July 24, 2021


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Testing the entire new Apple Mac M1 lineup

The early performance numbers proffered by Apple and others looked promising. By switching away from Intel chips to its own Apple silicon M1 design, the latest Macs were much faster than previous versions, even faster than most Windows PCs. At least on paper.

Once I got a chance to test all three new systems — the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and Mac Mini — those performance boosts were confirmed. Yes, benchmark tests are different than real-world use, but at least they give us a standard to judge similar things by. And using that standard, even decently specced Macs from earlier in 2020 just could not keep up.

Note that these hands-on impressions are based on spending just a few days with all three new M1 Macs, so they should be considered preliminary. We’ll continue to test and compare these systems to other MacOS and Windows devices and offer updates to our advice as needed.

Advice for early adopters

The real difficulty comes in deciding if the M1 Mac ecosystem is ready for you and your specific needs. Some apps — but not many as of yet — have been optimized as universal apps to run natively on the M1. Mostly Apple’s own apps, which already ran great on Macs even before this. There’s also DaVinci Resolve, a video editing app and Microsoft Office, both in beta form.

Some others are coming soon, such as Adobe’s Lightroom, although Photoshop, Illustrator and Premiere — all programs I use regularly — are tantalizingly out of reach, coming in M1-native forms sometime in 2021. Until then, you’ll need Rosetta, Apple’s x86 emulator.

Rosetta (technically Rosetta 2, the original was from 2006, when Apple computers first switched to Intel chips from PowerPC ones) automatically installs itself the first time you attempt to install a non-native app. So far, it’s let me install things like Adobe apps, including Photoshop and Premiere, Steam for gaming and Google’s Chrome web browser.

In Adobe Premiere, which is not “native” on the M1, editing a few 4K video clips (shot on my phone) was fine on the Mac Mini, although adding motion graphics caused stuttering. Is this something a native version would fix? We’ll have to wait and find out.

The same clips in DaVinci Resolve 17.1, handled lots of quick cuts and transitions easily with the same clips. Note that the default version in the Mac App Store is currently version 16, but for the new “universal” M1-ready version, you have to get this new beta of version 17.1. I tried the same project on the Mac Mini, MacBook Air and an early-2020 Intel MacBook Air — just something basic, throwing on a lot of transitions while cutting between 4K clips. On the Mac Mini and M1 Air, I still got a little stuttering on a couple of the transition effects while previewing in 4K, if I dropped the preview render to regular HD, it was fine. On the older Intel Air, DaVinci Resolve ran smoother than I expected, but still stuttered in real-time previewing, even at just 1080p.

Read more: https://www.cnet.com/news/testing-the-entire-new-apple-mac-m1-lineup/