Is the MacBook Air M1 still worth buying in 2024?

MacBook Air M1
(Image credit: Future)

The MacBook Air M1 has held a top spot in our best MacBooks and best laptops lists since its debut in November 2020. Though it retained the classic tapered design, it offered mind-boggling performance and epic battery life. The best Windows laptops of the time couldn’t compete. The MacBook Air M1 not only set a new standard for MacBooks but for laptops overall.

Over three years later, Apple has released two updated models: the MacBook Air M2 and MacBook Air 13-inch M3. These machines not only feature improved efficiency over their Apple M1 predecessor, but the modern design introduced with 2021’s MacBook Pro 14-inch and MacBook Pro 16-inch. Now that Apple no longer sells the MacBook Air M1 in its online store, it seems the once-mighty laptop is ready to retire.

But is that really the case? Though the Apple M2 and Apple M3 MacBook Airs might objectively be better devices, the humble Air M1 shouldn’t be dismissed. You might have a hard time finding it new on Amazon, but Walmart still sells new MacBook Air M1 laptops for the low price of $699 — or the cost of a new iPhone 14. That price alone is tempting, but there are other reasons why the MacBook Air M1 is still worth considering in 2024.

MacBook Air (M1/256GB): was $999 now $699 @ Walmart
Lowest price!Price check: $799 @ B&H Photo | sold out @ Amazon

MacBook Air (M1/256GB): was $999 now $699 @ Walmart
Lowest price!
It's no longer Apple's flagship, but the MacBook Air M1 offers fantastic performance and value. The M1 CPU never stuttered in our tests and also helped it reach over 14 hours of battery life. It features a 13.3-inch Retina display, Apple M1 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD. In our MacBook Air M1 review, we said it offers amazing endurance and shockingly good speed. This is the cheapest it's ever been.
Price check: $799 @ B&H Photo | sold out @ Amazon

Stellar everyday performance for most people 

There’s no denying that the M3 chip offers stronger performance than M1, based on our testing. If you value performance overall, then you’re better off with either the Air M2 or Air M3. However, if you’re not a power user who needs to render 4K videos (for example), the MacBook Air M1 will be more than enough to suit your needs.

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Performance results
Header Cell - Column 0 MacBook Air M1MacBook Air M2MacBook Air 13-inch M3
Geekbench (single-core)1,7281,9113,082
Geekbench (multi-core)7,5818,96512,087

For general use, including writing, work, video streaming and light gaming, the MacBook Air M1 is still an excellent choice. Sure, the M1 chip isn’t the newest processor out there but its performance is still sometimes better than Windows laptops in its price range. Word processing doesn’t need that much power, and for work, most of the apps you use are probably cloud-based (if you’re using Google, for example). Streaming high-resolution YouTube videos also isn’t a problem for the MacBook Air M1.

Performance-wise, the MacBook Air M1 still delivers the goods for most people.

Long-lasting battery life 

I’m not being hyperbolic when I say the MacBook Air M1 set a new standard for laptop battery life. All these years later, and I’ve yet to test a Windows laptop that offers anything close. Other M-series MacBooks last longer, but I doubt most folks would complain about getting well over a day of battery life from a notebook.

So how epic is the Air M1’s battery life? On the Tom’s Guide battery rest, which involves continuous web surfing at 150 nits of screen brightness, the MacBook Air lasted an insane 14 hours and 41 minutes. That’s a tad more than the Air M2 (14:33), it's not as long as the Air M3 (15:13). Still, you’d be hard-pressed to complain about nearly two full workdays worth of endurance.

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Battery test
Header Cell - Column 0 Time (hours:mins)
MacBook Air M114:41
MacBook Air M214:33
MacBook Air 13-inch M315:13
Acer Swift Go 149:50
Dell XPS 148:56

As you can see in the table above, recent Windows laptops like the Dell XPS 14 (8:56) and Acer Swift Go 14 (9:50) will run out of juice hours before the Air M1 will. That’s some serious lasting power!

I should also note that the MacBook Air M1 also runs whisper-quiet since it has no internal fans. Don’t let that worry you, however, since you have to go out of your way to get this machine to start heating up. For regular work or streaming, the laptop will remain cool.

Premium build quality 

Apple MacBook Air M1 (late 2020) review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Even though the MacBook Air M1 has the same design of late 2010’s MacBooks, it’s still an elegant machine. Not only that but its sturdy machined aluminum chassis (available in gold or silver) makes it feel like a premium product.

At 12 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches and 2.8 pounds, the MacBook Air M1 lives up to its “Air” moniker by being both thin and light. The newer MacBook Air laptops are even thinner and lighter at 11.97 x 8.46 x 0.44 inches and 2.7 pounds, but the older M1 Air won’t break your spine if you’re carrying it in your backpack.

Given the MacBook Air M1’s eye-pleasing design, it’s doubtful you’ll get odd stares in public for using an older laptop. In fact, many others are probably using that same notebook (or even an Intel MacBook). The wedge-shaped design might be a little dated but some might prefer it to the boxier look of recent MacBooks.

Even if its successors have an updated modern aesthetic, the MacBook Air M1 is still a great-looking device.

Yes, the MacBook Air M1 is still worth getting in 2024 

There are certainly cheaper and more powerful laptops out there. However, the MacBook Air M1 is still arguably the lightest, cheapest and most useful notebook you can buy. There are few other laptops in this price range offering the same level of overall functionality. This has always been an easy laptop to recommend, but now that it’s $699 new at Walmart, it’s even easier to suggest.

Sure, its successors have larger displays, are thinner and lighter and have better performance. But for what you get in terms of everyday usability at such a relatively low price, the MacBook Air M1 is hard to top.

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Tony Polanco
Computing Writer

Tony is a computing writer at Tom’s Guide covering laptops, tablets, Windows, and iOS. During his off-hours, Tony enjoys reading comic books, playing video games, reading speculative fiction novels, and spending too much time on X/Twitter. His non-nerdy pursuits involve attending Hard Rock/Heavy Metal concerts and going to NYC bars with friends and colleagues. His work has appeared in publications such as Laptop Mag, PC Mag, and various independent gaming sites.