Apple MacBook Air M2 First Look: a breath of fresh Air
The evolution of the personal computing industry over the past ten years has seen a shift towards smaller, lighter, and more powerful machines than ever before. This shift towards portability was arguably kickstarted by the original MacBook Air, which was launched to much aplomb in January 2008.
The MacBook Air has had the same iconic tapered design that has inspired a steady stream of competitors, all designed at creating the perfect marriage of portability and power. It was one of the thinnest Intel laptops of its time, and with the advances in Intel chipsets over the years, the last Intel-powered MacBook Air had considerably better battery life than the original.
2020 saw a paradigm shift in computing as Apple ditched Intel in favor of its own Silicon, based on ARM architecture. At the time of the MacBook Air with M1, I was using a 16-inch MacBook Pro with an Intel i9 processor and 64GB of RAM, and the base level MacBook Air with 8GB of RAM just blew it away. Until the launch of the M1 Max processor last year, this MacBook Air was my go-to computer, and now, the MacBook Air has finally received the refresh we’ve all been waiting for.
MacBook Air M2: A new era for the Air
The new MacBook Air M2 heralds a shift in Apple’s design language, away from the iconic MacBook Air look, and brings it more in line with the design debuted with the MacBook Pro 14 and 16 last year. However, it still retains everything that made the MacBook Air special.
Instead of the angled design, the new MacBook Air M2 deploys a more symmetrical design but unlike the MacBook Pro, it still feels super light. The lack of ports on the right-hand side, and the lack of an SD card reader, both help retain thinness that ensures the new MacBook Air M2 is still a MacBook Air at heart: a lightweight yet incredibly powerful computer with excellent battery life.
The MacBook Air M2 is the marriage of power and portability
I love my MacBook Pro 14 and everything it offers, except for one thing: it’s on the heavier side. It’s not as heavy as previous MacBook Pros, but in returning to everything that made the MacBook Pro special, Apple had to sacrifice the weight. With the new MacBook Air M2, the company has found a great balance between the Pro features that most people would like, and the portability that everyone needs.
I really like the array of ports, although all of them being hosted on just the left side of the new MacBook Air M2 can make things awkward when you have multiple things to plug in. The biggest improvement is the addition of Magsafe which meansyour Mac won’t go flying if you trip on the cable, and most importantly, frees up the USB-C port so you can plug in two peripherals while also charging your Mac. There’s also
The right features the headphone jack, the same way it was on the MacBook Air with M1. There’s clearly space on the bezel to enable another port or two, and this is likely going to be one of the biggest complaints with the new MacBook Air M2, but there are likely to be considerations under the hood that prevented this from being possible. It’s also possible that this was a conscious design choice from Apple to help further separate the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air lines.
Slimmer, faster, sleeker, quieter
This is the first year of the MacBook Air where the changes are immediately noticeable. In previous years, the changes were mostly under-the-hood, but the design shift this year means you can spot the new MacBook Air M2 from afar.
The change in design so it’s flat and not wedged means that although the new MacBook Air M2 only weighs 0.1 pounds less than the MacBook Air with M1 (2.7 pounds vs 2.8 pounds), the weight is more evenly distributed. When you pick up the M1 Air from the front of the machine, it feels very heavy because a lot of the weight is packed into the rear of the machine. With the new MacBook Air M2, it feels significantly lighter because the weight is evenly spread, and the overall machine is 4.8mm thinner than the thickest part of the previous wedge design.
The new MacBook Air comes with the new M2 chipset. The M1 was a gamechanger, and the M2 is the evolution of this. Apple says that the new chip delivers 40% faster performance in Final Cut Pro, and Photoshop is up to 20% faster. These performance improvements don’t come at the cost of battery life, with Apple saying the battery can deliver up to 18 hours of video playback. The new, optional, 67-watt power adapter means it can charge up to 50% in 30 minutes, a large improvement over the previous Air.
The new design has also yielded a switch to a fan-less design and this machine is so quiet. Even running 50+ tabs in Chrome as well as a bunch of other apps, there are little to no heat concerns, there’s no noise and it’s a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Of course, this is my first day using the new MacBook Air M2, so we’ll see whether it holds up during our full review.
A great first experience
I really enjoy the MacBook Air line-up as it’s the perfect machine to throw in your bag for a quick trip, meeting, or even just in case you need it while you’re out for lunch. The new iteration is light, fast, and powerful, and the design change is the biggest improvement to the MacBook Air lineup since the original Air.
The model I’ve been testing is the entry-level version with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, but I have a more powerful model with the upgraded 10-core processor, 24GB of RAM, and 1TB of storage arriving in a few weeks and I am very excited to start using that as my go-to portable machine. I’ll probably keep the MacBook Pro 14 around for events like trade shows where I need the added power, but the new MacBook Air M2 will be my new go-to on-the-go MacBook.