The new MacBook Air with the M2 chip is on display at the annual Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, California on June 6, 2022.
Peter Dasilva | Reuters
AppleThe new $1,199 MacBook Air with the latest M2 processor goes on sale Friday. I’ve been testing it for a week and I think most people should buy this particular MacBook.
The 2022 MacBook Air offers the biggest MacBook redesign since 2010. It lacks the tapered shell of earlier models and is 20% smaller in volume than its predecessor thanks to updated internals. It has a bigger screen, faster processor, better speakers, upgraded camera and more.
Apple’s Mac revenue jumped 15% year-on-year to $10.4 billion in the second quarter, driven largely by the M1 processor and a host of new Macs running on it. The MacBook Air with M2 will help keep that momentum going, especially as the school season approaches.
Here’s what you need to know about it.
Apple usually sends high-end MacBook Airs for testing, but this year they sent me an entry-level model for $1,199. This means that I can try the version that I think most people will buy. This is where you get a lot of value for a laptop that will last you for many years. Considering the design and upgraded features like MagSafe, it almost looks like a MacBook Pro Lite. This is a good thing.
The first thing you’ll notice is the new, thinner design. I like that it feels balanced and light, but has a more refined design, similar to the 14-inch MacBook Pro that starts at $1999.
Apple has upgraded the screen from a Retina display to a liquid Retina display that is brighter and more colorful than the previous model. There is a notch at the top like on the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro, but the notch doesn’t bother me when I use my 14-inch MacBook Pro.
The speakers sound good. I thought the stereo speakers on the latest model were solid, but the M2 MacBook Air has two extra speakers for a total of four, which makes movies and music feel richer. But they still lack the incredible speakers you get if you’re willing to spend nearly twice as much on a 14-inch MacBook Pro.
I love the keyboard. He reverted to a proven version of the MacBook Air M1. Typing is easy and doesn’t have the drawbacks of the old version of the butterfly, which felt too small and was prone to repeated keystrokes and key sticking.
MagSafe is also here, as is on the 14-inch MacBook Pro. It’s a small magnetic charging cable that slides out from the side and slides back out easily. So if you trip over the cord, the entire MacBook won’t fall off your desk. You can also charge your laptop using one of the two Thunderbolt USB C ports. You can quickly charge it up to 50% in 30 minutes if you buy Apple’s $59 67-watt charger.
A charger should have been included with the entry-level model, but Apple is offering one for free if you upgrade to the 512GB version. I prefer fast charging and the charger worked well so I suggest buying one.
The M2 chip was fast enough for my needs, such as running multiple tabs in Safari, playing music, watching movies, or playing light games. I also think the M1 was great, so people using this chip might not notice a huge difference unless you factor in things like video rendering speed. And, if you’re the type of person who really needs a ton of speed, you should just get the 14-inch MacBook Pro.
Apple promises 18 hours of battery life at around 50% screen brightness. I did a video test by simply looping the movie non-stop until the battery ran out and got just over 17 hours. I was streaming a movie and had things like keyboard backlighting affecting battery life. This will get you through your work day and beyond, and you’ll definitely have enough battery life to watch movies throughout your flight.
The name of the M2 chip can be confusing: it’s faster than the M1, but not more powerful than the M1 Pro or M1 Max in the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro. And it’s more limited than these chips. You can only add one external monitor, for example, unlike two with the M1 Pro or four with the M1 Max. This is the same limitation as the M1 chip and is a bummer for people like me who usually use two extra monitors.
Apple has also finally upgraded the camera from 720p to Full HD 1080p. It got better, but I think it could have been sharper – for example, my skin looked overly smooth. And things like lights in the background were showing visible stripes. Standalone webcams with large lenses are still the best option if you want to look your best while video chatting.
This is the MacBook that most people should buy. You don’t need to upgrade if you have an M1 model, but it’s definitely a big bump over the older model. Intel versions.
In fact, Apple is still selling the 2020 MacBook Air M1 for $999. I think the extra $200 is worth it to get a newer computer that lasts longer and has faster charging, better webcam, better speakers, updated design and more. But you should not rule out the more affordable old option if you want to save money. This is still a fantastic laptop.
I bought a more expensive 14-inch MacBook Pro when it was released last year because it has more ports, better speakers, and an even nicer display, but it has way more processing power than I’ll ever need. The new MacBook Air with M2 is about half the price, lighter, has a great screen, speakers, and a processor that will last for years. I would buy this instead if it was launched at the same time.