M2 MacBook Air 2022 hands-on review

Source: Gerald Lynch / iMore

How do you improve upon perfection? For years the MacBook Air has held steady as the ultimate ultraportable laptop, giving rise to a wave of imitators and kickstarting the ‘ultrabook’ laptop craze.

But, in aesthetic terms at least, the MacBook Air has hardly changed since Steve Jobs first removed its super-slim frame from a manilla envelope all those years ago at Macworld 2008

Jump forward to WWDC 2022 however and Apple has finally seen fit to fully update the MacBook Air line. Not only does it now sport the freshly-unveiled M2 chipset, but it comes in a revised (and still super-slim) form factor — as well as a range of new colors.

We’ve had the M2 MacBook Air in our hands at Apple Park. Here’s our first impressions.

Design

Macbook Air Hands On

Source: iMore

Need a lightweight powerhouse? The M2 MacBook Air may have a new chassis design, but it’s still as light and sleek as ever. Gone is the tapered shell that gave previous generations of the Air their razor-sharp profiles in favor of a flatter design that more closely resembles the MacBook Pro lineup. Measuring just 11.3mm thin, it weighs a mere 2.7 pounds, making it just ever slightly lighter than the most recent model. You’ll be able to sling this thing in a rucksack and forget it’s there, and easily balance it with one hand.

As previously leaked, there are a few additional color options to choose from, but not quite the iMac rainbow that many had hoped for. You’ll have a choice between silver, space gray, midnight, and starlight colors. They’re very attractive in the flesh — the starlight option has a slight, almost iridescent quality as it moves in light, while the midnight is as close to a black laptop as you’re likely to see Apple ever make.

M2 Macbook Air Space Gray Magsafe Cable

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MagSafe fans will be pleased to hear that the snap-on, snap-off charging method has made its long-awaited return too, meaning that the two onboard Thunderbolt ports are thankfully free just for accessory use. The MagSafe charging cord will also come color-matched to your chosen MacBook Air colorway. Those looking to listen to, or create music on the M2 MacBook Air will also appreciate the inclusion of a 3.5mm headphone jack with support for high-impedance headphones — handy for all that high-resolution Apple Music streaming.

M2 Macbook Air Screen

Source: Gerald Lynch / iMore

Jumping over to the screen and you’ll find a 13.6-inch, 2560×1664 Liquid Retina Display. It was always a long shot, but the premium mini-LED display hasn’t made the cut this time out. Boasting 500 nits of brightness though, with thinner borders than on previous generations (camera notch notwithstanding) the new MacBook Air with M2 chip gives the impression of greater screen real estate than on earlier models. It’s beautifully colorful, supporting up to 1 billion different colors now, with brightness that allowed it to be very legible even in the harsh Apple Park showroom lighting. You’ll also find a 1080p FaceTime webcam embedded up top.

M2 Macbook Air Starlight Keyboard

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Hitting the keyboard, and Apple’s continuing to answer fan criticism. There’s a good amount of travel above the large Force Touch trackpad, with keys satisfyingly clicky. A full-height set of function row keys is also now in the mix, along with a handy Touch ID sensor in the top right. Four speakers, capable of Dolby Atmos spatial audio playback, sit between the keys and screen, too (though we’ve yet to hear them in action).

M2 chip and internal specs

M2 Macbook Air Open

Source: Gerald Lynch / iMore

But it’s the M2 chip that is arguably the most exciting element of the new MacBook Air for 2022. Apple’s second-generation bespoke silicon, it sounds like a beast — not quite as powerful as the M1 Max and M1 Pro revisions of the first generation, but not far off them, either.

Using a new 5nm manufacturing process and squeezing in 20 billion transistors, Apple says to expect performance 8 percent faster on the CPU, a 35 percent more powerful GPU, and a 40 percent faster Neural Engine than on the M1. That additional transistor count also allows for a memory controller delivering 100GB/s of unified memory bandwidth, a 50 percent jump over the M1.

M2 Macbook Air Starlight Hero

Source: Gerald Lynch / iMore

The M2 is split between an 8-core CPU (four high performance, four efficiency) sporting a larger cache, and an 8-or-10 core GPU. With the 8-core GPU option, you’ll get 18% better graphics performance vs power compared to the M1, while the 10 GPU option doubles that. This is more than capable of playing high-end games then (such as the soon-to-be-ported Resident Evil Village, showcased at WWDC 2022) and multiple high-res video streams at resolutions up to 8K.

M2 Macbook Air Starlight Side

Source: Gerald Lynch / iMore

Power efficiency remains top-notch too – you’ll get up to 18 hours of video playback on the Apple TV app, and 15 hours of wireless web browsing per charge. Fast charging with a compatible charger is also supported now too over a 67W USB-C plug, getting you to 50% capacity in 30 minutes of charge time.

In terms of configuration options, you’ll be able to soup up the standard 8-core GPU to a 10-core GPU, choose between 8GB / 16GB /24GB of RAM, and either a 256GB, 512GB, 1TB or 2TB SSD.

Price and availability

Macbook Air Hands On

Source: iMore

The 2022 M2 MacBook Air will hit Apple Stores next month, with prices starting at $1119/£1249. And you can knock $100 / £100 off for education pricing discounts too.

That makes it a tad more expensive than the still-going-strong M1 MacBook Air, which will remain on sale at $999. But a new design and new generation chipset were never going to come cheaply.

Hands-on review: early verdict

Macbook Air Hands On

Source: iMore

The inclusion of the new M2 chipset would have been enough to lure in those tempted by the MacBook Air’s slim frame. But a new set of colorful design options and reimagined chassis will make those looking at an entry-level MacBook Pro think hard before splashing down their cash.

We’ll need more time to put the M2 through its paces, and to see if the new design remains as trustworthy a traveling companion as the last MacBook Air was. But, considering the MacBook Air is supposed to be Apple’s entry level laptopit’s hard to imagine a more impressive first look — even if the price hike does make it a bit more difficult to afford.

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