Apple’s refreshed MacBook Air (2022) features an entirely new design and a pristine, more powerful M2 chip.
At first glance, the new lightweight laptop looks like a slimmer 14-inch MacBook Pro in new colours, including ‘Starlight,’ ‘Space Gray,’ ‘Silver’ and a dark blue hue called ‘Midnight.’ The new MacBook Air also features the same display notch and MagSafe connector as the MacBook Pro.
But what makes the new Air interesting isn’t what it has in common with other Macs — it’s about what’s new.
M2 is a solid step forward
While the new sleek look of the MacBook Air is exciting, it’s also important to point out the increased performance its new M2 chipset offers. The chip’s CPU is roughly 18 percent faster than the M1, and its Neural Engine is 40 percent faster. Most importantly, it features two additional GPU cores that improve graphics performance by 35 percent.
Overall, this should make this new MacBook Air a much more capable content creation machine than its predecessor and even allow for decently intensive gaming. Having said that, the lack of a fan may limit the amount of work/playtime that you get at peak performance since the chip may throttle itself when it reaches its maximum temperature. On the other hand, if you don’t do a lot of intense work or gaming, the lack of a fan will be a massive plus for you since the computer will be silent and compact.
RAM also works faster on the new chip since it supports 50 percent more memory bandwidth (100GB/s) than the M1 chip. The new chip can also be maxed out with 24GB of RAM, which is a little more than the maximum of 16GB you can add to the M1 Macbook Air.
I couldn’t truly test out the new chip in Apple’s hands-on area, but the laptop felt zippy during my brief time with it. Since the M1 series of chips have performed so admirably, I’d expect this to be an excellent computer, but wait until our full review to see how it compares to the M1 family of chips.
Meet me under the Midnight Macbook
The new design of the MacBook Air looks excellent and feels incredibly thin and light in hand. I haven’t held an M1 MacBook Air since I compared it to the iPad Air, but the soft rounded edges on the new machine felt infinitely more comfortable when grasping the computer.
Though the new design doesn’t feature a wedge anymore, it’s now a consistent 0.44 inches thin, much thinner than the older Air, that’s 0.63 inches at its thickest point. However, the tiny feet on the M2 Air will make it feel slightly thicker on a table, but they should also allow for better passive cooling of the machine, which is a nice plus. The new MacBook Air is 2.7lb (roughly 1.2kg), which only puts it at 0.1lb more than its predecessor.
The MagSafe and two USB-C Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports are on the laptop’s left side, and the high-impedance headphone jack is on the right. I was hoping to see the return of the SD card slot or another USB-C port on the left, but at least you can charge this Air and still use two accessories without a dongle.
It’s also worth mentioning the new MagSafe cable is colour matched to the computer, so the new Midnight blue colour comes with a dark blue cable. The new MacBook Air can even fast charge through this port, but you’ll need to make sure you’re using the correct charging brick.
The basic 8-core GPU Air ($1,499) comes with a 30-watt charger. For an extra $30, you can either add a 67-watt fast charger or the new 35-watt brick with two USB-C ports to charge two devices at once. The more expensive MacBook Air ($1,899) with the 10-core GPU can be outfitted with either high-end charger during checkout online.
Like the 14-inch Macbook Pro, the new Air has a full-height function row on the scissor-switch keyboard and a Touch ID fingerprint sensor.
Packed under the keyboard is a four-speaker sound system that’s a punch above its weight class, but it was hard to gauge in the noisy hands-on room. Apple says that it supports Dolby Atmos when you’re playing supported content. There are also three microphones and a 1080p webcam to help with video calls.
You are still limited to a single external display on this new MacBook Air. It can support a 6K monitor, but anyone with two screens will need to jump up to the 14-inch MacBook Pro or find some kind of dongle or workaround.
Finally, Apple retooled the Retina Display on the new MacBook Air, and it now has a peak brightness of 500-nits, P3 wide colour, and it’s larger at 13.6-inches.
Will this be the new computer for you?
Overall the new MacBook Air is likely a dream computer for many people. It looks great, it’s light, and it offers ample performance under the hood.
However, Apple continues to sell the 13-inch MacBook Pro (now with an M2 chip) and the older M1 MacBook Air, which is still a great computer. I’m attracted to the new Air ($1,499) since it’s new and looks the best of the three, but if you want to save $200, the base-level Air ($1,299) is still a fine laptop. If you do a ton of high-performance work, perhaps the M2 13-inch MacBook Pro ($1,699) is the better option. That said, it doesn’t seem like a machine that should cost more than the new Air, mainly since it only includes fans and a slightly larger battery.
This messy medium-tier laptop sales strategy may allow Apple to hit more price points and ideally bring in new customers. Still, with the minimal differences between the two MacBook Air models and the MacBook Pro 13-inch, I think consumers are likely going to be confused. Further, it would be nice to see Apple attempt to build a machine that’s the best of all three.
At the end of the day, the new Air is a stellar computer, and it seems perfect for anyone who wants the sleekest/lightest MacBook. We’ll have more on the new MacBook Air in the coming weeks.
For all of the Apple news from WWDC 2022, follow this link.