Apple Silicon M1 MacBook Air – Benchmarks & First Impressions

My brand new Apple Silicon M1 based MacBook Air has arrived, and YUP, it's screamin' fast. Here are some benchmark comparisons and first impressions. Bottom line: M1 crushes Intel. By like, a huge HUGE margin.

My brand new Apple Silicon M1 based MacBook Air has arrived, and YUP, it’s screamin’ fast. Check out my other articles on Apple Silicon for more on benchmarks and other topics. Bottom line: M1 crushes Intel. By like, a huge HUGE margin.


Let’s jump straight to it, shall we.


But first, the configurations that I tested.

2020 M1 MacBook Air

  • Base model 13 inch Air
  • $999
  • M1 with 8-core CPU and 7-core GPU
  • 8GB RAM
  • 256GB SSD
  • macOS Big Sur v11.0

2019 Intel MacBook Air

  • Base model 13 inch Air
  • $999
  • Intel Core i5 1.6GHz 2-core
  • 8GB RAM
  • 128GB SSD
  • macOS Catalina v10.15.7

Test Results

I ran each test 3 times and documented the range of results. However, since the Cinebench and GFXBench require a lot of time to complete, I only ran Cinebench twice and GFXBench once. Between the run of each type of test app, I restarted the MacBooks. All tests were run on AC power.

Check out my other articles on Apple Silicon benchmarks to compare to other processors.

Benchmark or Test2020 M1 MacBook Air2019 Intel MacBook Air
Time from off to password prompt
16.6 to 17.2 seconds9.03 to 9.2 seconds
Time from Return key to 1 Finder window loaded
10.8 to 12.6 seconds34.5 to 36.9 seconds
GeekBench 5
Other Mac benchmarks
Single Core1,730 to 1,737835 to 885
Multi Core7,560 to 7,5921,668 to 1,770
Cinebench R23
App in Mac App Store
Single Core
Other Cinebench Single Core results
1,489 to 1,491841 to 848
Multi Core
Other Cinebench Multi Core results
6,636 to 6,6381,598 to 1,676
GFXBench Metal 5.0
App in Mac App Store
– Here are a few of the ~19 tests. See below for all results.
– FPS = Frames Per Second
Aztec Ruins (High Tier)58 FPS8 FPS
1440p Manhattan 3.1.1 Offscreen104 FPS18 FPS
1080o T-Rex Offscreen611 FPS100 FPS

GFXBench Note:
The GFXBench app makes it very difficult to present and compare results easily, so I had to capture screen shots to get all the test results, and I included those files down below.

Graphics are Crazy Bananas Fast

The numbers above show the huge HUGE jump of the M1 over Intel. But when you watch the Tomb Raider, car driving and other game simulations when GFXBench runs, it is in your FACE how night and day it is between the Intel and M1. Watching the M1 made me go: WOW !!!

While the Intel Air struggled and the fan jumped to full blast and the animation stuttered horribly, dropping frames all over the place, so bad it would make it painful to play, the M1 Air was awesome and buttery smooth !!! The M1 did get uncomfortably hot, but it kept going at high speed. The Intel Air also got just as hot, but had to blast its fan.

Try GFXBench and see it for yourself. The M1 is HUGE leaps faster.

Why I Chose a MacBook Air

I’ve had lots of Macs over the last decade including high end MacBook Pros, Airs and minis. Although not a Mac Pro or iMac. Right now I use 2 2018 Intel based Mac minis as my home desktops with 2 4K monitors and a 24 TB RAID disk array. I use the minis as my primary work machines. I run multiple virtual machines on the minis, hosting Windows and Linux based guest OSes for servers and testing. I use the MacBook Air and iPad Pro with a Folio Keyboard and Pencil as my mobile computers.

Since the Mac minis are my work horse machines, I don’t need a lot of power in my mobile devices, so the MacBook Air and iPad Pro work perfectly for me. I wanted to upgrade to an Apple Silicon M1 based Air to get an even better responsiveness. And it looks like it’s a huge leap forward.

Later on Apple Silicon based Mac minis or a Mac Pro might make sense, if and when it can run Intel x86 based virtual machines.

Not M1 Related, But Apple’s Cloud Services Still Suck

In order to test the M1 Air with the latest macOS, I tried to upgrade Big Sur to v11.0.1, but once again Apple’s flaky cloud based services failed me. In the Apple tech community it’s well established and talked about all the time, how bad Apple’s cloud services still are. Just in the last week when Big Sur was released there were stories of failures. And today it failed for me.

It’s stunning that over a decade later and billions of dollars earned from the CDNs and other services for software distribution, iCloud, Messages, TV+ and so much more, it’s still so awful and slow.

And to be fair, Microsoft OS updates are still a massive nightmare and still way worse than Apple. I run Windows OSes in VMs and have used Microsoft software for ages, and I have the scars to prove it. By comparison however, Linux OS installs and updates are crazy fast and reliable. Of course there is also a ton less customer load to deal with.

At least Apple’s hardware and user experiences are really great.

First Impressions on My Top 3 Features

Here’s how the M1 is doing on my top 3 features that I expected from the new Apple Silicon based Macs and why I bought it.


The app I use most is Safari. I use it like its a virtual desk full of stacks of pages of paper and books, that I can quickly switch back and forth between them by keeping lots of tabs open and organized into many many windows by workflow task or subject. So I’m a web browser power user.

A lot of web sites are performance pigs – I’m lookin’ at you LinkedIn and almost every news site. Many are just poorly designed and engineered. So much so that if I leave their pages open in a background window, they will peg the processor and cause the fan to kick it. Heating my the MacBook and consuming battery. The only way to avoid this is to minimize the windows. And forget about using Chrome. It a notorious processor and battery hog, and is much worse at dealing with these poorly engineered web sites.

Here’s the highlights so far:

  • Apps load noticeably faster.
  • Safari is handling those nasty poorly engineered sites better.
  • I tested just a few sites in Safari side by side, M1 vs Intel, and M1 is noticeably faster. It’s early yet, buuuttt…. sites feel more responsive.
  • LinkedIn, which hammers the CPU on Intel, is a fraction of that on M1. Like 2-40% CPU on M1 vs 19-93% on Intel. Now that could be due to more cores on M1, but who cares !!! It’s faaassttt !!!
  • I’ll have to load up with tons of apps and web sites over days, to see how the M1 really handles.

Instant On

Intel based computers, even after decades of engineering improvements, still suck at coming out of sleep. Even the extremely well engineered 2019 MacBook Air often is frozen for a few seconds after opening the lid and coming out of sleep, causing the mouse and keyboard to be unresponsive.

I expected Apple Silicon to much better at this, so I was thrilled when Craig Federighi highlighted it in the Apple Event on November 10.

While not as big a problem, I also hope that boot times are reduced too. Although boot times on other Apple designed silicon based devices like iPhone, iPad, Apple TV are horrendously bad, it would be a big deal if a Mac was that bad. Apple fans would make a huge stink if boot times got worse on Apple Silicon based Macs.

Here’s the highlights so far:

  • Boot time on M1 is slower, but just by around 7-8 seconds.
  • Login time on M1 is way faster. M1 is 3x faster.
  • Instant on is really for real now. Finally !!!
    How instant, you ask ? The M1’s screen is already on and ready for work, before I can even lift the lid up enough to see it. The Intel Air can’t get there that quick – I can see the screen turn on as I lift the lid. But only time will tell just how much faster the M1 is over Intel. A constant pain is the airs on all the Intel MacBooks and Windows PCs I’ve ever used, is that they take way too long to wake after hours in sleep. After a day or more is really bad. And can become unreliable. My expectation is that these problems will disappear with the M1, as they do with the iPad and iPhone.

Battery Life

And of course, as expected from a Apple designed Silicon based device, Mac battery life are improving significantly.

Can’t get a first impression after only a few hours, but I’m hopeful.

GFXBench Metal 5.0 – Full Test Results

GFXBench on M1

GFXBench on Intel

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