MacBook Air (M2, 2022) review
The MacBook Air (M2, 2022) is now here, with a brand-new design, a bigger and brighter screen, the powerful new M2 chip… and a new (higher) price.
In the past, we would have recommended creative professionals go for something like the MacBook Pro 14-inch or MacBook Pro 13-inch (M2, 2022), rather than the more mainstream-orientated MacBook Air.
However, the new features that come with the MacBook Air (M2, 2022) actually means that this is a more affordable choice for creatives who want the power of the M2 chip, but who found the price of the new MacBook Pro 13-inch too high.
We tested the MacBook Air (M2, 2022) over the course of several weeks, using a variety of applications, from day-to-day essentials like Chrome, Safari and Apple TV+, to more creative-orientated tools like Adobe Photoshop, Premiere Pro, and Garage Band. For more information about our review process, see how we test laptops.
MacBook Air (M2, 2022) review: Design and display
The MacBook Air (M2, 2022) configuration we review:
CPU: Apple M2 (8-core)
Graphics: Integrated 10-core GPU
RAM: 16GB Unified LPDDR5
Screen: 13.6-inch, 2,560 x 1,664 Liquid Retina display (backlit LED, IPS, 500 nits brightness, wide color P3 gamut)
Storage: 1TB SSD
Ports: 2x Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C), 3.5mm headphone jack, MagSafe 3 charging port
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0
Camera: 1080p FaceTime HD webcam
Weight: 2.7 pounds (1.24kg)
Size: 11.97 x 8.46 x 0.44 inches (30.41 x 21.5 x 1.13cm; W x D x H)
The design of the new MacBook Air is easily one of the standout features of this model. While the iconic wedge shape of previous MacBook Airs has been ditched, in its place is an attractive and modern-looking laptop that is somehow thinner and lighter than ever before.
That’s right – at 11mm thick and weighing 2.7 pounds, the MacBook Air (M2, 2022) is thinner and lighter than the previous model. What makes this more impressive is that the new model actually has a larger display as well.
It now has a 13.6-inch screen, compared to the M1 Model’s 13.3-inch display, and to avoid any drop in image sharpness, the resolution has also been increased from 2,560 x 1,600 to 2,560 x 1,664. Not only is the bigger display more comfortable to work on, it’s also brighter, with Liquid Retina technology that ups the brightness by 100nits to 500nits, along with support for one billion colours.
That means the screen of the MacBook Air (M2, 2022) is actually bigger and brighter than the more expensive MacBook Pro 13-inch (M2, 2022) – and that should be a serious consideration for creative professionals that work in visual mediums.
So, how does Apple manage to fit a bigger screen in a smaller body? It’s done this by slimming down the bezels around display. Gone are the chunky borders of the previous model, and now there are thinner surrounds that allow for the larger screen, and give the laptop a much more modern look.
A consequence of this, however, is that the new and improved 1080p Face Time webcam dips down in a visible ‘notch’ that obscures some of the menu bar at the top of the screen. This has been a feature of the MacBook Pro 14-inch and 16-inch models, and while it proved divisive when those laptops launched last year, we think it’s a fair trade-off for the larger screen.
The MacBook Air also comes in a choice of new colours: Space Gray, Silver, Starlight, and Midnight Blue, and each one comes with a charging cable that matches the hue of the laptop itself. While these rather subdued colors may disappoint anyone hoping for bright pastel shades like thew 24-inch iMac, they look good. The MacBook Air we review here is in Midnight Blue, and it looks fantastic – though it is also a fingerprint magnet.
MagSafe charging also makes a comeback, so you can easily hook the MacBook Air up to a power source, and if you accidently pull the cable, it detaches safely. Two Thunderbolt ports and a 3.5mm headphone jack complete the port selection, which may disappoint creative pros who need more ports, but this is to be expected with the MacBook Air, unfortunately.
MacBook Air (M2, 2022) review: Performance
While the new MacBook Air is pretty exciting on the outside, it’s also pretty great on the inside as well. It packs the new M2 chip, a follow-up from the M1 chip in the previous MacBook Air. The M1, Apple’s first attempt at a PC chip, was pretty revolutionary, offering performance and battery life that rivalled mobile processors from established chip makers AMD and Intel.
The new M2 chip is also found in the MacBook Pro 13-inch, and the only difference is that the base model of that MacBook comes with a 10-core GPU, while the base model of the MacBook Air comes with an 8-core GPU. This can be upgraded to a 10-core GPU, which is what the MacBook Air we review here has.
On paper, then, the MacBook Air with a 10-core GPU and 8-core CPU, should perform pretty similarly to a MacBook Pro 13-inch with the same configuration of M2, and that’s pretty much exactly what we found, with benchmark scores in Cinebench R23 being pretty much exactly the same for the two MacBooks (you can see all our benchmark results in the boxout on the right).
Here’s how the MacBook Air (M2, 2022) performed in our suite of benchmark tests:
Cinebench R23 CPU: Single-Core: 1,597; Multi-core: 8,098
Geekbench 5 Single-Core: 1,936; Multi-Core: 8,917
Battery Life (movie test): 16 hours and 6 minutes
While benchmarks don’t tell the whole story, it results in a rather odd state of affairs where the MacBook Air performs pretty much as well as the MacBook Pro 13-inch, despite being thinner and lighter, as well as having a larger screen.
One area where the MacBook Pro 13-inch has an advantage is in sustained performance. The MacBook Air doesn’t have any fans, and that means it can get quite hot quite quickly, and when it gets too hot, it begins to throttle performance, which impacts certain tasks. The MacBook Pro 13-inch, on the other hand, does have fans, and this allows it to keep cooler for longer, which means it’s better at running complex tasks for long periods of time without throttling.
Moving on from benchmarks, we used the MacBook Air (M2, 2022) for several weeks, and were impressed with how well it handled both day-to-day tasks like browsing the web and writing up documents, alongside editing 4K video and using Photoshop’s AI tools.
The Neural Engine of the M2 chip does a great job of handling tools that use artificial intelligence and machine learning to speed up what were once quite time consuming and mundane tasks, such as removing objects from a scene. Most major creative apps are now designed to run on M1 and M2 hardware, which means they can now take advantage of the extra power and features Apple’s chips offer.
This results in a MacBook Air the runs incredibly well, especially for day-to-day use and creative tasks – though do keep an eye on temperatures when using it for sustained workloads.
MacBook Air (M2, 2022) review: Battery life
During our time using the MacBook Air for this review, we also recorded how long the battery lasts on a single charge. The good news is that the MacBook Air (M2, 2022) does a fantastic job, easily lasting an entire workday, even when using it for intensive creative tasks.
Thanks to increased efficiencies in the M2 chip, Apple has been able to include better performance (along with a larger, brighter screen) without shortening the battery life.
In fact, in our battery benchmark test, where we ran a looped 1080p video until the battery dies, the MacBook Air (M2, 2022 lasted for just over 16 hours – a seriously impressive feat, and a good five hours longer than the M1 model.
The new MagSafe charger is also convenient and safe to use, and at a few points we accidently yanked the cable away, which made the MagSafe connection disconnect without any damage. It also charged the battery impressively fast – we left it for half and hour and got a good chunk of battery back, and you can also use the USB-C ports to charge in case you need to borrow a charger.
MacBook Air (M2, 2022) review: Price
While we love the new MacBook Air (M2, 2022), there’s a pretty big caveat attached to all the new and improved features – and it comes in the shape of a much higher price tag.
While the MacBook Air (M1, 2022) started at £999/$999, the new MacBook Air (M2, 2022) starts at £1,249/$1,199, which comes with an M2 chip with an 8-core CPU, 8-core GPU, 8GB memory and 256GB SSD.
It also puts it in a similar price bracket as the MacBook Pro 13-inch (M2, 2022), which costs £1,299/$1,299 to start. That base model comes with a 10-core GPU, however, so there is an edge to graphical performance.
Still, for most people, the MacBook Air (M2, 2022) offers much better value, and the larger screen and lighter design will likely make more of a difference than two extra cores.
MacBook Air (M2, 2022) review: Should you buy it?
There’s no doubt that the new MacBook Air (M2, 2022) is a fantastic laptop. Its new design is thin, light and looks fantastic, and the larger, brighter, screen will be welcomed by anyone looking to use this laptop for creative work. The improved webcam is also great for people who need to make a lot of video calls (these days that’s most of us), and the battery life is phenomenal.
However, the higher price does put it out of the reach of many people. Thankfully, the M1 MacBook Air is still on sale, and it’s still a fantastic laptop for the price. While we understand that new features and better performance come at a cost, it does mean the new MacBook Air isn’t quite as good a value proposition as its predecessor.
If you want a powerful MacBook to do creative work on, the MacBook Air (M2, 2022) is a great choice. However, if you’re on a budget and want a more affordable entry point into Apple’s ecosystem, the MacBook Air (M1, 2020) remains a brilliant laptop, and well worth considering.