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Hands on: MacBook Air (M2, 2022) Review

Image: © Future

Our early time with the MacBook Air (M2, 2022) shows that Apple could have another hit on its hands, with a slimmer, lighter design and big boost in performance thanks to the new M2 chip.

Pros

  • +Thinner and lighter
  • +Larger and brighter screen
  • +M2 looks promising
  • +Up to 24GB memory

Cons

  • Only supports one external screen
  • More expensive than M1 model
  • The notch returns!

Amidst the beta software, developer tools, APIs and funky new features Apple revealed at this year’s WWDC 2022 keynote at its headquarters in Cupertino sat a gem of a new laptop: a brand-new MacBook Air (M2, 2022).

TechRadar was at the in-person event — one of the first in years, thanks to pandemic-related lockdowns — and was able to spend a decent amount of time kicking the tires on the new laptop in order to create our first hands-on review of the atmospherically thin new Air.

The current MacBook Air (M1, 2020) is our pick for the best laptop you can buy right now, and from our brief time with the 2022 MacBook Air (powered by the freshly announced Apple M2 chip) there’s a very good chance Apple has another winner on its hands.

Image: © Future

Price and availability

Apple has yet to announce a ship date for the new laptop, but preorders are now live as of June 6. 

This MacBook Air will be available in July starting at $1,199 ( £1,249). The M1-based Air will continue to be available for $999, though education users can grab one for a little less at $899.

This leap in price is understandable, but it means it feels like poorer value than the older MacBook Air, which is a shame, as one of the best things about the 20202 MacBook Air was its low price and excellent performance.

Image: © Future

One of the most radical design overhauls we’ve seen Apple make to an iconic product has reinvigorated the new MacBook Air, and it looks far more modern and elegant. As the name suggests, the MacBook Air is the thinnest and lightest MacBook Apple produces, and with the new MacBook Air 2022 model, Apple has made further improvements, shrinking the overall size and weight of the laptop, while actually increasing the screen size.

The company’s engineers have managed this in part by slimming down the bezels that surround the screen; the chunky borders of previous MacBook Air screens were beginning to look rather outdated, especially when compared to high-end Windows rivals like the Dell XPS 13, so the thin bezels in the new model make this MacBook Air look much more modern.

Image: © Future

The Air’s webcam has been upped to 1080p, to match those found in the new MacBook Pros, and this boost in resolution (alongside improved image and low-light handling with the new M2 chip), will be welcome for anyone who relies on video conferencing, or making video calls to friends and family. And in this age of hybrid working, that’s most of us.

Less welcome will be the news that the combination of  bigger webcam and thinner bezels means there’s a visible ‘notch’ that surrounds the webcam and drops down into the menu bar. This is the same as the notch found in the MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021) and MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021), and when it debuted with those MacBooks, it proved divisive.

Image: © Future

We didn’t mind mind the notch, as Apple expanded the screen upwards, actually giving you more screen real estate, which made the trade-off worth it.

The same is true with the MacBook Air (M2, 2022), which comes with a 13.6-inch screen, compared with the 13.3-inch of the previous model. The resolution has also been upped from 2,560 x 1,600 to 2,560 x 1,664. This means the larger screen doesn’t lose sharpness.

The new Liquid Retina screen is also brighter by 100nits, so it’s now 500nits, and also now supports one billion colors. From our time with the M2-powered 2022 MacBook Air, we could see an immediate improvement in the vibrancy of the screen in the new model. There’s no ProMotion support, however.

Another big design change is that the MacBook Air is no longer a ‘wedge’ shape with a thinner front and thicker back; instead, it’s uniform.

We’re also getting new colors. People hoping for vibrant, pastel-like colors like the iMac 24-inch will be disappointed by the relatively low-key Space Gray, Silver, Starlight, and Midnight Blue colors, they do look good in person. We saw all of them at Apple’s event, and our favorite by far was Midnight Blue. Each color comes with matching power cables — a supremely Apple touch. 

Outside of the different shades available, the laptop features MagSafe charging as well as two Thunderbolt ports and a headphone jack. It’s also just as slim and lightweight as we hoped for: just 11mm thick and weighing in at 2.7 pounds.

The standard base model MacBook Air will ship with a 30W charger, but you can opt to upgrade this to a 67W adapter for $59, which can get you to 80-percent battery capacity in just 20 minutes. 

Image: © Future

In our hands-on time, we didn’t get to fully test out the performance of the new MacBook Air, but we liked what we saw.

The new M2 chip powering it is a second-generation, 5-nanometer chip that Apple claims will offer an 18% faster CPU, 35% faster GPU (now 10 cores), and a 40% faster neural engine than its predecessor.

The past version of the laptop came with the Apple M1 SoC or system on a chip, which combines CPU, GPU, and other components into an 8-core processor capable of surprisingly stunning performance. 

The 2020 model was much more powerful than the Intel-powered version it replaced, working 3.5 times faster when it comes to CPU performance and 5 times faster for its GPU performance. The M2 chip brings a lot more to the table.

In our brief time with the MacBook Air, which was running macOS Monterey since the new macOS Ventura won’t launch until later this year, we found it to be fast and responsive, even with multiple apps open at once. We had a quick play in Final Cut Pro, editing a movie with multiple 4K sources, and it performed brilliantly — and was completely silent thanks to its lack of fans.

We’ll give the MacBook Air (M2, 2022) a more thorough review soon, but our early hands-on time with it shows that Apple could have another hit on its hands.

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