This is a new M2 MacBook Air, which could be the closest thing to a perfect laptop for most people. However, some have suggested that it is hampered by its thermal and SSD performance. I have been using both the base model and the one with 16GB of RAM for 9 month, and I have put them through benchmarks, battery life tests, thermal tests, and many hours of daily use. After doing so, I have some pretty surprising findings. To provide a better perspective, I also compared them to a flagship Windows thin and light, as well as a 14-inch MacBook Pro. Let’s take a look.
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Apple 2022 MacBook Air Laptop with M2 chip
|Screen||13.6-inch Liquid Retina Display|
|Webcam||1080p FaceTime HD Camera|
|Battery||18 HOURS OF BATTERY LIFE|
Read Also: M2 Pro Mac Mini Review Is Best Value Mac
The Air has a new design, and I like it a lot. It’s now flat instead of being wedge-shaped, and overall it looks very nice and clean. There aren’t even any text markings on it. However, I feel like the pursuit of a clean look might have gone too far with the removal of the speaker grilles. Now, they’re hidden in the hinge area, and while they still sound pretty good (especially compared to Windows devices), I feel like firing into the hinge has made the treble not as clean-sounding as on the MacBook Pros, which do have top-firing speaker grilles.
M2 MacBook Air Screen
The other new thing is the screen, and it’s really nice. Thanks to the thin bezels, it’s a bit larger, and it can go brighter now – up to 500 nits. Actually, for SDR content (like web pages), the Air is as bright as the 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros, because SDR content maxes out at 500 nits on Apple computers. The screen also has a nice anti-reflective coating, and I’ve never had a problem seeing it indoors, even when sitting next to super large windows. Outdoors, it can sometimes get hard to see, but those situations are rare. The screen is around 2K resolution, and at this size, you really can’t see the pixels at any reasonable distance. It’s also now a 10-bit panel, so it technically has nicer colors compared to last-gen, but it’s not super noticeable. Overall, this is definitely one of the best laptop screens. It’s great to work on, to watch content, and the slightly taller 16:10 screen feels pretty spacious for a small laptop.
I was really excited about the midnight color when I first saw the announcement, and it does look really nice. It’s like a bluish-black color, and it kind of changes depending on how the light hits it. But it does attract fingerprints very easily. It only looks nice here because I’ve been constantly wiping it, so if you’re thinking about going for the midnight color, just be warned of that.
The bezels around the screen are much thinner compared to the old design, and I love the look of it. But there is a notch right in the middle. Honestly, I don’t really mind it. I feel like you get used to it very quickly. But if you don’t like it, you can very easily hide it with this app called “Top Notch”
The Air now has a 1080p webcam, and it looks really good. It’s sharp and doesn’t have too much noise if the lighting is decent. The built-in mic also sounds clear and good.
keyboard & Trackpad
Now The Magic Keyboard and Force Touch trackpad are the same as last gen and feel great. The trackpad clicks uniformly everywhere, unlike the springboard type trackpad on most Windows devices.
The Air has a MagSafe port, two USB-C ports, and a headphone jack. It’s limited to one external screen, and I would have liked to see USB-C ports on both sides for more flexibility. I don’t use the MagSafe port often because it’s easier to grab a USB-C cable, and the Air fast charges through USB-C.
But of course, the most important aspect of a laptop is how it performs. This thing isn’t designed for the pros, but the speed here is actually very impressive. Both the base model and the one with 16 gigs of RAM easily outpace even my 14-inch MacBook Pro with the M1 Pro chip. For some pro workloads, such as Photoshop, as you can see here, both of them are applying a filter, and the Air finishes first pretty consistently. This is because the M2 actually has better single-threaded performance than any of the M1 Pro Max or Ultra chips. M2 is a newer design, but it’s still pretty surprising considering an M1 Max MacBook can easily cost three times as much.
So, the Air can pull ahead for most lightly threaded or shorter tasks, and that is most things most people do, and way more tasks fall into this category than you would expect. For example, I’m pretty sure all the code that I wrote in university will actually run faster on the Air than on my 14-inch MacBook Pro, and most work on the web also falls into this category.
|M2 MacBook Air||Chrome 281|
|M2 MacBook Air||Safari 383|
|14′ MacBook Pro||Chrome 231|
|Galaxy Book||Chrome 123|
On the Speedometer web responsiveness benchmark, the M2 MacBook Air scores the highest score I’ve seen on a laptop and convincingly beats out the 14-inch MacBook Pro. And this does translate to real life. For example, a heavier website such as Google Earth finishes loading first on the M2 MacBook Air by a fairly noticeable margin, and things like this can definitely add up in a day for some noticeable time savings. So, if your work is mostly shorter tasks or lightly threaded, such as most things centered around the web, photo editing, or coding that isn’t about compiling huge programs, this MacBook Air is going to be faster than even a maxed-out MacBook Pro.
And also, because this year there’s a new 24 gigs of RAM option, lots of pretty complicated things can be done on the Air with no issue. Maybe things like web development where you don’t really compile too many things but you do want to keep a ton of tabs opened. A MacBook Air could totally be sufficient for that, and not to mention that it pretty much destroys the Galaxy Book, especially when it’s on battery even with an i7 1260p with 16 gigs of RAM, so pretty top of the line for a thin and light.
|13″ MacBook Air – M2 Base||5635|
|Galaxy Book i7 1260p||1268|
|14″ MacBook Pro M1 Pro 10/16||10232|
The MacBook Air is still 50% faster for web tasks and 400% faster for more graphically intensive things. And not to mention that the fan on the Galaxy Book is running all the time, even when it’s just playing some 4K YouTube videos. But without a fan, this MacBook Air does run into thermal limitations for longer tasks that fully load up the SOC. As you can see when rendering a video, it slows down after five to six minutes. But honestly, even when this thing is thermal throttled, it’s still pretty fast. It’s not going as fast as a chip could be going, but if you’re not looking at the charts, you probably won’t even notice that it’s slowing down after 40 minutes of benchmarking. So when the SOC is very hot and slowing down, browsing the web still feels the same as before. Everything still loads pretty much instantly.
I wouldn’t buy the Air mainly for rendering videos, but it’s not bad at it. For a 20-minute 4K video, the Air only took 9 minutes longer than the M2 MacBook Pro, which does have a fan. Also, I am comparing the base model here, so the Air is $200 cheaper with two fewer GPU cores. So if you only occasionally render videos, you’re not wasting much time at all. And actually, By strapping a small fan on the MacBook Air, you can achieve the same performance as the M2 MacBook Pro. However, if your main focus is on graphically intensive tasks, then the M1 Pro MacBook Pro is a big step up with way more GPU cores and two fans, allowing it to finish the same render in less than half the time.
M2 MacBook Air Ram
When it comes to RAM, Apple Silicon devices actually feel quite different from Intel platforms. Even when this thing is out of RAM, it still loads up websites almost instantly. Here, you can see me filling up the RAM to basically full and then clicking around the web. The Mac with eight gigs of RAM almost never needed to reload anything, or just reloaded from swap so quickly that I didn’t even notice. But the Samsung laptop here with 16 gigs of RAM is beginning to feel laggy. So, if you’re upgrading to an Apple Silicon device and thinking about upgrading the RAM for things like heavy web browsing, it might not be necessary at all. In fact, I don’t really notice a difference between 8 and 16 gigs for daily tasks. However, partially due to the slower SSD in the base model, increasing the RAM size can make a huge difference in some situations, such as video rendering or photo exporting. So yeah, it would definitely be worth the upgrade in those cases.
Upgrading the SSD can also boost performance because the smaller one is only around half the speed of the larger ones. Perhaps this is due to chip shortage or cost-cutting, but there’s only one storage chip on the base model this year, compared to the typical configuration of two. However, as long as you’re not heavily dependent on it for swap or transferring lots of large files to other extremely fast SSDs, you most likely won’t notice a difference for most things, such as opening up an app or using common external storage devices like USB drives, SD cards, or large hard drives. These devices are still much slower than the SSD in the MacBook Air, so there will be no difference when transferring files to and from those things.
Surprisingly, all this performance doesn’t come at the cost of heat. Without a fan, the temperature on the surface and bottom of the M2 MacBook Air doesn’t get too hot, and when it’s under extreme loads for over 40 minutes, it’s not any hotter than the 14-inch MacBook Pro. It does get warm, and it can make your hands sweat a bit, but the surface temperature is nothing out of the ordinary for a laptop, reaching a peak of 45 degrees in the middle of the keyboard and around 35 degrees on the palm rest and trackpad areas. So overall, the M2 MacBook Air has extraordinary performance for a completely silent laptop.
10Core GPU Upgrade
Additionally, there’s an option to upgrade to a 10-core GPU, but personally, I would not choose that option because tasks that require extra GPU cores are usually long and heavy, such as video or 3D rendering, which the MacBook Air performs poorly at. If I needed that extra performance, I would choose the MacBook Pro instead. Unless you have a specific task that can benefit from it, I suggest going for the 8-core GPU model. Also, since it is an Apple Silicon device, it’s worth double-checking that any software you use is compatible with it. If not, you should still be able to run it with Rosetta, although there may be a performance penalty.
|Device||hours & Minutes|
|13″ MacBook Air – M2 Base||14h 15min|
|Galaxy Book i7 1260p||7h40|
|14″ MacBook Pro M1 Pro 10/16||10h|
As for battery life, the MacBook Air received a larger battery this year, closing the gap between it and the MacBook Pros. In my tests, the Air lasted around 14 hours and 50 minutes doing lighter tasks such as watching videos and web browsing. During my test, a 4K video was looping while I clicked around some websites on the side, and for this, the Air performed by far the best, beating the 14-inch MacBook Pro and lasting nearly twice as long as the Samsung laptop. The Samsung laptop had to run its fans just to not overheat. Both Apple Silicon devices are super efficient and can last well over a day, or perhaps even two, doing these things.
|Device||hours & Minutes|
|13″ MacBook Air – M2 Base||3h 48min|
|Galaxy Book i7 1260p||3h|
|14″ MacBook Pro M1 Pro 10/16||1h 35min|
When it’s fully loaded, it still lasts decently, 3 hours and 48 minutes, which might seem kind of bad, but this isn’t really a super realistic situation because I was looping a benchmark. In reality, only when it’s actively rendering a video or compiling a huge program would it consume this much power. Part of the reason the MacBook Air still lasted this long is that it got too hot and needed to throttle itself, which caused it to consume less power, but that’s not really a good thing.
You might be surprised that the Intel-powered Samsung laptop is able to keep up, but to be honest, that’s kind of a hack since it aggressively reduces its performance when it’s on battery. It only has a quarter of the performance of the Air. The 14-inch MacBook Pro doesn’t last that long when it’s doing heavy tests mainly because it has fans and heatsinks that allow more power to the SoC. But, of course, the MacBook Pro is going to get the tasks done much faster. So yeah, the Air definitely has very impressive battery life.
But even when it dies, I can charge this thing up really quickly in around an hour with a fast charger. It can receive around 70 watts with both the Max Safe port and the USB-C. Just a quick note, the 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU version of the Air comes with a 30-watt power adapter, so it doesn’t really fast charge with this thing. But it does come with a braided MagSafe cable that matches the color of the MacBook, which is kind of nice.
What About M2 MacBook Pro?
As for the M2 MacBook Pro, I feel that there’s very little reason to get that device because it’s the same price as the Air with a GPU upgrade. I think that those whose work isn’t focused on rendering things wouldn’t really need that upgrade. For those who do need more power, the 14-inch base model MacBook Pro is a much more capable machine for just $300 more, offering a better design and screen. For those who aren’t doing rendering, it’s not easy to get the Air to overheat, and even when it’s throttling, it’s not that slow. If I didn’t edit videos, I would definitely go for the 8-core M2 MacBook Air for $200 less, saving on the GPU and also getting the new design.
Overall, the M2 MacBook Air should not be treated as just an entry-level device meant for people who won’t do anything demanding on their laptop. Despite its thermal and SSD limitations, it still outperforms the latest Intel laptops and even beats my M1 Pro MacBook Pro in some common daily tasks. It delivers an incredibly responsive web experience at any price point while lasting a long time in a package that is thin and light. While I wouldn’t buy this machine specifically to edit and render videos, other than that, it’s a laptop that will remain fast for a very long time to come. With this new design, it might just be the perfect laptop for many people.
I hope you understand which one is perfect for you. If you have any suggestions, please let me know in the comment box.