I review laptops for a living — and this is now the MacBook I recommend to most people

MacBook Air M2 2022
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Being a laptop reviewer means I recommend the best laptops I know of to Tom’s Guide readers and people I meet every day. 

Recently, a friend asked which of the best MacBooks he should buy. I said to wait until Apple announced its (then-expected) MacBook Air M3 to see if he wanted that laptop or if Apple would slash the cost of the MacBook Air M2

Cut to today and not only did Apple announce brand-new MacBook Airs packing the M3 chip, but it also reduced the 13-inch MacBook Air M2’s price. This announcement has changed what MacBook I now recommend to people.

We reviewed the 13-inch MacBook Air M2 when it originally released in 2022 and found it an excellent notebook for most people. It boasts fantastic performance rivaling or beating the best Windows laptops, an updated modern design and incredible battery life. Now that it’s the cheapest MacBook with a starting price of $999, it’s difficult not to recommend this still incredible laptop to anyone who wants a dependable machine for everyday computing.

If you’re new to the world of MacBooks (or Macs in general) or want to upgrade from an older Intel-based MacBook, then the 13-inch MacBook Air M2 is what I suggest buying. Here’s why.

Excellent value

MacBook Air M2 2022

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

For the past few years, the MacBook Air M1 was the cheapest MacBook at $999 … and sometimes lower whenever there was a sale. This was one of the reasons I often recommended this laptop to new MacBook users. That price was hard to top! But since Apple no longer sells the M1 MacBook Air in its store, the MacBook Air M2 is now the most budget-friendly laptop Apple offers — and much easier for me to recommend.

I should add that $999 is the starting price and that upgrading memory and storage will bump up the cost. However, thanks to the lower entry price, it’ll sting less if you choose to upgrade. The $1,199 model with 512GB of storage is a great option. For $1,399, you can get 16GB of RAM … which I believe is the sweet spot for most people. Even at $1,399, the Air M2 is still easy to recommend — especially over the $1,599 MacBook Pro 14-inch with the same entry-level M3 chip.

Stellar performance and battery life 

MacBook Air M2 2022

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The M3 chip might be the most powerful M-series processor yet, but that doesn’t mean notebooks with the M2 chip are suddenly obsolete. If you absolutely need as much power as possible from a MacBook, then the MacBook Pro 14-inch M3 Pro or MacBook Pro 16-inch M3 Max are for you. If you just want dependable performance for everyday tasks like writing, work or watching videos, the MacBook Air M2 won’t disappoint.

When I tested the Air M2, it had no trouble handling the dozens of Chrome tabs and programs I typically have open for work. Editing images in Photoshop while running a YouTube video wasn’t a problem either. The only time I saw a hint of lag was when I had over 100 open tabs — which is something I wouldn’t normally do.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Geekbench 5 benchmark results
Header Cell - Column 0 Single-coreMulti-core
MacBook Pro 14-inch (M3)2,35510,752
MacBook Air (M2)1,9328,919
MacBook Air (M1)1,7367,575

On Geekbench 5, which measures overall CPU performance, the MacBook Air M2 hit 1,932 on the single-core test and 8,919 on the multi-core. The MacBook Air M1 hit 1,736 on single-core and 7,575 on multi-core. That’s 11% faster on single-core and 17% faster on multi-core.

In comparison, the MacBook Pro 14-inch with a similar M3 chip as the MacBook Air M3 scored 2,355 and 10,752, respectively. Those are better scores than the Air M2, but not by a huge amount. Basically, you’re getting marginally lesser performance on the Air M2 than on the newer model. Unless you’re really pushing the system, you might not even notice the difference.

The MacBook Air M2 is also one of the longest-lasting laptops for the money. On the Tom’s Guide battery test, which involves continuous web surfing at 150 nits of screen brightness, the Air M2 averaged 14 hours and 6 minutes. That’s a bit behind the previous Air M1 (14:41), but still superb endurance. We’ll have to test the new Air M3 to see if Apple’s claims of 18-hour battery life are true.

Svelte design

MacBook Air M2 2022

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

While the MacBook Air M2 shares the same design language introduced with 2021’s MacBook Pro 14-inch and MacBook Pro 16-inch, there’s something extra appealing about seeing that same form factor on a 13-inch laptop. As we said in our review, the Air M2 is so thin it could easily be mistaken for one of the best iPads when closed. Even a Bic pen looks chunky next to this super thin laptop.

MacBook Air M2 2022

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The 2.7-pound all-aluminum chassis delivers a nice balance of durability and light weight. The sleek rounded corners and pronounced lip also make the laptop easy to open and hold with one hand. This Air M2 is so thin and light that you might forget you’re even carrying it in your bag when traveling.

The MacBook Air M2 comes in four colors: Starlight, Silver, Space Gray and Midnight. The latter doesn’t have the same fingerprint resistance as the MacBook Air M3's Midnight, but the fact you still have four colors to choose from is nice (the MacBook Pros only come in Space Black or Silver). I personally like Midnight’s dark blue hue, but Starlight’s gold is pretty eye-catching.

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Tony Polanco
Computing Writer

Tony is a computing writer at Tom’s Guide covering laptops, tablets, Windows, and iOS. During his off-hours, Tony enjoys reading comic books, playing video games, reading speculative fiction novels, and spending too much time on X/Twitter. His non-nerdy pursuits involve attending Hard Rock/Heavy Metal concerts and going to NYC bars with friends and colleagues. His work has appeared in publications such as Laptop Mag, PC Mag, and various independent gaming sites.