Base Model M1 MacBook Air: Good Enough for Real Estate Photo & Video Editing?
So as you may or may not know, Apple last year dropped intel based chips for their computers and implemented their own M1 silicon chip. The performance of this new chip has been impressive and has Apple users very excited. So far, the only Apple laptops that have this new chip are a 13” MacBook Pro model and also the 13” MacBook Air. Rumor has it though that we can expect an announcement from Apple very soon about new 16” and 14” models of the MacBook Pro that will contain an even newer and better version of the Silicon chip rumored to be called M1X.
So why am I making this post? If you are just getting into real estate photography and are on a tight budget, you may be looking for an inexpensive option for a computer that can perform the tasks well that we need it to perform or maybe you are an established real estate photographer that is mainly a desktop user that wants a relatively inexpensive portable option for a second computer that you can take on the road with you. In either one of those scenarios, this computer may be a great option for you.
So why did I buy this computer? My main computer for the past 5 years has been a 16” 2016 MacBook Pro which has been a good computer except I had some issues with the screen. I had the screen replaced once and then it failed for a second time. For a few months I was forced to use it connected to an external monitor but I finally just couldn’t take it anymore. I have been patiently holding out for the announcement of the new 16” MacBook Pro which I still plan on buying but needed something to hold me over until that comes. We’ll get to more about that later in this video.
Ok, so let’s talk about this computer and how it performs and I will share my personal thoughts on it as well along the way. So my M1 MacBook Air is the base model however the hard drive was upgraded to 512GB from 256GB. I would definitely recommend getting the 512GB hard drive at minimum if not larger or at least have a fast external SSD hard drive that you can edit off of in the event you need extra space. You can never have enough hard drive space especially if you’re dealing with photo and video files!
I’ve been using this computer for a few weeks now editing photos and videos so I’m now very familiar with its performance at this point. Off the bat, this base model M1 MacBook Air out performs my previous 2016 16” MacBook Pro. Yes, my MacBook Pro is 5 years old however this is still impressive to me being that the specs on that computer were pretty much maxed out and it cost me over $3,000 which is pretty much 3X the price of the base model MacBook Air. Just based on that alone I think that makes this MacBook Air a good value when you take into consideration how well it performs and that it's the most inexpensive entry level laptop computer that Apple makes.
As I mentioned earlier, the MacBook Air base model is equipped with the new Apple M1 chip. Again, this revolutionary chip is what makes all the magic happen with this computer. Apple claims the implementation of this chip has resulted in CPU speeds up to 3.5X faster and GPU speeds up to 5X faster. If that's just a bunch of gibberish to you, it simply means a pretty major performance boost over its predecessor. Previous MacBook Airs were not really up to the task of doing the kind of work we do. You may have been able to scrape by with one but it was difficult and frustrating and not really meant for the tasks we perform. The MacBook Pro line is really what is designed for people like us doing professional photo and video work. MacBook Airs were never really marketed toward professionals like us doing this kind of work however they do seem to be up to the task now which is wonderful.
One of the great things about this chip other than the performance boost is its efficiency. Since it was designed by Apple themselves to run in their own machines instead of adapting intel based chips, it uses its power extremely effectively. The battery life is insane and nothing I’ve ever experienced from any of my previous macs over the last 20 years. I edit for a few hours every single night and the battery is only at around 85% when I’m done and that includes heavy processing tasks like exporting and processing photos and videos. It’s impressive how good the battery life is. Apple claims up to 18 hours battery life on a single charge which of course is probably an overstatement and heavily depends on the kind of tasks you’re doing. Also, this chip has made possible a “silent, fanless design”. This computer makes no noise when even tackling the most processor intensive tasks. Whenever I was editing on any of my previous Macs the fan would kick on and it would sound like my drone firing up and taking off.
Ok so now lets discuss a few more of the features of this M1 MacBook Air that I think are worth mentioning. The retina display is fantastic as it has been for quite some time now on these Apple laptops. It is highly detailed, rich color and just fantastic for intricate photo editing and the kind of tasks we do. As I said previously, my last computer was a 16” and this is a 13” and I definitely miss that extra screen real estate. 3” may not sound like a lot but it’s a considerable difference that I notice constantly but if you’re not coming from a bigger screen like I am then it probably won’t be an issue for you. That’s definitely one of the reasons why I will still be buying the 16” MacBook Pro whenever it comes out.
This 13” MacBook Air also sports 2 USB type C ports which are used for charging and connecting anything you might want to connect such as an SD card reader or external hard drive. My 16” MacBook Pro had 4 of these ports. Only having 2 can be pretty limiting especially if you are working with your computer plugged in which only leaves you with one open port to use for anything else you may want to connect. This is definitely annoying but it’s workable. After all this is the cheapest entry level MacBook there is so you aren’t going to get everything. Again, this is another reason why I will still be buying the new 16” MacBook Pro when it arrives. It is rumored to have more traditional connectivity that the MacBook Pros used to have back in 2015 with a dedicated magsafe charging port, SD card slot along with these newer USB type C ports so a lot more convenient connectivity there.
The other thing I will mention quickly is the keyboard. It’s just fantastic and responsive and just wonderful to use. My 2016 MacBook Pro was plagued with the “butterfly” keyboard that had a lot of issues like keys getting stuck. This was a well known issue with those keyboards and I’m so happy Apple has realized their error with those and now has given us a much better keyboard experience.
So as you probably figured out by now, I think the M1 MacBook Air is a capable computer. Its performance is impressive for not only its price point, but in general. My biggest complaints as I mentioned are the small screen, lack of ports and I would like it to handle 4K footage better in Adobe Premiere Pro but that's not a deal breaker. I definitely think this a very viable option for doing the photo and video editing work that we have to do as real estate photographers and if you are just starting out or on a budget or looking for a second portable computer then I think this M1 MacBook Air might be the way to go. I certainly could keep this computer and be fine however I just want those extra features, bigger screen and even more processing power being offered by the upcoming 16” MacBook Pro that should be coming soon. I will most likely do another post/video on that computer as well once I get it.
The base model MacBook Air starts at $999 but with the upgraded 512GB hard drive like I have in this computer you’ll be looking at $1249. Again, you may want to go even bigger with your hard drive if this is your main computer or get a fast external SSD external hard drive for extra space. If you are interested in purchasing one of these computers I put a link down below and also a link to an external SSD that I recommend. If you use my links I get a small commission and it helps support my channel and the development of future content so I would definitely appreciate it.