Apple announces MacBook Air with Apple’s Arm-based M1 processor

Apple has announced the launch of its 2020 MacBook Air. It’s powered by Apple’s new M1 processor. This is the first MacBook Air, and one of the first laptops, to feature Apple’s own Arm-based CPUs.

The eight-core M1 is a 5nm processor based on the A14 Bionic, the chipset that powers the iPhone 12 and iPad Air lines. Apple stated that the M1 contains four of the world’s fastest CPU cores, paired with four high-efficiency cores. It also claims that the chip offers the world’s best performance per watt of any CPU.

Apple says the new Air is up to 3 times faster than the “best-selling Windows laptop in its class” and faster than “98 percent of PC laptops sold in the last year.” It’s also up to 3.5 times faster than the Intel MacBook Air, with up to five times faster graphics performance and nine times faster machine learning, per the company.

Apple also claims you’ll get 18 hours of video playback to a charge. (If that claim holds up, it would be an improvement from the Intel-powered MacBook Air.) There’s no fan inside, so it should run noiselessly as well.

In terms of specs, the new Air comes with a 13.3-inch retina display with P3 wide color gamut support, and up to 16GB of memory and 2TB of storage. It supports Thunderbolt, USB 4, Wi-Fi 6, and Touch ID.

The release is the first step in Apple’s transition away from Intel processors, which Apple’s computers have used since 2005. The company expects the process to take two years.

Apple claims the chips will deliver better performance and power efficiency than its Intel competitors. But the biggest advantage of Arm systems is that they’ll be able to run iOS and iPadOS apps natively on macOS. As for macOS apps: Apple has updated its own programs, such as Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, to support its silicon, as have other major companies like Microsoft and Adobe. At its June event, Apple demonstrated Lightroom and Photoshop running smoothly on its new Macs — Lightroom is slated for release next month, and Photoshop early next year. And macOS Big Sur, which the Air will run, includes an emulator called Rosetta 2 that will “translate” any apps that haven’t yet been updated for Arm at launch.

The new MacBook Air starts at $999, and $899 for education. That makes it the same price as the previous MacBook Air, released in March. It’s available next week, but you can preorder it today.

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