Test: The MacBook Air M2 collects the lead

The MacBook Air dominates the sales charts. It’s not just Apple’s most popular computer. It is the best-selling laptop in the world, in all categories. A step ahead of the others, this unit continues to stand out, with its biggest update in over 10 years.

From MacBook Pro to MacBook Air

Photo: Maxime Johnson.

The design of the MacBook Air with M2 chip is inspired by that of the MacBook Pro 14 and 16 launched last year.

The new MacBook Air offers a long list of new features this year. If you follow the news around Apple a bit, you’ll find that most of them come from the 2021-launched MacBook Pro 14 and 16, such as a slightly round-sized design and a magnetic MagSafe port, which releases when someone hits the ground. gets. in the charging cable.

For those who already own a MacBook Air, this new model will be lighter than before, with a larger screen (13.6 inches instead of 13.3 inches, a difference we don’t notice at first glance). to the naked eye), better keyboard, better 1080p webcam, Touch ID fingerprint reader and more. The improvement over a model from just three or four years ago is significant.

I was particularly impressed by its four speakers, whose Dolby Atmos sound bounces off the screen and provides good spaciousness. Considering the thinness of the computer, their power is astonishing.

“Our teams have integrated elements of the antenna behind the speaker,” Kate Bergeron, Apple’s vice president with responsibility for hardware engineering, said in an interview. The concept first introduced with the 12-inch MacBook doesn’t improve the speakers, but they can take up all the space they need.

Portrait mode is available with the MacBook Air's new webcam.

Photo: Maxime Johnson.

Portrait mode is available with the MacBook Air’s new webcam.

The new computer format is my other big favorite. At its thickest point, Apple engineers were able to cut nearly 0.5cm thick (just 1.13cm). It’s also lighter than before (2.7 pounds).

The fact that a computer is so portable, without sacrificing power (we’ll get to that) or battery life is nothing short of amazing.

“Even if we travel less than before, portability remains fundamental to the MacBook Air,” explains Laura Metz, senior product manager at Apple. After all, we travel less for business, but we still have to transport it from work to home, or even just around the house. This element was therefore central to the reflection during the design of the device.

The MacBook Air also offers an improved audio port.

Photo: Maxime Johnson.

The MacBook Air also offers an improved audio port.

Note that compared to the MacBook Pro, the device makes some minor compromises, such as the number of ports (only 2 USB-C ports, only one of which can be used for an external monitor) and the display, whose brightness improved to 500 nits remains lower than the 1000 nits of the MacBook Pro Pro Display XDR screen.

“We want the MacBook Air to be affordable and for many people to be able to buy, including students,” Kate Bergeron reminded me. For her, the superior screen quality would have cost too much for the MacBook Air’s target audience.

I agree with that. In fact, I would have preferred Apple cut even more (compared to displaying, say, a billion colors) to lower the price (which would have been surprising, we can agree).

Apple Silicon M2 lives up to (high) expectations

The MacBook Air's M2 chip doesn't disappoint.

Screenshot: Maxime Johnson.

The MacBook Air’s M2 chip doesn’t disappoint.

Apple had caused a stir in 2020 with the launch of the first computers with M1 chip.

The surprise effect is over, but the M2 doesn’t disappoint, with a single-core score of 1894 in the Geekbench 5 test and 8980 in multi-core. This is one of the most powerful on the market in single core, all categories combined, and it stands out very well in multi-core mode (the equivalent of a 2020 27-inch iMac, with an Intel Core i9 processor 10910), all with minimal energy consumption.

I won’t dwell on testing. Let’s keep in mind that you really need to perform very specific tasks to have a more powerful central processor.

As for the graphics cores, they’ve improved, with a pretty respectable score of 6784 against 3DMark’s Wild Life Extreme, for example, but the jump isn’t big enough to change that. There are still many applications, especially in 3D, where you need more.

With games, keep in mind that with video games you are entitled to a screen with slightly more frames per second than with the last generation MacBook Air, but that with AAA games you will have to make significant compromises on quality. So it’s best to stick to games optimized for Apple Silicon (like Apple Arcade’s), or lighter indie titles.

Various options

For the first time with a MacBook Air, you will have to choose which charger comes with the device.

Photo: Maxime Johnson.

For the first time with a MacBook Air, you will have to choose which charger comes with the device.

If you want to buy the new MacBook Air M2, you can choose from several options, which means that the price of the device can rise considerably.

You’ll first have to choose between the model with an 8-core graphics processor (starting at $1499, the base price of the device), or the 10-core (tried here). I’ll wait for the entry-level testing to make up my mind, but for the $150 difference between the two, I’d probably go for the cheaper option.

You should also choose the storage (certainly at least 512 GB if this is your main computer, more and even more depending on your usage and your budget) and the RAM.

This last point is often difficult to determine. “The basic configuration is designed to provide an excellent user experience,” explains Laura Metz. So 8 GB (which I tried here) should be enough unless you’re used to running multiple heavy software programs at once, working with very large files, or have specific business needs (a developer creating virtual machines, for example). In my testing, I was not limited by the 8 GB.

The MacBook Air is available in four colors, including

Photo: Maxime Johnson.

The MacBook Air is available in four colors, including “midnight,” a very dark blue.

The question is quite lengthy. Will the 8GB model with future updates be enough to provide the perfect experience? Hard to say. The 16GB option is a good insurance policy, but at $250, it’s quite an expensive insurance policy.

If you change computers often and your needs are limited, 8GB should be fine. If you want to keep it for a long time, or if you have the budget, 16GB is probably worth it.

Last option to select: the charger. Indeed, the MacBook Air M2 is offered with three options. The base model comes with a 30W charger, but for $30 more you can upgrade to a 67W fast charger or a small 35W charger with two USB-C ports. The MacBook Air M2 with 10 graphics cores is offered with the standard 35W charger and you can switch to the 67W for free.

Personally, I loved the little two-port charger, which I will find very useful on the go. With a battery life of 15 hours, the MacBook Air M2 is a device that I charge overnight anyway and use during the day without a cable, so I don’t need a fast charger.

In summary: the laptop I would buy

For most people, the MacBook Air with M2 chip is the computer to beat right now.

Photo: Maxime Johnson.

For most people, the MacBook Air with M2 chip is the computer to beat right now.

With its good portability, its power, its immense autonomy and its good components (efficient keyboard, large touchpad, good sound quality, good web camera), the MacBook Air M2 is hard to beat.

At $1499 (but probably $2000 depending on your choices at the time of purchase), it’s not particularly expensive for all it offers, but it’s not an entry-level model either.

You may have other needs (more power for gaming, a bigger screen, Windows, or a cheaper purchase price, for example), but for me this is the laptop I would buy right now.

We love

  • The slim and light design.
  • The web camera that made big leaps.
  • The powerful M2 chip.
  • Sufficient autonomy for a full working day (and more).
  • Total silence (no fan).
  • Amazing sound quality for the size.

We like less

  • In the era of telecommuting, I would have loved to have the option to connect 2 external monitors.
  • At $1499 for the base configuration, the 35W charger should have been offered as standard, not $30 more.
  • The add-ons are expensive (from 8 GB to 16 GB of RAM shouldn’t cost $250, nor from 256 GB to 512 GB).

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