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Apple MacBook Air M1 with 50 % longer battery runtime, but the weak power adapter limits the charging performance

Apple MacBook Air 2020
Apple MacBook Air 2020
Apple advertises much longer battery runtimes for the MacBook Air with the new M1 processor. We can confirm this after our initial tests with an improvement of more than 50%. However, Apple still uses the small 30W power adapter, which limits the charging performance. Update: Wi-Fi runtime at maximum display brightness added

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We have already taken a look at the graphics performance of the two different iGPUs (7 vs. 8 cores), and now we have first results for the battery runtime. The battery capacity is unchanged at 49.9 Wh, but the new M1 chip is supposed to be much more efficient. Apple's official specs sheet lists 15 hours for web browsing, which is much more compared to the 10 hours of the old model.

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Wi-Fi battery runtime

Our Wi-Fi test at Notebookcheck is performed at an adjusted brightness of 150 nits. Therefore, it is very important to deactivate the automatic brightness control of the MacBook Air. To get to the 150 nits, we had to reduce the brightness by 7 steps, and then use the fine control (via Option + Shift) to reduce the brightness by two more steps.

The old MacBook Air 2020 with the Intel CPUs managed a runtime of 10:17 or 11 hours, respectively, depending on the processor (Core i5 or Core i3). The new MacBook Air with the M1 chip on the other hand lasts 16 hours, which is an improvement between 45-55 %.

The Wi-Fi runtime at the maximum display brightness, which is once again around 400 nits, is considerably lower. Our test unit only lasted for about 8.5 hours. This is still better compared to the previous Intel MBA, but the gap is much smaller.

Battery Runtime
WiFi Websurfing 1.3
Apple MacBook Air 2020 M1 Entry
960 min ∼100%
Apple MacBook Air 2020 M1 Entry (Fullscreen)
914 min ∼95% -5%
Apple MacBook Air 2020 i3 (Safari 13.1)
661 min ∼69% -31%
Apple MacBook Air 2020 i5 (fullscreen)
617.7 min ∼64% -36%
Apple MacBook Air 2020 i5 (windowed)
512 min ∼53% -47%
WiFi Websurfing 1.3 max Brightness
Apple MacBook Air 2020 M1 Entry
508 min ∼100%
Apple MacBook Air 2020 i3 (Safari 13.1)
437 min ∼86% -14%
Apple MacBook Air 2020 i5
392.9 min ∼77% -23%

Charging Performance

Apple continues shipping the MacBook Air with the compact 30W power adapter. We have also tested the charging performance with the more power 96W unit from the current MacBook Pro 16. The initial charging performance was increased from 31 to around 43 Watts for the first 45 minutes before it dropped. Overall, the charging time was reduced by 17 minutes to 2:23 hours. In addition to the shorter charging time, the more powerful PSU also gives more headroom when you use the device during the charging process. In this case, the charging time with the included 30W adapter would be much higher. The MacBook Pro 13 with the M1 chip is still shipped with the more powerful 61W power adapter.

Stand-by charging with 30W PSU
Stand-by charging with 30W PSU
Stand-by charging with 96W PSU from the MBP 16
Stand-by charging with 96W PSU from the MBP 16

A look at the efficiency of the power adapters only reveals minor differences in a range between 0.05-0.1W. The maximum performance does not seem to be limited by the power adapter, either, because we see a peak power consumption of 31W for the new MacBook Air, which levels off at 22-25 after a short time. This behavior is identical for both power adapters.

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Andreas Osthoff
Editor of the original article: Andreas Osthoff - Managing Editor Business Laptops - 1302 articles published on Notebookcheck since 2013
I grew up with modern consumer electronics and my first computer was a Commodore C64, which encouraged my interest in building my own systems. I started working as a review editor for Notebookcheck during my dual studies at Siemens. Currently, I am mainly responsible for dealing with business laptops and mobile workstations. It’s a great experience to be able to review the latest devices and technologies and then compare them with each other.
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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2020 11 > Apple MacBook Air M1 with 50 % longer battery runtime, but the weak power adapter limits the charging performance
Andreas Osthoff, 2020-11-27 (Update: 2020-11-29)