The first Apple silicon ARM-based M1 chip has received rave reviews due to its mind-blowing performance and efficiency. I’m impressed by the incredible performance and “System on a Chip” architecture that integrates CPU, GPU, unified memory, Neural Engine, etc.
I was so excited when I received my first M1 chip MacBook Air:
M1 chip MacBook Air by Eric Yang
After spending a few days setting up Ruby, Python, Homebrew, and other apps on the laptop, here are the five things I have learned that can be interesting.
I’ve got a late-2019 16-inch MacBook Pro from work that has a six-core Intel i7 CPU and 16GB DDR4 memory. The M1 chip MacBook Air is faster in every way compared to the late-2019 MBP — when clicking to launch apps, browsing the internet with Safari, and opening big apps like Adobe Photoshop and Xcode.
The most impressive part came when building my Xcode project after cleaning the build folder. It took three minutes and 50 seconds to launch the iOS simulator with the MBP, while the same task took two minutes and 40 seconds with the M1 chip MacBook Air.
It’s approximately 30% faster! That’s even more impressive considering it’s a $1,000 fanless MacBook Air.
Comparison of the latest MBP with the M1 MBA by Eric Yang
2. Run External Displays
Apple says that the M1 MacBook Pro/Air can run one external display with up to 6K resolution at 60Hz. For me, I was using the CharJen Pro hub to connect two Dell 2K monitors on my late-2019 MBP. But now the MacBook Air only supports one external monitor, either via the USB4 directly or the HDMI port at the CharJen Pro hub.
There are workarounds if you really need more than one external display. Nate P managed to support dual monitors on an M1 MacBook Pro by using the DisplayLink dock that uses its own software graphic card to drive the displays. Ruslan Tulupov managed to support six external displays from the M1 Mac mini and five external displays from the MacBook Air and Pro by using DisplayPort adapters and DisplayLink software.
Multi-display support by Ruslan Tulupov.
3. Install Rosetta 2
Rosetta was introduced when Apple’s hardware transitioned from Power-PC-based to Intel-based CPUs. Now comes another significant hardware transition to the ARM-based Macs: They’ve introduced Rosetta 2.
Rosetta 2 does not run like the app but works behind the scenes. It doesn’t come with macOS Big Sur but will be automatically installed when you launch the Intel-based apps for the first time.
To manually install Rosetta 2, use the following command:
To automatically agree with the software license agreement, we use:
Install Rosetta 2 by Eric Yang
4. Install Homebrew
Homebrew is handy when managing packages in Macs. As a software developer, I use Homebrew to install Ruby, Python, Git, and lots of different software.
Installing Homebrew in Intel-based Macs is straightforward:
But when running the command on the M1 chip MacBook Air, there is an error:
Error when installing Homebrew by Eric Yang
There are different ways to install Homebrew on ARM-based Macs.
Using the unstable, in-development ARM-based Homebrew
By following the installation documentation, we first make a separate folder to install Homebrew:
And add these paths to the environment:
Then restart the terminal and
Running with the prefix
arch -x86_64 at ARM-based terminal
Use the following command to install Intel-based Homebrew:
And then use it by prefix with
arch -x86-64 brew update
Running terminal from Rosetta 2
To run the terminal/iTerm from Rosetta 2, right-click on the app in Applications, then select Get Info and tick Open using Rosetta.
Then when launching the terminal/iTerm, it will automatically run in Rosetta 2 now. The command for Intel-based Macs works now!
I duplicated the iTerm and renamed it to have the ability to run both ARM- and Intel-based commands on my M1 chip MacBook Air.
5. Cool and Quiet
After one day of hard work running Xcode, building projects, and browsing the internet, the M1 chip MacBook Air was still cool — not even warm! On top of that, it was super quiet, as it’s fanless!
In comparison, the late-2019 MBP makes a loud fan noise when building Xcode projects and gets pretty warm by the time I’ve finished my everyday work.
These are the five things I’ve learned from the first few days of working with the M1 MacBook Air. It’s satisfying and promising. It matches my daily work requirements and makes my study room cool and quiet!