Apple’s M1 chip is shaking up the computer industry thanks to impressive gains in performance and battery life. With the recent launch of the M1-based iMac, there’s even more reason to be cautiously optimistic about switching to an M1 Mac in the near future.
However, the decision to switch to an M1-based Mac is still not as simple as it seems. We’re going to highlight the biggest pros and cons of using an M1 Mac to help you decide whether this is the right time to switch.
If you are eyeing an M1-based MacBook, you can definitely expect better battery life from the device compared to an Intel-based MacBook. Meanwhile, desktop machines such as the Mac mini and the iMac are now more power-efficient, which means they consume less electricity and are less likely to face overheating-related issues.
These are universally appreciated facets of M1 Macs. For many people, these factors alone are reason enough to upgrade.
When compared with Intel-based Macs, you’re almost always going to get better performance with an M1 MacBook. Your computer is less likely to start lagging or freezing, which is a major reason to switch.
For most people, this just means the freedom to open more browser tabs without worrying about performance. You’ll also that M1 Macs boot up faster, are quicker to wake from sleep mode, and that apps load much faster on these new machines.
But for professional use cases such as audio and video editing, the answer is not as clear- cut at all.
Even though these new Macs are faster, not all professional apps have been optimized to take advantage of this performance. We’ll discuss this in detail later, but for general purposes it suffices to say that for most people, the new M1 Macs are a great choice.
In the world of Windows computers, it’s easy to spend endless hours debating whether the Ryzen 5 5600X is better for your purposes than a Ryzen 7 3700X. If you’ve ever thought about building a Windows PC or buying a laptop, you’ve probably had similar concerns to think about.
Some people love this freedom of choice, but others find this unnecessarily complicated and exhausting. Even with Intel-based Macs, you might find that there are too many processor options with confusing nomenclature.
Apple has fixed that problem with M1 Macs. You no longer need to worry about the processor or graphics on your Mac. From a high-performance desktop machines to ultra-portable laptops, every machine has the same M1 processor.
Since the processor has an integrated GPU, you no longer need to worry about that choice either. Sure, some variants may offer an extra GPU core, but by and large the portfolio is streamlined. This is great news for most people.
As much as we’ve praised M1 Macs for their performance, the lack of upgrade options after purchase is a major disappointment. Most people will be happy with 8GB of RAM, but if you feel like adding more RAM a year down the line, you simply can’t do it with M1 Macs. This forces many people to consider upgrading at the time of purchase, but even that has its share of problems.
For starters, upgrades are ridiculously expensive. A Mac mini with 8GB of RAM and 256GB storage costs $699. If you want 16GB of RAM and 1TB storage, the same machine will costs a whopping $1,699. You’ll see similar price jumps across the M1 Mac lineup, and these upgrades are even more expensive in many regions across the world.
Even if money is not a concern, 16GB of RAM may seem limited for the top-of-the-line variants of all Macs launched so far. Video editors in particular will feel the need for more RAM eventually and these upgrade limitations may force them to look elsewhere.
The new Macs don’t have SD card slots, and in general feature fewer ports than ever before. Apple has made it a habit to remove useful ports from its machines, but removing basics such as an SD card slot and an Ethernet port from a $1,299 iMac is hard to justify.
Similarly, professional environments rely on support for multiple external monitors and external GPUs. M1 Macs lack both and until that’s fixed, this could be a deal-breaker for some people.
Before you take the plunge, be sure to double-check if all the apps you use are compatible with M1 Macs. The compatibility situation is a lot better than it was in 2020, but some extremely popular apps such as Adobe Premiere Pro still don’t have a stable, optimized build available for M1 Macs.
You can check out websites such as Is Apple Silicon Ready to see which popular apps are optimized for M1 Macs. This is faster than individually visiting the websites of your favorite apps.
Similarly, gaming apps, such as Steam, don’t run very well on M1 Macs yet. If you want to play iOS games on your Mac, you may encounter some unexpected issues and weird behaviors. Even with the CPU and GPU power that the M1 has, you should avoid M1 Macs for gaming purposes.
Boot Camp is an Apple tool that allows you to install both Windows and macOS on Intel-based Macs. Unfortunately, Boot Camp is not supported on M1 Macs, so your dual-booting options are limited to Mac virtual machine apps such as Parallels Desktop.
You won’t get the same performance running Windows via virtualization as you’d get through natively installed Windows via Boot Camp. Thus, if this is something you do often, stay away from M1 Macs.
Even though we’ve listed several shortcomings of M1 Macs, these likely won’t bother most people who are considering one of these machines. If you want a fuss-free machine with great performance and battery life, you will not be disappointed with an M1 Mac.
For some people who value raw performance above everything else, it might make more sense to wait for the next generation of Apple’s M-series processors to see what performance gains you can expect. We aren’t too far away from those machines, but then again, most people should be perfectly happy with the excellent products Apple has already released.
Image credits: Apple
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