.
The 13.3in screen supports the wider DCI-P3 colour space – a feature hitherto reserved for the more expensive MacBook Pro. The 720p webcam is slightly better, too, but is still poor compared with those on iPads, iPhones and some rival laptops, which is a real shame.
All in all, the physical design and operation of the MacBook Air is almost perfect for a standard consumer laptop, with rivals only beating it with slightly thinner bezels around the screen.
Screen: 13.3in LCD (2560x1600; 227 ppi) True Tone
Processor: Apple M1 with seven or eight-core GPU
RAM: 8 or 16GB
Storage: 256GB, 512GB, 1TB or 2TB SSD
Operating system: macOS 11 Big Sur
Camera: 720p FaceTime HD camera
Connectivity: wifi 6, Bluetooth 5, 2x USB 4 (USB-C)/Thunderbolt 3, headphones
Dimensions: 212.4 x 304.1 x 16.1mm
Giant leap in performance and battery life
The inside of the Air is almost exactly the same as its predecessor too, apart from one very important part: the processor or, more accurately, the system-on-a-chip (SoC), which combines processor, graphics and RAM all in one package.
The new M1 replaces the Intel Core i3, i5 or i7 of its predecessor. In the cheapest MacBook Air (as tested) it has an eight-core processor (CPU) and a seven-core graphics processor (GPU), with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, but an eight-core GPU option is available.
The M1 has four high-performance CPU cores that handle the demanding stuff such as crunching data and editing photos, while four high-efficiency CPU cores handle lightweight tasks such as sending emails. All eight cores can run simultaneously for maximum performance, but the chip is designed to be as power-efficient as possible.
The M1 is also the first desktop chip to be made at the 5nm scale, where most are made at the 10 or 14nm scale. The smaller the scale, the more energy-efficient it can be.
Combined, it creates a once-in-a-generation performance and battery-life leap. The M1 is faster than any other laptop chip, rivalling the most high-powered desktop chips, while being very power-efficient.
Apple’s cheapest and lowest-power laptop can now do things hitherto reserved for only large, high-performance machines, and with multi work-day battery life to boot. If you want to edit multiple 4K streams of video or other intensive tasks, the Air will now do it.
For perspective, the previous MacBook Air with a Core i3 chip had solid performance and long battery life for more than eight hours of work. The M1 MacBook Air has extraordinary performance (up to 3.7x faster on paper) and still lasts more than twice as long doing the same work with the same capacity battery. I regularly get more than 16 hours of active work out of the MacBook Air between charges, which is enough for more than two full work days without having to turn the brightness down or shut programs to save battery.
My work day includes using Chrome with about 10 or so tabs open, various chat apps, Typora text editor, Affinity Photo, Evernote, Apple Mail and a few other tools. Just as impressively, an hour-long Google Meet video call consumes less than 3% battery compared with 20% on the old Air or more on rivals.
It took two hours and 44 minutes to fully charge the Air using the included 30W USB-C power adaptor, hitting 50% in 65 minutes. Using a third-party 45W adaptor shaved 30 minutes off the full charge time.
Intel, Arm and Universal apps
The switch to the M1 chip means there are now three types of Mac programs to contend with. “Apple” (Arm) apps run natively on the new computers, “Intel” apps can run with assistance from Apple’s Rosetta 2 translation system, and “Universal” apps contain both Apple and Intel versions, so they can run on any Mac, new or old. Developers are in the process of updating their apps to the new Universal format.
About half of the apps I use are Intel apps, and all of them work flawlessly, including Typora, Microsoft To Do, Evernote, WhatsApp, Facebook Messages, Google Backup and Sync, and Spotify. Even Garmin Express – a fairly niche piece of software used for updating the firm’s watches and devices – works flawlessly.
Rosetta 2 works so well, I don’t think most consumers will need to care what type of app they are attempting to use. The only clue you are not using an Apple app is a short delay in launching Intel apps caused by Rosetta 2 working its magic.
But there will be some software that will not work without an update, much of which is likely to be enterprise and development software. Google’s Drive File Stream file syncing app for its corporate Workspace suite is not yet supported on M1 Macs, for instance.
The MacBook Air is one of the most sustainable laptops you can buy. It contains 100% recycled aluminium in the casing, 100% recycled tin in the solder of its logic board, and at least 35% recycled plastic used in multiple components. Apple is also using renewable energy for the final assembly of the machine, and breaks down the computer’s environmental impact in its report.
The computer is generally repairable, too, although the previous iteration with which the M1 MacBook Air shares a design was awarded only 4 out of 10 for repairability by specialists iFixit.
Apple does not provide an expected lifespan for the battery. The previous iteration has a battery that was rated for 1,000 full charge cycles before diminishing to 80% capacity. It can be replaced for £129 by Apple.
Apple offers trade-in and free recycling schemes, including for non-Apple products.
MacOS 11 Big Sur
The new Air ships with Apple’s latest macOS Big Sur with new iPad-like design. It runs the same as it does on Intel Macs, except for the aforementioned Rosetta 2 system and the ability to install and run some iPhone and iPad apps.
The mobile apps can be installed through the Mac App Store, but only if their developer has either intentionally or unintentionally allowed them to be made available to M1 Macs.
Simply put, the apps aren’t great. The selection is slim, and those that are available are awkward to use at best or broken at worst, with a lot of apps that have seemingly been abandoned by their developers. Some apps are marked as being tested on Macs; others have not.
At some stage they may be worth using, but for now I wouldn’t bother; their Mac or browser-based equivalents are better.
The M1 represents such a large performance and efficiency leap that it is going to be several years before Intel, AMD and even Arm-rival Qualcomm catches up.
It has the same instant-on from standby as smartphones and tablets.
The laptop loses 6% battery while in standby for 16 hours.
The Apple MacBook Air costs £999 with a 7-core GPU, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. Doubling the storage or RAM costs £200 respectively.
The model with an 8-core GPU, 8GB of RAM and 512GB of storage costs £1,249.
For comparison, the M1 MacBook Pro starts at £1,299, the Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 starts at £779, the Samsung Galaxy Book S costs £999 and the Dell XPS starts at £949.
There’s an old saying in tech that you should never buy the first generation of any new product – you’re paying to be an early adopter and to iron out the kinks. The thing is, I cannot find any kinks for your average consumer with the new M1 MacBook Air.
The outside is the same winning formula from the start of the year. The M1 chip is genuinely a gamechanger, making the MacBook Air one of the fastest computers available in any form factor. It can do pretty much anything you would demand of a hulking big workstation, let alone a thin, light, fanless package that lasts twice as long as rivals on battery.
Of course it is not perfect. It really could do with more than two ports. The bezels could be smaller. The webcam is rubbish. It can only drive one external display, and why it doesn’t have Face ID like the iPad Pro, I don’t know.
It’s not that the old Intel Macs or PC laptops were slow – it’s just that the new M1 MacBook Air is so effortlessly fast and efficient, it’s like putting a 1980s Ford Capri next to a Tesla Model S.
Pros: super-fast, super cool, extremely long battery life, fanless, great screen, great keyboard, best-in-class trackpad, good speakers, good mics, recycled materials, Touch ID.
Cons: poor webcam, only two USB-C ports, can only drive one external display, expensive, some niche apps may have issues running until updated, no BootCamp/Windows.
MacBook Air with M1 review: Specs
Price: $999 (starting), $899 (education)
CPU: Apple M1
Display: 13.3‑inch, 2560 x 1600-pixel
Battery: 14:41 (tested)
Memory: 8GB to 16GB
Storage: 256GB to 2TB
Dimensions: 12 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches
Weight: 2.8 pounds
The new Apple MacBook Air with M1 took your idea of what a MacBook Air is, and threw it in the recycling bin. Yes, it's still got the same iconic wedge aesthetic, but Apple Silicon makes it far more powerful and capable than ever before. Thus, a new era kicked off for the MacBook Air — one with Pro-grade power that challenges Intel-based Windows PCs — and often beats them.
As a prospective MacBook shopper myself, I'm happy to say that the new MacBook Air offers serious performance gains over its predecessor, and many more hours of battery life as well. This MacBook Air with M1 review will show why this is one of the best laptops, period. And as of October 2021 it has some new siblings, as Apple unveiled the new 14-inch MacBook Pro 2021 and 16-inch MacBook Pro 2021.
Most of the apps I've used on the MacBook Air are still the Intel versions, which macOS Big Sur uses Rosetta 2 to translate for working on its ARM-based processor. Once app developers make Universal versions, their apps will run even faster on the Apple silicon systems, like this M1-based MacBook Air.
Not only am I going to pit the new M1 MacBook Air against the best PC laptops in this review, I'm also comparing it against the Intel-based MacBook Air released earlier this year, to show how much has changed (or hasn't). And since we've just released our Dell XPS 13 OLED review, we're going to mention how it compares on color output and battery life.
MacBook Air with M1 review: Price and release date
The MacBook Air with M1 starts at $999, though educational customers can get it for $899. That model has an 8-core CPU and 7-core GPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. The $1,249 model is a little more stacked, with 512GB of SSD storage — plus an 8-core GPU.
Currently, you can get $200 off the 512GB MacBook Air M1 at Amazon for $1,099 and $100 off the 256GB MacBook Air M1 for $899.
The MacBook Air with M1 debuted on November 17, 2020, but those who are still waiting may be rewarded. The MacBook Air 2021 is rumored to have thinner bezels and MagSafe charging.
But if you don't need a new laptop right now, you may want to wait a few months. The latest report out of Bloomberg suggests a revamped MacBook AIr will come after the Pros (which is expected as early as this summer). This laptop would have the "direct successor" to the Apple M1 chip, which would have as many computing cores — but running faster. The graphics cores will increase by two: from 7 or 8 to 9 or 10.
MacBook Air with M1 review: Performance
The MacBook Air's performance — powered by the M1 processor and 16GB of RAM — is phenomenal. When I split its screen between 20 Chrome (Intel, not Universal) tabs and a 1080p YouTube video — plus Apple's Mail and Photos app, Pixelmator (again, an Intel app) and 1Password (Intel, again) in the background, I never saw anything close to a hiccup. Oh, and in the background, 20GB of 4K video was being AirDrop transferred, while everything stayed smooth and stable.
During a group call, I even found time to play around with iOS apps, downloading and opening the Overcast podcatcher, HBO Max and the game Among Us. All while a 4K YouTube video of a chef cooking played on my laptop monitor, I played around in each of those apps, so I could start an Adventure Time episode, download a podcast and drag my lil Among Us guy around on screen. Yes, I'm very good at multitasking.
Most of the time, the MacBook Air with M1 felt — performance-wise — like it was identical (if not faster) than the 2020 Core i5 MacBook Pro I've used to test Big Sur, or the 2017 Core i7 MacBook Pro work computer I replied upon. This includes when I connected an external monitor. Before this, I was a bit skeptical, even with Apple's boasts of 3.5x improved performance vs the Intel MacBook Air released earlier this year, because I've always pushed my MacBooks to the limit, and needed a MacBook Pro, and not an Air, to do my work. This MacBook Air? It feels like a Pro.
And let's see how that shakes out in benchmarks — and I'll note that not all of our tests were done with Universal versions of apps, and Intel versions aren't optimized for the M1.
The Air scored 5,962 on the Geekbench 5.1 (Intel) multicore test, which was practically in a dead-heat with the 5,925 from the M1 MacBook Pro. The Air soundly beat the 5,084 from the ZenBook 13 and the 5,319 from the XPS 13 (both tested with the Intel Core i7-1165G7 CPU and 16GB of RAM), on the comparable Geekbench 5.2 test. The old Intel MacBook Air Y-series Intel CPU mustered only 2,738.
On our Handbrake (Universal) video conversion test, which transcodes a 4K video to 1080p, the MacBook Air finished the test in 9 minutes and 15 seconds and the MacBook Pro took 7:44 (on a Beta version of Handbrake that's optimized for Apple silicon). Those times obliterate those from the ZenBook 13 (17:51) and XPS 13 (18:22), as well as the 27:10 time from the Intel MacBook Air from earlier this year.
Apple also promised twice as fast storage speeds, and they delivered. The 1TB SSD in the MacBook Air we tested hit a read speed of 2692 MBps on the Black Magic Disk Speed Test (Intel), literally more than twice the 1,301.9 MBps read rate from the Intel MacBook Air.
The MacBook Air scored a 653 on the PugetBench Photoshop (Intel) test, which beats the 588 from the XPS 13, but falls to the 743 from the ZenBook 13 (a rare wn for the x86 crowd). The MacBook Pro came pretty close, with a 649.
MacBook Air with M1 review: Graphics
Our test MacBook Air has the 8-core GPU configuration, which (by the feel of it) could reshape the Mac in the minds of some gamers. I started it off easy, running Bioshock 2 Remastered (at the native 2560 x 1600 resolution) and that game played smoothly, as rippling water flowed through the rooms I navigated, electro shocks hit enemies and all the underwater life outside the hallways I explored moved without a glitch.
But since that's an older game, I brought out Rise of the Tomb Raider (also at 2560 x 1600, and set to Medium graphics) which looked great on the MacBook Air — and I never thought I'd see a MacBook Air run a demanding AAA game at all. Whether I was climbing a snowy arctic mountain, or exploring the deserts of Syria, Lara Croft moved as she should. Oh, and both of these games are Intel versions running via Rosetta 2, so they're not Universal versions (yet).
When we benchmarked Sid Meier's Civilization VI: Gathering Storm (Intel) on the MacBook Air (where 1440 x 900 was the highest resolution supported), it ran at 37 frames per second, walloping the 7 fps score we got from the Intel MacBook Air and coming in slightly under the M1 MacBook Pro's 38 fps time. The ZenBook 13 and XPS 13 (which could run that game at a slightly sharper 1080p) posted rates of 21 and 16 fps, respectively.
Interestingly, the GFXBench Metal Aztec Ruins graphics benchmark (Universal) gave the Air and Pro practically similar scores: a 54 on High and 60 on Normal (both rounded down).
MacBook Air with M1 review: Battery Life
Apple declared its M1 chip would enable all-day battery life, and the company has hit that mark. On the Tom's Guide battery test (web browsing at 150 nits), the new MacBook Air lasted an epic 14 hours and 41 minutes (while the new MacBook Pro hit 16:32) — times that beat both the ZenBook 13 (13:47) and XPS 13 (11:07). The OLED XPS 13 (7:59) put in a much lower time.
And for those who just want to compare against the previous Intel Macs — they're left in the dust. The Intel MacBook Air (9:31) and MacBook Pro (10:21) times have now been beaten by 5 and 6 hours, respectively.
MacBook Air with M1 review: Webcam
I've wanted Apple to give its MacBooks a higher-resolution camera, but they found another way to improve the MacBook for the Zoom era. The M1 chip features an image signal processor that makes you look better in a couple of ways.
I put the New MacBook Air's webcam in a head-to-head face-off with the early-2020 Intel-based MacBook Pro, with both joining the same Google Meet call. My boss, looking at two of me at the same time, noted that the video from the M1-based MacBook Air offered better colors, including skin tones, and an overall brighter picture. Other calls I made on the MacBook Air, where we didn't have a live comparison, didn't wow anyone with the video quality, which goes to show that a better webcam would still be welcome.
MacBook Air with M1 review: Design
The MacBook Air with M1 looks and feels exactly like the early 2020 MacBook Air I reviewed back in March. And that's arguably the point. This MacBook Air has the same wedge-shaped machined-aluminum chassis (available in gold, silver and space gray) that we're used to, as Apple seems to want to ease users into the Apple Silicon era.
So, the 12 x 8.4 x 0.6-inch, 2.8 pound M1 MacBook Air looks exactly like its Intel-based predecessor (11.9 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches and 2.8 pounds). And to be honest, it still has room to shrink. The 2.5-pound Asus ZenBook 13 (11.9 x 8 x 0.5 inches) is a bit lighter, while the 2.8-pound Dell XPS 13 has a smaller 11.6 x 7.8 x 0.6-inch footprint, thanks in part to its razor-thin InfinityEdge bezels.
Apple sells the MacBook Air in gold, silver and space gray. I prefer gold, so much so that I really wish Apple would offer it for the MacBook Pro (which it does not).
MacBook Air with M1 review: Ports
The M1 MacBook Air has 2 Thunderbolt 3 USB 4 ports, just like its Intel-based predecessor, plus a headphone jack on the side (which I pray Apple never removes). While its USB-C ports are both on the left side, the XPS 13 splits them between the left and right side, making it easier to connect devices on your right.
Other laptops simply offer more ports. The XPS 13 also has a microSD reader, which the MacBook Air does not. The ZenBook 13 has a full HDMI-out and a USB-A port, but no headphone jack.
Annoyed that the MacBook Air doesn't have the old MagSafe charging? Worry no more, rumor has it that the MacBook Air 2021 will pack the more convenient charging standard.
Plus, the ZenBook is also designed for serious durability, having passed multiple MIL-STD 810G certifications (including extreme temperatures and altitudes, drops, shocks, and vibrations).
MacBook Air with M1 review: Display
As I watched Spider-man: Into The Spider-verse on the MacBook Air M1, I noticed how the pinks, yellows and blues of the graffiti popped off the screen, as did the greens of the arachnid that bit into young Miles Morales. As for detail, the MacBook Air's 2,560 x 1600-pixel Retina display provided fine details, with the hairs on that spider, the myriad of Ben-Day dots in the entire film, as well as the grains of the wood floors in Bong Joon-Ho's Parasite. The starting configurations of the ZenBook 13 and XPS 13 both rock 1080p screens, which are not as sharp.
We're still waiting on an OLED MacBook, as the Dell XPS 13 OLED just came out to get tons of applause for its gorgeous panel. That said, its improved screen comes at a big downside, as I mention in the battery life section.
According to our Klein K10-A colorimeter, the MacBook Air with M1 produces 114.3% of the sRGB spectrum, which is slightly above the scores of the M1 MacBook Pro (110.6%) Asus ZenBook 13 (107.5%) and the Dell XPS 13 (97.9%). The Intel MacBook Air posted a similar 113%, and the OLED XPS 13 hit a hair higher, at 117.3%
Our colorimeter also rates the new MacBook Air's display as producing up to 365.8 nits of brightness (a bit below the company's 400-nit estimate), which makes it similar to the display of the Intel-based MacBook Air (386 nits) and the ZenBook 13 (370 nits). The M1 MacBook Pro (434.8 nits) and the XPS 13 (469.2 nits) get brighter. That extra brightness could help it prevent colors from darkening a bit when you view the panel 30 degrees to the left and right.
MacBook Air with M1 review: Keyboard and touchpad
Testing out the MacBook Air's Magic Keyboard on the 10fastfingers typing test, I clicked my way to 74 words per minute, not far from my 80 wpm average. As was the case with the early 2020 MacBook Air, this keyboard was the upgrade Apple needed, after its too-shallow Butterfly-switch keys proved controversial, with many arguing they were prone to sticking when small detritus or dust got into the keys.
The MacBook Air's 4.8 x 3.2 glass Force Touch trackpad offers accurate input recognition, and smooth scrolling. Apple continues to substitute haptic feedback for clicks, a decision that seems to have been a success (though I preferred it the old way).
MacBook Air with M1 review: Audio
Turning on Rage Against The Machine's "Bulls on Parade" I noted how the MacBook Air's stereo speakers get loud enough to fill my pretty-large living room with sweet sound. Synths and guitar riffs sounded accurate, Zach De La Rocha's vocals came out clearly and the speakers have a decently large soundstage, giving a somewhat immersive feel.
Also, the MacBook Air supports Dolby Atmos, so when I watched Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse on the Air, I felt like I heard the movie's booming score more than I have on previous laptops. Whether that was Post Malone and Swae Lee's "Sunflower" or the timbre of Nicolas Cage's voice for the Spider-Noir character, the movie just sounded better.
When you’re making video calls, and the trio of built-in microphones means that Siri can hear you (correctly) even when you're speaking away from the laptop.
MacBook Air with M1 review: Heat
When I used the MacBook Air in my lap, while writing this review, watching video, and syncing my personal and professional email in Mail.app I noticed the Air get a little warm. Not to an unpleasant degree, though. That’s good news, since the new Air doesn’t have a fan.
After we streamed 15 minutes of full HD video on the MacBook Air, our heat gun picked up low readings on its touchpad (78 degrees Fahrenheit), keyboard (80.5 degrees) and underside (83 degrees), which all fall under our 95 degree comfort threshold.
MacBook Air with M1 review: Software and iOS apps
As you've doubtlessly noticed, multiple applications we used to test and benchmark the MacBook Air were applications made for Intel processors. The Apple M1 chip, and all upcoming Apple silicon, will not natively run these applications. Fortunately, Rosetta 2 — Apple's tool for translating applications to run smoothly — is here and it performs that action up upon installation, so those applications can run unhindered. Hopefully, developers will create Universal versions of these apps sooner, rather than later, so the M1 Macs can run to their potential.
Apple silicon chips like the M1 will also allow you to run iPhone and iPad apps on your Mac. They'll be distributed in the Mac App Store, but look for the text "Not verified for macOS" — if you see that, the developer hasn't confirmed that their app runs smoothly on the Mac. Apps will default to arrive on the Mac App Store, but developers can opt out, so don't expect everything. I've tried out some of my favorites, including Overcast, and it's nice to get the HBO Max app on the Mac, so you can save movies for watching offline. Playing Among Us without a touch screen had a bit of a learning curve.
Finally, macOS Big Sur is at the heart of the new MacBook Air, and I've enjoyed it as I spent the summer playing around with it in betas. Its bright interface uses transparency and translucency a lot, which might require some adjustments based on your personal preferences. The biggest update to Big Sur is how Safari is getting competitive with Chrome, by gaining a customizable home screen and new tab previews.
MacBook Air with M1 review: Verdict
This MacBook Air with M1 review has shown why its amazing endurance and shockingly good speed combine to take the MacBook Air to new heights. If only it packed a couple more ports and slimmed down its bezels, the new MacBook Air might be 5-star perfect.
The Dell XPS 13 has much smaller bezels, but it trails behind the MacBook Air in performance and battery life. You could save $650 with a similarly configured $999 Asus ZenBook 13, and get a few ports too, but you'd be sacrificing performance and around an hour of endurance. For those who live and work in the Apple ecosystem, though, the new MacBook Air is the easiest buying decision you've had in ages.
Henry is a senior editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past six-plus years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.
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Gone are the days when a laptop charge would only last a few hours. Apple on Tuesday said that its new MacBook Air will have 15 hours of battery life for wireless web browsing. For video playback, the battery will last 18 hours. And the battery life on video calls will be twice the rate on current MacBook Air computers.
The tech giant made the announcement during a virtual event centered on its computers. The focus was on the new M1 chips integrated into Apple's new Mac lineup. The big difference with these M1 chips is that they're designed by Apple, rather than Intel, the company's previous supplier. Apple says its M1 chips are more power efficient, allow for slimmer designs and longer battery life.
Now playing:Watch this: New M1 Macs are a huge shift for Apple
"M1 delivers significantly higher performance at every possible level," Johny Srouji, Apple's senior vice president of hardware technologies, said during Apple's event. "This is a big deal."
Apple has been working on these chips for more than a decade. They're already in iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch products, but this is the first time the company has added its own chips to its Mac lineup. By combining all its devices under the same chips and common code, Apple aims to offer the same experience across all of its products.
Along with the MacBook Air getting a longer battery life, Apple said Tuesday that its new Mac Mini and 13-inch MacBook Pro will also come with the M1 chip and see many more hours of battery. For instance, the 13-inch MacBook Pro will have wireless web browsing for 17 hours or video playback for 20 hours, that's 10 hours longer than its predecessor.
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