This is what everyone has been waiting for and we finally got our hands on it, the all new redesigned Apple MacBook Air with the brand spanking new Apple M2 chip. Back at WWDC 2022, this was, or rather is the one device that seriously stole the spotlight and with good reason. So let’s take a quick look, shall we?
As mentioned, the new Air is a whole new redesign that now places it in line with the MacBook Pro 14-inch and 16-inch family. Gone is the thin silhouette with the tapered cheese wedge shaped design with the rounded feet and in is the equally thin but rounded corners with the larger pancake-like feet that has obviously been borrowed from its bigger counterparts. We really don’t have much to complain about here and it’s a handsome design all around. In addition, it even comes in a tad lighter compared to the previous MacBook Air, at roughly 1.24kg / 2.7lbs.
But perhaps the best part about the new design are the new colourways! Replacing the Gold colour from the previous, you can now choose between the new Starlight that we have here or the really beautiful Midnight.
Now don’t get us wrong, Starlight is still really beautiful and it’s a really comfortable colour to look at and use on a daily basis. Not too flamboyant but yet still with a little bit of style. But Midnight is seriously an eyecatcher especially when it comes to a MacBook. To note, the last time Apple did such a dark colorway for any of their MacBook was way back in 2006 with the original polycarbonate MacBook. We’re glad to see such an option back.
With all that said and done however, we do also feel a little perplexed by this new redesign of the MacBook Air. Perhaps because it’s been that long but we feel that the tapered cheese wedge design has been synonymous with the Air. However, this changes that. Somehow or another, by utilizing the same design principles as the larger MacBook Pros, the new Air feels more like a Pro than an Air. In addition, the added performance from the M2 kind of adds to that fact even further. Though more on that later.
For now, let’s focus on the display because this is one of the major changes apart from the new M2 chip.
Just like the design of the chassis itself, the new Air is adopting the notch from its larger counterparts. This means that Apple has managed to squeeze in a slightly larger display while retaining the same overall footprint. So you now get a 13.6-inch IPS display with a resolution of 2,560 x 1,664 running at 60Hz, providing 224 pixels per inch, alongside a 500 nits max brightness, support for 10-bit and P3 as well as True Tone.
To be very honest, it isn’t that big of an upgrade as compared to the Liquid Retina XDR displays that can be found on the Pro 14-inch and 16-inch which also support ProMotion no less. But even so, it’s very much a welcome. Thanks to the notched design, the Menu Bar can utilize that additional space so as not to intrude into your main viewing area and it also helps to reduce the bezel thickness, giving the new Air a much more refined look that’s much more modern. In addition, the higher max brightness also helps a little more when you’re using the laptop in bright daylight conditions. And as with most of Apple’s displays, this is just downright great. It has a high resolution with great color coverage and accuracy, making content consumption quite the joy and of course, it works well when you’re down for some serious work with all your documents, creative applications and much much more.
At this point in time, there might be some of you who might still be divisive when it comes to the notch especially since this display is just a traditional IPS LCD. In our experience, we’ve to say that it really wouldn’t bother you as the user all that much. It’s well out of the way and Apple has definitely fixed most, if not all of the issues when it comes to the relationship between the Menu Bar and the notch. And even if you view your content in fullscreen, the blacks are generally dark enough to hide the outline of the notch in most lighting conditions. All in all, it’s not going to be an issue. Of course, it’s not the best display out there in the world, it’s no OLED or mini-LED, but it’s still going to be great for most people.
Speaking of that notch, we do have to talk about the new and improved FaceTime camera. Apple has finally upped the resolution from 720p to 1080p and we can only really say that this is a step in the right direction. There is now much more detail and overall image quality is an improvement for sure. The microphones are also great as usual, your voice will come off clean and clear. But if it’s still not enough for you, well, perhaps Continuity Camera is exactly what you need. We’re definitely going to check that out in the near future.
And now we come to the Magic Keyboard and we’re glad that Apple has basically taken the keyboard from the MacBook Pro 14-inch and stuck it in here. So compared to the previous MacBook Air, you now get a full-sized F-row and the much larger Esc key. This is simply a great keyboard and good tactile feedback, decent key travel and overall just provides a pleasant and comfortable typing experience. Definitely not forgetting Touch ID as well which is situated in its usual corner on the top right. If you’re used to any of the recent MacBooks, this will feel right at home. Which is what we would say about the Force Touch trackpad as well. There’s just nothing in the Windows world that really comes close to what Apple has been doing for years. This is tried and tested and arguably the best in the industry. No complaints here whatsoever.
Now another huge visual design change would be the speakers. Unlike the previous Air, there aren’t any perforations flanking both sides of the keyboard that would’ve been speaker grilles. Instead, it’s now just the clean aluminium unibody. From what we can tell, while the position of the speakers aren’t all that different, the bulk of the projection of the sound comes from the keyboard deck area. In addition, Apple has also upgraded it to a four-speaker sound system with support for Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos no less. The highs are clean and the mids are strong and forward. It goes without saying that bass and sub-bass are certainly lacking but the strength of the beat is still going to be there. In general, it’s just gonna be great for daily usage and on the occasional events you just want to listen to some music and be cozy.
All in all, it is a slight improvement compared to the previous Air and definitely going to be better than most Windows-based laptops out there.
And now, MagSafe. MagSafe 3 to be exact.
The new Air now comes with MagSafe 3 and it just makes sense. Not only do you need not worry any longer about snagging cables and laptops flying, it frees up one Type-C / Thunderbolt 4 port when you do have the laptop plugged in at your desk. In addition, depending on the SKU you select, you can either get it with the standard 30W USB-C power adapter, the new 35W Dual USB-C power adapter or obtain fast charge capability with the 67W USB-C power adapter.
We have that new dual port power adapter here with us today and we can only really say it’s nifty but not the best. While you can charge both your MacBook Air and your iPhone at the same time, or any other thing you fancy, charging speed isn’t going to be the best for the Air. Unless compactness and versatility is your priority, our recommendation would be to opt for the 67W power adapter.
In any case, should you wish to charge using Type-C or perhaps use your own GaN charger, by all means. This new Air will still support that thanks to Thunderbolt 4. Also to mention that on the opposite side, you do still get your trusty 3.5mm headphone jack that now also supports high-impedance headphones, so that’s a nice touch.
Finally, let’s dive right into the main topic. The new Apple M2 chip. Now, we only had the laptop for a couple days thus far and this is but just our first impressions of it. So definitely stay tuned for the full review coming soon where we will test much much more, including gaming!
For a start however, let’s take a look at how it performs in Cinebench R23. To note, the MacBook Air we have is equipped with the Apple M2 chip with the 8-core CPU and 10-core GPU with 16GB of Unified Memory and 1TB of SSD storage.
In Cinebench R23, the Apple M2 chip in the Air managed a Multi-Core score of 6,912 and a Single-Core score of 1,589. For context, the MacBook Pro 13-inch (M2) managed a score of 8,693 and 1,581 respectively while the original M1 on the previous MacBook Air managed a score of roughly 6,300 and 1,500 respectively and on the previous MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1), that scored 7,759 and 1,503 respectively.
Well that’s quite the number of numbers, so let’s break it down simply. In essence, the claims Apple has made really only applies to the actively cooled M2 in the Pro 13-inch and not the Air. If we’re comparing the new generation Air (M2) with the previous generation Air (M1), both of which are fanless designs, the performance difference in % for the CPU comes down to about a 10% improvement unlike the 15-18% improvement as compared to the actively cooled M2.
So in essence, it does indeed perform better than the previous MacBook Air with the M1 chip but still lags behind slightly as compared to the previous MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1) and definitely more so as compared to the MacBook Pro 13-inch (M2). Apple has definitely done so tweaking the power curves here for the new Air, especially since it lacks the fan and thus honestly, the results aren’t all that surprising. It is also worth noting that although you don’t get the same amount of performance as compared to the Pro 13-inch (M2), temperatures are definitely much better with the M2 chip in the Air only ever surging to about 90 degrees celsius in burst workloads and maintaining just about 68 degrees celsius in sustained workloads. Much better as compared to the ridiculous 90+ degrees celsius on the actively cooled M2 in the Pro 13-inch. We also do have to mention that the M2 chip does also bring other benefits in the form of the much larger memory bandwidth of 100GB/s and the inclusion of the media engine borrowed from the M1 Pro, allowing much better performance with ProRes and RAW. So while the raw CPU performance isn’t that huge a jump in a fanless design, it is still overall a huge upgrade of a chip.
As for battery life, it still is as great as ever and you can easily get 10 hours of general use with mixed usage on different applications and software. This is with the screen brightness set to 50% and with Wi-Fi turned on. Going a day without the power adapter in tow is perfectly possible.