Apple changed the game for ultraportable laptops when it came out with its impressive M1-powered MacBook Air in 2021 and the inclusion of the more powerful M2 chip in this model has lifted the bar further. This model has even better performance, a slightly larger, brighter and higher-resolution screen, and a new squarish-look all-aluminium body that comes in four colours. It also sees the return of the magnetically-attached MagSafe power connector (in matching colours). If you're looking for a thin and lightweight but powerful laptop with great ease of use, the M2-powered MacBook Air should be high on your list.
Price: From $1899
The famous wedge shape is gone, but the MacBook Air is still thin and light.
With this new M2 model, gone is the familiar wedge-shaped shell that the MacBook Air has sported since its inception back in 2008, when Steve Jobs famously slid the first MacBook Air out of an office envelope on stage.
The new 1.13cm-thick squared off chassis now looks more like an extra-thin MacBook Pro. Starting at $1899, it's $100 more affordable than the similarly M2-equipped entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro, and quite a bit cheaper than the 14-inch MacBook Pro that comes with the more powerful M2 Pro or M2 Max chips.
The MacBook Air remains the gateway to Apple's laptop family and is the first port of call Apple notebook for anybody looking for the slimmest and lightest model for on-the-go computing without sacrificing processing power, especially if you want an alternative to Microsoft Windows-based machines.
The previous MacBook Air model had a smaller screen (13.3in), wedge shape, and an M1 processor. This current MacBook Air has a 13.6-inch screen using Apple's Liquid Retina display technology. It's brighter than the M1 model by a claimed 100nits, and is powered by the faster, next-generation Apple M2 processor. It's even a tad lighter at just 1.24kg (versus 1.29kg).
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How does the MacBook Air M2 perform?
Our test model MacBook Air's M2 chip has an 8-core CPU (main processor) and 8-core GPU (graphics processor) and includes a 16-core Neural Engine for machine learning computations. Plus there's 8GB of Unified Memory, all on the one chip. This model also includes 256GB of solid-state drive (SSD) for storage.
You can choose to option-up this entry-level model with a 10-core GPU for an extra $150 and either 16GB (add $300) or 24GB (add $600) of Unified Memory. Storage options start at 512GB for an extra $300, through 1TB for $600 or 2TB for $1200.
Performance of the M2 chip in this MacBook Air is a good step up from the equivalent M1 model
Performance in our benchmark testing showed our entry-level M2 MacBook Air to be a good step up from the equivalent M1 model, with the latest GeekBench 5 performance measurement software showing a score of 9022 for the CPU and 23869 for the graphics (compared to 7638 and 18636 for the M1 model).
Storage performance was slower though, with 1516MBps read and 1394MBps write, compared to 2835MBps read and 2750MBps write for the M1 model we tested.
Wi-Fi performance was much better on this model, with 42MBps using Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) and 59MBps using Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax). This compares very favourably with the Wi-Fi 5 of the previously tested M1 MacBook Air, which didn't have Wi-Fi 6.
Battery life in our worst-case-scenario testing proved to be not as long as the previous MacBook Air (only 5hr 56min compared to 7hr 47min), but the M2 MacBook Air's brighter and higher resolution screen plays a part in that. All-day battery life in normal use should be no problem.
The screen is larger, brighter and higher resolution
This M2 MacBook Air's 13.6-inch screen gave us a measured 448nits brightness, compared to 340nits for its M1 predecessor, and the current model's resolution is slightly higher at 2560 x 1664 pixels, compared to 2560 x 1600 pixels for the 13.3-inch M1 MacBook Air.
The screen is very good overall, supporting P3 colour and Apple's True Tone technology. It's not quite as good as the latest 14-inch MacBook Pro's screen, which we tested at the same time, but that model starts at $3199. When watching movies we noticed slight backlight bleed, but this is by no means a dealbreaker.
The M2 MacBook Air has also been upgraded to a 1080p FaceTime HD camera at the top of the screen, hidden in a dark 'notch' created by the extra-thin screen borders. Apps should be 'notch aware' though and not obscured by it.
The return of the magnetically-attached MagSafe power connector frees up the two USB-C Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports for external devices.
We found this M2 MacBook Air has a lot to like about it, including a very good backlit 'Magic Keyboard' with built-in Touch ID fingerprint recognition, an excellent spacious pressure-sensitive touchpad, and a sturdy overall build quality.
There's no fan noise because like the M1 model, there's internal fan. This means the MacBook Air is still totally silent, no matter what type of work it's doing.
The M2 MacBook Air has four-speaker sound (versus two speakers on the M1 model) which is enjoyable overall. It doesn't have quite the bass response and detail of the 14-inch MacBook Pro, but again this is to be expected. The MacBook Air's ambient audio won't have you reaching for headphones for personal listening.
Wired connectivity is limited to two high-speed USB-C Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports on one side, plus a 3.5mm headphone port on the other side that now supports high-impedance headphones. Wireless connectivity is via Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0.
Fortunately, the versatility of USB-C allows for many adapters to give you additional connections such HDMI connections and SD card. A Thunderbolt hub will also give the highest-speed file transfers.
MagSafe is back
This model also features the welcome return of MagSafe, Apple's proprietary magnetically-attached power cord. The MacBook comes in four colours and each one has its own matching MagSafe 3 charging cable – midnight (dark blue), space grey, silver and starlight.
The MagSafe power cable comes colour-matched to the MacBook Air in four colours.
The advantage of a dedicated MagSafe charging port, apart from its quick-release safety feature, is you don't have to use one of the two USB-C Thunderbolt ports for power, keeping them free for other connections.
The entry-level MacBook Air comes with a 30W USB-C Power Adapter, and there's an optional dual-port 35W USB-C charger or 67W USB-C unit capable of fast charging.
M1 budget option still available
Apple has kept on a version of the M1-based MacBook Air as a budget option, with a price drop to $1499. The M1 chip has an 8-Core CPU but only a 7-Core GPU, 8GB Unified Memory and 256GB SSD.
You do get quite a bit more with the M2 version though, and for many people that will be well worth the extra dollars. If you're still hanging onto an older Intel-based MacBook Air, either model will be a big step forward.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.