When the MacBook Air M1 launched in 2020, it marked a massive update for Apple’s lightweight notebook line – at least internally. The M1 brought with it substantial improvements in both performance and battery life, though the design remained reminiscent of the Airs that came before it.
Here’s how the new MacBook Air M2 measures up to the MacBook Air M1 (2020)…
Pricing and availability
The MacBook Air M1 launched in November 2020 with prices starting at $999/£999.
The MacBook Air M2 was announced at WWDC on June 6. The laptop is priced at $1199 and will be available to buy from next month (July). That puts it at $100 more than its predecessor.
While the MacBook Air M1 made large strides internally, its exterior didn’t differ much at all from the Intel-powered MacBook Air before it.
The laptop came in three colours – Gold, Silver and Space Grey – and featured a large glass trackpad and Apple’s Magic Keyboard. The keyboard marked a long-awaited upgrade when the MacBook Air 2020 (and later the MacBook Air M1) launched, offering more travel than the controversial Butterfly switches had.
However, the ports still had their issues on the M1 Air. There were just two Thunderbolt 3/USB 4 ports that were positioned on the same side of the laptop. This is something we found to be annoying if you wanted to plug multiple dongles or adapters into the device. There was also a 3.5mm headphone jack.
With the MacBook Air M2, Apple has replaced the wedge design with an all-aluminium enclosure that is consistently slim along its edge. In fact, the laptop is 11.3mm thin and 2.7lb in weight, offering a 20% reduction in volume compared to the build of the M1-powered Air.
There are two Thunderbolt ports and an audio jack. One of the Thunderbolt inputs has been swapped out for a MagSafe port that can be used to charge the laptop while using a secure magnetic connection.
Like the Air M1, the Air M2 includes Apple’s Magic Keyboard. The laptop is available in four colours – Silver, Space Grey, Starlight and Midnight.
As far as displays go, the MacBook Air M1 packed a 13-inch LED IPS screen with a resolution of 2560 x 1600.
The M1 was the first MacBook Air to support the P3 wide colour gamut, making its display more colourful than its predecessors. We generally found it to be sharp and bright enough for most use cases, though we would have liked to have seen a smaller bezel bordering the screen.
The MacBook Air M2 comes sporting a new 13.6-inch Liquid Retina display. The display has actually been expanded with a new notch design, leaving a thinner bezel around the edge of the screen as we had hoped.
The display on the 2022 Air is now capable of hitting 500 nits of brightness, making it 25% brighter than the M1 Air, as well, and the screen supports one billion colours for more vibrant images and movies.
The MacBook Air M1 was the first Air to be powered by an Apple Silicon chip instead of an Intel one. It packed the M1, an Apple-built chip based on the ARM architecture that included 8 CPU cores, 7-8 GPU cores and a heavy focus on the neural engine.
Not only were we hugely impressed by the performance of the MacBook Air M1, but the chip also gave the battery life a nice boost. We found the battery to be around 9 to 11 hours when the MacBook is used as a main work computer and Apple claimed it could last 18 hours with video playback.
The microphones in the laptop were decent, but the 720p camera impressed us less with its washed out and blurry image quality and poor performance in low light conditions.
The MacBook Air M2 is powered by Apple’s next generation M2 chip, which features an 8-core CPU, a 10-core GPU (giving it more GPU cores than the M1), up to 24GB of RAM and up to 2TB SSD.
According to Apple, that means 20% faster Photoshop filters and effects and 40% faster video editing than that achieved by its already-impressive predecessor.
The MacBook Air M2 supports the same claimed 18 hours of video playback as the MacBook Air M1, but it also takes advantage of new MagSafe charging support and help from 67W fast charge. This means you can get 50% battery from just 30 minutes of charging.
Apple has integrated four speakers and three mics between the keyboard and display. The webcam has also seen a good update, doubling its resolution to 1080p and improving the low-light performance as well.
The MacBook Air M2 brings an all-round update to Apple’s Air line, with clear highlights being the M2 chipset, the Liquid Retina display and MagSafe charging.
However, it’s also slightly more expensive so the M1-powered Air may still be the better option for those on a tight budget.