At the pumpkin launch of Apple’s launch event in Cupertino, we had a chance to get our hands on Apple’s new MacBook Air. This is a completely redesigned model, with a new look and a brand new M2 chip. So how do you feel, and what kind of upgrade is there on the M1-equipped MacBook Air that is still on sale?
See and hear
Starting with the look, this one is 20% smaller in volume than last year’s model. This is thanks to a single-sided logic board, which is about half full. Interestingly, it is actually larger on the surface, though thinner. It is only 11.3 mm thick, but a little deeper than the old one. Still, it feels great in the hand and adopts the design language found in the new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros.
There’s no MacBook Air logo under the screen, or anywhere, that seems like the new way of doing things. It comes in 4 colors, including silver, space gray and two new variants: Starlight and Midnight. Starlight has a kind of champagne look, while Midnight looks black in some light and dark blue in others. This is the true highlight color, but in our opinion, it shows fingerprints, so you’ll probably need to erase it more than the others. It’s also worth noting that the gold color option is gone, so those who want a little extra shine are short and will probably look at the more muted Starlight or silver color options.
The MacBook Air equipped with M2 at midnight
Connections and power
According to the previous MacBook Air, there are two USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports, each with its own dedicated driver and a 3.5mm headphone jack. However, the headphone jack is high impedance, so it should play well with higher quality headphones.
Otherwise, the new model has Bluetooth 5.0 and Wi-Fi 6, which is the same as last year, and it doesn’t have Wi-Fi 6E, unfortunately.
The MagSafe charging port is also new, along with a sleek colored cable. You don’t even get it on the high-end 16-inch MacBook Pro model. While the immediate benefits of MagSafe are that it will come off if you come across the cable instead of removing the Air from a table, it takes up a good amount of space along the edge. It can also reach a maximum of 140 watts, however, this is not a voltage that the air will ever see. You can still charge a USB-C cable if you wish.
Speaking of ports, both Thunderbolt connectors do not support dual external monitor configuration. Apple says the MacBook Air will only support an external display, but it can have a resolution of up to 6K, such as the very expensive Apple Pro XDR Display. It seems that the only way to get support for two monitors is to abandon Air altogether and opt for the 14 or 16-inch MacBook Pros. It looks like the new 13-inch MacBook Pro won’t handle two monitors either.
Left: The new MacBook Air is thinner than the old one. Right: The color-coded MagSafe cable that seems to excite people
Apple has also introduced a couple of charging options. The first is a new 35-watt dual charger, so you can connect two cables (USB-C at one end) and charge your MacBook Air and an iPhone at the same time, for example. It is a gallium nitride (GAN) charger, which means it is quite compact for its total power. Divide the 35 W by half for each connected device or all power if only one. Some have asked if any of the ports can be used for data, and no, they are just for power.
Because the new MacBook Air supports fast charging whenever you use a 67-watt charger. This means that you can reach half (50%) of the full charge in 30 minutes. Of course, don’t get the 67-watt charger as standard, or the dual 35-watt charger for that. In the entry-level MacBook Air, you get a single 30-watt cable brick, with no bells or whistles, so expect to add more $$ to the end result to upgrade your charge.
Left: The standard 30-watt charger you have in the box. Right: the optional 35 watt dual charger.
Larger and brighter screen
The 13.6-inch Retina display looks great, thanks to both the 13.6-inch instead of 13 on the M1 MacBook Air, and a high-brightness 500NIT panel. This is 25% brighter than the old model, and while there’s a notch on the top for the camera, the extra height adds to the screen’s dimensions, so it doesn’t take anything away. This new screen can handle 1 billion colors and has 4.2 million pixels, so it is very beautiful and sharp. Although it’s a 10-bit panel, it doesn’t support High Dynamic Range (HDR) (you’ll need 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros for that) and is powered by an 8-bit signal anyway.
A new 1080P webcam takes up space in the notch and includes the Center Stage “stay in the frame” feature along with improved low-light clarity performance. Of course, if you want to further enhance the quality of your webcam, you can now connect wirelessly to an iPhone with the new Continuity Camera feature.
Interestingly, there are no speaker grilles on the MacBook Air. The speakers are still there and located under the keyboard, near the hinges of the screen. It is a 4 speaker system with 2 woofers and 2 tweeters, and there is also support for space audio and Dolby Atmos.
The keyboard felt solid when tested, and now there are full-height function keys, as well as a full-size fingerprint scanner like the 16-inch MacBook Pro.
While the new look of the MacBook Air looks great on the outside, the big question is what kind of performance does Apple’s new M2 chip offer compared to the M1 version? Until we get a chance to run some benchmarks and do a full review, the short answer is that it’s about 20 percent faster. However, it’s important to keep in mind that M2 is also more efficient than M1, so you’ll get extra performance while consuming less power.
We witnessed a demonstration of Photoshop, which filters complexes into large photographs processing up to 70 percent faster than the MacBook Air M1. In addition, the new Air is a highly capable video editing platform and supports up to 11 simultaneous 4K ProRes video streams or 2 full-quality 8K video streams, when Final Cut Pro is running.
The new M2 processor has 25% more transistors than the M1
Notable enhancements for the M2 versus M1 chip include faster performance cores, better efficiency cores, and the addition of ProRes hardware decoders, in addition to H.264 and H.265. Now there are also 24 gigabytes of unified memory compared to 16, so apps have more memory to work with. More details on the new Apple M2 chip.
Also thanks to the M2 chip, the battery life is impressive. The new Air is roughly the same as last year’s model, which is 18 hours of video playback and 15 hours of web browsing. There’s also a bigger battery, which is 52.6 watts an hour compared to 49.9, or a little over 5% bigger. Note that as the M2 is more powerful and efficient, it should do more work on battery charge thanks to the Air Permeable.
Who is the new MacBook Air for?
Since the M2 chip is quite capable, it’s hard to imagine it as an “entry level” machine. Since the M1 model will remain on sale, it would be the entry-level choice, and even then it would have to handle most of the day-to-day tasks, ranging from web browsing to office applications. to video streaming, photo and video editing.
Four color options including Midnight, Starlight, Space Gray and Silver
The M2 can do even more, and there are 8- and 10-core GPU variants to choose from. In addition, because the M2 chip gains up to 24GB of unified memory, you can choose a 10-core GPU and a 24GB variant that can handle even more intensive content creation and development applications.
Since there is also a 13-inch MacBook Pro equipped with M2, you can go one step further. The main technical difference between the new Air and the new 13-inch MacBook Pro is its active, fan-powered internal cooling. The MacBook Air has no fan, which means it’s completely silent. However, the 13-inch MacBook Air can keep the M2 chip cooler, which means longer sustained maximum performance, so if you have long rendering queues or large data sets, the 13-inch MBP is the best option, as it will not speed up performance due to excess heat. . However, it still has the old design of the box and is in serious need of an upgrade.
From here, the next step is the 14- and 16-inch Mac Pro with the M1 Pro and M1 Max chips. Apple says the M2 is the starting point for a new family of chips, which turns out to be faster than the M1, but professional users should choose the M1 Max, M1 Pro and M1 Ultra variants. You’ll also get the high-performance benefits of high-end laptops and the Mac Studio desktop.
So the new MacBook Air with M2 is the “all-day device for anyone”? Given our quick hands, we would say a resounding “yes”. It has a supermodel look, is light and portable, with a bright and spacious screen. In addition, it is full of power, has a battery life from Sydney to LA and a quiet and peaceful operation. We would like to think that this should keep any user of conventional laptops happy and then some.
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Valens Quinn traveled to the WWDC in California as a guest on Apple Australia.