M1 MacBook Pro review

I’ve been using an M1 MacBook Pro for a few weeks now and felt that now I had a good feel for the machine that I’d write up a review.

The machine that I’ve been testing is the 2020 M1 MacBook Pro with 16GB Ram and 512GB of storage in silver. The machine I came from was the early 2016 MacBook with 8GB Ram and 256GB of storage.

Out of the box this felt heavy and more substantial to me coming from such a small and light laptop but it’s fine, totally manageable and actually not much heavier than the current Air.

The first two things I noticed was how much better the typing experience was on the new keyboard design and how large the trackpad was. Both of these are well received and I enjoyed typing and using the trackpad.

The screen is nice, at 13″ it’s probably the right size for my use. I’d gotten used to smaller laptops having owned an 11″ Air previous to the 12″ MacBook. The colours are great and it’s a nice and bright display but it does suffer from PWM just like the OLED iPhone screens.

The performance of this M1 machine is almost too much for my use. Even running Logic Pro it felt like it wasn’t being pushed at all. If this gets returned (more on this in a bit) I’ll most likely get the base Air with 8GB and save myself £600. My daily use of notes, mail, productivity apps, music and my own creative work (blogging and occasional music production) was all done with ease but it did get hot a few times but I never heard the fans. Not something to be concerned about, I was doing a lot of app updates.

With the M2 on the horizon I know there will be a lot of people holding off but I don’t have a problem still recommending an M1, it’s really that fast.

Next up, battery. Wow. I was going 4 or 5 days between charges, using it 5 hours a day. I’ve never experienced battery life on a laptop this good.

Now onto the one thing that I really dislike about this machine – that Touch Bar.

As you can see in this image in mail it’s suggesting folders for me to archive mail to, nice but I’m looking down. I can just keep my eyes up and move with a click and keep my neck in the same position. There are also times I wanted to quickly change the volume but the controls weren’t there (for example watching YouTube in Safari) and I needed to use the controls within the player.

That’s my main bugbear, it’s the constant need to look down and change my position. When I had physical buttons I just reached down without looking. This hasn’t been great for my posture and the trade off isn’t worth it for. It detracts from an otherwise great experience of using this laptop.

I can fix what’s displayed on the Touch Bar with a few setting tweaks but that’s not the main issue, I miss physical keys.

Ultimately this may be the single reason this machine gets returned. It’s a shame and reaffirms for me that the machine that I probably should have gone for was the Air.