Ten years ago I bought an 11″ MacBook Air. It went everywhere with me because it was so portable, so useful and did the job that I needed it to do. Four years ago I tried really hard to find a way to use an iPad to do the same sort of on-location quick edits that the small laptop had been so good for but I never really made it work. I kept the rapidly ageing laptop in service for longer than I should have and carried my 2017 15″ MacBook Pro on more jobs that I would have wanted to. When Apple released the M1 powered 13″ laptops earlier this year I thought that I might finally have found a solution and the reports coming from other photographers about how good they were helped me make my mind up to invest in one.
Choosing between the 13″ MacBook Pro and the 13″ MacBook Air wasn’t easy and the fact that their performance was almost identical whilst you saved a few ounces and small amount of money with the Air were factors that started to push me in that direction. The Air’s tiny power supply became another factor but the thing that tipped the balance was its battery life. People were claiming incredible longevity on each charge and once I had seen for myself that even running Photoshop and Photo Mechanic I could get over six hours I finally parted with the cash and bought one.
So far, so good is all that I can say. On jobs it is no real inconvenience to carry and working with it in my car has become an easy task. It handles multiple CR2 RAW files from my Canon EOS5D MkIV cameras with ease and is every bit as quick at that as my well-specified 2017 MacBook Pro.
The screen is great and the whole thing fits inside a laptop shade far more comfortably than either of my MacBook Pros.
I found that with only two USB Type C or Thunderbolt 3 ports I did have to use a mini-dock some of the time and so I bought a new one to go with the Air. I don’t think it would work as my main production laptop because I cannot believe that it would cope with prolonged use without any form of active cooling but for everything else it is the perfect replacement for my elderly 11″ MacBook Air as well as for my 2014 13″ MacBook Pro.
Finally Apple have made a laptop with a keyboard that is as easy to use as the one in the 2014 Pro and its many predecessors (each of which was an improvement on those that went before). It’s only now that I have the M1 MacBook Air that I realise how bad the keyboard on my 2017 MacBook Pro actually is. Luckily I tend to use that machine in clamshell mode with an Apple Magic Keyboard and mouse as well as my LG Monitor most of the time and so it barely gets used.
All of this doesn’t stop me looking at the top-end iPads to see if, one day, I could work with one on location. Lots of people do and that’s why I keep looking. If I were doing ‘run-and-gun’ news photography I’d be sorely tempted to keep on with an iPad mini but for me and the portrait and feature work that I do a small and light powerful laptop is probably still the answer and the M1 MacBook Air appears to be the right answer.
NB You know you are an Apple fanboy when you realise that the car you bought was actually Space Grey