The New MacBook Pro M1 - 1 Week In

MacBook Pro M1

As someone who is addicted to playing with new technology it's no surprise I picked up a new MacBook Pro M1 last Friday. I wanted to give it some time before I wrote about it so I figured ~1 week was enough time to form a decent opinion.

The magic started as soon as I took it out of the box and lifted the lid. It automatically booted up! That was really cool and I wish I could understand how it did that.

I had been pondering getting the new laptop with the new M1 chip, 8GBs of RAM and a 512GB SSD for a few days. My current MacBook Pro has 16GBs of RAM and struggles to keep up with me from time to time. However in the end, I figured I had some time to return the new laptop should I have any issues and re-order a new one with 16GBs of RAM. This was my biggest concern in getting the new MacBook Pro. However after one week of pushing it with all my work, it hasn't skipped a beat. It has handled everything I've thrown at it with no problems at all. I have Safari running with ~25 tabs, Hyper.js, Screen Sharing, Mail, Things, multiple VS Code workspaces, Messages, Things, Discord, Mastonaut, 1Password, Terminal, and Transmit open. I've been compiling things in Homebrew, running PHP unit tests, and it's been perfectly fine. No slow downs, no spinning rainbow wheel. The only time when I ran into an issue was when I managed to get some errant PHP processes. There was about 10 of them running using a ton of CPU usage and causing slow down for me. This only happened once though.

The new SoC design seems to really work well and meets and probably exceeds my expectations. It definitely allows things to run and access resources very quickly!

Another concern of mine was the keyboard. The reason why I am still using a MacBook Pro from early 2015 is because I love the keyboard. Since the recent redesigns that have utilized the butterfly mechanism I couldn't stand the keyboards. They were absolutely horrific. However the new resdesign which appears to be in the iPad Pro keyboard and the newer laptops is MUCH better. I had ended up going to Best Buy around 2 weeks ago and tried out the keyboard on one of the newer Intel MacBook Pros and was much more impressed. As much as I am not a huge fan of Best Buy they're still open which allowed me the opportunity to try out the newer keyboard. Apple stores are still closed here - you can only make appointments for picking up items, you can't go into the stores as before to try things out unfortunately (DAMN COVID). I've been typing away constantly on my new MacBook Pros keyboard, I love it. It's smooth and dare I say, soft! There's travel between pressing the key and it bottoming out. It feels much more comfortable and responsive then the previous design.

Similar to Apple's transistion to Intel this transistion also provides a "compatibility layer" Rosetta 2, which allows you to run x86 applications on the new M1 chip (ARM64). So far I haven't had a single issue running any of my applications. There's probably 2-3 apps I use currently that use Rosetta 2. I haven't noticed any slow down within the apps, and in fact they seem to start up with the same speed as native apps. I believe the only non-native apps I use on a day to day are Hyper.js, 1Password and VS Code. I do know that 1Password and VS Code are working on building native apps, though I am not sure about Hyper.js. I would think they should be though, and I can't imagine it would be difficult to update. I believe it runs on Electron.js so they just need to swap in an ARM64 build of that and perhaps a few other tweaks.

I'm not sure how much more I have to say about this laptop. It's an excellent upgrade from my early 2015 MacBook Pro (which I still have to use for work 😭). Even with 8GBs of RAM, I've had no issues! It's light in weight (so I find myself taking it everywhere), the keyboard is pleasent to use and all applications I use have had no issues thus far. The only real trouble I've come across is with certain applications or libraries failing to install via Homebrew. This is generally due to them not being compatible with macOS Big Sur or ARM64 yet. The Homebrew team has been working hard to ensure compatibility with both though. Overall, I love this new laptop!