August 6, 2021

I love the M1 Macs, but I won’t buy one (yet)

There’s a lot to love about the M1 Macs. They’re fast, affordable (for Apple), and elegant in the way that only Apple computers are. Sorry other vendors, you make some nice machines, but we all know who the big dog is in terms of computer aesthetics.

I’ve now used two different M1 Macs: a 16GB Mini, and an 8GB iMac. I’ve enjoyed the experience on both. Quite a bit. The display on the latter is fantastic, and though I didn’t like the rose color (it wasn’t mine), I can see the appeal of the various colors to different users.

Alas, I’m not the average user and all the current M1 Macs fall short in several areas that are key or important to me:

  • The ability to run Windows x86 apps at decent speed
  • Easy memory and internal storage expansion
  • Poor corporate behavior

Okay, you can run Windows on an M1 Mac using Parallels, but you need Windows 10 for ARM which itself doesn’t run x86 apps very well. You’re basically running an emulation on top of an emulation. It’s doable, but can be deadly slow depending on the application. I do a lot of work under Windows, which I run under Boot Camp on my older Intel iMac..

Apple has never been overly benevolent about allowing user upgrades. They’ve had their moments with previous Mac Pros, Minis and iMacs, but as of late, not so much. With the current crop of M1 Macs–there are simply no internal upgrades. You can’t up the amount of memory post-purchase, nor can you add more internal storage. You can of course add storage via Thunderbolt. That’s fast and relatively affordable, but now you have something of lesser beauty hanging off of your computer. So long super elegance–you’re at the mercy of the aesthetics of lesser vendors. Ugh.

If I had to choose between the Mini and the iMac, I’d go for the former with an LG Thunderbolt display. LG’s display is as nice as the iMac’s (it’s likely the same), and the Mini has a lot more ports. Indeed, the entry-level iMac has only two Thunderbolt ports–power users need not apply.

Then there’s Apple as a corporate entity. It’s great at both marketing and squeezing every last dime out of its customers, however, that’s allowed, and certainly not my issue. Neither is the high-quality of their designs. Obviously.

My beefs with the company go way back to the 80’s when they sued a lot of good companies out of the market (until they tried it with Microsoft). However, in this particular instance, it’s removing from the entry-level iMac one of the two fans that the company bragged about at launch. Because of the absence, entry-level iMacs throttle under heavy workloads. This would be all well and good if the company made the difference clear to buyers. They don’t.

Then there’s the exceedingly heavy SSD usage under some circumstances they’ve been mum about. With no internal upgrade or repair option for the SSD, this could severely shorten the lifespan of your purchase. To be fair concerning the “mum”, this is the way corporations operated these days–controlling of the message, stonewalling, and wary of an often antagonistic press. But there’s also the treatment of their labor, etc.

What it all adds up to in my case is that I’ll stick with Intel-based stuff for the nonce. You may have noticed that Apple’s behavior hasn’t stopped me from grabbing an iMac, but I sometimes feel guilty about it. Yup. Hypocrisy. But darn they look nice, and the 5K display! Torn.