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.
Great new design
Very good performance
Long battery life
Much more expensive than previous model
New colors are a bit tame
Previous model is much better value
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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)
We're now two years after the MacBook Air (M2, 2022) launched, and yet it still sits atop our best laptops buying guide. Have there really been no new laptops that have knocked the latest MacBook Air off the top spot?
The fact is, there really hasn't been. The Dell XPS 13 used to be the MacBook Air's chief rival, but the last few models haven't been able to match the performance and value for money that the MacBook Air manages. Lenovo and HP have also not quite managed to match what Apple has achieved with the MacBook Air (M2, 2022).
In fact, Apple's biggest competitor when it comes to the M2 MacBook Air is... Apple. And so far, it's not released a worthy successor - though it has come close. In 2023, it launch a new 15-inch model of the MacBook Air, which brings a lot of what we loved about the 13-inch model that I review here, but in a bigger body. It's a great choice for people who like the idea of the MacBook Air with M2, but who want a larger display.
However, I personally prefer the original 13-inch MacBook Air (M2, 2022), as in my mind, the MacBook Air lineup is all about being thin, light and portable, and the 15-inch model sacrifices some of that for the larger screen. The larger model is more expensive, while the MacBook Air (M2, 2022) has had a noticeable price drop since its launch, making it even better value for money.
Also, even though Apple has released its M3 chip, alongside new MacBook Pros powered by the chip, the company hasn't yet unveiled an M3 MacBook Air. Once it has, there's a good chance that it could finally replace the M2 model as the best laptop you can buy. Until then, the MacBook Air (M2, 2022) remains Apple's latest - and greatest - thin and light laptop.
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) launched with a 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.
However, at WWDC 2023, Apple announced the new 15-inch MacBook Air with the Apple M2 while simultaneously cutting the price of the MacBook Air by $100, bringing the price to $1,099 (£1,149) and making it much better value.
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.
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.
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 launched 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
- Launched at $1,199 / £1,249 / AU$1,899
- More expensive than previous model
- Now $100 less
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.
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.
However, at WWDC 2023, Apple announced that it is knocking $100 off the MacBook Air (M2, 2022). This means this laptop is now a lot better value, and isn't quite as expensive at the M1 MacBook Air.
- 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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
- Performance score: 4.5/5