MacBook Air M2 could have a nasty performance problem

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

The MacBook Air M2 is a seriously impressive machine, but now the reviews are here, a big performance issue has been found by multiple users.

Digital Trends collected several reviews from tech websites and influencers that mentioned Apple's new laptop (and our new top entry on the best laptops list) having a problem with thermal throttling. This doesn't have an impact on everyday tasks, but it can kick in when you use the MacBook Air M2 for more intensive work, such as photo or video processing. 

As a result, you may not get all the performance you might expect from an M2 chip for a sustained length of time. That may be a pain if you want to render a hefty video at speed. 

Part of what makes the MacBook Air M2 so slim is that it doesn't have any cooling fans to help transfer heat away from the Apple M2 chip. As a result, when the chip heats up through normal work, the new MacBook Air limits its performance to stop damage to the components, just like many other computers, tablets and phones do. 

We saw this for ourselves in our MacBook Air M2 review. We found it easily dealt with a huge number of Chrome windows plus some Photoshop editing. But in our Handbrake video editing test, the MacBook Air M2 was just over a minute slower than the MacBook Pro M2, which uses the same chip but features cooling fans.

Despite this, the MacBook Pro M2 is hard to recommend instead though. The design is still the same one Apple's been using for MacBooks for the best part of a decade rather than the new squarer, notched look of the MacBook Air M2. Plus, like the MacBook Air M2, it too has been found to have a big thermal throttling problem, while Apple's new SSD set-up means the MacBook Air M2 and MacBook Pro M2 are slower to read and write data than previous MacBooks.

With all that in mind, should you avoid the MacBook Air M2? Well no. For everyday computing it should be more than up to the task and beyond. 

Only people who need sustained performance over a lengthy amount of time should probably consider an alternative MacBook. In that case, your next step up the MacBook ladder would be a 14-inch 2021 MacBook Pro. This offers excellent performance all around, and several other upgrades like a 120Hz mini-LED display. But it does costs a lot more, starting at $2,000. You'll have to make a hard decision whether the extra performance is worth that money. Or see if one of the best Windows laptops offers what you're looking for instead.

The MacBook Air M2 is on sale from today, although you can expect to wait a month or more for some models already, looking at the Apple Store. You can check out how to buy the MacBook Air M2 in our handy guide if you want the best deals and the fastest shipping times.

Next: Our detailed comparison between MacBook Air M2 vs MacBook Air M1 to help you make your buying decision.

Richard Priday
Assistant Phones Editor

Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.