Is The M2 MacBook Air Worth The Hype? Here’s What The Reviews Say

Since Apple announced the new MacBook Air with the M2 chip at its latest event, the WWDC22 Keynote in June, people have been eager for its release. At last, the tech reviewers who have had the chance to test it out have a lot to say. Here’s what they think of the redesigned, high-powered ultraportable MacBook Air.

Overview

The Air is impressively thin and light, but it also has a bigger and better screen, a great set of speakers and a nifty MagSafe power adapter. And thanks to Apple’s M2 chip, it’s also far speedier than the last model, a computer I called “stunningly fast” just a year-and-a-half ago.

[Engadget]

The ideal audience for this device is someone who has light to medium workloads, with occasional dips into more intensive tasks like 3D modeling, and who feels like their current MacBook’s screen size or webcam doesn’t meet their pandemic-era needs. Others would likely be better off waiting for a 14 or 16-inch MacBook Pro, but the design is enticing enough and the chip impressive enough that I’m tempted not to be patient.

[Gizmodo]

The Physical Redesign

The new Air’s footprint is a hair smaller than before, and it feels slimmer. It’s 11.3mm thick overall, while the previous design tapered thinner at the front, but grew to 16mm at its rear hinge.

[CNET]

It’s also slightly lighter, at 2.7 pounds vs. the older model’s 2.8. That’s not a huge difference, and the Air is far from the lightest computer you can buy, but it does make it extremely portable and easy to tote around wherever I need it.

[The Verge]

It’s also nice to see Apple offering a wider variety of finishes. In addition to the typical space gray and silver, there’s a brighter starlight case and a sleek black midnight option. I’ve been testing a starlight model, and the way the color pops off of the aluminum always gives me a bit of joy.

[Engadget]

The new laptop also avoids the bulk of the MacBook Pros by sticking to passive cooling, eliminating the need for internal cooling fans. While that does mean that performance isn’t quite as impressive on the M2 MacBook Air as it is on the M2-based MacBook Pro 13-inch, it also means it’s quieter. The fanless design means that even under heavy load, the MacBook Air runs silent.

[PC Mag]

The Specs

What makes the MacBook Air really shine is Apple’s new M2 chip. It doesn’t completely reshape the PC world, like the M1 did, but it’s a decent sequel. The M2 features 8 CPU cores and up to 10 GPU cores, and Apple says it’s around 18 percent faster for multithreaded performance. If you go for the faster GPU model, you can expect graphics speeds about 35 percent faster than the M1. Apple also doubled the M2’s memory bandwidth and raised the maximum RAM to 24GB.

[Engadget]

The device trades a Retina Display for Liquid Retina, maintaining roughly the same pixel density (a 2560 x 1600 13.3-inch screen on the 2020 Air and 2560 x 1664 on the new 13.6 system), though the brightness has been bumped from 400 to 500 nits.

[TechCrunch]

The main update from the previous MacBook Air is the move to MagSafe charging. It’s a huge win for convenience, saving you from disaster when you accidentally trip over a stray power cable, since the magnetic plug detaches more easily when yanked. Even better, your MagSafe plug will match the color of your MacBook Air, and charging the Air won’t occupy one of the USB-C ports.

[PC Mag]

Just like Apple’s 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros, the webcam on the Air is now built into a notch on the display. The good news is that it’s a pretty solid webcam, at least for a laptop. In calls and photos, the Air did well with color accuracy and detail, including individual hairs on my face and in my beard, my blue eyes, and even handled fluorescent office lighting without getting blown out.

Is it as good as the best external webcams? No, but it’s a huge step up from older MacBook Airs and their 720p cameras.

[Tom’s Hardware]

Performance

As an owner of one of the earliest Air models, there were times the compromises could be glaring. I edit video and audio, both tasks that could feel dodgy on the system. The laptop was always a good companion in my pre-pandemic travel. The gulf in size and weight between those Airs and Pro was profound, and the system never left my side. But there was a tacit understanding for creative Pros with heavy workloads that you were going to need a more robust system to come home to.

I’m certainly not suggesting that there isn’t still a gulf between the 8-core M2 Air and, say, the 20-core M1 Max or Pro Studio, but the floor is much higher than it was in those heady Intel days.

[TechCrunch]

Both models come with the new M2 processor, but the $1,199 base model has an 8-core integrated GPU while the $1,499 model has a 10-core one. This shouldn’t mean much to the average user, but power users who regularly run GPU intensive tasks like 3D modeling should opt for the higher end version.

[Gizmodo]

The redesigned body, coupled with a thinner logic board, allows for more room for battery. The Air gets an upgrade from 49.9-watt-hours to 52.6. Overall, however, the stated battery life remains the same. I was able to get a bit over 17 hours of video playback, streaming video on Apple TV, with the brightness at 50 and the sound on. That should be enough to get you through just about any flight (maybe budget in a 90-minute nap if you’re flying from New York to Singapore).

[TechCrunch]

Drawbacks

Apple is still limiting the new Air to a single external display, so if you want to plug your laptop into more than one monitor at a time, you’ll need to step up to a 14-inch MacBook Pro (which supports up to four external displays) or figure out some other workaround.

[The Verge]

At $1,199, the $200 increase over the traditional $999 MacBook Air starting price is a disappointment. Note that we’re reviewing the step-up $1,499 configuration, which adds more GPU cores and more storage space (but still only includes 8GB of RAM).

[CNET]

This new [Midnight] color is gorgeous out of the box, with a deep blue-black finish that can change depending on the light. But as soon as you pick it up, it gets covered in greasy fingerprints that are a chore to clean off. It really mars what is otherwise a striking finish.

[The Verge]

The MacBook Air’s port selection is also tweaked a bit, but remains limited. The dual USB Type-C/Thunderbolt 4 ports provide connectivity for pretty much anything, although if you need a standard USB Type-A port, or an HDMI output, you’ll also need an adapter or USB-C docking station.

[PC Mag]

Using Handbrake to convert an hour-long video to 1080p took around 11min 32s. That’s twice what it took for the MBP 2021. Temperatures went above 80 degrees, before dropping to 60 degrees. The encoding rate also dropped from 200-ish fps to 100-ish fps when things got hot.

[Can Buy Or Not]

Pricing Considerations

it now starts at $1,199, $200 more than the M1 model. That older machine is still a decent option if you find it on sale or refurbished, but otherwise I’d say the M2 model is absolutely worth the extra cost. Just be prepared for the price to rise quickly as you start adding extra hardware. If you wanted to bump up to our review unit’s specs, you’d have to pay $1,899. Personally, I’d say prioritize throwing in as much RAM and SSD storage as you can. The M2 chip will still be very capable without the $100 upgrade for the more powerful GPU.

[Engadget]

for a system with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, $1,199 is expensive. The average person, using a laptop for web browsing, watching videos, listening to music, writing documents and making spreadsheets may want to consider the M1 model, which is keeping the $999 price point with an 8-core CPU and 7-core GPU. It’s been on sale at Amazon and Best Buy for even cheaper recently. […] Those who max the system out with the 10-core GPU, 24GB of RAM and 2TB of storage will pay $2,499.

[Tom’s Hardware]

TL;DR

Once again, Apple has set a new standard for ultraportables.

[Engadget]

Not everyone needs the M2 chip. It is powerful, but so is the M1, and casual users will start to feel diminishing returns with this device.

[Gizmodo]

Leave a Comment