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MacBook Air M2 benchmarks are in — here's how it stacks up to MacBook Pro

MacBook Air 2022 vs MacBook Pro 2022
(Image credit: Apple)

The new $1,199 MacBook Air M2 has the same chip as the new $1,299 MacBook Pro M2, so it’s natural to wonder whether the Pro is any faster — and if it justifies the $100 premium over the Air.

Now that our MacBook Air M2 review is live, we wanted to share our benchmark results and show you how the new Air stacks up to the new MacBook Pro 13-inch in a range of tests, including overall performance, SSD speed, graphics and more.

As you'll see below and in our MacBook Air M2 vs MacBook Pro M2 comparison, the MacBook Air compares quite well to the MacBook Pro, but the Pro pulls ahead when it comes to intensive tasks like video editing. And there's a significant battery life gap between these two laptops.

Editor's Note: Apple sent us a higher-end $1,899 configuration of the Air with a 10-core GPU, as opposed to the entry-level model with a 8-core GPU. The Pro has a 10-core GPU by default. We will update this comparison once we have results for the base model Air. 

Geekbench 5 (overall performance)

MacBook Air M2MacBook Pro M2
Single Core1,9321,898
Multicore 8,9198,911

On Geekbench 5.4, which measures overall performance, the MacBook Air M2 hit 1,932 on the single-core CPU test and 8,919 on multi-core.  That’s 11% faster on single core and 17% faster on mutli-core than the MacBook Air M1. The MacBook Pro M2 was on par with the Air M2, albeit slightly behind, reaching 1,898 and 8,911 on the same single- and multi-core tests.

Blackmagic Disk Speed Test (SSD speed)

MacBook Air M2MacBook Pro M2
Read speed2,800 MBps2,794 MBps
Write speed2,210 MBps2,953 MBps

We see an interesting contrast with the SSD inside each of these systems. In this case of the MacBook Air M2, it delivered a read speed that was a smidge faster than the Pro M2 at 2,800 vs 2,794 MBps.

But the MacBook Pro M2 turned in a significantly faster average write speed, reaching 2,953 MBps compared to 2,210 MBps for the MacBook Air M2. Apple sent us the 1TB version of the Air, so we will revisit when we test the 256GB model. 

Handbrake (video transcode)

MacBook Air M2MacBook Pro M2
Time (min:sec)7:526:51

On our Handbrake video editing test, which involves transcoding a 4K video clip, the new MacBook Air M2 took 7 minutes and 52 seconds to complete the workload. The previous Air M1 needed 9:15, so that’s quite an improvement. However, the MacBook Pro M2, which has active cooling for better sustained performance, took a minute less than the new Air at 6:51.

Pugetbench for Adobe CC Photoshop 

MacBook Air M2MacBook Pro M2
Score821817
Time (mins:sec)4:494:54

The Pugetbench Photoshop benchmark includes a wide range of general tasks, including opening a 18MP file, a RAW image, resizing to 500MB, rotating, Magic Wand Select and more. It also includes several filter tasks, such as Camera Raw Filter, Lens Correction, Reduce Noise and Smart Sharpen.

The Air M2 scored 821 to the Pro M2's 817 and finished slightly faster with a time of 4 minutes and 49 seconds, compared to 4:54 for the Pro. However, some of the above tasks benefit from GPU acceleration, so the base model 8-core GPU MacBook Air M2 would likely perform worse than the results you see here.

Pugetbench Premiere Pro (video editing)

MacBook Air M2MacBook Pro M2
Score452552

The Pugetbench Premiere Pro benchmark evaluates video editing performance using a wide range of tests. This includes applying a Lumetri Color effect to two 59.94 fps clips, a 2x forward test with four clips to simulate performance when playing at 2x speed, a 4x forward test with 8 clips and a MultiCam test.

The Standard sequence is also used to test export performance using the "Youtube 2160p 4K Ultra HD" preset (H.264, 4K, 40mbps) as well as exporting to 4K ProRes.

That sounds like a lot of heavy lifting, and indeed the MacBook Pro M2 is the winner here with a score of 552 to 452 for the Air M2. 

Rise of the Tomb Raider (gaming)

MacBook Air M2MacBook Pro M2
Full HD 27.38 fps (1920 x 1200)24.94 (1920 x 1200)
Higher resolution 15.26 fps (2940 x 1912)12.23 (2880 x 1800)

In the Rise of the Tomb Raider gaming benchmark, the MacBook Air M2 scored a higher 27 frames per second at 1920 x 1200 resolution, compared to 25 fps for the MacBook Pro. And there was a bit more of a gap once we stepped it up to a higher resolution with the Air hitting 15.2 fps to the Pro's 12.2 fps.

Once again, though, this is with a 10-core GPU, so we're only showing you what the Air is capable of when you really max it out. We'd expect the entry-level 8-core GPU model to deliver lower frame rates than the Pro. 

Sid Meier's Civilization VI: Gathering Storm (gaming)

MacBook Air M2MacBook Pro M2
Frame rate (highest resolution)40.4 fps (1470 x 956) 51.1 fps (1440 x 900)

The MacBook Pro M2 pulled ahead in the Sid Meier's Civilization VI: Gathering Storm benchmark, reaching 51.1 fps with the resolution set to 1440 x 900. The MacBook Air M2 turned in a decent 40 fps at a slightly higher resolution. (It's the closest to what the Pro offers).  

Battery life (web surfing test)

This is where the MacBook Pro really stands out. On the Tom's Guide Battery Test, which involves continuous web surfing at 150 nits of screen brightness, the MacBook Air M2 lasted an excellent 14 hours and 6 minutes. Generally speaking, anything above 10 hours on this test is very good.

However, the MacBook Pro M2 lasted for a much longer 18:20, thanks to its larger battery. That's the longest lasting laptop we've tested ever at Tom's Guide. 

Bottom line

The MacBook Air M2 is one of the best laptops, as it can clearly hold its own against the MacBook Pro M2 when it comes to overall performance and tasks like photo editing. And at least with the pricier 10-core GPU, the new Air can meet or beat the Pro M2 on graphics and gaming. However, we will need to retest the entry-level configuration of the Air to see how it truly stacks up to the Pro.

Even with this advantage, though, the MacBook Pro M2 delivered stronger video encoding and video editing performance in the benchmarks we used. And the Pro M2 far outlasted the Air in our battery life testing. 

Overall, I think the MacBook Air M2 offers excellent performance, and there are plenty of reasons to choose it over the Pro, including its larger display, sharper full HD webcam and MagSafe charging. But it's clear that the Pro has the edge on performance and endurance. 

You can also check out our detailed MacBook Air M2 vs MacBook Air M1 comparison to see which of the MacBook Air's is the better laptop.

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.