The Apple MacBook Air M2 brings in a new M2 chipset for a boost in performance as well as an overhauled design. But is that enough to pick it up over its Windows rivals?
The M1 MacBook Air changed our perception of a laptop back in 2020! Suddenly a slim-n-trim notebook could have some serious firepower inside to edit videos all the while it delivered 10+ hours of battery life and did not need fans to cool off the steam! Everyone loved the M1 MacBook Air and so did I – I bought one for myself and I couldn’t be any happier. It was almost as if you cannot improve the laptop anymore. But Apple did and earlier this year at the WWDC 22, it announced the MacBook Air M2.
The new MacBook Air M2 is actually new – it has got a brand new design for its chassis hosting a brand new display and lots of other refreshed bits. It has got a new price tag too, although that’s not a good one for consumers. Starting at Rs. 1,19,900, this is more expensive than the M1 MacBook Air ever was. And in my initial few days, I was wondering where that extra money was spent! After two weeks with the new MacBook Air now, I know exactly where the money’s gone.
And before we start, M1 MacBook Air users need not panic – that model is still a very good computer. You don’t need to upgrade yet. This is for those who are coming from a Windows PC, or an older Intel Mac.
For years, the MacBook Air design has been all about showing how lightweight and slim a laptop can be. With the wedge-shaped profile, the M1 MacBook Air still looks like an artifact from the future next to the Windows powered laptops from Dell, HP, and Samsung. The MacBook Air M2 refines the same with a design that echoes the MacBook Pro 14-inch – the wedge shape has been traded for a rather conventional and curvy side profile, while the lid is absolutely flat. It appears thick but when put next to M1 MacBook Air, the new model is substantially slimmer. It is slightly lighter too, although the differences are negligible.
Being an Apple product, the fit and finish on the laptop is unparalleled. Every surface and every line has its purpose – to make for comfortable and sensible computing. Open the lid and you are greeted by a new keyboard deck that has larger keycaps (yay for us writers) with a well-spaced out layout, and the same large trackpad with Force Feedback. The speakers have been moved from either side of the keyboard to the hinge, thereby making it all look clean.
Speaking of cleanliness, the display has got slimmer but uniform bezels around it. And it is one of the very lightweight laptops to still use glass for the display. Oh yes, the notch is here too and weirdly, it doesn’t irritate. For most apps and macOS windows, the notch stays within the menu bar. Notches on laptops are not a bad idea but then you see Dell doing its magic with the XPS 13 laptops and you wonder why Apple couldn’t manage it.
The sides are all clean too, and you only get to see the two USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports joined by the new MagSafe port. Thankfully, the 3.5mm audio port stays. I still wanted to see the USB-C port but this being the “Air”, the compromises are understood.
Apple MacBook Air M2 Display
The second area where the gains are most visible. The M2 MacBook Air gets a “new” 13.6-inch Liquid Retina display that Apple claims is bigger, brighter and better. In plain English, you have an IPS LCD display with a resolution of 2560×1664 pixels and peak brightness of up to 500 nits. Compared to the M1 MacBook Air, you are going to love this display. That notch liberates more space, allowing more content to fit in. I was able to use my CMS website on Chrome showing all the elements with ample space without switching to fullscreen! That’s not possible on the M1 models due to its cramped space.
It looks brighter and the colours appear livelier as well. The auto-brightness sensor is a boon and so is the True Tone feature. That said, compared to the OLED display on the Samsung Galaxy Book 2 Pro and those Asus ZenBook 14 models, this looks pale. Nonetheless, this is a good display for work and play.
Apple MacBook Air M2 Performance
This is where the MacBook Air M2 shines! The M1 chip is still among the fastest chips to do computing and it only gets better with the M2 chip. This is a second-gen 5nm chip having an octa-core processor and a new 10-core GPU. The memory bandwidth has sped up to 100GB/s and there’s a new 16-core neural engine. Paired with macOS Monterey, this all seems to redefine lightweight portable computing.
Sadly, I had the base 8GB/256GB model that gets the 8-core GPU and the slower SSD storage, thanks to a single NAND chip. My work doesn’t involve editing 4K and 8K videos, and exporting them on Final Cut Pro; hence I could not perceive the difference in speeds between this M2 model and my M1 MacBook Air.
From a layman’s perspective, there’s nothing the MacBook Air M2 can’t do. Running 12-13 tabs on Google Chrome while writing pages is no deal for this. Editing high resolution 8K images on Photoshop and online editors was a piece of cake as well. The M2 chip seems almost as fast as the M1 chip in real-world usage and for non-creative people, that is a crucial thing, even though theoretically it has enough room to do serious computing. Fellow content creators have observed faster export times on 4K videos on FCP, thereby proving how capable the new M2 chip is. Hence, as far as power is concerned, this M2 MacBook Air has got you covered for years to come. And, I did not observe any performance throttling due to heating with my usage; creators may see so when editing multiple feeds of 4K videos on a single FCP timeline.
But what impresses even more is the hardware-software integration. macOS Monterey and the M2 chip come together to make for a highly efficient and well organised computing experience. macOS needs no introduction – it is super polished and is a joy to work on. You get the typical Apple ecosystem benefits with macOS, my favourite being AirDrop and AirPlay. Oh, and Universal Control is something I swear by at my WFH desk. There are occasional hiccups with certain apps and I observed the laptop force closing them, especially the Apple Music app. But this was rare, and compared to a Windows 11 laptop, I was addicted to the stability. Personally, I was so happy to see the MacBook Air managing my mobile data quota extremely well – it never reached 50 percent of the daily 1.5GB data quota on a full work day! A Windows 11 laptop makes me buy extra data allowance on such days.
Then there’s the hardware bit that’s crucial to us writers – the keyboard. The Magic Keyboard with its bigger keycaps still offers the same comfortable typing experience. The keys have ample travel and offer satisfactory feedback. The backlight bleeding is well contained and overall, writers will love this keyboard setup. The trackpad is precise and works well with macOS gestures. The Touch ID fingerprint scanner is quick too.
The new 1080p webcam is better for video calls too – it is clear and captures skin tones much better. The mic reception has been satisfactory too.
The only slight disappointment comes with the audio section. Apple gives it a new quad-speaker system that promises improvements in output. While the speakers are better than most rivals Windows laptops, I prefer the speakers on the M1 MacBook Air. The perceived quality is better on the old model and the top-mounted positioning makes it sound louder.
Apple MacBook Air M2 Battery Life
The MacBook Air M2 retains the same 52.6 WHr battery as the M1 model and that’s no bad thing, considering that the Apple Silicon chips introduced greater power efficiency back in 2020. Hence, on this new MacBook Air, I am still able to extract up to 16 hours of battery life with my regular office workflow. And mind you, my workflow involves the power hungry Google Chrome, Apple Music streaming, writing on Pages, and taking calls from my iPhone. Practically, I am able to go up to two days of use with a lighter workload.
The base model gets you the 30W Apple charger in the box along with the MagSafe cable. The MagSafe charger is convenient and does its job well; it even has a convenient charging status LED light that switches between amber and green. Since I had a faster 67W charger lying around, I paired it with the MagSafe cable and the standard USB-C cable occasionally to fill up the battery. 2-50 percent charge takes 30 minutes and I had a full battery in just about an hour.
The new MacBook Air M2 is simply a brilliant computer by all means and if you don’t have OS preferences, we recommend this one blindly. This is one of the nicest built lightweight and slim laptops you can lay your hands on, and the design still makes it unmistakably a MacBook Air. The display is good although the OLED displays on rival Windows laptops have an edge. The M2 chip is fast and capable, and coupled with macOS Monterey, this is a highly efficient computer to work on – both in terms of performance and battery life. And yes, this is a battery life champ! Even the webcam is impressive on this one.
Hence, the question arises – should you buy the new 2022 Apple MacBook Air M2? If you are looking for a no-nonsense and efficient laptop with a budget of just around Rs. 1 lakh, the M2 MacBook Air is a fantastic choice. Many may recommend the M1 MacBook Air at the lower price but in reality, the improvements warrant that extra price you are paying – they are worth spending more. This M2 MacBook Air is the benchmark against which all other slim and lightweight “ultrabooks” will be judged; and Apple has set that benchmark very high.
Apple MacBook Air M2
Excellent build quality
Unparalleled battery life
Slow storage on base model
No HDMI, USB-A ports