Digital Nomad Tech: 2021 Macbook Air and iPhone 12 Pro Max + Best Headphones

As a digital nomad, someone who works online using tech, a good laptop and phone is pretty much my entire office, production studio and everything I use to built, create, and manage my online businesses and create videos for Youtube. As a full time content creator now, earning close to $2,000 a month from my channel, I've been filming and editing videos from my iPhone 11 and editing them on my 2020 Macbook Air.

Just recently, Apple has announced the new iPhone 12 lineups. Also just announced are the new Apple Silicon MacBooks with the M1 chips. Unfortunately I just replaced my Macbook a month ago and feel silly if the new one came out this quickly. Big questions people have been asking me are about the two devices and here are my answers.  This post has been updated with the new suggestions for 2021 and an update with now owning the new M1 Macbook and iPhone 12. 


Best Phone for 2020

Why any iPhone and not a cheaper android? iPhone makes the best video cameras on any phone, period. Also things like Airdrop make it super easy to quickly and wirelessly transfer hours worth of video from my phone to my laptop, and send photos and videos to other people without using data.

My iPhone 11 is still completely fine and I could easily keep it for another year and still make high quality videos for my channel. If I wasn't making Youtube videos from my phone full time, I would skip this update as none of us will be taking advantage of 5G this year and I don't need any other the other features.


However, since this is my main camera for my business, I will most likely upgrade to the iPhone 12 Pro Max, even though I don't actually want the bigger screen. I would only do it for the best video cameras. The iPhone 12 normal is probably the best bang for the buck for most people. But for me since I'd get the 128gb version as I need the storage for video, the different will only be $220 before tax so it's worth getting the ProMax for me. I just hope I can find it here in Sri Lanka at a decent price before 2021 as unfortunately tech here comes out usually 1-2 months later and at a 20-30% higher price than in the USA.

Update: I bought the base model 128gb iPhone 12 and love it. The photo and video quality, especially with the front camera has improved greatly I also like the new rectangular design. 

Update: I bought the base model M1 Macbook Air and LOVE it. It feels like I now own a $6,000 top of the line intel laptop for video editing even though mine is the lowest model with no fan and only 8GB of ram. 

Macbook Air with 30W Charger

Best Laptop for 2021

Why a MacBook and not a cheaper Windows, Linux, etc. It's 100% because of MacOS. Most people should just buy a $299 ChromeBook as that's what I would recommend as the fastest, most user friendly OS for people who do everything on the web, which is 99% of people out there. Linux is for tech nerds and not the average user. I've tried Windows 10 on my girlfriend's computer and still hate it. I will wait until the new faster ARM Based Apple Silicon Processors come out on either the MacbookPro (ideally 14" if it comes out) or a new Macbook Air hopefully mid 2021. 

At least for now the 2020 MacbookAir base model is actually fine for the 1080p videos I edit using iMovie for my Youtube Channel. My only regret is not upgrading to 16gb of Ram instead of the base 8gb, but the everything else actually works fine, even the base CPU as the higher core ones will just kick on the annoying fans earlier that don't actually cool the GPU or CPU as it's not connected properly like on the Macbook Pros and don't acutally make most things faster. 

Edit: It's out! I would 100% get the new 2021 Macbook Air with the M1 chip if you need a new laptop, but only if you plan on using Apple based software such as Final Cut, iMovie, etc. as everything else including Photoshop and other 3rd party software won't take advantage of the speed until 2021. See more info on the paragraph below. 

Update: I bought it! This is the base model M1 Macbook Air (late 2020) with 8gb of ram and 256HD. It's perfect. I use it to video edit on iMovie and make all of the videos at with it and it's super fast, with no issues. 

I'll test it with Final Cut Pro which I just bought and with 4K soon, so keep an eye out for updates. But from all the testing i've done and seen, it'll handle it fine. It's perfect for photo editing. Battery life is amazing, and I even play games like Hearthstone at full resolution with zero issues.

m1 macbook air

2021 Macbook Air vs. Pro

The great news is that Apple has released the new ARM based Macbooks with the M1 chip. It's hard to explain how big of a game changer this is as it's not a minor leap, it's a quantum leap. The best way to describe it is imagine your car which was always powered by a gasoline engine suddenly becoming powered by a Tesla motor and becoming all electric. It suddenly becomes much faster, more efficient, completely silent, and has instant torque and startup time. 

For most digital nomads, those who travel with your laptops often, or have to carry it around in a backpack, I would recommend getting the 2021 Macbook Air over the 2021 Macbook Pro. Not only is it a tiny bit lighter, and $300 cheaper, but it's also better in a few ways. First is the wedge shaped keyboard actually makes it more comfortable to type on and hold. Another big difference is the size of the wall charger. The 60W power brick on the Macbook Pro is double the size and weight of the smaller 30W charger that comes with the Air. Sure it may charge a bit faster, but with 15+ hours of battery life anyways, I'd rather carry around a smaller brick. 

Also a bit plus of the Macbook Air is that it's completely silent and fanless. The only downside is that even though they have the same M1 chip inside, the lack of the fan may throttle top end performance under heavy use. But you'll have to watch some of the real world testing and benchmarks on channels such as MaxTech whenever he releases them.  But I can already tell you that for 99% of people, the base 7-core Macbook Air at $999 is the best bet. 

My favorite thing about having the base Macbook Air is that instead of buying insurance on it against theft or loss, I'm reassured that wherever I am in the world, I can quickly and easily replace it by buying a new one. Just make sure you keep a Time Machine backup either on the cloud or on a USB-C portable SSD drive to be able to quickly reload your backup onto another machine if needed.

Best Drone for 2021

By far the DJI Mavic Mini 2 is the best drone for Youtubers and Travelers. It's tiny, lightweight, powerful, 4K, and everything you'd want or need. Best of all, it's only $449 so if you lose or crash it, you can just buy another one. Also make sure you buy a high speed 32GB for 1080p or 64GB for 4k or larger microSD card with it. 

I'm 100% happy with my purchase as you can see from all of my new Youtube videos since Dec 20th, 2020 ever since I got it. 

Best Headphones for 2021

Another great deal is the new Apple Airpod Pros for $199 as they have the built in noise cancelation. I use the Airpod Pro 2's everyday and love them, I wish I would have gotten them sooner. Never again will I use wired headphones and have the annoyance of untangling them every use. 

The $599 Apple AirPod Pros are overpriced. Don't waste your money on them.

And although I really love my noise canceling, wireless Bose QC35 headphones on flight, trains and other noisy places. It's much easier carrying around a pair of Airpods than big over the ear headphones. So unless you plan on flying a lot in the next year, full sized headphones may not be worth it. The only big benifit of the QC35's over the Airpod Pros is that you can also plug them into airplane TV sets to watch movies with your noise canceling headphones, which is something you can't do with your wireless only ones.

Final Thoughts on Tech 2020

That's it for this year and my thoughts on the new Apple iPhone 12 and the Macbook line up. The reason why so many digital nomads use Apple products isn't just a cool design thing, it's because they really are the best. And now that in 2020 Apple finally brought their prices down for things like the Macbook Air, and the iPhone SE 2 or iPhone 11 models, there's really no reason to save money with Android or Windows products. 

At the end of the day, yes there are faster bang for your buck devices out there with other brands, but with Apple, you always know you're getting a great product. I like that even their cheapest phones have great cameras, and even the base laptop is good enough to video edit and do everything you need without having to worry about viruses or annoying forced updates, and other things I hated about using Windows and android. Here's an old video about Macbooks vs. Chromebooks and why 5 years later I'm shocked that so many people are still using Windows. 

2020 Tech Summary 

For 99% of people out there, the perfect setup would be an iPhone SE2 for $399 or a base iPhone 12 and either a $299 Chromebook or a $999 2021 Macbook Air base model. For me i'm going to stick to the 2020 Macbook Air and get the new iPhone 12 Pro Max as it's actually my full time job to film and create videos. 

But for most people, just get a Chromebook if you do everything on the web like 99% of people do. They're amazing, fast, and easy to use. But the Macbook Air's are a great alternative for other people who need to edit videos in 1080p or the occasional 4k. P.S. The iPhone 12 Pro Max can make professional quality videos like this! This is insane!


 Ask me anything else in the comments below. 

Hope all is well! 

Johnny FD

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  1. What is your current setup and what do you plan on upgrading to next?

  2. I currently got the 2018 MacBook Air and iPhone X while I live here in your favorite neighbourhood Canggu Bali :P (It's quite nice now bc there are no crowds and only locals are staying here now)

    I'm getting the iPhone 12 Pro as soon as I can and will be getting it shipped from NYC along with a care package from my parents. It's going to cost like $200 to ship but it's totally worth it.

    The iPhone 12 pro max looks dope! Why I'm getting it? Because of the camera. Why buy a real camera when the iPhone is just as good.

    1. I'll be getting the 12 Pro as well just fo the cameras.

      A few questions, will there be import taxes if they find it inside the care package? Also would it be possible to buy from a local store in Bali new, if so how much would it be?

  3. For flying check out airfly pro a great Bluetooth adapter by twelve south for the AirPods Pro

    1. Good tip! I had never heard of that till now. I wonder if Airlines will ever just add in individual bluetooth connections on their screens.

  4. I've never used any kind of noise-canceling headset or earbuds. Can you use them to block out noise even when you're not listening to anything? I'm trying to find a solution to blocking out a very loud noise that I have no control over.

    1. Yes, I have them on all of the time in cafes and coworking spaces while not listening to anything. But as a cheaper option, you can also just use foam ear plugs, if they don't bother you.

  5. I've switched from a Macbook Pro to a Pixelbook for everything. My only concern is whether they will keep releasing new models. If that happens, I can always go back to the Mac world.

    1. I really hope that Pixelbook/Chrome OS stays a thing. It's crazy how slow it's caught on. 99% of Windows users should have switched already.

  6. Hey Johnny,
    The article was a very cool read. I am running a Dell XPS 15, I always wonder why you guys like MacOS and Chrome OS so much that you would say "everyone should switch".
    What about application that don't run on Mac? Most specific professional applications unfortunately still don't. (when I used work for Oracle, none of our stuff worked on Mac).
    What about Gamers? Macs and Pixelbooks are terrible for gaming.
    What about Cost? I know you had bad experience with Windows laptops in the past, but a similar priced Windows Laptop will always beat a Mac in performance. You can't compare a $2000 MacBook pro with a $600 Windows laptop and say the Mac is faster.

    Macs look better, I admit, but I don't know if that is enough for "everyone to switch".

    This new M1 chip looks really good. I wonder what they will do for the 15 inch MacBooks and the Desktop iMac's and MacPro's. Are they developing a big chip as well?

    I recently switched to the AirPods Pro from the Gen 1 AirPods, much better batter life and the noise cancelation is great, but they are not very comfortable and they fall out easily. Did you ever try the Pros?

    1. It's a shame that Windows has a monopoly for some specific programs for the workplace. That's why I'm glad i don't have a corporate job and don't need to be locked into specific software.

      Games - It depends on the game. I play Hearthstone and it's 100% fine on my Mac.

      Speed - On paper the $2,000 PC will be much faster. In real life, the Mac will be quicker in most cases and day to day use because of the hardware/software integration.

      Mac vs Windows - I used to have a $2,500 gaming laptop, brand new, and it was slower and a huge pain in the ass compared to my friend's 5 year old Macbook Pro.I also used my girlfriend's 2 year old PC vs. my 2013 Macbook Air. The Mac was still better.


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