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  • Soon Kai Hong

Apple MacBook Air M2 Review: Still THE MacBook To Get?

This is the laptop that everyone has been talking about and with good reason. The MacBook Air has always kind of been the de facto MacBook for anybody, really. If anyone were to ask us what kind of laptop they should get, for school, for work or perhaps to get into the Mac ecosystem, this is the one laptop that we would recommend. And so we now have the latest MacBook Air with the new M2 chip and this is a whole new redesign and brings quite a lot of great things to the table. But is this still THE MacBook to recommend? We’ve to say… the answer is not so simple any longer.

So what’s new with the new MacBook Air? Well, honestly, quite a lot of things, starting first with

the design.

Compared to the previous generation which featured the iconic wedge shape that has always been around since the very start, it has been replaced with a more uniformed look that puts it in line with the MacBook Pro 14 and 16-inch. In fact, it’s actually slimmer overall at 11.3mm thin and weighs just about 1.24kg. This is still a laptop that you can just pick up, slip it in your bag and bring it around wherever you go.

And of course, we have to talk about colours and as you can tell, we have the new Starlight colourway which is a really pale, yellow, gold-ish colour that’s really easy on the eyes. Now if you want something a little more classic, there are still the silver and space gray options available which we all know and love but if you want something darker, something meaner, you can opt for the brand new midnight colour that’s the talk of the town. It’s been more than a decade since we got the option for a dark coloured MacBook so this is definitely really refreshing but it’s not without its quirks.

While we did not get the experience ourselves, many other reviewers have noted that fingerprints are most easily visible on the Midnight version and chipping of the anodization is not a question of if but when, especially near the ports. So if you’re planning to get the Midnight colorway, do be really careful if you want to keep your MacBook Air to be as pristine as it can be. Or you can just opt for other colours like Starlight here.

Now with the new redesign, you do also get a much better display which is ever so slightly larger as well. It’s a 13.6-inch IPS panel with a resolution of 2,560 x 1,664 giving you 224 pixels per inch. The panel does also support 10-bit with P3 colour and a slightly higher max brightness of 500 nits.

In all regards, it is a fantastic panel and it is simply great for general usage like documents and content consumption while also being doubly fantastic for content creation as well, thanks to the color coverage and accuracy of 100% sRGB, about 98% P3 and nearly 90% of AdobeRGB.

Our only gripe about it, or perhaps our only wish about it is the fact that this display is just limited to 60Hz which is really a bummer in our opinion. While we understand that the ProMotion display is basically reserved for the laptops with the Pro moniker, we wished there’s some kind of in-between standard per se that allows a 90Hz refresh rate. There are already many other laptops in this category that support 2.5K or 3K resolutions at 90Hz, so we’re pretty sure Apple could do it, but they chose not to. A slight bummer for sure.

Now as you might already have noticed, in order to fit that larger display, Apple has shaved the bezels and there is now the inclusion of the notch. To each their own with regards to the notch but we honestly didn’t find it intrusive at all and despite the IPS nature of the display, Apple has managed to hide it pretty well even when it’s all black on screen. The display is larger, it’s a better display no less, the pros surely outweigh the cons here. In addition, you do get a 1080p webcam with that notch and all we can say is, about time Apple.

Now is it the best webcam out there, definitely not. But compared to the previous generation capping out at just 720p, 1080p is a really nice improvement. You look great and sound great, no major complaints here.

We move downwards to the keyboard and trackpad and there’s really nothing much to say here except that they are great. Like simply great. It feels great, it types great, there’s Touch ID available in the corner and the trackpad is the best in the business. If you’re familiar with the MacBook Pro 14 and 16-inch, you will feel right at home with this.

But now we want to talk about speakers because this is probably the third most distinct difference coming after the design and the display. Unlike the previous MacBook Air, there aren’t any speaker grille holes flanking the sides of the keyboard any longer. That is usually where the speakers are positioned in a MacBook but that is no longer the case here. At first we thought that the speakers were still at the sides, but simply brought closer and pumped out sound through the keyboard deck instead, which quite many Windows-based laptops do.

But that’s not where it actually is. The speakers are now actually placed at the top of the keyboard deck and if you look closer, you can then see the speaker grilled tucked away in that crevice.

So does that affect audio quality? Well, not at all. In fact, it’s the best sounding MacBook Air by far. While it does not have as much bass and thump as compared to the larger MacBook Pro 14 and 16-inch, they do sound really good and for just casual usage or even listening to music on the side, it’s great.


Apple brought back Magsafe and it’s plain great. Depending on the configuration, you’ll be able to choose between the different chargers available with added cost, or not, but the fact remains that you get Magsafe and will support the 67W fast charging. But perhaps the biggest benefit is the fact that you no longer need to use one USB-C port for charging, which means more ports for you to use in practice. Though perhaps that’s not much of a concern considering how good the battery life is. Apple claims up to 15 hours on Wi-Fi and we can say that we could get at least 10 hours with mixed usage, easily a day’s use, no worries at all.

In any case, ports, battery life, pretty great.

And now we have to talk about that new Apple M2 chip that’s under the hood. We did have our experience with it previously with the MacBook Pro 13-inch, but that’s an actively-cooled M2 chip which basically means there’s a fan. But here on the MacBook Air, it’s passively-cooled, which means there isn’t a fan. If you know some basic physics, you already know there’s going to be a difference.

So we put it to the test starting with Cinebench R23 in which the passively-cooled M2 scored 6,912 and 1,589 on Multi-Core and Single-Core respectively. In comparison to the actively-cooled M2 (8,693 / 1,581), it is actually quite a fair bit lower in terms of Multi-Core. No doubt, this is pretty much because of the thermal and power limitations that Apple imposed on the fanless design to keep things stable.

At the start of the test, the M2 chip in the Air would ramp up all the way to 89 degrees celsius, pushing as much GHz as possible, but after the 4 to 5 minute mark, it will start to scale back down in GHz to drop the temperature to a more respectable 70 degrees celsius thereabouts and remain there thereafter.

Thus when we ran a benchmark like GeekBench, the passively-cooled M2 was able to score pretty much exactly the same results as the actively-cooled M2, all because the test didn’t really took more than 3-4 minutes, well within the range of which the MacBook Air would push that M2 as much as possible before scaling it back.

So that’s the magic number. About 5 minutes thereabouts in sustained workloads. Although the M2 chip is really capable and you can throw high resolution files at it and do 3D renders, or multi-layered video editing, and it does a pretty good job per se especially with the borrowed media engine from the Pro, this isn’t its main focus for sure. The MacBook Air is still primarily a MacBook for general usage with multiple Safari or Chrome tabs open, with various applications running at once, or somewhat lighter tasks like photo editing. Things that don't require sustained performance. In that regard, this performs just as well as the M2 chip in the MacBook Pro 13-inch. Once again, it’s just a great chip.

Thus far, it would seem that we have pretty much only good things to say about the MacBook Air M2 and you’ll be right, this is a laptop that simply gets many things right. But there is one major factor to consider as to whether or not this is still the MacBook to recommend. And that's the price.

The new MacBook Air M2 starts at 1,199 US Dollars or 1,699 Singapore Dollars. For that, you’ll get the M2 with the 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU alongside 8GB of Unified Memory and 256GB of SSD storage.

In our opinion, and alongside many others out there, this is a deceptive price and even more so when you consider the fact that the 256GB SSD has been confirmed to be very much slower as compared to the previous generation. 8GB of RAM is really not enough in this day and age and 256GB of storage is going to fill up pretty quickly. On top of that, if you want the 67W fast charger, you will have to top up a little as well.

The ideal configuration for the MacBook Air would instead be getting the M2 with the 8-core CPU and 10-core GPU, alongside 16GB of Unified Memory and 512GB of SSD storage. This will then set you back 1,699 US Dollars or 2,449 Singapore Dollars. Not only are you getting 16GB of RAM, which should really be the standard nowadays, but also the more storage that’s also much faster and the 67W fast charger is a free upgrade option.

But at this point, you’re looking at a much more expensive MacBook Air that isn’t really near that affordable thousand dollar price point any longer. In fact, if you want more performance and an overall better experience, you can just fork out a little more can get the baseline MacBook Pro 14-inch instead which will not only net you the better performing M1 Pro, but also a much better display, better speakers, and a much better ports selection to boot.

Conversely on the other hand, if you’re just looking for a basic MacBook to get into the Apple ecosystem, you don’t really need to look at the M2. The previous generation MacBook Air with the M1 chip is going to be plenty great and it starts at 999 US Dollars or 1,449 Singapore Dollars. Definitely much more palatable even when compared to the baseline MacBook Air M2.

We do like the MacBook Air M2, and we do think it’s a superb laptop that’s fantastic for just about anybody who wants something like this. But do note that the price is deceptive and with that, it kind of sits in this weird spot between the previous generation MacBook Air M1 and the MacBook Pro 14-inch.

So is it still the MacBook to recommend for most people? It really isn’t as straightforward as before and if we really want to fix an answer, we will actually lean towards no. If you’re just getting into MacOS and the ecosystem and whatnot, the MacBook Air M1 is going to be a much better entry point. You’re not losing much and you’re saving quite a bit. As long as you don’t spec up that is. On the other hand, if you’re a creative person who requires that performance from your laptop, the MacBook Pro 14-inch is just a little more in price for a whole lot more. It’ll definitely be a much better purchase in the long run.

But if you really want this new MacBook Air M2, be it for whatever reason, the ideal configuration is about 1700 US Dollars or 2500 Singapore Dollars. Just be prepared to fork out at least that much.

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