Previously quite simple, the MacBook offer has become more complex with the arrival of the M1 processor. We take stock to help you choose the MacBook that's right for you.
The best MacBooks
While they have always been among the best laptops on the market, MacBooks have experienced a revolution with the recent arrival of M1 processors. 15 years after the first Mac with an Intel processor, the apple brand has once again decided to change its dairy. And unlike the switch from PowerPC to Intel, Apple is now supplied internally.
Directly derived from the chips developed for the iPhone, the M1 processor has proved particularly impressive, offering remarkable power for very low consumption. The fact remains that this new chip is not yet used on the whole range, some 13 inches still use Intel chips while the 16 inch model has not yet been entitled to ARM treatment. In parallel, l’iPad Pro M1 Always blurs the boundaries a little more, with a keyboard, an M1 processor and an iPadOS increasingly pushed towards productivity.
We therefore take stock of the different MacBooks to help you choose the most suitable for you.
And if you want to get a little broader view of the best laptops around, don't hesitate to read our dedicated guide. Apple requires, the connection is minimalist to say the least (USB-C and Thunderbolt on all floors) and un hub USB-C will therefore be essential.
Apple MacBook Pro 13 2020 M1 The new benchmark
For this first generation of MacBook ARM, Apple is not original and uses the same chassis as last year. We therefore find an impeccable finish, a pleasant touch keyboard and a large touchpad. The Touch Bar is now mandatory and the connection is limited to a pair of USB 4 sockets.
The screen does not change either; we therefore find a perfectly calibrated 13.3-inch high-definition panel. As a bonus, it is brighter than that used by the MacBook Air. On the other hand, the touch is still absent, a point all the more annoying as the iPad apps are now supported …
Let's be clear: with its motherboard barely bigger than a phone's, the Apple M1 redefines the level of integration of laptops. In return, absolutely everything is welded and no update is possible. Not really a surprise considering that Apple has been applying this policy for years now on its laptops.
But it is above all the performances that impress. It's simple: the M1 pulverizes absolutely every ultraportable on the market, both for CPU and GPU performance. Only much larger and more expensive machines have a hard time competing, and still they lose in certain scenarios such as video encoding. And if the MacBook Pro does have a fan, the latter is never heard, and this while the machine stays cool even after long hours of operation.
And this incredible power is not achieved at the expense of autonomy, on the contrary! The machine lasted more than 10 hours in our tests and is capable of exceeding 20 hours under certain conditions. It is quite simply the most autonomous laptop on the market.
But beyond the purely hardware part, we expected Apple at the turn in terms of software. Who says new architecture says incompatibility with X86 applications. And the transition will take several years. To facilitate this, Apple has integrated an emulation layer called Rosetta 2.
And we have to admit that the latter is formidable. Not only do the vast majority of programs run smoothly, but performance is sometimes even better than native with the previous generation. A few programs may cause concern, but for the vast majority of users, the transition will be painless.
Big Sur is also taking the opportunity to bring native compatibility to iOS apps. The idea is not bad, but in the absence of a touch screen the ergonomics are far from ideal.
Despite some weaknesses such as limited connectivity or a maximum of 16 GB of RAM, this MacBook Pro M1 crushes the competition, and this is often less expensive! So it's our favorite laptop to date. We really recommend that you choose the 16 GB version of the computer for long term performance reasons.
The only potential reason to take an Intel MacBook Pro 13: you absolutely need more than 16 GB of RAM. But in this case, you might as well go up a gear and choose the 16-inch version.
You will learn more about it by reading our test of the MacBook Pro M1.
Apple MacBook Air 2020 M1 The most nomadic
Impossible to talk about Mac without mentioning the MacBook Air. Apple's bestseller has also adopted the M1 processor. On the form, however, nothing changes: we find the same frame, the same screen and the same keyboard.
Under the hood on the other hand, the M1 chip works miracles and pulverizes the Core i which equipped its predecessors. It's simple: the performance is much better than what an Intel MacBook Pro offers more than twice as much. Consumption is also down sharply since we no longer even need a fan. The MacBook Air is now completely silent. However, this makes it a little less efficient than the MacBook Pro M1 whose fan will allow it to maintain optimal performance for longer. Note that two versions of the M1 exist, one of them being castrated with a GPU computing unit.
Autonomy is on its side up by 50% and reaches the fifteen hours without worries. Going all day without your charger is now quite possible.
Apple marks a very big blow with this MacBook Air M1 which immediately makes last year's model obsolete. From a technical point of view, everything is superior and the software component is impeccable. A real success.
As with its big brother the MacBook Pro, we advise you to invest in the 16 GB version of RAM to keep it viable as long as possible. You will find more details in our test of the MacBook Air M1.
Apple MacBook Pro 16 2019 Tailored for pros
If Apple has spent most of its range under M1, a few models still resist: a MacBook Pro 13 singularly lacking in interest, but especially the 16-inch MacBook Pro. The latter is perhaps the most deserving of the “Pro” qualifier of the range. Size aside, the chassis is identical to that of its 13-inch little brother. Apple, however, took advantage of the reduction of the edges to fit a 16-inch panel.
As always, the latter is of excellent quality: perfect colors, brightness and contrast to match, it is almost flawless. Only the slightly high afterglow may interfere with some, but we are not there in the presence of a gaming machine. The Touch Bar is also in the game, as is the new version of the Apple keyboard. Goodbye to the unreliable butterfly keyboard, we're going back to a more classic and solid mechanism. Connection side, we are entitled to 4 ThunderBolt 3 ports and a headphone output. Suffice to say that it will be necessary to juggle adapters and other docks.
Under the hood we find a real racing beast, configurable up to an 8-core processor, a Radeon 5600M and 64 GB of RAM. So, of course, everything is not ideal: Intel processors are 2 generations behind and the graphics card is starting to be a little dated, but the whole is still very efficient. It sometimes gets scratched by M1 machines, but retains the crown of raw power. It is above all the amount of on-board RAM that makes the difference. Many professional applications (3D, music…) simply do not work well with only 16 GB of RAM and Intel Macs are currently the only ones able to go beyond this limit.
Autonomy is not to be outdone, with nearly 14 hours of use on a charge, a particularly impressive score given the configuration. Last detail that we had to salute: the quality of the sound. The MacBook Pro 16 is by far the best we've seen in the business, with internal speakers that carefree competes with dedicated speakers.
The 16-inch MacBook Pro is therefore an exceptional machine, as powerful as it is expensive. Moreover, its cost can only be truly justified by serious professional needs. For the vast majority of users, a regular full-featured MacBook Pro 13 M1 will do better for less.
How to choose the right MacBook?
X86 ? ARM ? Quésaco ?
Behind these terms hide the two great major architectures of processors. The X86 is used on the vast majority of desktop or mobile computers. Apple adopted it in 2005.
For its part, the ARM architecture was born in 1983 and really took off in the 2000s with the explosion of smartphones. Consuming little, it is particularly suitable for mobile products. Its efficiency made it begin to be adopted for computers and servers. Apple was the first to take the plunge with its M1 processor directly derived from the chips used on smartphones.
Is compatibility with Intel apps assured?
More than pure performance, it was on the software support side that Apple was expected at the turn. It takes time for developers to adapt their software. A solution of “translation”Of the two architectures had to be found in the meantime a way to facilitate the transition.
Rosetta 2 is the result of this effort and we must say that the result is stunning. The vast majority of x86 applications run smoothly, with the added bonus of performance close to native ones. Exceptions remain, especially in terms of games, but the bet is successful.
How long will Intel Macs be supported?
The switch to ARM processors means that the two architectures will coexist for some time yet in the displays, but this transition is likely to be quite rapid. However, Apple has promised to support the software part for Intel Macs for “years”.
If no precise date has been given, we can take the example of the previous transition from Power PC to Intel which was accompanied by 4 years of software support.
Do I need to take out an AppleCare + warranty?
While Apple products are generally reliable, they are almost impossible to repair yourself. As a bonus, the bill for the slightest repair explodes very quickly.
This is why we strongly recommend that you invest in the AppleCare + warranty extension. Lasting 3 years, the latter allows you to carry out up to two repairs (accidental or not) for a flat rate. So changing a screen costs only 99 euros for a screen and 259 euros for any other damage.
Its value varies between 199 and 449 euros depending on the model and must be activated no later than 60 days after purchase. This is certainly not insignificant, but it pays for itself very quickly if you use your MacBook on the go.
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