Even when I'm not running my 2014 Retina hard, I've began to notice this generation's age is beginning to show. I can scan something in Epson Scan 2, get the TIFF file from the Epson software (600dpi scan on a V600 accounting for the V600's tendency to do double scans for 600+dpi) and it often takes a minute or two to process the file. That's not drastic; the issue is when I need to do color correction for print or something similar. I use Affinity V2 (as well as V1 Photo and Designer); it takes a few minutes for Affinity Photo to load on the system but once it's in RAM, I'm good.
Yet I run the store demo of Affinity on the M series, and it's instant.
The big thing I suspect will get these 2014's is the official limit of the OS, sadly; not the hardware. As Big Sur ages out, the SW compatibility (and lifespan) on MacOS isn't the same as when upgrades were paid, even at EOL time because people ignored Apple's EOL times when the OS upgrade was paid until it was needed a lot, so 3rd party devs stepped up. I remember getting 5 years out of Snow Leopard back in the day because you waited as it was paid. That stopped being true when upgrades became free :/. I fought to keep Catalina going for 1 more year, but the end came because of Adobe.
If you can get it done cheap, I see nothing wrong with trying to get a few more years out of these. But when your time comes (if it comes sooner rather than later) while the 2017 13" Air has life left and will be the next best thing you can get since the M series tanked the resale. You're lucky with the Air; my upgrade path is much more direct when my 2014 bites the dust (2014>2015, if it gets to 10 then the 2015's viability gets worse), then the M series 14/16" so I can't jump on a 2017 Air like you can.
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