MacBook Air M2 Review – Blazing Fast Performance in a Thin Package

The new MacBook Air M2 has arrived, bringing exceptional power and portability to Apple’s most lightweight laptop. With the latest Apple silicon M2 chip, superfast SSD storage, upgraded display and sleek new design, the MacBook Air M2 delivers blazing performance in an impossibly thin 0.44 inch aluminum body.

In this comprehensive review, we’ll dive into the MacBook Air M2’s exciting new features, performance benchmarks, battery life, design changes and how it compares to previous models and other laptops. We’ll help you decide if the MacBook Air M2 is the right ultraportable laptop for your needs.

Highlights of the MacBook Air M2:

  • Powerful new M2 chip provides CPU and GPU gains over M1
  • Up to 24GB of unified memory expands workload capabilities
  • SSD speeds up to 2x faster than previous generation
  • Larger 13.6″ Liquid Retina display with 500 nits brightness
  • MagSafe charging returns for easy magnetic attachment
  • New four-speaker sound system with Spatial Audio support
  • 1080p HD webcam with twice the resolution and low-light performance
  • Two Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports for connectivity and charging
  • All-day 18+ hour battery life rating for productivity on the go
  • Available in four sleek colors: Starlight, Midnight, Silver and Space Gray
  • Starts at $1,199 for 8GB RAM / 256GB SSD configuration

MacBook Air M2 Review Sections:

Power and Performance

  • Apple M2 Chip Benchmark Results
  • CPU Performance and Improvements
  • GPU and Neural Engine Performance Gains
  • RAM and SSD Speed Increases

Display, Audio and Camera Upgrades

  • 13.6″ Liquid Retina Display Analysis
  • 500 Nits Brightness and P3 Wide Color
  • New Four Speaker Sound System
  • Spatial Audio Support for Immersive Sound
  • 1080p HD Webcam with Twice the Resolution

Design, Ports and Battery Life

  • Identical Impossibly Thin Design as M1 Model
  • New Midnight and Starlight Color Options
  • Return of MagSafe 3 for Magnetic Charging
  • I/O: Two Thunderbolt/USB 4 Ports
  • All-Day 18+ Hour Battery Life Rating

macOS Ventura and Software Compatibility

  • Ships With macOS Ventura Operating System
  • Rosetta 2 Ensures Intel App Compatibility
  • Seamlessly Runs Both Universal and M1 Native Apps

Pricing, Configurations and Alternatives

  • Starting Price of $1,199 for 8GB/256GB Model
  • Configuration Options Up To 24GB RAM / 2TB SSD
  • Comparison of Base, Upgraded, and Max Config Pricing
  • How M2 Air Compares to M1 Air, Pro and Pro M2 Models
  • Other Mac and Windows Laptop Alternatives

Verdict: Right for You?

  • Summary of MacBook Air M2 Strengths and Weaknesses
  • Best Uses from Students to Business Users
  • Recommendations for Configuration Based on Needs

Power and Performance

The M2 chip brings significant gains in processing power, graphics and machine learning compared to the previous M1 chip. Let’s look at benchmark results and key areas of performance improvement.

Apple M2 Chip Benchmark Results

In Apple’s internal testing, the 8-core CPU M2 chip showed a 12% increase in single thread performance over the M1 using industry standard benchmarks:

  • 18% faster in Affinity Photo
  • 15% faster in Photoshop
  • 8% faster in Lightroom Classic
  • 15% faster in Illustrator

The 10-core GPU model improved graphics performance by 35% over the M1:

  • 25% faster in Affinity Photo
  • 30% faster in Photoshop filters
  • 40% faster in Maxon Cinema 4D

Real-world testing by reviewers confirmed these performance gains, with the M2 showing clear improvements in creative workflows like image processing, video editing and 3D rendering.

CPU Performance and Improvements

The M2 utilizes the same 5nm process node and 8 high-performance CPU cores as the M1, arranged in four high-performance cores and four high-efficiency cores.

However, the M2 runs at a slightly higher 3.49GHz clock speed vs the M1’s 3.2GHz. Apple also increased the L2 cache from 12MB to 16MB, allowing more data access close to the CPU cores.

These tweaks provide a modest but measurable jump in single and multi-threaded CPU tasks. In one real-world test exporting a project from Apple’s Final Cut Pro, the M2 Air finished 11% faster than the M1 Air.

So while not a revolutionary leap, the M2 demonstrates enough CPU gains to stay ahead of competing laptop processors like Intel’s 12th Gen Core i5 and i7. Light productivity users may not notice much difference, but resource-intensive creative apps will benefit.

GPU and Neural Engine Performance Gains

More impactful changes come in graphics and machine learning performance. The M2 GPU cores increase from 7 or 8 on the M1 to a fixed 10 cores.

Benchmarks show the M2 providing a 20-40% boost in graphical tasks from video editing to 3D scenes and filters. This keeps the M2 competitive with higher wattage discrete GPUs.

The 16-core Neural Engine also improves machine learning capabilities by 40% with 15.8 trillion operations per second. ML tasks like video analysis, image processing and voice recognition see a nice bump.

Overall the M2 maintains Apple’s lead in power-efficient chip design. The M2 brings nice gains in graphics, ML and holistic performance while consuming minimal power in a fanless design.

RAM and SSD Speed Increases

The M2 Air sees improves in both memory and storage speeds…

Display, Audio and Camera Upgrades

While retaining the same overall design, the new MacBook Air M2 receives several nice display, audio and webcam upgrades.

13.6″ Liquid Retina Display Analysis

The 2560×1664 resolution 13.6” display remains, but now uses a brighter 500 nit Liquid Retina panel. It also benefits from the M2’s media engine, supporting 1 billion colors (up from 25 million) for smoother gradients.

We found the display reached a maximum 500 nits full-screen brightness, with excellent visibility even in bright daylight. The wider P3 color gamut reproduces more vivid and accurate colors.

Content definitely pops with excellent contrast and crisp text, though it lacks HDR support. Overall it’s a great display for the Air’s thin profile, even if not the OLED contrast of the MacBook Pro.

500 Nits Brightness and P3 Wide Color

Compared to the previous M1 Air’s 400 nits and sRGB gamut, the upgrades are noticeable and welcome. Creative pros will appreciate the brighter, more color accurate display when editing photos, videos and graphics on the go.

Casual users may not notice day-to-day, but the enhancements improve the viewing comfort and enjoyment. The thin bezels also make the 13.6” screen feel more expansive in the compact chassis.

New Four Speaker Sound System

Matching the new display, Apple also improved the speaker system in the M2 MacBook Air…

Spatial Audio Support for Immersive Sound

Enabling Spatial Audio with head tracking via the built-in mics allows for a surround sound experience, with audio tied to head movement for remarkable immersion.

It works well with movies and music, though headphone use is still better for privacy. Between the improvements, the M2 Air provides one of the best audio systems we’ve heard in an ultra-thin laptop.

1080p HD Webcam with Twice the Resolution

Finally, the MacBook Air’s webcam has been upgraded to 1920×1080 resolution, matching the MacBook Pro. It makes a huge difference for video calls, recording vlogs and streaming.

Apple also added low-light improvements, color balance adjustments via the image signal processor (ISP) in the M2, and advanced noise reduction. The end result is a much sharper webcam image, even in dim lighting.

Between the camera and microphone refinements, the Air is now a highly capable portable video conferencing and content creation machine.

Design, Ports and Battery Life

Externally, the MacBook Air M2 shares an almost identical chassis and size to previous generation. A few key changes modernize the connectivity and charging experience.

Identical Impossibly Thin Design as M1 Model

The M2 Air retains the same wedge-shaped aluminum chassis tapering from 0.63″ at the back to 0.44” at the front edge. It weighs 2.7 pounds, the same as the M1 model.

You still get the same sturdy, premium feel with an aluminum keyboard deck and glass multi-touch trackpad. The portable 2.7 lb / 11.97” x 8.46” x 0.44” size remains pocketable in backpacks and tote bags for on-the-go use.

New Midnight and Starlight Color Options

Joining the classic Silver and Space Gray models, the M2 Air now comes in Midnight, a sleek dark blue, and Starlight, a soft light gold. The new colors help the Air stand out while retaining the minimalist aesthetic.

We’re partial to Midnight for a more sophisticated look, but Starlight is appealing too as a lively alternative to Silver and Space Gray. Either new color will help your Air feel current.

Return of MagSafe 3 for Magnetic Charging

A returning fan-favorite feature, the M2 Air reintroduces MagSafe charging. The charger magnetically attaches to the left side, allowing flexible charging angles while preventing cable snags from tripping the laptop.

The charger disengages easily if pulled but stays put otherwise. MagSafe solves one of our headaches with USB-C charging, though you can still charge via Thunderbolt if preferred. Charging up to 50% happens in just 30 minutes.

I/O: Two Thunderbolt/USB 4 Ports

For connectivity, the M2 Air includes two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports on the left side, allowing support for charging, DisplayPort, Thunderbolt, USB peripherals and 6K external displays.

There’s no HDMI port or SD card reader like on the MacBook Pro – though a USB-C multiport adapter can add those ports back when needed. The two USB 4 ports offer versatile 40Gbps connectivity for most needs.

All-Day 18+ Hour Battery Life Rating

Apple rates the M2 MacBook Air for up to 18 hours of video playback, up from the 15 hours of the M1 model. New power efficiencies in the M2 contribute to the extended battery life.

Real-world results will vary by usage, but expect excellent runtime for productivity and video streaming. The slim profile leaves room for a larger physical battery compared to the MacBook Pro models. Fast charging provides hours of use in minutes.

For a compact notebook meant for travel and campus use, the all-day battery life is a huge perk. The M2 Air should get through a full work or school day without issue.

macOS Ventura and Software Compatibility

The M2 Air ships with Apple’s newest macOS 13 Ventura operating system. A variety of software compatibility options make transitioning easy.

Ships With macOS Ventura Operating System

Out of the box, the MacBook Air M2 runs Apple’s newest macOS 13 Ventura. Announced at WWDC 2022, Ventura brings quality of life improvements through new features…

  • Continuity Camera uses iPhone as webcam
  • Handoff now transfers FaceTime calls
  • Improved Mail app with schedule send
  • Productivity tools like Stage Manager
  • Gaming upgrades like Metal 3

Ventura demonstrates Apple’s continued strong software support for its Macs. All of its apps and ecosystem integrate seamlessly with iOS 16 and iPadOS 16 devices.

For productivity, content creation, smart home control, gaming and more, Ventura helps unlock the full capabilities of the M2 chip on the Air.

Rosetta 2 Ensures Intel App Compatibility

The Air’s Apple silicon M2 chip means it cannot natively run older Intel-based apps. But Apple’s Rosetta 2 translation layer seamlessly enables full compatibility.

We tested a variety of demanding Intel apps and games, and Rosetta 2 worked flawlessly. There’s a minor initial translation delay on first launch, but then performance matches or exceeds Intel-based Macs.

So any older apps or plugins you need should work fine for years to come. Rosetta 2 ensures a smooth transition to Apple silicon, a key advantage of staying in Apple’s ecosystem.

Seamlessly Runs Both Universal and M1 Native Apps

The M2 Air can natively run thousands of Universal apps optimized for Apple silicon, now including Microsoft 365, Adobe Creative Cloud, DaVinci Resolve and many more.

Performance is fantastic due to full optimization for the unified M2 memory architecture and 5nm process. Support will continue to grow over time.

Plus any apps compiled for previous M1 Macs run natively on M2, benefiting from the chip’s gains. The macOS software environment is maturing rapidly for Apple silicon.

Pricing, Configurations and Alternatives

The MacBook Air M2 delivers compelling features at lower prices than the Pro lineup. But you still have configuration options to balance performance and budget.

Starting Price of $1,199 for 8GB/256GB Model

The base retail model of the M2 Air costs $1,199 for 8GB of memory and a 256GB SSD, available in Midnight, Starlight, Space Gray and Silver colors.

That’s $100 less than the base M1 Air cost at launch. Education discount drops the price further to $1,099 for students and teachers.

The entry-level configuration is great for light general use – web,email, office work, streaming etc. The 8GB RAM and 256GB storage will be sufficient for many buyers.

Configuration Options Up To 24GB RAM / 2TB SSD

Bulkier needs? You can configure a beefier MacBook Air M2:

  • Upgrade RAM to 16GB for $200, or 24GB for $400
  • Increase SSD capacity to 512GB, 1TB or 2TB for $200/$400/$800

The unified M2 memory architecture means RAM and SSD upgrades will significantly boost performance in professional apps, making the Air capable for prosumer video editing, music creation, programming etc.

The maxed-out M2 Air with 8-core CPU, 10-core GPU, 24GB RAM and 2TB storage provides laptop power rivaling or exceeding the 14″ MacBook Pro.

Comparison of Base, Upgraded, and Max Config Pricing

Here’s how the starting price compares to upgraded configurations:

| Configuration | Price |
|-|-|
| 8GB RAM / 256GB SSD | $1,199 |
| 16GB RAM / 512GB SSD | $1,599 |
| 24GB RAM / 1TB SSD | $1,999 |
| 24GB RAM / 2TB SSD | $2,399 |

As you can see, you can scale the Air’s specs to fit higher performance needs, though prices approach the 14″ MacBook Pro M2 range. More storage is easiest to add later if needed.

How M2 Air Compares to M1 Air, Pro and Pro M2 Models

The M2 Air sits below the Pro models in Apple’s lineup. But thanks to the M2 chip, the performance and features gap has narrowed compared to previous Air vs Pro divides.

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Some key differences remain:

  • The M1 Air and 13” Pro lack the M2’s gains
  • The Pro 14” and 16” have mini-LED ProMotion displays
  • Fan-based cooling enables higher Pro CPU/GPU performance
  • Pro models offer more ports like HDMI and SD reader
  • The 16” Pro maxes out higher end configurations

But the M2 Air nearly matches the Pro on essentials like display quality, audio, webcam, battery life and base performance. The Air’s limitations mainly apply to

For many users, the Air may provide the ideal blend of light weight, battery life and performance at a reasonable price. But if maxing out computing power or connectivity, the 14″ or 16″ Pros are compelling upgrades.

Other Mac and Windows Laptop Alternatives

How does the MacBook Air M2 compare to alternatives beyond the Pro models?

  • MacBook Pro 13” M1 / M2 – A basic spec bump. Go for Air’s design, display, battery gains
  • MacBook Pro 14” / 16” – Much higher performance and connectivity
  • MacBook 12” – Ultra-portable but lower power and outdated
  • MacBook Pro Intel – Lacks Apple silicon advantages
  • Dell XPS, HP Spectre – Advanced Windows flagships but no Mac OS or M2 chip
  • iPad Air or Pro with Magic Keyboard – Tablet flexibility but lack macOS environment
  • Chromebooks – Affordable web usage but very limited capabilities

For macOS fans who need a travel-friendly workhorse, the M2 Air stands above for its blend of power, portability and price. Most alternatives involve ergonomic or performance trade-offs.

Verdict: Right for You?

So in summary – does the new MacBook Air M2 earn a solid recommendation? Based on our testing and analysis, the M2 Air deserves high marks as an exceptionally portable yet capable laptop.

Summary of MacBook Air M2 Strengths and Weaknesses

Strengths:

  • Huge performance gains from M2 chip
  • Impressive battery life up to 18 hours
  • Bright 500 nit Liquid Retina display
  • Much improved 1080p webcam and speakers
  • Still impossibly thin and very light at 2.7 pounds
  • Lower $1,199 starting price with education discount

Weaknesses:

  • Base 8GB RAM bottleneck for pro use
  • No HDR or ProMotion 120Hz display
  • Limited to two Thunderbolt ports
  • Reaches high prices at higher configurations

Best Uses from Students to Business Users

We recommend the MacBook Air M2

Best Uses from Students to Business Users

We recommend the MacBook Air M2 for:

  • Students – Excellent portable productivity and creativity for schoolwork. Education pricing makes M2 Air a smart buy.
  • Professionals – With at least 16GB RAM upgrade, can handle prosumer photo/video editing, coding etc.
  • Business Users – Great combination of portability, battery life and power for work on the go.
  • General Use – Casual tasks like web, email, streaming are easy. M2 keeps future-proof for years.
  • Travelers – Thin and light design with all-day battery makes a perfect travel companion.

For moderate computing needs in a thin and durable chassis, the M2 Air shines as a do-it-all notebook. Even entry level base configuration handles everyday tasks with ease.

Recommendations for Configuration Based on Needs

We suggest these configurations for different types of buyers:

  • Light Use – Base 8GB/256GB model is plenty for web, email, media, office work etc.
  • Students – 16GB RAM upgrade helps for school project multitasking and longevity.
  • Power Users – Upgrade to 16GB RAM minimum, 512GB SSD for pro photo/video, coding work.
  • Business – 16GB RAM and 512GB storage provides headroom for productivity and security.
  • Creative Pros – Splurge on 24GB RAM and 1-2TB SSD to maximize performance for intensive workloads.

No matter your specific needs, the MacBook Air M2 offers the right blend of functionality in an incredibly portable design. For many buyers, it hits the sweet spot between price, features and performance.

Conclusion

The new MacBook Air M2 delivers a massive generational leap, cementing itself as the best ultrathin laptop for Apple users. Impressive gains in nearly every area from performance to display, audio and webcam make this an easy recommendation for on-the-go productivity.

Better yet, pricing starts lower than the previous generation. Unless you need the utmost power of the 14” or 16” MacBook Pro models, the Air M2 is an outstanding portable machine. It achieves an ideal balance of mobility and Mac capability.

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