Apple MacBook Air (M2, 2022)

New look, new price

Apple MacBook Air (M2, 2022) on a white desk in a studio
(Image: © Future)

TechRadar Verdict

The MacBook Air (M2, 2022) is Apple's follow-up to the best laptop it ever made, and while it comes close, it doesn't quite beat the previous model. It's got a fantastic design, bigger screen and incredibly long battery life, but also a much higher price tag. Think of it more as a replacement for the 13-inch MacBook Pro, and it starts to make a lot more sense.

Pros

  • +

    Great new design

  • +

    Very good performance

  • +

    Long battery life

  • +

    Larger screen

Cons

  • -

    Much more expensive than previous model

  • -

    New colors are a bit tame

  • -

    Previous model is much better value

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Two-minute review

Spec Sheet

Here is the MacBook Air (M2, 2022) configuration sent to TechRadar for 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)

While writing this MacBook Air (M2, 2022) review, I was struck by a thought: what if Apple had actually originally planned for this to have been a redesigned MacBook Pro 13-inch with an M2 chip?

It sort of makes sense, as the new MacBook Air has a larger screen, better speakers and a 1080p webcam, compared to the MacBook Pro 13-inch (M2, 2022) that we actually got.

The M2 chip in both laptops offer very similar performance, and unlike what many people had hoped for, the new MacBook Air doesn’t come in a range of pastel colors, like the 24-inch iMac, but instead a limited amount of rather professional-looking hues. 

Finally, the MacBook Air (M2, 2022) comes with a new, much higher, price tag of $1,199 (£1,249/AU$1,899), which is a price we’d expect with a MacBook Pro, rather than the entry-level MacBook Air.

Having a redesigned MacBook Pro, alongside a MacBook Air with the same old design (but new M2 chip and cheaper price), would have made a lot of sense – but Apple did the opposite.

So, we have a redesigned MacBook Air that’s now more expensive, and a MacBook Pro 13-inch with the same old design. I can’t help but think this was a bit of a missed opportunity.

That’s because the Apple MacBook Air (M2, 2022) has big shoes to fill. Its predecessor, the MacBook Air (M1, 2020), has been our pick as the best laptop you can buy since its launch two years ago.

Does the MacBook Air (M2, 2022) finally knock its predecessor from the top? There’s plenty going for it, including a new eye-catching design that increases the screen size while making the entire laptop smaller and lighter, while also upping the webcam resolution to 1080p, as well as some other goodies. 

Apple MacBook Air (M2, 2022) on a white desk in a studio

(Image credit: Future)

The new look follows Apple’s reinvention of many of its other iconic products, including the iMac 24-inch and MacBook Pro 16-inch. In fact, the only MacBook to not get a redesign now is the new MacBook Pro 13-inch (M2, 2022), as mentioned earlier, which despite having the same new M2 chip, keeps its old look, and therefore feels like a bit of an afterthought.

Not so the new MacBook Air (M2, 2022), however. Along with a new look, it also gets the aforementioned M2 chip. This is the follow-up to the impressive M1 found in the previous MacBook Air. After ditching Intel, Apple now creates its own processor and graphics to power its Macs and MacBooks, and the results have already been spectacular, with excellent performance and industry-leading battery life.

As we saw with the new MacBook Pro 13-inch, the M2 chip continues this, with boosted performance and once again long battery life. The good news for the MacBook Air is that it gets the same M2 chip as the more expensive MacBook Pro 13-inch, which allows it to offer almost identical performance.

Throw in the new design (which offers a larger and brighter screen than the MacBook Pro 13-inch) and lower price tag, and there’s a strong case to make for the MacBook Air (M2, 2022) making the 13-inch MacBook Pro obsolete.

It’s not all good news, however, as the new MacBook Air comes with a higher price tag. Starting at $1,199 (£1,249), this is a large increase over the MacBook Air (M1, 2020), which launched at $999 / £999. This, sadly, means that it lacks the pure value for money that the M1 MacBook Air offered. It seems Apple is aware of that, as unlike other models, which get discontinued once a new version is out, Apple will continue to sell the older MacBook Air, marketing it at people who want a more affordable MacBook.

It means that the new MacBook Air isn’t such an easy recommendation as the older model, as that’s a high price tag for pretty much anybody.

So, while we’d recommend anyone who was thinking of buying the MacBook Pro 13-inch to actually get the MacBook Air (M2, 2022), we can’t recommend it to everyone, which is what we did with the previous MacBook Air. That’s a bit of a shame.

MacBook Air (M2, 2022) review: Price and availability

  • Price starts at $1,199 / £1,249 / AU$1,899
  • More expensive than previous model – by a lot
  • Only $100 cheaper than the MacBook Pro 13-inch (M2, 2022)

The new MacBook Air was announced at Apple’s WWDC 2022 developer conference. While the MacBook Pro 13-inch (M2, 2022) was the first M2-powered Mac to come out, we’ve had to wait until July to get a solid launch date for the new MacBook Air, possibly due to Apple’s uncertainty about component and material availability. The new MacBook Air (M2, 2022) eventually went on sale on July 8 for order, with deliveries starting on July 15.

However, we expect this to be a very popular product, and with current stock issues, delivery dates may be delayed, though hopefully not by too much.

This MacBook Air starts at $1,199 (£1,249/AU$1,899). The M1-based Air will continue to be available for $999, though education users can grab one for a little less at $899.

Apple MacBook Air (M2, 2022) on a white desk in a studio

(Image credit: Future)

This leap in price is understandable, but it means it feels like poorer value than the older MacBook Air, which is a shame, as one of the best things about the 2020 MacBook Air was its low price and excellent performance.

The base model of the MacBook Air (M2, 2022) comes with an 8-core CPU, 8-core GPU, 8GB of memory and 256GB SSD storage.

Meanwhile, the new M2 MacBook Pro 13-inch starts at $1,299 / £1,299 / AU$1,999, which puts Apple in an odd place, as it now means the price of the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro 13-inch aren’t that different.

While both base models come with the new M2 chip, the cheapest MacBook Air comes with an 8-core GPU, while the MacBook Pro 13-inch’s base model comes with an M2 chip with a 10-core GPU, which means the more expensive MacBook has the edge when it comes to graphical performance, but the MacBook Air isn’t that far off, as we discuss later.

  • Price score: 3.5/5

MacBook Air (M2, 2022) review: Design

  • Brand-new design
  • Bigger screen, lighter body
  • New color choices

One of the most radical design overhauls we’ve seen Apple make to an iconic product has reinvigorated the new MacBook Air, and, while you may mourn the loss of the Air's iconic wedge, it looks far more modern and elegant than previous models.

As the name suggests, the MacBook Air is the thinnest and lightest MacBook Apple produces, and with the new MacBook Air 2022 model, Apple has made further improvements, shrinking the overall size and weight of the unibody design, while actually increasing the screen size.

The company's engineers have managed this in part by slimming down the bezels that surround the screen by as much as 30% on the top and bottom, while it’s 20% thinner on the sides. The chunky borders of previous MacBook Air screens were beginning to look rather outdated, especially when compared to high-end Windows rivals like the Dell XPS 13, so the thin bezels in the new model make this MacBook Air look much more contemporary.

Close up of Apple MacBook Air (M2, 2022) webcam and notch

(Image credit: Future)

The MacBook Air's webcam has been upped to 1080p, to match those found in the MacBook Pros from late 2021, and this boost in resolution (alongside improved image and low-light handling with the new M2 chip), will be welcome for anyone who relies on video conferencing or making video calls to friends and family. And in this age of hybrid working, that’s most of us.

Less welcome will be the news that the combination of a bigger webcam and thinner bezels means there’s a visible "notch" that surrounds the webcam and drops down into the menu bar. This is the same as the notch found in the MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021) and MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021), and when it debuted with those MacBooks, it proved divisive.

We didn't mind the notch on those other systems, as Apple expanded the screen upwards, actually giving you more screen real estate, which made the trade-off worth it.

The same is true with the MacBook Air (M2, 2022), which comes with a 13.6-inch screen, compared with the 13.3-inch of the previous model. The resolution has also been upped from 2,560 x 1,600 to 2,560 x 1,664. This means the larger screen doesn't lose sharpness, and once again we think the trade-off with the notch for a larger screen is the right way to go, and you’ll hardly notice it’s there, while still benefiting from the extra screen space and better webcam.

The new Liquid Retina screen is also brighter by 100nits, so it's now 500nits, and also now supports one billion colors. There's no ProMotion support, however. Despite that, it means that we have a remarkable situation where the cheaper MacBook Air (M2, 2022) comes with a larger and brighter screen compared to the new MacBook Pro 13-inch. For people relying on visual quality, especially photographers, the MacBook Air (M2, 2022) looks a much better buy.

Apple MacBook Air (M2, 2022) on a white desk in a studio

(Image credit: Future)

Another big design change is, as we noted earlier, that the MacBook Air is no longer a "wedge" shape with a thinner front and thicker back. Instead, it's uniform, bringing it into alignment with virtually every other portable design Apple now produces. It also avoids the awkward issue where the previous MacBook Air was actually a little thicker than the MacBook Pro at one end. Now, there’s no doubt that this is by far the thinnest MacBook you can buy.

There's also new colors. People hoping for vibrant, pastel-like colors like the iMac 24-inch will be disappointed by the relatively low-key Space Gray, Silver, Starlight, and Midnight Blue colors. They do, though, look very good in person. We saw all of them at Apple's WWDC event, and our favorite by far was Midnight Blue, which is the color of the review unit Apple sent to us, and it looks just as gorgeous as we remember. Each color comes with matching power cables - a supremely Apple touch.

Outside of the different shades available, the laptop features MagSafe (yes, it's back) charging as well as two Thunderbolt ports and even a 3.5mm headphone jack, which will be welcome for people who use non-Bluetooth headphones and headsets. The MacBook Air (M2) is also as slim and lightweight as we hoped for: just 11mm thick and weighing in at 2.7 pounds.

The standard base model MacBook Air ships with a 30W charger, but you can opt to upgrade this to a 67W adapter for $59, which can get you to 80% battery capacity in just 20 minutes, and comes with two ports, so you can also charge up your iPhone, iPad or other devices at the same time, though this does impact charging times slightly, as the 67W is split between devices.

Overall, the redesign is, in our view, a triumph. It’s made the MacBook Air feel more modern, increasing the screen size and quality, and making it thinner and lighter. It’s pretty much everything you’d want from a visual overhaul, and while anyone hoping for vibrant, multi-colored, pastel shades will be disappointed, the new colors are nevertheless stylish and attractive.

  • Design score: 5/5

MacBook Air (M2, 2022) review: Performance

  • Excellent performance
  • On par with MacBook Pro 13-inch (M2, 2022)
Benchmarks

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 (TechRadar movie test): 16 hours and 6 minutes

The new MacBook Air (M2, 2022) comes with the M2 System on Chip (SoC), Apple’s second-generation, 5-nanometer chip that the company claims will offer an 18% faster CPU, 35% faster GPU (now 10 cores), and a 40% faster neural engine than its predecessor. It’s worth noting that the base system of the MacBook Air ships with an 8-core GPU, but you can upgrade to a 10-core GPU.

Meanwhile, the MacBook Pro 13-inch base model comes with an M2 chip and 10-core GPU as standard for not much more.

During our time with the MacBook Air, the laptop performed incredibly well. The pre-installed macOS Monterey boots quickly and runs well, while also looking fantastic on the new screen. As usual, we used the MacBook Air (M2, 2022) for day-to-day use. 

Browsing the web in both Safari and Chrome was fast and responsive, even with multiple tabs open (the model we have on test comes with 16GB of unified memory, which certainly helps here), and typing up documents on the slightly redesigned keyboard (which is slightly narrower due to the redesign, but keeps the same Magic Keyboard switches) feels nice and comfortable.

Apple MacBook Air (M2, 2022) on a white desk in a studio

(Image credit: Future)

Since the launch of the M1 chip, and increasing number of applications have released M1-compatible apps, which also work with the M2, and that means your favorite apps should run brilliantly, and take advantage of the M2’s capabilities. Not just Apple apps, either, but applications from the likes of Adobe and Microsoft have M1 and M2-native versions.

For those that don’t, Apple’s Rosetta 2 tool once again helps here, allowing you to run apps made for Intel-based Macs almost as if they were designed for M2, with minimum impact to performance.

We also played around with Garage Band (Apple’s music-making software that comes pre-installed) and edited 4K home movies in iMovie, and again, the improved performance of the M2 chip kept everything running extremely well. We’d even go so far as to say that we didn’t notice any perceptible difference to the M2 MacBook Pro when using it for similar tasks.

One difference Apple likes to point out is that the MacBook Air has a fanless design, while the MacBook Pro 13-inch uses fans to keep its components cool. This should mean that the MacBook Pro 13-inch is better at sustained performance – it can work at full pelt for longer without overheating.

In practice, it means the MacBook Air (M2, 2022) is thin and light, and also completely silent when in use. However, we found that the MacBook Pro 13-inch’s fans rarely – if ever – kicked in, which suggests that it’ll only make a difference for seriously heavy workloads (think Logic Pro projects with hundreds of tracks, or 8K video editing in Premiere Pro), and you wouldn’t really buy the MacBook Air – or the MacBook Pro 13-inch for that matter – for those kind of demands. You’d be better off getting the more powerful MacBook Pro 14-inch or 16-inch.

Apple MacBook Air (M2, 2022) on a white desk in a studio

(Image credit: Future)

Our benchmark tests again showed how similar the new MacBook Air and MacBook Pro 13-inch are when it comes to performance. Single-core performance in both Cinebench and Geekbench were almost identical for the two devices, which makes sense as they both use the same 8-core M2 processor. 

Multi-core performance was also very similar in Geekbench, but in Cinebench, the 13-inch MacBook Pro had a slight edge. So, you may get a bit better performance when multitasking with the Pro, especially if some of those tasks are graphics-based, but otherwise performance is so similar, it’s hard to recommend the Pro over the MacBook Air, considering the Air has a new design, bigger screen and is cheaper.

So, we’re in a very odd situation. It looks like the MacBook Pro 13-inch wasn’t killed off by a competitor like Dell or HP… but by Apple’s own MacBook Air.

  • Performance score: 4.5/5

MacBook Air (M2, 2022) review: Battery life

  • Lasts over 16 hours
  • Charges very quickly

We had high hopes for the MacBook Air’s battery life, as the M1 chip was an extremely efficient chip that offered both high performance and long battery life, and Apple has promised the same with the M2 chip.

Our hopes weren’t dashed, with our battery life benchmark, where we run a 1080p looped video until the battery dies, lasting a huge 16 hours, which is seriously impressive, and far outstrips Windows-based laptops of around the same price tag.

It actually lasted 30 minutes longer than the MacBook Pro 13-inch, which is surprising, as the Pro has a larger battery. The Touch Bar of the Pro, and a less energy-efficient screen, may explain the faster battery drain on the Pro.

It’s also a substantial increase over the M1 MacBook Air from two years ago, which managed 11 hours in the same test.

This means you can easily use the MacBook Air (M2, 2022) throughout an entire work day, or on a long flight, and still have battery life left, which is seriously impressive stuff. We found that we were able to work easily without needing to think about where to plug the MacBook Air in to top up the battery, which gives you so much more freedom when using this laptop.

We had the more powerful charger, and it did indeed fill up the battery quickly when we did need a charge. The MagSafe port is also great, allowing you to easily plug the charger in quickly, thanks to the magnetic connection, and if it accidentally gets pulled out (which actually happened to us while we were reviewing), it disconnects easily without any danger of damaging the port.

You can also charge the MacBook Air (M2, 2022) via the USB-C port, which is handy if you need to borrow a charger when you’re out and about.

  • Battery life score: 5/5

Should you buy the MacBook Air (M2, 2022)?

Apple MacBook Air (M2, 2022) on a white desk in a studio

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if…

You want a thin and light laptop
The MacBook Air (M2, 2022) remains one of the best thin and light laptops (opens in new tab) you can buy, and with the new design, it’s now even more svelte, while looking impressively modern.

You want an M2 MacBook
While the MacBook Pro 13-inch beat the new MacBook Air to the punch by being the first M2 MacBook, the MacBook Air (M2, 2022) is a much better buy for most people.

You were thinking about buying the new 13-inch MacBook Pro
Seriously, get the MacBook Air instead. It's thinner, lighter, has a bigger screen, offers similar performance and is cheaper.

 Don’t buy it if…

You’re after the cheapest MacBook
The new MacBook Air didn’t just get new hardware and a new design – but also a new, higher, price tag as well. The previous model remains on sale, and that’s still the best-value MacBook in 2022.

You want ports
The thin and light design comes at a cost of ports, and like previous models, the new MacBook Air comes with just two Thunderbolt ports, which means you may need an adapter to plug certain peripherals in.

First reviewed July 2022

Also consider...

If our Apple MacBook Air (M2, 2022) review has you considering other options, here are three more laptops to consider...  

Image (opens in new tab)

Dell XPS 13
If you want a thin and light 13-inch laptop, but prefer Windows, then the Dell XPS 13 is a brilliant alternative, offering a similar level of style and build quality, along with some fantastic specs.
Check out our Dell XPS 13 review (opens in new tab)

Image (opens in new tab)

Apple MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021)
If you're after a MacBook with more power, then the MacBook Pro 14-inch is well worth considering. It comes with a choice of bulked-up M1 chips in the form of the M1 Pro and M1 Max. It's a great choice for creative professionals, but it is a lot more expensive.
Check out our Apple MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021) review (opens in new tab)

Testing scorecard

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Apple MacBook Air (M2, 2022)
AttributesNotesRating
PriceMore expensive than previous model – by a lot3.5/5
DesignThe new design looks great, with a bigger screen and lighter overall weight5/5
PerformanceThe M2 chip offers excellent performance4.5/5
Battery lifeAt 16 hours this laptop has a fantastic battery life that outlasts much of the competition5/5

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Matt is TechRadar's Managing Editor for Core Tech, looking after computing and mobile technology. Having written for a number of publications such as PC Plus, PC Format, T3 and Linux Format, there's no aspect of technology that Matt isn't passionate about, especially computing and PC gaming. Ever since he got an Amiga A500+ for Christmas in 1991, he's loved using (and playing on) computers, and will talk endlessly about how The Secret of Monkey Island is the best game ever made.