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MacBook Air 2022 vs MacBook Air 2020: Here's what's new

MacBook Air 2022 vs MacBook Air 2020 on a colored background
(Image credit: Apple)

This MacBook Air 2022 vs MacBook Air 2020 breakdown will help you understand how Apple's newest Air is different from its predecessor. 

The fact that there's finally a new Air on the market is a big deal. The MacBook Air 2020 was one of the first laptops to ship with Apple's M1 chip, and it showed us that Apple silicon can deliver remarkable performance and power efficiency. 

But it's been over a year since its debut, and now that Apple has proven the M1 wasn't a one-hit wonder by shipping new MacBook Pro 14-inch and MacBook Pro 16-inch laptops packing the even more impressive M1 Pro and M1 Max chips, we're eager to see what the new MacBook Air 2022 can do -- especially since its packing the new Apple M2 chip.

This is the second generation of Apple silicon for MacBooks, and while we can't say for sure how it performs until we get test one ourselves, all signs point to it being faster and more power-efficient than the original M1. 

Here's what we know so far about how the next MacBook Air will compare to the current M1-powered model.

MacBook Air 2022 vs MacBook Air 2020: What's new

  • The new MacBook Air 2022 sports a more compact design that Apple claims takes up 20% less volume than its predecessor. It's only 0.44 inches (11.3mm) thick and weighs 2.7 pounds (1.2 kilograms), and comes in the standard Space Gray and Silver as well as two new color schemes: Starlight and Midnight.
  • The new M2 chip packs a lot of power, promising 20% faster performance when applying image filters and effects performance. Final Cut Pro is nearly 40% faster with the new M2 chip too.
  • The new 13.6-inch display comes with thinner borders and 500 nits of max brightness. That's 25% brighter than before.
  • In the notch at the top of the display, there's a 1080p camera with twice the resolution and twice the low-light performance as the old 720p camera.
  • The MacBook Air 2022 features a 3-mic array and a 4-speaker sound system offers support for Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos.
  • MagSafe support is here for charging, And there's now support for fast charging via a 67W charger (that's not included with the base Air 2022) that Apple claims can deliver up to 50% charge in just 30 minutes.
  • Apple promises up to 18 hours of video playback for battery life.

MacBook Air 2022 vs MacBook Air 2020: Price and availability

The new MacBook Air 2022 goes on sale in July 2022 for a starting price of $1,199. For that you get a new M2 chip with an 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of SSD storage. You can upgrade up to a 8-core CPU, 10-core GPU, 24GB of RAM and a 2TB SSD, though that maxed-out model of Air 2022 will cost you roughly $2,499.

MacBook Air M2 display notch

The new MacBook Air 2022 sports a redesign and a notch for the webcam at the top of the display, as seen in this photo of a demo unit at WWDC 2022. (Image credit: Future)

Apple is still selling the old 2020 Air with M1 for the moment, and you can get one with an 8-core CPU/7-core GPU M1 chip, 8GB RAM and a 256GB SSD for a starting price of $999. You can max it out with the same M1 chip, up to 16GB of RAM and 2TB of SSD storage for $1,999.

Apple MacBook Air M1 (late 2020) review

The M1-powered MacBook Air 2020 is still one of the most powerful and power-efficient ultraportables on the market (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

So while the new 2022 Air is $200 more expensive than the old 2020 Air, you're getting a more performant CPU, a better webcam, and a new design (more on that later). That said, the original 2020 Air remains a capable ultraportable in 2022, and if you just need a new Air to browse the web and do day-to-day work on, it should stand you in good stead for years to come.

MacBook Air 2022 vs MacBook Air 2020: Specs

MacBook Air 2022MacBook Air 2020
Pricefrom $1,199from $999
Display13.6 inches (2560 x 1664)13.3 inches (2560 x 1600)
CPU8 cores (M2)8 cores (M1)
RAM8GB, 16GB, 24GB8GB, 16GB
GPU8-10 cores (M2)7 cores (M1)
Storage256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB
Camera1080p 720p
Ports2 Thunderbolt 3/USB 4, headphone jack, MagSafe charging2 Thunderbolt 3/USB 4, headphone
Battery life (rated)18 hours video / 15 hours web20 hours video / 17 hours web
Dimensions11.97 x 8.46 x 0.44 inches12 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches
Weight2.7 pounds2.8 pounds

MacBook Air 2022 vs MacBook Air 2020: Design

As much as we loved the slim design of the MacBook Air 2020, we were a bit put off by the thick bezels around the screen and the dearth of port options.

MacBook Air 2020 display

The 2020 Air is a classic that's starting to look a little dated, especially those big fat bezels. (Image credit: Future)

While Apple's revamp of the 2022 model hasn't improved the port selection much (beyond adding a MagSafe charging port), it does make the new Air look sleek and professional. The two new color schemes, Midnight and Starlight, bring some much-needed style to the new Air, which has been redesigned to more closely resemble the rounded rectangular look of the MacBook Pro 2021. There's also a notch on the top bezel which covers a bit of the screen as well, just like on the 2021 Pros.

MacBook Air M2 display photos

The notch has finally arrived on the MacBook Air. (Image credit: Future)

The MacBook Air 2022 is a smidge thinner and lighter than the old model (by about 0.1 pounds and 0.2 inches, if you're curious), while the screen has been slightly enlarged from 13.3-inches on the old model to 13.6-inches on the new Air. 

MacBook Air 2022 vs MacBook Air 2020: Display

As much as we were hoping for a fancy mini-LED display like those on the 2021 Pros, Apple didn't change much about the screen of the 2022 Air vs the 2020 model. The new Air's display measures 13.6 inches (diagonally) and has a resolution of 2,560 x 1,664 pixels.

MacBook Air 2020 on table with video playing

The MacBook Air 2020's Retina display is still nothing to sneeze at. (Image credit: Future)

That's just a bit better than the 2020 Air, with its 13.3-inch display capable of achieving a native resolution of 2,560 x 1,600 pixels. So while it should look a bit larger, with thinner bezels, not much has changed in the appearance of the 2022 Air's display.

MacBook Air M2 photo editing

The MacBook Air 2022 has a slightly larger, brighter display than its predecessor with support for  (Image credit: Future)

Except that's not quite true, once you dig into the tech specs. The new 2022 MacBook Air's display is advertised as being capable of achieving up to 500 nits of brightness, which is more than the 400 nits max brightness Apple advertised for the 2020 Air.

Of course, in our in-house testing we found the 2020 Air's display capped out at a max brightness of 368 nits, which is less than advertised but still pretty good. Given that, there's good reason to expect that the 2022 Air might achieve greater heights of brightness that are still a bit below Apple's advertised max, but we'll have to wait and test one for ourselves to know for sure.

Apple also claims the new MacBook Air 2022 has a screen which supports 1 billion colors, which is an improvement over the "millions of colors" supported by the 2020 Air's display.

MacBook Air 2022 vs MacBook Air 2020: Ports

If you need more than a pair of Thunderbolt 3/USB 4 ports and a headphone/mic jack, you probably want something besides a new MacBook Air.

MacBook Air 2020 review

The MacBook Air 2020 had a disappointing port selection, but at least you can use dongles and adapters to get by. (Image credit: Future)

That's because Apple didn't change much about the port selection on the 2022 Air, sticking with the same pair of Thunderbolt 3/USB4 ports on the left-hand side and the headphone jack on the right.

MacBook Air 2022 promo image from WWDC 2022

The addition of MagSafe charging to the Air 2022 is a welcome one. (Image credit: Apple via YouTube)

However, the 2022 Air does gain a new MagSafe charging port, which is exciting since it means you get a faster dedicated charging port (w/ helpful MagSafe attachment tech) that frees you up to use both USB-C ports for whatever you want. If you still want to charge via USB-C, you can -- and if you get the 67W charger (not included with the entry-level Air 2022, but you can buy it separately) Apple claims you should see fast charging speeds of up to 50% power in 30 minutes.

MacBook Air 2022 vs MacBook Air 2020: Performance

It's safe to expect that the next MacBook Air will be more powerful and more power-efficient than the 2020 MacBook Air, which is saying something since the M1-powered Air already impresses with incredible performance and battery life.

MacBook Air 2021 concept

Expect more power and efficiency from the MacBook Air 2022, likely driven by a new M2 chip (Image credit: Devam Jangra)

However, it's still hard to quantify exactly how powerful the next generation of MacBook Air might be. The M2 chip we expect to see in the 2021 MacBook Airs is tipped to come with 12 CPU cores, four more than the M1, with eight cores assigned to handle high-performance work and four efficiency cores for less demanding tasks. Plus, we've heard it will ship with up to a 16-core GPU, which is double the 7-core and 8-core GPU options of the M1. And the seven to eight core GPU of the M1 chip will be increased to a hefty 16 cores on the M2. 

If that all bears out, it means we can expect big boosts in both performance and battery life for the MacBook Air 2022. These predictions are pretty reasonable, too, given that the baseline M1 Pro chip in the entry-level 14-inch MacBook Pro 2021 now ships with an 8-core CPU and a 14-core GPU, with options to upgrade up to a 10-core CPU and 32-core GPU. 

MacBook Air 2022 vs MacBook Air 2020: Webcam

The MacBook Air 2020 shipped with a 720p HD FaceTime camera that benefits from some image signal processing on the part of the M1 chip. It delivers image and video quality that's good enough for hopping on calls with friends, family and colleagues, but now that Zoom calls have become commonplace it's past time that Apple delivers a better webcam for the Air.

The MacBook Pro 2021 (14-inch) displaying an image captured via the 1080p webcam

The 1080p camera in the 2021 MacBook Pros is a welcome upgrade that does a great job of capturing detail and contrast (Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

Lucky for us, the company did exactly that by equipping the MacBook Air 2022 with a 1080p HD FaceTime camera like those seen in the 2021 MacBook Pros. These new and improved cameras do a lot to help you look your best on video calls, so it's great that the new Air has one too.

MacBook Air 2022 vs MacBook Air 2020: Battery life

The MacBook Air 2020 already delivers best-in-class battery life, lasting nearly 15 hours (14:41) in our Tom's Guide battery test, which tasks the laptop with browsing the web via Wi-Fi with its display brightness set to 150 nits.

Apple MacBook Air M1 (late 2020) review

The MacBook Air 2020 lasts an incredibly long time on a full battery, but it looks like its successor might not be able to compete. (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

But we believe Apple can do better. It already has, as the 13-inch MacBook Pro with M1 lasted over 16 hours in the same battery test. Of course, neither the 14-inch MacBook Pro 2021 (14:09) nor the 16-inch MacBook Pro 2021 (15:31) could top that, so perhaps the MacBook Air 2022 will have a hard time beating its predecessor's nearly 15-hour battery life. 

MacBook Air M2 on table at WWDC 2022

The 2022 Air's advertised battery life is a few hours less than its predecessor, but it's still among the highest you can find in an ultraportable. (Image credit: Future)

That would line up with the advertised battery life of the 2022 Air (18 hours video playback / 15 hours web browsing), which is about two hours less than that of the 2020 Air (20 hours video / 17 hours web). Perhaps the bigger, brighter screen and under-the-hood improvements have impacted battery life a bit; we'll just have to wait until we get one in for testing ourselves to find out!

MacBook Air 2022 vs MacBook Air 2020: Outlook

We loved the original M1-powered Air when it launched in 2020, and now it looks like Apple has designed a promising successor for 2022.

Apple has already proven the M1 chip was no one-hit wonder with the 2021 release of the M1 Pro and M1 Max chips, so we have every reason to believe the M2 chip in a new MacBook Air will deliver a boost in performance and power efficiency that will keep it near the top of our list of the best MacBooks on the market.

But as fun as new chips are, there's also good reason to be excited about the bigger, brighter display, improved webcam and MagSafe charging available on the 2022 Air. With a $200 price increase there's still good reason to pick up an older Air if you want to keep your spending around $1k, but those who can afford to pay a bit more should be well-served by the new MacBook Air 2022. Stay tuned for our full review!

Alex Wawro is a lifelong tech and games enthusiast with more than a decade of experience covering both for outlets like Game Developer, Black Hat, and PC World magazine. He currently serves as a senior editor at Tom's Guide covering all things computing, from laptops and desktops to keyboards and mice.