Last modified: September 27th, 2023 at 06:50 am
Apple’s M2 MacBook Air is a great ultraportable. It’s non-wedge design is the most revolutionary new feature, while the rest of the laptop boasts evolutionary upgrades. The new M2 chip will attract the most attention – mainly due to the smash hit debut of the M1 – but this laptop is more than just a 2020 MacBook Air with a faster chip.
The 2022 MacBook Air represents the first time Apple has released a new-and-improved laptop based on all of its own designs (not Intel’s). In many ways, this is the first time MacBooks have joined the regular Apple-controlled update cycle that we have experienced with iPhones, iPads, Apple watches for so many years.
What that means in simple terms is a faster and more modern-looking device with a sprinkling of attention-grabbing new features. Which, in this case, are the new non-wedge design, the MagSafe charger, and the M2 chip.
It’s not enough to make anyone who’s recently bought an M1 MacBook Air feel the need to upgrade. But it definitely keeps Apple at the top of the ultraportable laptop charts by a clear margin.
In short, the M2 MacBook Air is the Mac laptop that I think most people should buy in 2022.
- Brilliant performance thanks to the M2 chip
- 18-hour battery
- New modern design
- Large display
- 1080p webcam
- MagSafe is back!
- 60Hz display
This is thanks to Apple’s System on a Chip (SoC) formula. The M2 is built in-house, which allows Apple to push the performance and efficiency of the MacBook Air to the max. It no longer relies on other companies like Intel for performance, and the results are impressive.
The M2 MacBook Air is fast, requiring minimal load times. You can comfortably perform high-intensive tasks like 4K video editing with it. It has an all-new sleek design and an 18-hour battery that will last all day. If you’re looking for a Mac ultraportable, this is the best of the best.
If you’re using an Intel-based Mac, then it’s worth upgrading to the M2 Air. You’ll notice a massive performance boost. If you’re using an M1 MacBook Air, the slight performance increase isn’t worth upgrading for. However, the new features like MagSafe charging, the 1080p webcam, the new design and the larger function row are welcome improvements.
The M2 MacBook Air is so good it bridges the gap between the Air and the 13-inch M2 MacBook Pro. The differences between the Pro and the Air were more defined in previous years. If you wanted better performance you’d probably opt for the more expensive MacBook Pro. If you wanted portability, you’d probably opt for the less expensive MacBook Air. This year there’s very little to differentiate the two.
The M2 MacBook Air has a nicer display, a more portable design, a better 1080p webcam, MagSafe charging and a fanless interior. And crucially, we saw very little difference in performance between the two.
Apple is in a strange situation where its laptops, powered by its own SoC, are so good that their only competitors are other Apple laptops. The M2 MacBook Air is for anyone still using an Intel-based Mac. And if you were thinking of buying a 13-inch M2 MacBook Pro, we think you’ll be better served by the M2 MacBook Air.
The M2 MacBook Air bridges the gap between the MacBook Air range and the lower-tier 13-inch MacBook Pro. This year, the M2 MacBook Air is no longer the less expensive younger sibling. The top-tier Air is more expensive than the top-tier 13-inch Pro.
The MacBook Air (M2, 2022) comes in two configurations. The cheaper $2,149 model boasts an 8-core CPU, an 8-core GPU, 8GB of unified memory and 256GB of SSD storage. The more expensive $2,699 model comes with an improved 10-core GPU and 512GB SSD storage.
For $2,299, you can get a 13-inch M2 MacBook Pro with an 8-core CPU, 10-core GPU, 8GB of unified memory and 256GB of SSD storage. And for $2,649, you can increase the SSD to 512GB.
The design of the M2 MacBook Air is where Apple has introduced most of its changes. The laptop’s familiar “wedge” shape (in which the front of the device is thinner than the back) is gone, replaced with a more uniform design wherein the laptop is the same thickness front to back. It looks as good as ever.
This change in design means the M2 MacBook Air is even thinner than its already thin 1.61cm predecessor at only 1.13cm, and for its size, it’s incredibly light at only 1.24kg. Ideal for an ultraportable laptop.
The redesign allows for a larger screen at 13.6-inches, as opposed to the 13.3-inch display found on the M1 MacBook Air. This is mainly because the top-and-bottom bezels have reduced in size by 30% and the side bezels by 20%.
Other than its size, the display hasn’t changed too much. It has a slightly higher resolution, increasing from 2560 x 1600 to 2560 x 1664, and it’s 100 nits brighter for a total of 500 nits. Both are welcome upgrades – but it’s still a tame 60hz display and subsequently doesn’t support Apple’s adaptive refresh rate technology, ProMotion. It’s not a bad display, it supports one billion colours and True Tone, but there are no exciting new upgrades here which feels like a missed opportunity.
Apple has finally improved the MacBook Air’s webcam. The 2022 model boasts a 1080p webcam, improving on the poor 720p camera found in its predecessor. It’s a significant improvement and a welcome one. The drawback is the new camera, combined with the size reduction of the bezels, does mean there is a notch at the top of the display. Like the iPhones, this could be a sticking point for some. I didn’t have a problem with it, though. Most of the time, I didn’t notice it unless I intentionally looked for it.
The keyboard is comfortable to type on, and the trackpad is large and responsive. The function keys are full-sized this time around. It’s a minor change, but I liked this. The function keys are easier to press, and the keyboard looks more balanced as a result.
The port selection is standard for an ultraportable. There are two thunderbolt ports on the laptop’s left side and, interestingly, a 3.5mm headphone jack on the right. MagSafe also makes a return. The MagSafe charging port is located on the device’s left and is a welcome improvement.
The M2 MacBook Air comes in four colours, Midnight, Starlight, Space Grey and Silver. They all look great. Our review device had the Starlight colour scheme, and it looks premium and sleek.
Our version of the M2 MacBook Air was the more expensive model with an 8-core CPU, 10-core GPU, 8GB of unified memory and 512GB SSD storage. It’s fast, very fast.
Easily the fastest and most powerful ultraportable on the market, boasting a Geekbench 5.4.5 multi-core score of 8956 and a single-core score of 1923, the M2 MacBook Air maintains Apple’s dominating performance capabilities in a laptop.
The fanless design is completely silent. It’s impressive as Apple claims the M2 System on a Chip boasts an 18% faster CPU, a 35% faster GPU and a 40% faster neural engine over the M1, and still, it makes no noise.
It’s easily capable of running high-intensive tasks like 4K video editing without stuttering. Apple even claims it can perform up to 11 streams of 4K Pro Res Video editing simultaneously without overheating or performance issues. It’s unreal and is aided by the fact that apps and programs are now being specifically designed for the M2 chip. It’s not just native Apple apps, either. Companies like Microsoft and Adobe are now developing their apps specifically for the M2.
Similarly, Apple’s conversion software, Rosetta 2 allows you to use apps designed for Intel-based Macs without issue. Using the Epic Games store and FL Studio Intel versions was seamless. However, my experience with Steam wasn’t as good. Several games I tried to download got stuck in a verification loop in which the game wouldn’t install. Whether this is an Apple problem or a Steam problem is hard to tell, however I’ve never had these issues on my Windows gaming PC.
Overall the M2 MacBook Air is a performance powerhouse and blows away the ultraportable competition. Its only real competitor is Apple’s still-on-sale M1 MacBook Air which is cheaper at $1,749 with an 8-core CPU, 7-core-GPU and 8GB of unified memory.
The M1 MacBook Air was already a beast when it came to performance. You won’t notice much difference between the M2 MacBook Air and its predecessor for everyday use. If you’re doing incredibly intensive tasks like 8K video editing, you’d probably want a larger, more powerful 14-inch/16-inch M2 MacBook Pro.
Interestingly, Apple’s latest chip, the M2, isn’t its best. It’s confusing as the M1 Pro, the M1 Max and the M1 Ultra are more powerful than the M2, in most cases. The M1 Pro has a 16-core GPU compared to the M2’s 8, meaning for high graphics usage, the M1 Pro is significantly more powerful. Strangely though, the M2 has a better Neural Engine, (this is where the chip accelerates machine learning and AI software). The M1 Pro has the same Neural Engine as the M1 capable of 11 trillion operations per second while the M2’s newer generation Neural Engine is capable of 15.8 trillion. Does any of this matter? Probably not as they’re all incredibly fast chips, however it does get confusing.
To add to the confusion, the M1 Max has the same neural engine as the M1 Pro but it has a GPU that’s twice as big. And the M1 Ultra is basically two M1 Max chips put together to double the power yet again. It’s very confusing.
So based on graphics performance, the order from worst to best goes like this: M1, M2, M1 Pro, M1 Max, M1 Ultra.
13-inch M2 MacBook Pro or the M2 MacBook Air?
There’s very little difference between these two devices. The 13-inch MacBook Pro has a Touch Bar instead of a function row and has a slightly larger battery. It also has fans inside that will theoretically allow it to perform better than the MacBook Air for prolonged use, however, we didn’t notice any difference in performance capabilities.
The M2 MacBook Air has a nicer display. It’s more portable, it has a better 1080p webcam and is compatible with MagSafe. These are more user-friendly features, making the 13-inch M2 MacBook Pro hard to recommend now that the M2 MacBook Air has been released. It’s an odd situation for Apple. The MacBook Pro killer is Apple itself.
Powered by its 52.6Wh lithium‑polymer battery, Apple claims the M2 MacBook Air has an 18-hour battery life. We found these claims to be true. It’s two hours less than the 13-inch M2 MacBook Pro, with its 58.2Wh battery, but it’s still excellent.
For an ultraportable, it’s market-leading and is significantly better than any Windows-based competitors.
The small things go a long way. And Apple’s attention to detail with how you charge the 2022 MacBook Air is a return to form. It’s literally a return too, as it sees the laptop ship with a proper MagSafe charger.
This is the retro MagSafe that’s designed to fall out of the MacBooks’s port if you trip over the cable, rather than hooking and potentially breaking your MacBook (or yourself) should you trip over a grippy USB-C port.
The two-port 35W USB-C charging brick that comes in the box is also a refreshing addition (also compatible with the $99 67w charger). The fact that it is there at all will be a bonus for anyone who has bought an iPhone recently. Why Apple hasn’t offered this two-in-one charging brick before is a mystery.
It supports fast charging, filling the battery up to 50% in 30-minutes. And if you forget your MagSafe charger, you can charge it via one of the USB-C ports.
The MacBook Air is heading in a very good direction. Similar to other Apple products like the iPhone and iPad, we’re starting to see Apple introduce incremental improvements to the laptop every few years.
The MagSafe charging, the larger display, the new sleek design and not to mention the new M2 chip are all welcome improvements.
With Apple’s silicon based chips being designed in-house it is able to push the MacBook Air in ways that other ultraportable competitors cannot. The M2 is powerful and efficient. It handles 4K video editing comfortably, the battery lasts an impressive 18-hours and it performs just as well as the M2 MacBook Pro, all without a fan.
If you’re looking for a new ultraportable, Apple’s M2 MacBook Air cannot be beat. If you’re using an M1 MacBook Air, you’ll get away with skipping this year’s model as the differences between the two generations aren’t major. However if you’re using an Intel based MacBook, you should definitely look into upgrading.