Should I buy the 2020 Apple MacBook Air M1 or wait for the 2021 Apple MacBook Air M1?

With the newer MacBook Air M1 2021 on the horizon, is the Apple MacBook Air M1 2020 a smart buy?

Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020)
(Image credit: Apple)

In our Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020) review we gave the system a maximum score of 5 stars and then proceeded to put it at the top of our best laptops guide as the 'best laptop for most people' – which, given that the Air isn’t exactly cheap, indicates just how good it is.

But we know that even more powerful MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros are on the horizon, and they’re likely to offer increased performance, too. As such, we're guessing many Mac fans are asking "should I still buy the MacBook Air M1 2020, or should I wait for the MacBook Air M1 2021?

The short answer is that if you need a new laptop, the MacBook Air M1 2020 is a brilliant buy: technology always gets better and if you wait for products that aren’t out yet, you’ll never buy anything at all.

But that said, Apple is about to make some very big changes to the whole MacBook Air range, so it’s worth knowing what they are: you might decide that the newer model might be worth waiting until later on this year for.

Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020): Best deals

These are the best prices available today on the Apple MacBook Air M1 2020.

Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020): should I buy it?

Apple MacBook Air M1 vs MacBook Air Intel

The M1 MacBook Air (left) may look identical to its predecessor, but its new M1 processor is incredibly fast.

(Image credit: Apple, Intel)

Unless you’re doing very heavyweight tasks such as rendering video or working with very processor intensive tasks, the MacBook Air delivers stunning performance. The new Apple Silicon inside it delivers blistering speed and puts the Air back at the top after a few years of relatively uninspiring upgrades.

In our review we said that Apple’s cheapest laptop is the beginning of a revolution: big performance doesn’t mean bad battery life, reduced portability or really high prices. We think for most people the MacBook Air offers the best of all worlds.

The downside, as ever, is the price. For the cost of a single MacBook Air you could currently buy three and a bit Lenovo IdeaPad 3s, the best budget laptops in our best laptops buying guide. But the IdeaPad isn’t built to the same standards, doesn’t run the same OS or apps, doesn’t have the same performance and isn’t aimed at the same kind of user as the Air. You wouldn’t buy a low-spec Nokia to do the same job as a Samsung Galaxy S21 or an iPhone 12.

MacBook Air M1 2020 headphone jack

The slimline Air has two Thunderbolt 4 / USB-C ports and a headphone jack. And that's your lot.

(Image credit: Future)

Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020): specs

The MacBook Air has an Apple M1 system, which combines CPU, graphics and 8GB of RAM. The screen is 13.3 inches with a 2,560 x 1,600 pixel resolution and the storage is a fast 256GB SSD. There are twin Thunderbolt 4 / USB-C ports and there’s a 720p FaceTime camera above the display. It weighs 1.29kg (2.8lbs) and its dimensions are 11.97 x 8.36 x 0.63 inches (30.41 x 21.24 x 1.61cm; W x D x H).

Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020): features

The key features here are all-day battery life and noiseless operation: the Air doesn’t have a fan so it’s as quiet as an iPad no matter what you’re doing with it. But the real star is the new M1 processor, which means the Air now delivers the kind of performance that you could only previously get from the most expensive MacBook Pros. It’s 3.5x faster than its predecessor, with up to 5x faster graphics performance.

MacBook Air M1 2020 design

A redesigned Air is expected in late 2021 or early 2022 but it will be more expensive than the M1.

(Image credit: Future)

Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020): what else do I need to know?

There’s a new MacBook Air in development, but we don’t expect to see it until at least the end of 2021 – possibly later. It’s expected to come in as a more powerful and more expensive option with a new design, with the existing MacBook Air remaining as the entry-level option. That should reassure you that the current MacBook Air is a smart buy.

Overall, then, we think that most people looking to upgrade should buy the Apple MacBook Air M1 2020, as it is a fantastic laptop that is future-proofed in terms of technology and comes with the traditional quality Apple build quality. It's a great, portable system that will be ideal for many Mac users.

Yes, a new 2021 MacBook Air M1, if it does indeed come out this year, will be faster and may have a tweaked design, but right now we think only the most well-heeled shoppers should consider waiting, as when introduced it will be the more expensive system.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written more than a dozen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote seven more books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (