MacBook Air M2 review (2022): Apple’s near-perfect Mac

The new MacBook Air is one of Apple’s most important computers since Steve Jobs pulled the original Air out of an envelope. It shows what’s possible when Apple builds an ultraportable entirely around its mobile chips, rather than lazily cramming them into legacy laptop designs, like the recent 13-inch MacBook Pro. The air is impressively thin and light, but it Also has a bigger and better screen, a great speaker set, and a nifty MagSafe power adapter. And thanks to Apple’s M2 chip, it’s also much faster than the last model, a computer just a year and a half ago. Once again, Apple has set a new standard for ultraportables.

Before I dive into what’s under the hood, I’ll just say what we’re all thinking: this is a great computer! Gone is the Air’s signature wedge design—now it’s uniformly thin front to back. Apple has basically repeated the PowerBook-like design of the 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros – more rounded edges, a notch for the webcam – but squeezed it into a body that’s just 11.3 millimeters thin and 2.7 pounds weighs. Although it’s only a tenth of a pound lighter than the last Air, it’s much more balanced and easier to hold.

MacBook Air (M2, 2022)

advantages

  • Much thinner than before
  • Beautiful 13.6 inch screen
  • Great quad speaker setup
  • Outstanding M2 performance

Disadvantages

  • More expensive than before
  • Some speed throttling for longer tasks
  • No promotion

Gallery: Apple MacBook Air (M2, 2022) | 12 photos


When I first picked up the MacBook Air, it felt more like an iPad with a built-in keyboard than a laptop. Funny thing is that it’s actually more portable than the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, which weighs around 3 pounds combined with its Smart Keyboard. The iPad Pro has always been positioned as the futuristic ideal for truly portable computing, but it turns out it weighs the same as the 13-inch MacBook Pro. Once again, the humble air wins.

It’s also nice to see Apple offering a wider range of finishes. In addition to the typical space gray and silver, there is a lighter Starlight case and a sleek black Midnight option. I tested a Starlight model and I always get a bit of joy from the way the paint bounces off the aluminum.

MacBook Air (M2, 2022)

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

To be honest, that sense of joy is pretty much everywhere in MacBook Air, like the new 13.6-inch Liquid Retina display. It’s only a third of an inch larger than before, but it feels more spacious and captivating. It helps that Apple shaved off a bit of the bezel and also bumped the brightness up to 500 nits, making using the Air a lot easier outdoors.

The Liquid Retina screen is mostly the same as what we’ve seen on the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros – the only difference being that it doesn’t have ProMotion. I wasn’t expecting to see this high refresh rate technology on a mainstream laptop, especially after it didn’t arrive on the 13-inch MacBook Pro. But at this point, it’s one of the few things that keeps the air from being truly perfect. Maybe I’m just greedy, but my eyes have been spoiled. I need silky smooth scrolling on every machine! I was also a bit disappointed with the new 1080p webcam. It packs more pixels than previous 720p cameras but still looks pretty drab and grainy.

MacBook Air (M2, 2022)

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

At least Apple has managed to adopt its improved speaker technology from the larger MacBook Pros. The Air features a quad speaker system with support for Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos. And while I wasn’t expecting much from a system this thin, the new audio setup sounds shockingly good. It’s enough to fill a small room with sound at maximum volume without any distortion. There’s also a three-microphone array to improve video chat sound quality, as well as a standard 3.5mm jack. (I’m sure there are some fanatical Apple designers who want to rip out the headphone jack to make the Air’s body even thinner, just like they did with the iPad Pro. So enjoy while you can!)

All of these upgrades would be impressive on their own, but what really makes the MacBook Air shine is Apple’s new M2 chip. It doesn’t completely change the PC world like the M1 did, but it’s a decent sequel. The M2 has 8 CPU cores and up to 10 GPU cores, and Apple says it’s around 18 percent faster for multi-threaded performance. If you opt for the faster GPU model, you can expect about 35 percent faster graphics speeds than the M1. Apple has also doubled the memory bandwidth of the M2 and increased maximum RAM to 24GB. That’s probably overkill for an Air, but still nice. There’s also hardware support for ProRes encoding and decoding, but I would imagine most video editors would opt for more powerful MacBook Pros.

none

Geekbench 5 CPU

Geekbench 5 Compute

Cinebench R23

Apple MacBook Air (Apple M2, 2022)

1,907/8,665

27,083

1,576/7,372

Apple MacBook Air (Apple M1, 2020)

1,619/6,292

16.128

1,494/6,617

Apple MacBook Pro 13 inch, (Apple M2, 2022)

1,938/8,984

27,304

1,583/8,719

Apple MacBook Pro 14 inch (Apple M1 Pro)

1,767/11,777

38,359

1.515/12.118

Dell XPS 15 (Intel i7-12700H, RTX 3050 Ti, 2022)

1,680/11,412

60.205

1,724/13,100

Our review unit came with a 10-core GPU, 16GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD, just like our 13-inch MacBook Pro reviewer. And as I expected, the results of both systems were almost identical on benchmarks like GeekBench 5 and 3DMark Wild Life Extreme. There was a significant difference in the Cinebench R21 multi-threaded test, but that wasn’t much of a surprise. The MacBook Air is a fanless system, so its CPU needs to be throttled to keep things cool. The 13-inch MacBook Pro, on the other hand, has fans and a more robust cooling system, allowing it to handle sustained workloads.

All of my testing made it clear that the MacBook Air is just as fast as the 13-inch Pro for most tasks. It even hit the same average of 30 fps in Shadow of the Tomb Raiders Benchmark, meaning the game would actually be playable on a crazy thin ultraportable. However, for more complex work like video editing or 3D rendering, you’ll have to live with some slowdown. For most people, I think this is a decent compromise given what else the MacBook Air has to offer. And if you’re a true media pro, you’re still better off with the 14-inch or 16-inch MacBook Pro than the aging 13-inch model.

MacBook Air (M2, 2022)

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Do not knock on this computer to a lot, but now that I’ve seen the Air in action I’m even more amazed by the 13-inch Pro. The Air has the same great keyboard and super-smooth trackpad. There’s no annoying TouchBar, just reliable function keys. It even has more ports! There are two USB-C ports, but it also has a MagSafe connector for power. That means you can actually charge the MacBook Air without using up any of your precious USB-C connections! Maybe Apple should have just renamed it MacBook Air Pro.

The 13-inch Pro has a larger battery, which allowed it to last 17 hours and five minutes in our benchmark. The Air, meanwhile, reached 16 hours and 30 minutes. Still, that’s enough time to get you through a full workday, and it’s on par with other ultraportables like Dell’s XPS 13. Apple also has a variety of power adapters to choose from: one with two USB-C ports (for charging). other devices) and a 67-watt power adapter for fast charging.

MacBook Air (M2, 2022)

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

The only downside to the MacBook Air revamp is that it now starts at $1,199, $200 more than the M1 model. This older machine is still a decent option if you can find it on sale or refurbished, but otherwise I’d say the M2 model is totally worth the extra cost. Just be prepared for the price to go up quickly once you start adding additional hardware. If you want to match the specs of our review unit, you’ll have to pay $1,899. Personally, I would say prioritize as much RAM and SSD storage as possible. The M2 chip will still be very powerful without the $100 upgrade for the more powerful GPU.

It’s remarkable how far the MacBook Air has come since 2008. It used to be overpriced and underpowered, a testament to Apple’s penchant for style over substance. Since then, the entire PC industry has jumped on the ultraportable bandwagon, and Apple has figured out a way to pack a lot of power into a razor-thin chassis. Now the MacBook Air is arguably Apple’s best laptop yet.

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Russell Falcon

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