Apple MacBook Air M2 Review
For 9 years now, the MacBook Air has been my main computer. I had two classic Airs with 11.6” and 13.3” displays, and two Retina versions of 2018 and 2020 based on Intel, and the company’s firstborn without a cooler based on its M1 chip, which I have been using for a long time a year and a half.
And now, in the summer of 2022, Apple releases the MacBook Air based on the M2 chipset. On the one hand, received almost no increase in performance, on the other hand, received a redesign and some rather useful and pleasant innovations. From the MacBook Air to the M1 two years ago, all questions disappeared after the first performance tests that appeared on the Web.
There were no issues with the 2020 MacBook Air based on Intel for returning to the scissor mechanism of the keys, and with the 2018 MacBook Air with Retina display, in fact, because of this very display. However, this year I just thought about it, since all the innovations, albeit pleasant, do not cause a persistent and obsessive thought “I want”.
And yes, the time is that it's time to tighten your belts. In the end, I decided to first take the novelty for a test, use it for 2–3 weeks as the main computer, and only then decide whether it is worth updating from the typewriter to the M1.
New design and color refresh the experience
Despite the new chassis, the new MacBook Air isn't much lighter or more compact, and you won't notice much of a difference when carried in a backpack. The width remains the same, the height has increased by a slight 2.6 mm, and the weight has decreased by only 50 g. Design:
- 1.13 cm. Departure from the proprietary wedge-shaped shape made it possible to make a single thickness of the entire case – 1.13 cm. In the past generation, let me remind you, this parameter ranged from 0.41 cm at the thinnest point to 1.61 cm at the widest point.
- Has the new form affected ergonomics? In my opinion, minimally. The laptop was thin and light, so it remained. The only thing is that lying down has become a little more convenient because the lower part of the body has become less sharp and does not dig into the stomach.
- Previous design. Overall, the new flatter design is a refreshing experience – the device feels more up-to-date, up-to-date and just a little more enjoyable. The previous design for 4 years is already boring. We were pleased with the flat and wide legs, thanks to which the MacBook Air stands more confidently on the table – it does not dance or slip, although this sometimes happened with the previous model.
- The top row of keys. I also liked the top row of keys, which finally then they became equal in height with all the others – before they were half as low. The trackpad has become a little wider, but I can’t say that thanks to this it has become even more convenient – it has remained the same as the reference trackpad.
- New color. As for the new color, only the lazy did not mention it. Yes, it's scary And oh, how difficult it is to wipe off these traces. I tried only once with a dry microfiber cloth, but it did not work. I did not make any more attempts due to their futility.
- Paint. Another nuance is the slightly peeling paint around the USB-C ports. Remember the black iPhone 5? Here is something similar. However, I didn't notice the problem in other places, but there are no guarantees that this won't happen to the sides of the case in a year and a half.
- Looks good. If you take all these nuances out of brackets, then the color is bomb and really came to me. Perhaps, I would have bought one for myself, forgetting about practicality. The last time I made such an emotional decision, perhaps, was when I bought the iPhone 7 Plus in Jet Black back in 2016.
- But back to practicality. The benefits of the new design are mainly aesthetic, so its weight in the overall picture for a practical person is minimal. Doesn't affect speed, as they say. And overall ease of use. So, I don’t consider the new case to be a weighty argument for overpaying for a new product or upgrading from a MacBook Air M1 to M2.
On paper, the difference in diagonal is minimal – it has grown from 13.3” to 13.6”, even though the MacBook Pro in the new design, the display has grown from 13.3” to 14.2”. But in fact, the increase in the diagonal is noticeable. I'm not a fan of full screen, so instead I just stretch the windows from the dock to the status bar. And this is where the difference is felt – by doing this on a MacBook Air with M2, you get about as much workspace. As on a MacBook Air with M1 in full-screen mode, but still keep that same status bar always displayed. Screen:
- Discomfort. Going back to my MacBook Air on M1, I immediately feel that the display has become smaller, and because of this, I feel a certain discomfort. So, it’s definitely not worth underestimating the display in the new product – the difference in the diagonal, though not colossal, but tangible. And this is perhaps the most powerful argument for an upgrade, which will be relevant for owners of all previous MacBook Air with Retina display up to the model with M1.
- 500 nits. In terms of brightness, the new Air is 100 nits brighter (500 nits vs. 400 nits), but you can notice the difference only when comparing head-on, turning the brightness to the maximum, and then it will be barely noticeable. Otherwise, the display is as excellent as it was, the picture is juicy, the resolution for such a diagonal is optimal and comfortable (2K and 224 PPI).
- Frameless. Regarding the “bangs” – you stop noticing it after a couple of hours of work, the same as it was with the iPhone X and all subsequent “frameless” Apple smartphones. Doesn't irritate. In addition, all the software I use has already adapted to the bangs – no controls hidden behind it could be found.
- Keyboard. From the minuses – the display continues to touch the keyboard when closed, resulting in smudges and then scratches. I recommend using special microfiber cloths, placing them every time before closing the laptop. I do not recommend films – it is difficult to stick neatly, there is no oleo phobic coating, you will also suffer from glare.
- 120Hz. Well, 120Hz, unfortunately, was not delivered – such displays remain exclusive to the MacBook Pro at 14" and 16".
The speakers are the bomb!
MacBook Air now has four stereo speakers instead of two, with support for surround sound and Dolby Atmos. To be honest, while watching the presentation, I didn’t really believe in all these marketing tricks – it would seem what cool speakers can be built into a centimeter-thick laptop case? But Apple really managed to do something incredible! Yes, in this case, there is still not enough bass to completely forget about external acoustics, but how detailed and deep the sound the device produces is something beyond my understanding. I've never heard anything like this in an Ultrabook. By the way, I had no complaints about the dynamics of the previous “air” – they are great too. But in the novelty of the company, it was possible to improve what, it would seem, was no longer possible to improve. Definitely a pass!
MagSafe is back after 5 years
I'll tell you right away – I'm not a fan of MagSafe, and I didn't wait for his return with a breath. For me, this is just one way to replenish the charge, absolutely equivalent to charging via USB-C. MagSafe:
- USB-C. However, I still consider its return useful because there are only two USB-C ports in Air, and when, for example. One is busy charging and the second is an external monitor, then conditionally you can’t plug in an external HDD. For such cases, I had to carry a multi-port dock adapter with me.
- Ports. Now both ports are free during charging, which is good – the shortage of connectors for connecting peripherals becomes less critical.
- New braided cable. New braided cable is chic, love it. It is more flexible, pleasant to the touch, and does not get tangled in a backpack like a regular one. I ordered a similar Baseus for my MacBook Air on M1, which has USB-C instead of MagSafe.
- New adapter. But the new 35W adapter with two USB-C was rather disappointing – there is very little power to charge a laptop and an iPhone at the same time, both charge slowly, taking 17.5W each. For me, the power supply was useless, since I use the Ugreen GaN 100W Charger with four ports with a total power of 100W. Here it just charges the MacBook Air + iPhone bundle quickly, and there is enough power for one more smartphone.
Performance and autonomy
The M2 chip is not far behind the M1 in terms of performance, the difference is 15- The 20% you'll most likely see in common workhorse tasks. But intensive and regular work such as working with 3D graphics and editing 4K video of the MacBook Air on the M2 is contraindicated – the absence of a cooler. Heating up to 108 degrees and the accompanying throttling are unlikely to have a positive effect on your user experience. M2:
- Cooling. Occasionally, you can do something like this, but for constant work with demanding software, it is better to look towards the MacBook Pro. Moreover, the MacBook Air on the M1 looked even more confident in this regard, as its passive cooling system did a better job. Here, it seems as if they took the same M1, dispersed it, but forgot to work on cooling.
- Multitasking. One way or another, I did not notice any difference in performance in my tasks. Plus or minus 20 tabs in Safari, Pixelmator for working with graphics, Spotify music in the background, office apps, always-open Telegram – the MacBook Air on the M2 feels the same as the MacBook Air on the M1 with all this. Neither faster nor slower.
- SSD. However, it is worth noting here that on my MacBook Air test in the “correct” configuration with a 512 GB SSD – inside two 256 GB NAND chips that work in parallel and just as quickly, as in the previous generation. But in the base model, one NAND chip for 256 GB, although the base MacBook Air on the M1 packs two 128 GB. Because of this, the SSD in the initial configuration of the MacBook Air on M2 is up to two times slower than the initial MacBook Air on M1, and it is worth bearing in mind.
- RAM. How this affects in real life, I cannot say, lacking an appropriate model. But according to colleagues, the performance of the 256 GB version noticeably drops at those moments when the RAM fills up and the system starts using the SSD as a “swap”, since the storage speed plays an important role here. So, if possible, it is better to take a MacBook Air on M2 with at least 512 GB of internal memory.
- Autonomy. As for autonomy, the situation is similar. The new “Air” can withstand a working 8-hour working day in a moderate mode without problems, and there is still a charge for a couple of episodes of the series in the evening. Good indicator!
- macOS Ventura. However, we are already used to it, and with the upgrade to macOS Ventura, it will be possible to use the iPhone as a webcam. So, no, but there is a way out.
Therefore, is it M2 or M1?
It's time to sum up and answer the questions indicated at the beginning of the material. But first, let me summarize why is the MacBook Air on M2 better or worse than its predecessor. Compare:
- New body and color. A matter of preference. I liked the design and color of Midnight, despite all its nuances, but in general, this does not affect my choice.
- Bigger display. Here, just the opposite, increasing the diagonal is a decisive argument in favor of new items, given that Apple managed to make the screen larger with little or no increase in laptop dimensions. From “bangs” did not experience any negative – there is and there is, what's the difference.
- Improved speakers. A very nice addition that I actually admired, but the previous “air” also sounds good. If you haven't heard of the novelty, then the M1 version will please you too.
- MagSafe. Plus, one free port is never superfluous. Otherwise, nothing special.
- Performance and autonomy. Plus or minus, the same as the MacBook Air on the M1. But it will be more difficult to work under load. And there is a nuance with the 256 GB version, which may be slower than its predecessor.
- Webcam. As with the speakers, it's pleasant, but you can live with the 720p camera in the “Air” on the M1.