I’ve spent some time using one of the new M2-based MacBook Air laptops introduced at WWDC 2022. It delivers everything Apple promises – and if you’re looking for a notebook, but don’t need the horsepower of a MacBook Pro, you’ll still find plenty of power and performance in this Mac.
Ending an era in stark silence
The MacBook Air (Apple’s revised model) ditches the classic (and popular) wedge shape that helped define the range. Apple’s newest machine is slim (0.4 inches tall), 20% less bulky than before, and sports a design that brings it very much in line with the aesthetics across the Apple range – rounded, thin, rectangular corners. I see it as similar to (but thinner than) a MacBook Pro. These design decisions are important because the MacBook Air is Apple’s most popular notebook, which de facto means it’s also the company’s most popular Mac. (The assumption is that Apple’s notebooks do more than at least two on its desktop.) The MacBook Air is also fanless, meaning that whatever you ask it to do, it will be quieter. do not whisper in the silence of the night.
The Mac weighs only 2.7 pounds. Dimensions are 0.4-in. by 12 in. by 8.4-in. The last-generation model with an M1 chip weighs 2.8-pounds and is about the same size, albeit 0.6 inches at the thickest point. (The last Intel model weighed 2.75 pounds and was about as thick. You’d like to see some consistency here.)
Open it and you’ll find a beautiful self-explanatory Magic Keyboard with a full set of function keys and Touch ID. As a Butterfly Keyboard veteran, I enjoy using a decent keyboard with comfortable action. The screen is great, too — a 13.6-in. Liquid retina display with P3 support for one billion colors at 500 nits of brightness. You also get a much larger display, as the Mac has thinner bezels. The only compromise is the appearance of a notch to hold the webcam and 1080-pixel mic.
For the record, I have no problem with that notch; I like it – and it adds a few pixels to the 16:10 display.
While the display isn’t as bright as the XDR ProMotion displays in the high-end MacBook Pros, it’s a big improvement over the M1’s screen and a leap forward in contrast to the last-generation Intel MacBook Air.
- M2 MacBook Air: 13.6-in. Retina liquid display, 2560×1664-pixel resolution, 500 nits, P3 Wide color, True Tone.
- M1 MacBook Air: 13.3-in. Backlit LED with IPS, resolution 2560×1600-pixel, 400 nits, P3 Wide color, True Tone.
- Intel MacBook Air: 13.3-in. Retina display, 2560×1600-pixel resolution, 400 nits, TrueTone.
While it’s tempting to compare this Mac to the last model available, the truth is that with millions sold, Intel chips will still be MacBook Air users who are likely to be the largest cohort buying the these machines. They get a bigger, brighter display and a processor that delivers a big increase in performance. If they use Photoshop, they will see huge performance benefits from switching to Apple Silicon.
How is the performance of the M2 chip?
I have 27 Safari tabs open (I refuse to use Chrome unless I have to); an 18-track GarageBand project; watched an Apple TV show in picture-in-picture mode; played a YouTube video in Safari; Apple Music was playing; and used Pixelmator to render a series of effects on an open 10GB image (with Mail open and working on an 18-track GarageBand project).
Usually, that’s more than enough activity to make an Intel Mac stutter, certainly after 20 minutes. (If you need a Mac to handle more demanding computing tasks like professional image or film editing, programming, or data analytics, then a MacBook Pro probably makes more sense.) but tit didn’t struggle at all with the M2 MacBook Air I tested. It didn’t even get hot, which means it’s up to any task most of us would throw at it.
Oh, one more thing – if you don’t push the Air to the limit, you can expect up to 15 hours of wireless web browsing and 18 hours of video playback on a single charge. Even with all the work I asked the Mac to do, the battery held up. You can use the Air all day and still have enough left in the tank to watch a movie in the evening. When you do, the four-array speakers provide beautifully balanced and detailed sound at a reasonable volume, although I doubt you’ll get complaints from the neighbors.
M2 MacBook Air test data
Trying to quantify the performance, I ran a series of Geekbench 5 tests; these returned results consistent with the aggregated data published on that site: Single Core Performance, 1,882; multi-core, 8,696.
In very broad strokes, that means you’re getting performance on par with a 2019 Mac Pro with an Intel Xeon chip, faster than an M1 iMac and in the same ballpark as most. M1 powered MacBook Pro systems.
How does it compare to the last generation Intel MacBook Air?
That system delivered a single core performance of 1,053 and 2,811 multicore with the Intel i5 chip. On paper, at least, anyone upgrading from Intel Air will see an immediate and clear boost in performance. If you are thinking of giving your team these machines, this is an immediate productivity benefit that will also help keep the team happy.
How fast are the read/write speeds of the M2 Air?
There are multiple reports that the entry-level model with a 256GB drive uses a single SSD chip, resulting in slower read/write speeds. That model didn’t have the MacBook Air on hand; it offers 1TB of storage, so this limitation is not reflected in my test results.
However, it’s important to note that the 256GB model will provide slower read/write speeds, so I recommend you upgrade to the 512GB or 1TB options instead.
So what did I experience? Blackmagic disk speed tests showed write speeds of around 4145MBps and read speeds around 2627MBps at 1GB stress. At 5GB (maximum load), writes dropped to around 2400MBps, and read speeds were steady. That’s in a test suite, of course, and in my experience the actual performance is faster than what I had with the M1 Macs, which blew me away.
Your experience may vary, of course, and I suggest that anyone who needs really fast read/write speeds for work may find running tasks better suited to one of Apple’s Pro series .
Memory bandwidth for Unified Memory has reached 100GBps in the M2 Air, up from 68.25GBps in the M1. That’s a nice improvement, but don’t neglect that the M1 Pro chip offers 200GBps. So if memory bandwidth is important to you, you might have to go Pro. For most of us, the air is better than expected.
Which M2 MacBook Air model did I test?
I tested an 8-core Air with a 10-core GPU equipped with 16GB of memory and the aforementioned 1TB flash storage. This is not a standard model; storage and memory are upgrades. As tested, this Air I sells for $1,899 — $700 more than the entry-level M2.
Apple’s decision to lend me this particular configuration for review suggests that if you’re in the market to buy one, it makes sense to pay for the extra RAM if you want equivalent performance. Eagle-eyed readers will note that the $1,899 price tag means the cost is only $100 less than the 14 in. MacBook Pro with M1 Pro chip. Of course, getting the 10-core CPU in the Pro will cost an extra $600 for a total extra spend of $700.
Confused, isn’t it?
Apple now offers so many build-to-order configurations for Macs that the actual price structure is opaque. This makes it harder to decide what you want and doesn’t always leave enough temptation to spend a little more.
Apple makes great computers, but it’s also very good at creating upsell opportunities, and I think that’s happening here.
Are there any M2 Air problems?
As I write this, reports are emerging to claim that these Macs are easily scratched. I can’t comment on that because I don’t have experience with it. But it’s worth thinking about when choosing from the four available colors (Silver, Space Grey, Starlight, and Midnight). In general, dark aluminum shows more blemishes.
Another complaint is that the Mac will only run one external display, albeit at 6K.
The inclusion of only two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports may be a big deal for some, although for me this pain is compensated by the addition of a braided cable and a MagSafe 3 port. MagSafe is, of course, a charging port that should automatically disconnect from the Air in case someone trips over the power cable.
The value of that protection is never lost on anyone who has ever fallen a Mac. Displays make a great sound when they hit the floor – although it’s usually hard to hear above your own screaming.
And that brings me to the FaceTime camera. It’s great that Apple has finally upgraded this to 1080p. It’s an improvement that should have happened a long time ago, but it means remote and hybrid workers will come out better at the next team meeting, warts and all.
Who should buy the M2 MacBook Air?
If you already have an M1 MacBook Air, you probably won’t need to upgrade to the M2. If you’re running any kind of Intel Mac, however, you’ll get an immediate performance boost when you move to Apple Silicon.
Always get the best Mac you can. When you do, assume that Apple will introduce a better model of what you just got years before you’re ready to upgrade. You should also pay for extra memory, as this is one of the best ways to boost performance and future-proof your device.
Don’t overlook that Apple still offers the M1 MacBook Air for $999. This is also a great price for a top-notch machine, and if you’re looking for a second Mac, or a machine to provide as a resource for desktop-based teams, this might be the way to go. Yes, the M2 model is better, but the M1 is still a big improvement over older laptops, including Intel-based MacBook Pros.
In general, if you’re looking for a notebook to be your regular commute, for most users the M2 MacBook Air’s fanless design, great battery life and bright, clear screen – and its great performance per watt – put up with a machine you will. used happily and fruitfully for years.
Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.
Review: Apple’s MacBook Air M2
Source link Review: Apple’s MacBook Air M2