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Apple MacBook Air M2 review: The most radical redesign in years

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Quick verdict: Apple's most radical physical redesign of the MacBook Air in years is complemented with the power of its M2 chip, making it an excellent-value laptop.


  • Larger display
  • M2 is quite quick
  • Better webcam
  • Magsafe and USB-C charging

  • Apple’s cheapest laptop… isn’t exactly 'cheap'
  • Ever-present screen notch sure is a choice
  • Battery can run down fast when working hard

In this guide

  • Review

I've covered Apple's MacBook Air line ever since Steve Jobs pulled one out of a manila envelope back in 2008. Quite literally – I was in the audience in San Francisco that day – but since that time, Apple's been somewhat shy in making any big changes to the core MacBook Air recipe.

The 2022 model makes some big changes to that idea, representing a bigger-than-expected change in the Air, mostly for the better.

Owners of the M1 model don't need to stress an upgrade, but anyone coming from an older MacBook will find great value here within the Apple ecosystem.

Design: Bigger screen, blatant notch

macbook air m2 review

Apple must figure that consumers who want lower-cost Apple gear also want colours. It's a super common story across its product lines that often the lower-cost variants have brighter colour choices than their "Pro" counterparts.

It's certainly true for the Apple MacBook Air M2, which shifts from the gold, silver or space grey variants of the M1 to silver, starlight, space grey or midnight.

Starlight, which is what Apple sent me for review, is more or less the new "gold" model while midnight has a very pleasing blue hue to it. If I were buying an Apple MacBook Air M2, that's the model I'd opt for.

Put the M2 MacBook Air next to the M1 model – or any model not that much older because Apple hasn't iterated on the MacBook Air physically for some time now – and outside colour differences, it might seem that not much has changed beyond adding a MagSafe adaptor to the left side.

MacBook Air M2 Review

Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

Even that is quite significant, because it really does change just how much you can use the Apple MacBook Air M2. Both USB-C ports are now available even when charging, but you're not stymied if you do leave the MagSafe adaptor at home. They'll still take power delivery-compliant charger input as well.

Open it up and the changes become more apparent, thanks to the mostly expanded display screen. Where the M1 model, and the recently refreshed Apple MacBook Pro 13 M2 run with a 13.3-inch 2560x1600/227ppi display at 400 nits of brightness, the Apple MacBook Air M2 ups the ante to 13.6 inches at 2560x1664 and 500 nits of brightness. You do lose out slightly on the pixels per inch scale at 224ppi.

I'll wait while you squint and try to count that 3-pixel difference. All done? Good.

The larger screen and better brightness do have a noticeable effect, especially if you're working in brighter environments or outside. Like the larger MacBook Pro models, the Apple MacBook Air M2 has a noticeable screen "notch" that houses its upgraded FaceTime camera.

The jump up to 1080p in a COVID world is extremely welcome given Apple's general premium pricing. Arguably, it's something that Apple should have done years ago.

The inclusion of the notch is likely a touch more divisive, although at least by now many of the issues around menus vanishing under it and the like appear largely solved. If you work full-screen all the time, you may not even notice it until your mouse cursor slides underneath it.

Biometrics are handled via TouchID, which remains an interesting take from Apple. If you buy an iPhone, Apple is insistent that FaceID is far superior and a reason for a screen notch on its phones.

If you buy a MacBook, even though there's a big chunky lad of a notch in play, you get TouchID instead. I didn't have any problems with unlocking during the review period, but it's still a curious double take from Apple in this regard.

Performance: M2 provides expected speed bump

Image: Tegan Jones/Finder

The Apple MacBook Air M2 is Apple's effective "low-cost" MacBook, although being Apple that's quite a relative statement.

You're still looking at dropping at least $1,899 for one, scaling upwards depending on storage, RAM and processor needs. For the genuinely curious, a fully stacked Apple MacBook Air M2 with 24GB of RAM and 2TB of SSD storage would set you back a wallet-thumping $3,849.

Apple didn't send me anything quite that fancy, but it did supply a slightly souped-up model for review; specifically, the 8-core CPU/10-core GPU model with 16GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive.

That's $2,949 worth of MacBook Air M2. Apple has long charged a premium for RAM and storage upgrades, but for any "M" series Apple device, the key detail to know is that you can't in any way change up the RAM or internal storage after the fact. That's because "Apple Silicon", as they call it, throws the entire CPU, GPU, SSD and RAM onto a single silicon slab.

Where that will have some impact is for the entry-level model, not so much on the RAM/SSD front — you could if you wished to opt for higher RAM/SSD models there — but because it runs with an 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU instead.

That's more likely to have an impact on performance for those who do a lot of video editing or similar high-level number crunching. To further muddy the waters, Apple still sells an M1 variant of the Apple MacBook Air, starting at $1,499 with an 8-core CPU and 7-core GPU.

So how do you pick between them, and the pricier MacBook Pro M2 or 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro M1 variants? Here's how their CPUs compare, using Geekbench 5's CPU test:

As expected, the M2 MacBook Air hits essentially the same benchmark highs as the M2 MacBook Pro, but there's still quite the gulf between it and the pricier 14- and 16-inch Pro models. You might see a slight performance bump during sustained loads – like lengthier video editing tasks – on the 13-inch Pro, thanks to its included cooling fans, although not by much.

CPU speed is nice to know, but what does that mean for actual in-world performance?

It means that the Apple MacBook Air M2 is quite fast. Here's how it compares using Cinebench's R23 graphics rendering test:

My own more ad hoc testing with video editing suggests that the Apple MacBook Air M2 is a fair video editing machine, but still pretty easily outclassed by Apple's "Pro" machines. I didn't have to push the Apple MacBook Air M2 too hard to generate the spinning beachball of waiting for doom while adding video files into Final Cut Pro X, for example.

The challenger here I suspect is that cheaper M1 MacBook Air. Honestly, if you're just after an Apple laptop with decent performance and you don't need it for higher-end tasks, it'd be a pretty decent buy at its price.

Yes, the M2 has more headroom. Some years in the future it'll be put on Apple's infamous "vintage products" list for updates and support after the M1 model. However, that's still likely longer than most people's actual service life with the laptop.

The M2 provides almost exactly what you'd expect from a classical laptop upgrade on a year-by-year basis, regardless of the fact that it's Apple Silicon rather than Intel Inside to speak of. It's a performance bump, not a revolutionary upgrade for anyone already on the Apple Silicon train. However, if you're coming from an older Mac, the performance gains will be much more noticeable.

MacBook Air M2 review: The battery is decent so far, but we need more data

MacBook Air M2 Review

Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

The MacBook Air has always been sold as a portable machine, and that has meant that battery life has been of critical importance. For the M2 model, Apple claims that it's capable of up to 15 hours of wireless web surfing or up to 18 hours of Apple TV movie playback.

Does anyone buy a laptop just to watch Ted Lasso? I doubt it.

My biggest challenge here is that as I'm writing this review, I've had the Apple MacBook Air M2 for almost exactly a week, which isn't a terribly long time to properly evaluate laptop battery life. Ad hoc testing and usage put it roughly on par with the M1 MacBook Air it replaces, which is pleasing when you consider that it is a more powerful machine.

However, outside of testing time, I do have to throw a note of caution in there. If you do push it harder, you're naturally going to see less battery life.

Throwing a bunch of video rendering tasks at the MacBook Air M2 did see a more significant dip in its battery life fairly quickly, which is what you'd expect. Apple's silicon can do a good job of maximising battery life – but it can't perform miracles.

I will update this review once I've had more time to properly stress test the MacBook Air M2's battery. For now, the signs are decent – but not quite as exceptional as Apple might have you believe.

When it comes time to recharge, Apple provides a 30W single-port charger with the entry-level MacBook Air M2 or a 35W dual-port charger if you opt for the 10-core GPU with 512GB storage or better. That feels a little penny pinching on Apple's behalf, given the still relatively premium price of that entry-level system, but again Apple wants to push you towards the pricier model. You can at least buy the 35W adapter independently if you wish.

Should you buy it?

  • Buy it if you want Apple's best-value laptop right now.
  • Don't buy it if you don't need the power of M2 or you need more power than it can provide.

I was ultimately disappointed with the MacBook Air M2's sibling, the MacBook Pro 13 M2. Apple got lazy with that one, recycling an older design and simply throwing in a newer processor at a premium price.

macbook air m2 review

I can't make the same call for the MacBook Air M2, because the shell redesign gives it not only fresh visual appeal but also added productivity. The camera is better, the port layout is better and the screen is larger, though some won't love that ever-present screen notch.

It's still not "inexpensive", and there's an argument to be made that the older M1 model might be the really good-value pick for those who just want a document-thumping MacBook. Still, it's easily better than the 13-inch M2 Pro for less money – and that's a compelling prospect.

MacBook Air M2: Australian pricing and availability

The MacBook Air M2 retails in Australia from $1,899. The model as tested sells for $2,949.

Apple MacBook Air M2


Apple MacBook Air M2


Processor Family
Processor Cores
RAM options
8GB Configurable to: 16GB or 24GB


Screen Size
13.6 inches
Display Type
Liquid Retina display


Operating System

How we tested

Apple loaned me a MacBook Air M2 for review purposes. I tested using a range of benchmarks, common Mac applications and a mix of web usage, video rendering, streaming media and gaming applications to get a full feel of the capabilities of the laptop over a 1-week period prior to writing this review. I will continue to test and update this review to give a more comprehensive overview of battery performance.

The reviewer has more than 2 decades of tech product reviewing under his belt and is a multi-time Australian IT Journo award winner, including awards for best reviewer and best technical journalist.

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