MacBook Air M2: express meeting with Apple’s new ultraportable, which impresses with its design and the promised performance

During the WWDC keynote, Apple announced a new MacBook Air. A Mac that clearly couldn’t have seen the light of day without Apple Silicon chips, especially the onboard M2. We had the opportunity to take it in hand briefly, not enough for a test of course, but enough to get an idea of ​​its potential, both in terms of comfort and power.

A united, solid and pleasing design

Apple has finally decided to forgo the design that the MacBook Air has more or less sported since 2010, with a more tapered front and thicker back. The MacBook Air now has the design of the 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro… but thinner. To the point, moreover, that this new model has a volume that is 20% lower than that of its oldest. To succeed in this slimming cure, Apple teams redesigned the motherboard, which is half the thickness.

Coming back to the design, not everyone will like it, but we do appreciate the bigger, more assertive and thicker display cover. This provides visual balance and is also reassuring when you grip the edges of the screen to adjust the position of the machine on a work surface. The MacBook Air isn’t the kind of ultraportable that bends ominously when picked up in one of its corners.

© Apple

If it does not want to be the thinnest ultraportable on the market, nor the lightest, it offers a comfortable grip and above all an impression of sturdiness. The aluminum housing provides considerable rigidity, while the finesse of the housing, open or closed, and finally its remarkable lightness, are all elements that immediately appeal and inspire confidence. The MacBook Air fits comfortably in your hand, can be carried at arm’s length and has all the hallmarks of an excellent ultraportable.

It should be added that the two new finishes, Midnight and Stellar Light, give it a very attractive look, with a special mention for the midnight blue black, which is closest to the matte black of the MacBooks of yesteryear. We’ll almost forget the missed opportunity with the color of the 24-inch iMacs… But maybe Apple is reserving these bright colors for consumer MacBooks that have yet to be announced!

On the left side of the device are the two Thunderbolt 3 ports (in USB-C format) next to the MagSafe port, which is back, and will prevent the ultraportable from flying accidentally, there’s no doubt about it. Let’s make a small side note, the MacBook is entitled to three chargers: a 30 W model, another 35 W (+ 20 euros), which has the good idea of ​​offering two USB-C connections to charge additional devices. and finally a 67 W charger (+20 euros), which allows “fast charging”. On the other hand, don’t expect to find ports to connect an iPhone, between speed and usability, you’ll have to choose…
Looking at the right side, occupied only by the mini-jack port, however, we regret that Apple did not see the need to add an SD card reader. There was room… at least in the box.

A slightly larger screen… with a notch

By adopting the design of the MacBook Pro, Apple has also chosen to keep its notch system at the top of the screen. It didn’t shock or traumatize us with the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models. She is no longer disturbing here. Thanks to this, Apple was able to refine the screen edges, about 30% less on the sides and 60% on the top, which makes it possible to display a slightly larger plate diagonally, 13.6 inches against 13.3 previously . Suddenly the definition of 2560×1664 pixels, up from 2560×1600 pixels earlier, is a bit exotic, but again, macOS manages the bands on each side of the notch.

Frankly, she doesn’t see herself. And after getting started so quickly, in not necessarily ideal conditions, we’d go so far as to say we didn’t notice that the panel, now Liquid Retina, is given because it’s brighter (500 cd/ m2, compared to 400 on the M1 processor model). The same goes for the billion colors displayed – a first on a MacBook Air – it must be said that the panel from the previous generation was very good.

And speaking of the display, the switch to the M2 chip doesn’t change the fact that the MacBook Air can only handle one external display, up to 6K. Unfortunately.

© Apple

Finally, to end with the essential “accessories”, the Magic keyboard and trackpad remain two elements that signify the excellence of the Apple experience on laptops, we will not go back there, but the comfort of typing and the precision and the responsiveness of the touchpad again marks peaks.

The 1080p webcam (combined with a new ISP), which we tried for a few seconds, looks much better, but it’s hard to form an opinion that after such a short time and under such conditions is.

An all-in-one ultraportable?

But what’s most amazing are some of the demonstrations we’ve seen, which we’ll have to reproduce in our future testing to be sure of this ultraportable’s potential. Indeed, it’s impressive to consider that this fanless Mac is capable of, in theory, playing 11 4K streams and two 8K streams simultaneously, or even guaranteeing consistent performance on AC or battery power. The arrival in the M2 of the hardware acceleration present in the most solid M1 chips obviously plays an essential role in this tour de force. The option to choose an M2 with ten GPU cores, for 120 euros more, is mainly intended for those who want to play something, or who are looking for graphic performance for rendering objects or animations, for example.

Again, the performance ratio per watt of Apple Silicon chips disrupts what we’ve come to expect from an ultraportable machine. It suddenly seems a long time ago that MacBook Airs were just typewriters of the 21st century. With the M2, the MacBook Air will be able to nibble on some of the prerogatives of its big brother, the 13-inch MacBook Pro. It seems to be an ultraportable to do everything…

© Apple

What’s left for the 13-inch MacBook Pro?

Looking at the performance of the MacBook Air, we can once again wonder what remains of the 13-inch MacBook Pro, also equipped with an M2, but devoid of the appeal of a new design. Three important elements are mentioned.
Let’s start with the fact that it offers the most muscular version of Apple’s SoC by default, with ten cores for the graphics part. Since it has an active cooling system, it should be able to sustain the M2’s long efforts for longer. Even though we never really managed to blow the 13-inch MacBook Pro M1 for more than a few minutes at this point.
Finally, it should offer better autonomy. A point that we had checked with the previous generation.

The choice between MacBook Air and MacBook Pro 13 inches will therefore depend on your use and what you are going to focus on. Unless, of course, you absolutely want a Mac with a Touch Bar. In this case, the Pro wins without firing a shot.

The recap of WWDC 2022 in video

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