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MacBook Air gets Apple M1 chip, longest battery life ever, fanless body, starts at $999

Available next week, the new Air with the M1 SoC promises big gains in processing and graphics performance but still up to 18 hours of battery.

Apple's MacBook Air has always had an Intel CPU inside since it first rolled out in 2008. That ended Tuesday with Apple's announcement that the MacBook Air would be one of the first laptops to run on the company's homegrown system-on-a-chip, the M1. The M1 will give the new 13.3-inch Air more than three times the CPU performance than the latest Intel version, Apple said. Its integrated graphics will be five times faster. It's so efficient that it will run for up to 15 hours of wireless web use and up to 18 hours of video playback. And it has a completely fanless design. 

Apple already uses its own processors in its iPhone, iPad and Watch. The new Apple M1 processor is its first designed for Macs. The M1 features an eight-core CPU, an eight-core GPU and a 16-core neural engine. The architecture is fully optimized for MacOS Big Sur to help deliver its promised performance gains.

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Apple/Screenshot by Sarah Tew/CNET

Along with the M1 chip, the Air will be available with up to 16GB of memory, up to a 2TB solid-state drive, Wi-Fi 6 and Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports. It uses a 13.3-inch Retina display with a P3 wide color gamut. Plus, the fanless design means the new Air has boosted performance with no whirring. Touch ID (not Face ID) and a backlit Magic Keyboard are also part of the package. 

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The MacBook Air with the Apple M1 chip will be available next week starting at $999 with 256GB of storage or $1,249 with 512GB. Maxing out the configuration with 16GB of memory and a 2TB SSD brings the price up to $2,049. They're expected to start shipping next week. In the UK, the starting price will be £999 and in Australia it will be AU$1,599.

The announcement comes on the tail of multiple announcements over the past few months that included updates to Apple's MacOS, iOS and iPadOS and new Watches, iPads and iPhones.