Apple recently introduced two new laptops, the first to have its new M2 chipset. There's the M2 MacBook Pro ($1,299+) — which, other than the M2 chipset, is the same computer as the previous 13-inch MacBook Pro. Same screen, same antiquated Touch Bar, and same lack of MagSafe connection for the power cable.
Then there's the new M2 MacBook Air ($1,199+), which, well, is an entirely different story.
The M2 MacBook Air is, obviously, decked out with Apple's new M2 chip, an awesome new setup that is most definitely overkill for the average person looking for an entry-level laptop for web browsing and light photo-and-video editing — which, remember, is what Apple's MacBook Air is. But the computer has also been drastically redesigned.
Compared to its predecessor, the 2020-released M1 MacBook Air, the M2 MacBook Air has a bigger and brighter display and an even thinner, more lightweight body. Perhaps more importantly, Apple decked it out with better speakers, a better webcam, faster charging capabilities and — wait for it — a new MagSafe charging port.
A quick note on M1 vs M2 chipsets: You're not going to see any in-depth benchmark comparisons between M1 and M2 in this review. But if you're curious about the top-differences between the two chipsets, Apple claims that M2 boasts an 18-percent boost in CPU performance, a 35-percent improvement in GPU, and a 40 percent faster Neural Engine (for machine learning tasks).
What's Good About the Apple M2 MacBook Air
The M2 MacBook Air's killer feature is its battery life
I've been using the M2 MacBook Air for several days and I'd be lying if I told you that its standout feature was the new MagSafe charging; while that is nice (and nostalgic), I've been more impressed by its battery life. Despite shrinking it and making the M2 MacBook Air smaller than the M1 MacBook Air — it's 0.19-inch thinner and 0.1 pounds lighter, now weighing 2.7 pounds — Apple has actually made the new laptop's battery slightly bigger. This, paired with the M2 chip's power and efficiency improvements, makes this thing an Energizer bunny. It keeps going.
Apple claims that the M2 MacBook Air can get up 15 hours of battery life if you're just browsing the web and up to 18 hours if you're watching video. It's impressive, sure, but the battery of Apple's MacBook Air line has always been impressive. All I have to tell you is that I've been using the M2 MacBook Air for the better part of five days — I'm not a power user, and work primarily in a web browser — and I've only had to charge it twice.
The hardware improvements are *kissy face emoji*
I've tested most of Apple's recent MacBook Pros and MacBook Airs over the past few years, but none have felt as quite nice as the M2 MacBook Air. The display is big and beautiful. Apple has made it a more edge-to-edge screen — it's a 13.6-inch Liquid Retina display versus the M1 MacBook Air's 13.3-inch Liquid Retina display — while keeping the same general size. It's also slightly brighter (500 nits vs 400 nits). There is an iPhone-esque notch now, but if I'm honest, I've kind of forgotten about it; a lot of apps actually do a good job of hiding the notch by darkening the Menu Bar at the top, too.
Another welcome improvement is the webcam. Apple has finally put the old 720p webcam in the rearview and given the M2 MacBook Air a 1080p webcam that's similar to the ones in the latest iPad Pro, MacBook Pro and Studio Display. It's a noticeable upgrade for video conferencing and FaceTime calls, even if it doesn't support Center Stage (an AI panning and tracking feature that keeps you in frame and in focus) for some reason.
There are other hardware-related things I'm loving with the M2 MacBook Air. The improved speakers are nice, but the standout audio upgrade is a new high-impedance 3.5mm jack (for those of you that use wired headphones). It closes softly; the new clamping system makes it really difficult to slam shut, and it just feels nice. And the Touch ID button and very click-tastic keyboard (which the last MacBook Air had) just reminds me how much I dislike typing on my 2016 MacBook Pro.
MagSafe is back, baby
I've made it this far without really diving in on the new Air's MagSafe connection — because it's a "feel good" story that deserves its own section. After ditching the MagSafe connection for nearly six years, Apple brought back a new-and-improved MagSafe connection on its 2021-released 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros. The new M2 MacBook Air has that same connection.
MagSafe is definitely nostalgic. It works just like the MagSafe connection of old — quickly magnetizing itself to your computer and quickly releasing when pulled, too — and even has the integrated indicator lights that lets you know when the Air is charging (orange) and when it's fully charged (green). Plus, it even supports the Air's fast-charging capabilities of up to 67 watts...but more on this below.
What's Not Ideal About the M2 MacBook Air
It doesn't fast charge right out of the box
The M2 MacBook Air can charge faster than previous MacBook Airs. Specifically, it supports fast-charging at up to 67 watts, which Apple claims can get it up to 50 percent with just a simple 30-minute charge.
The nice thing is that it doesn't matter if you charge the M2 MacBook Air via USB-C or MagSafe connection, as both support its new fast-charging capabilities. The not-so-nice thing is that Apple only includes a 35-watt adapter in the box, meaning you can't fast-charge your M2 MacBook Air unless you buy a 67-watt USB-C adapter, which Apple (and Amazon) sells for $59.
The price went up
It shouldn't come as too much of a surprise, given that Apple didn't just put a new chipset in an old body, but the new M2 MacBook is more expensive than its predecessor. $200 more expensive, to be exact.
While the M1 MacBook Air started at just shy of a grand, the M2 version starts at $1,199 for the 256GB model and goes up to $1,499 for the 512GB one. It's not cheap — and, given the price, it might make some people question whether they should just spend a little extra on the M2 MacBook Pro ($1,299+), or maybe even go for a 12.9" M1 iPad Pro ($1,099+).
Apple's M2 MacBook Air: The Verdict
The MacBook Air has been Apple's most popular laptop for years and years, and an easy recommendation for any first-time Mac buyer — or somebody with an outdated MacBook. The M2 version only makes that case stronger. It's beautiful, super-lightweight, sounds great — and, most importantly, it's a joy to use and type on every day.
The performance improvements from M2 to M1 probably aren't worth an upgrade, especially if you recently bought an M1 MacBook Air and mainly just browse the web. But then again, the revamped look makes the M2 MacBook Air feel like the new hotness, so if you dig it, go for it.