MacBook Air M2 Review: Better Camera and Bigger Screen Outshine a Faster Chip

MacBook Air M2 Review: Better Camera and Bigger Screen Outshine a Faster Chip

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Though it prices $200 greater than its instant predecessor, I nonetheless assume the brand new M2 model of Apple’s MacBook Air is a good default beginning place if you start your laptop computer search. Within the 14 years because the MacBook Air line launched, I’ve usually described it as “essentially the most universally helpful laptop computer you should buy.” That is as a result of the Air has at all times tried to hit a fragile stability between value, portability, ease of use and options. And since 2008, Apple has succeeded in nailing that formulation most of the time.   

Due to a brand new design, a bigger show (13.6 inches versus the earlier 13.3 inches), a quicker M2 chip and a long-awaited improve to a higher-res webcam, I really feel snug protecting that “universally helpful” title for the brand new 2022 model of the MacBook Air, with one caveat. At $1,199, the $200 improve over the standard $999 MacBook Air beginning value is a disappointment. Observe that we’re reviewing the step-up $1,499 configuration, which provides extra GPU cores and extra cupboard space (however nonetheless solely consists of 8GB of RAM). 

In head-to-head testing towards each the still-available M1 model and the not too long ago launched 13-inch M2 MacBook Professional, its efficiency falls within the center, and whereas it will get a pleasant energy bump over the 2020 M1 Air, it isn’t important sufficient that I might improve only for that. 

Like

  • Bigger, brighter display
  • Fashionable design with new colours
  • A high-res webcam, eventually
  • Wonderful efficiency and battery life

Do not Like

  • Costlier than the mannequin it replaces
  • New energy adapter is a paid improve on some configs
  • New webcam provides a display notch

And sure, it is good that the earlier M1 Air, with an older design, stays obtainable at $999. That considerably mitigates the worth improve on the brand new model, however you are inevitably going to be drawn to the brand new design and options. The newest MacBook Air represents the largest total change to the product line, arguably since 2008, however at the least since 2018. That is when the Air gained trendy options like a higher-res display and fingerprint reader. In 2020, the Air switched from Intel chips to Apple’s personal M1 chips, however with no bodily redesign. 

The M2 MacBook Air subsequent to the M1 Air. 


Dan Ackerman/CNET

That also-available 2020 M1 MacBook Air, one of many first set of Macs to maneuver from Intel to Apple Silicon, just isn’t a bad-looking machine, however it’s primarily based on a design that launched in 2018, which is roughly endlessly in the past in pc phrases. The brand new model strikes from that conventional tapered design to the boxier, blockier look of the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Professional laptops from late 2021. It is a extra trendy, extra constructivist design that largely rejects ornamental stylization. Palms down, I prefer it. However that is perhaps as a result of I am simply so used to the basic MacBook Air design that any change feels refreshing. 

The configuration we examined

Worth as reviewed $1,499
Show dimension/decision 13.6-inch 2,560×1,664 LED-backlit show
CPU Apple M2 8-core CPU/10-core GPU
RAM 8GB
Graphics 10-core Apple GPU
Storage 512GB SSD
Networking 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 wi-fi networking IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Bluetooth 5
Working system MacOS Monterey 12.4

Observe that there is nonetheless one odd man out within the lineup. The brand new-for-2022 13-inch MacBook Professional provides the identical M2 chip discovered right here, however retains the classic 2016-era physique, full with the all-but-extinct TouchBar and 720-resolution webcam. It is completely tremendous, however I would be hard-pressed to think about many causes you’d select it over the brand new Air (though there are just a few). 


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Learn extra: MacBook Professional M2 13-Inch Review: Acquainted Design, New Apple M2 Chip

The brand new MacBook Air goes past the Professional fashions it mimics in a single necessary respect — it provides new colours to the area grey and silver, with a brand new gold Starlight and a deep, darkish Midnight end. That Midnight, which seems as a matte black end, jogs my memory of the outdated matte-black polycarbonate MacBooks of the mid-2000s, which I’ve at all times thought was a really sharp look. 

The brand new Air’s footprint is a hair smaller than earlier than, and it feels slimmer. It is 11.3mm thick total, whereas the earlier design tapered thinner on the entrance, however grew to 16mm at its rear hinge. It is also a bit lighter, at 2.7 kilos versus 2.8 kilos. 

two MacBook Air laptops side by side

The M2 Air is slimmer on the rear hinge than the outdated design. 


Dan Ackerman/CNET

That is lots of totally different MacBook fashions, costs and specs to maintain monitor of. To sum it up, the important thing causes you are going to choose the brand new Air over the earlier mannequin are:

  • Slimmer, extra trendy design in new colours
  • Upgraded full-HD webcam
  • Bigger, brighter show (13.6 inches versus 13.3 inches)
  • Faster M2 processor 

It additionally provides the brand new MagSafe energy connection additionally discovered within the 14-/16-inch MacBook Professional, and a few configurations embody a brand new 35W twin USB-C port energy adapter. It is compact and has two USB-C ports constructed proper into it — one for the ability cable to the laptop computer, and one free one for the rest you want. If you happen to purchase the least costly M2 MacBook Air configuration, it is a $20 add-on improve. In any other case, you simply get the usual 30W MacBook brick. 

Man with impressive beard sitting at a coffeeshop with the 2022 MacBook Air.

The MacBook Air has at all times been my favourite espresso store companion.


Libe Ackerman

The road take a look at: Transportable and highly effective 

A MacBook Air is ok for sitting at a desk at dwelling or within the workplace, however it’s actually a laptop computer that must be on the go along with you to shine. So it got here with me, to the espresso store, on the subway, to the workplace and extra. 

The common Air was at all times a tremendous journey companion, however frankly newer, lighter laptop computer designs have been extra travel-friendly. For instance, I’ve had a wonderful time taking the tiny Floor Laptop computer Go 2 round with me, even on a cross-country flight. After all, the last word journey laptop computer, at the least for me, was the late 12-inch MacBook, sadly discontinued earlier than it might discover its viewers. 

The brand new Air is barely barely smaller and lighter than its predecessor, so do not count on a revelatory expertise. Nevertheless it’s an awesome match for my small journey bag, and I would not object to taking it on a every day commute. 

closeup of camera on MacBook Air M2 2022 laptop

That notch…


Dan Ackerman/CNET

The brighter display — much like those on present MacBook Professional laptops — helped after I needed to crank up the brightness to jot down outdoor. The marginally bigger display, which measures 13.6 inches diagonally the place the earlier mannequin was 13.3 inches, additionally aids visibility. Sure, I’ve gotten to the age the place most of my Google Docs are at 125% by default, so an even bigger display positively helps. Nonetheless remember the fact that the webcam goes to knock a little bit notch into the display, a lot because it does on the iPhone and a few MacBook Professional fashions. 

After seeing the brand new MacBook Air in particular person for the primary time at Apple’s WWDC occasion in June 2022, I knew I needed to strive the Midnight shade. Apple would not describe it exactly, however I would name it a matte black with a touch of a blue tint. It took me again to one of many very first MacBooks (and one of many first Intel Macs), the black polycarbonate mannequin I first reviewed in 2006. I truly discovered considered one of these just a few years in the past, in 2018, and it booted up and labored, though the battery was shot.

two MacBook Air laptops, one a little taller

The 13.6-inch show suits extra display into about the identical area. 


Dan Ackerman/CNET

It is an awesome look, and stands out properly from the ocean of practically similar laptops which might be all both silver, grey or … silver-gray. Some fashions experiment with darkish interiors or garish lid illustrations, however there’s usually lots of zigging and never a lot zagging on the market. 

The Midnight model of the MacBook Air has a pointy, trendy look, however there’s one catch. Let me clarify.

Reader, I’m no greasy-fingered vulgarian. You may should take my phrase for that. However I might barely breathe on the Midnight MacBook Air with out leaving smudges and fingerprints throughout it. It is a widespread concern with darkish matte objects, and I needed to give this laptop computer an intensive wipedown earlier than snapping every picture. I felt obligated to hold a cleansing fabric with me all over the place, and I would advise you to do the identical. 

matte dark MacBook Air M2 2022 laptop

Preserve a cleansing fabric helpful for the fingerprint-prone matte end. 


Dan Ackerman/CNET

M2 vs. M1, M1 Professional, M1 Max

The efficiency story this laptop computer tells is a predictable one. That is as a result of we have simply examined and reviewed the brand new 13-inch MacBook Professional, which additionally runs the M2 chip. Plus, we have been testing and reporting on each M1 iteration since 2020, together with the unique M1, the M1 Professional, the M1 Max and the M1 Extremely (which is only a double M1 Max). 

Learn extra: MacBook Air M1 vs. MacBook Air M2

Crucial factor to make clear right here is simply the place the brand new M2 chip falls within the Apple Silicon lineup. Principally, it sits above the unique M1 chip (which, just like the M2, is obtainable in two variations with totally different numbers of graphics cores), however under the M1 Professional, M1 Max and M1 Extremely. The M1 Professional and M1 Max can be found within the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Professional. The M1 Extremely, primarily two M1 Max chips facet by facet, is barely obtainable for the time being within the new Mac Studio desktop

Learn extra: Finest MacBook for 2022

The story right here affords no surprises. The M2 MacBook Air outperformed the 2020 M1 MacBook Air by a modest, however not breathtaking, quantity. The M2 model of the 13-inch MacBook Professional, nearly a month youthful than this machine, carried out barely higher in some checks than the Air. Why? In all probability as a result of the Professional has a fan, which Apple refers to as “energetic cooling,” and which suggests the chip can run quicker, longer, with out having to throttle itself to chill down. The 2020 and 2022 Airs we examined additionally had solely 8GB of RAM (sure, for $1,500, you continue to solely get 8GB). Efficiency charts evaluating the outcomes from the 2022 MacBook Air with different laptops are on the finish of this assessment. 

Would I commerce the design parts, webcam, greater display and different upgrades for the marginally quicker M2 MacBook Professional efficiency? I might not. If you happen to assume you may be hitting the ceiling of M2 efficiency, then you definately’re extra probably available in the market for a 14-inch MacBook Professional or a Mac Studio. 

Learn extra: MacBook Air vs. MacBook Professional 

In my brief time up to now with the MacBook Air, I’ve thrown just a few Photoshop initiatives at it and run some Mac video games through Steam. I appreciated the bigger display for my picture work, and as for gaming, the still-unfinished Baldur’s Gate 3 might be the most recent, most high-profile recreation you may play. Mac gaming stays its personal skinny little pocket universe. The system ran in our a video-streaming battery take a look at for 17 hours and 20 minutes, which is nearly the identical as Apple’s estimate. The M2 MacBook Professional ran even just a few hours longer on the identical take a look at. After we run extra battery checks, I am going to replace these numbers as wanted. 

MacBook Air M2 2022 laptop showing MagSafe port

MagSafe makes its MacBook Air return. 


Dan Ackerman/CNET

High quality of life points: Webcams and energy bricks

Two different new options are making a MacBook Air look right here. One is vitally necessary, the opposite extra of a pleasant additional. 

The Air now will get the up to date MagSafe 3 energy connection discovered on the 14-/16-inch Professional (and absent from the M2 13-inch MacBook Professional). That is along with the 2 USB-C/Thunderbolt ports on the left facet. Now, I cherished the unique MagSafe, which was on the Air for a number of years, however within the trendy USB-C period, I virtually by no means use it, opting as a substitute to make use of any of the handfuls of normal USB-C energy cables I’ve sitting round. The universality of laptop computer chargers is likely one of the biggest developments in energy cable historical past, so in fact Apple needed to go and add a proprietary cable again into the combo. 

MacBook Air M2 2022 charger and cable

The pleasingly small new 35W charger. 


Dan Ackerman/CNET

After all, you do not have to make use of the MagSafe cable, you should utilize nearly any USB-C charger as a substitute. That stated, the MagSafe cable is now color-coordinated with the Air, so my cable was Midnight. Additionally observe that the $1,199 base mannequin would not use the brand new 35W adapter, however as a substitute an older 30W design. The upsell model of the Air does embody the brand new charger, which is pleasantly compact and consists of two USB-C ports (one for the ability cable and one additional). You may add it to the bottom mannequin for an additional $20, or soar to the large 67W adapter for a similar $20. 

Rather more necessary to me is the brand new 1080-resolution webcam. It is the identical {hardware} because the 14-/16-inch MacBook Professional digital camera, which is great, and an enormous step up from the 720 digital camera MacBooks have been caught with for years. 

Two shots of Dan Ackerman, the left one with a sharper, more colorful image

The 1080 digital camera within the M2 MacBook Air (left) has higher decision and picture processing than the 720 webcam within the M1 Air (proper). 


Dan Ackerman/CNET

It is a change too lengthy in coming, however a welcome one, and that leaves the M2 13-inch MacBook Professional and the M1 MacBook Air as the only MacBooks left with the older, inferior digital camera. On this easy side-by-side comparability you’ll be able to see the distinction. In our Zoom-addicted future-of-work world, it is a must-have. 

Of all of the upgrades, modifications and enhancements within the new MacBook Air, that is in all probability the one I would be most unwilling to surrender.

Initially printed July 14, 2022. 

Geekbench 5 (multicore)

Apple MacBook Professional (14-inch, M1 Professional, 2021)

Apple MacBook Professional (13-inch, M2, 2022)

Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, M2, 2022)

Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, M1, 2020)

Observe:

Longer bars point out higher efficiency

Geekbench Metallic

Apple MacBook Professional (14-inch, M1 Professional, 2021)

Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, M2, 2022)

Apple MacBook Professional (13-inch, M2, 2022)

Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, M1, 2020)

Observe:

Longer bars point out higher efficiency

Cinebench R23 (multicore)

Apple MacBook Professional (14-inch, M1 Professional, 2021)

Apple MacBook Professional (13-inch, M2, 2022)

Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, M2, 2022)

Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, M1, 2020)

Observe:

Longer bars point out higher efficiency

3DMark Wild Life Excessive

Apple MacBook Professional (14-inch, M1 Professional, 2021)

Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, M2, 2022)

Apple MacBook Professional (13-inch, M2, 2022)

Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, M1, 2020)

Observe:

Longer bars point out higher efficiency

System configurations

Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, M2, 2022) MacOS Monterey 12.4; Apple M2 8-core chip; 8GB RAM; Apple 10-core GPU; 256GB SSD
Apple MacBook Professional (13-inch, M2, 2022) MacOS Monterey 12.4; Apple M2 8-core chip; 16GB RAM; Apple 10-core GPU; 1TB SSD
Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, M1, 2020) MacOS Monterey 12.4; Apple M1 8-core chip; 8GB RAM; Apple 7-core GPU; 256GB SSD
Apple MacBook Professional (14-inch, M1 Professional, 2021) MacOS Monterey 12.4; Apple M1 Professional 10-core chip; 32GB RAM; Apple 16-core GPU; 1TB SSD
Lenovo Yoga 9i (14-inch, Gen 7) Home windows 11 House; 2.1GHz Intel Core i7-1260P; 16GB DDR5 5,200MHz RAM; 128MB Intel Iris Xe graphics; 1TB SSD
Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED (UM5302TA) Home windows 11 Professional; 2.7GHz AMD Ryzen 7 6800U; 16GB DDR5 6,400MHz RAM; 512MB AMD Radeon graphics; 1TB SSD

How a lot does the MacBook Air M2 price?

The bottom configuration for the brand new M2 model of the MacBook Air is $1,299. The upgraded config is $1,499 and consists of extra GPU cores and extra cupboard space. The costliest configuration I used to be in a position to constructed on Apple’s web site was $2,499. 

The assessment course of for laptops, desktops, tablets and different computer-like units consists of two elements: efficiency testing below managed circumstances within the CNET Labs and intensive hands-on use by our knowledgeable reviewers. This consists of evaluating a tool’s aesthetics, ergonomics and options. A remaining assessment verdict is a mix of each these goal and subjective judgments. 

The listing of benchmarking software program we use modifications over time because the units we take a look at evolve. Crucial core checks we’re at the moment working on each suitable pc embody: Primate Labs Geekbench 5, Cinebench R23, PCMark 10 and 3DMark Hearth Strike Extremely. 

A extra detailed description of every benchmark and the way we use it may be present in our How We Check Computer systems web page. 

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