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MacBook Air M2 (2022) hands-on: A serious leap forward

The new MacBook Air delivers a powerful new M2 chip, better display and sharper webcam in a sleeker design

MacBook Air M2 new design
(Image: © Future)

Early Verdict

Pros

  • +

    Smaller and lighter design

  • +

    Brighter and bigger display

  • +

    M2 performance boost

  • +

    1080p webcam

  • +

    Improved speakers

Cons

  • -

    Pricey, compared to past MacBook Air models

  • -

    Supports only single external monitor

  • -

    Fast charging costs extra

MacBook Air (2022) specs

Price: Starts at $1,199 / AU$1,899, Educational $1,099 (US only)
CPU: Apple M2
Display: 13.6‑inch Liquid Retina (2560 x 1664), up to 500 nits brightness
Battery life: 18 hours video playback (rated)
Charging: MagSafe/Thunderbolt, up to 67W
Memory: 8 to 24GB
Storage: 256GB to 2TB
Webcam: 1080p
Dimensions: 11.97 x 8.46 x 0.44 inches
Weight: 2.7 pounds

The new MacBook Air M2 (2022) looks so good that you're going to wonder if you should pay for a MacBook Pro. Compared to the previous MacBook Air M1, you get a more powerful M2 chip, bigger and brighter 13.6-inch display and improved 1080p webcam in an extremely portable design that's 20% smaller than the previous model. 

The catch? The new MacBook Air starts at $1,199 / AU$1,899, which is $200 / AU$400 more than the MacBook Air M1 and just $100 / AU$100 less than the new 13-inch MacBook Pro 2022 with the same M2 chip. 

I just went hands-on with the new MacBook Air 2022, and I came away impressed with its display, sound and sleek redesign (especially the new Midnight blue color). But the price is steep for a MacBook Air given that people are used to paying $999 / AU$1,499 for a laptop in this class.

The MacBook Air 2022 definitely has a shot of making our best laptop list. Here's the pros and cons so far after our initial hands-on time with Apple's latest notebook. 

MacBook Air M2 (2022): Price and release date

The MacBook Air 2022 does not have a specific release date yet or even a preorder date, but Apple says this laptop will launch in July. The starting price is $1,199 / AU$1,899, which is the highest price we've seen in a while for an Air. But Apple is keeping the MacBook Air M1 in the lineup for $999 / AU$1,499.

The $1,199 / AU$1,899 configuration of the MacBook Air M2 includes an 8-core CPU, 8-core GPU, 8GB of unified memory (RAM) and 256GB of SSD storage. The $1,499 / AU$2,349 model steps that up to a 10-core GPU for more graphics muscle and 512GB SSD.

Note that the $1,199 / AU$1,899 Air ships with a 30W USB-C power adapter, and the $1,499 / AU$2,349 model features a 35W dual USB-C port adapter, so you could charge two devices at once. 

If you want to upgrade to 16GB of unified memory, that will cost $200 / AU$300, and 24GB costs $400 / AU$600. Storage options range from 500GB ($200 / AU$300) up to 2TB ($800 / AU$1,200). Unfortunately, the 67W power adapter that offers fast charging costs an extra $20 / AU$30. 

MacBook Air M2 (2022) design and colors

MacBook Air M2 colors

(Image credit: Future)

The first thing I noticed about the new MacBook Air 2022 is how small and light it feels. The weight has only shrunk slightly (2.7 pounds from 2.8 pounds), but the overall design is 20% smaller in volume vs the MacBook Air M1. And it's thinner, too, at 0.4 inches vs 0.6 inches for the older model. 

At the same time, the MacBook Air M2 doesn't feel too light, as some systems can that are made with magnesium. This is still a very solid unibody aluminum design. 

Apple gives you four color options with the MacBook Air 2022, including Midnight (blue), Starlight (pale gold), Space Gray and Silver. I'm a big fan of the Midnight option, as it shifts from dark blue to a brighter blue depending on how the light hits it. The Midnight MacBook Air has personality without being too loud. 

MacBook Air M2 (2022) ports

MacBook Air M2 left side

(Image credit: Future)

The MacBook Air 2022 keeps things minimal on the ports front, with just two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports on the left side. There's also a MagSafe connector for charging on the left. The right side houses a headphone jack for those who still use wired headphones. 

Personally, I like having an SD card slot in the MacBook Pro 14-inch, which also features an HDMI port. But I get why Apple would want to reserve these ports for the pricier Pro model. Still, an extra USB-port on the right side of the MacBook Air chassis would have been nice. 

Unfortunately, the new MacBook Air also doesn't support more than one external monitor at once. This is also true of the MacBook Pro 2022. And that's a bummer since other premium laptops can support dual external displays, such as the Dell XPS 13

MacBook Air M2 (2022) display and speakers

MacBook Air 2022 display

(Image credit: Future)

The new MacBook Air has the most Pro-level display yet, and that's thanks to an increased brightness of 500 nits. This is one bright and colorful panel, and it's now a bit bigger at 13.6 inches (up from 13.3 inches), thanks to Apple shrinking the borders.

The 2560 x 1664-pixel display looked vivid when I watched some footage from Apple TV Plus' Prehistoric Planet. And I could make out fine details on the snout of one particularly menacing looking dinos. 

With support for 1 billion colors, wide color support (P3) and True Tone built in, this is one of the best displays for the money this side of an OLED panel. And while I could do without the notch up top, it's not too distracting. 

When it comes to audio, the new Air is the best sounding laptop in the line yet, thanks to a four-speaker sound system that's located between the display and keyboard. During a demo I was very impressed with the volume and clarity. But the bass is definitely lacking versus the Pro. 

MacBook Air M2 (2022) specs and performance

MacBook Air M2 video editing

(Image credit: Future)

Watching the MacBook Air M2 process seven simultaneous streams in Final Cut Pro, I once again felt like this system has the feel of a MacBook Pro in terms of power. The M2 chip is a serious upgrade, promising up to 40% faster performance when editing complex timelines in Final Cut and 20% faster performance in Photoshop when applying filters.

There is a 10-core GPU option for faster graphics performance and better gaming, but keep in mind that this is reserved for the pricier $1,499 configuration of the MacBook Air. There's 8GB of unified memory to start but it's configurable up to 16GB or 24GB.

MacBook Air M2 (2022): Webcam

One of the most welcome upgrades of the MacBook Air 2022 is the 1080p webcam, which captures a shaper image than the previous 720p camera. Plus, Apple says you should get twice as good low-light performance from this sensor. 

In the demo area for the new MacBook Air, the picture quality looked much improved when I waved to the camera in FaceTime. But we'll have to see how good this cam is in different lighting conditions. 

MacBook Air 2022 webcam

(Image credit: Future)

MacBook Air M2 (2022): Battery life and charging

MacBook Air 2022 dual charger

(Image credit: Future)

Even with the reduction in size, the MacBook Air promises epic endurance. Apple rates the new MacBook Air 2022 for 18 hours of video playback and 15 hours of wireless web surfing. Neither of those numbers vary from what Apple promises with the M1 MacBook Air, though. We'll be putting the new Air through our battery test to evaluate these claims.

The charging picture for the MacBook Air 2022 is a bit more confusing that it needs to be. The starting configuration comes with a 30W USB-power adapter, but the 35W power dual USB-port adapter costs $20 /AU$30 extra (it's included with the $1,499 / AU$1,899 model). And the 67W USB-C charger, which supports fast charging of 50% in 30 minutes, costs $20 /AU$30 more than the standard charger. I'd go with that option. 

MacBook Air M2 (2022): macOS Ventura

macOS Ventura, which is launching this fall, delivers a lot changes. The highlight here is Stage Manager, a new way of multitasking that puts the app you're working on front and center while also making it easy to switch between other open apps. We're also impressed by a new Continuity Camera feature that will let you seamlessly use your iPhone as a webcam on video calls in macOS Ventura.

Other highlights include the ability to undo sends in the Mail app, edit or undo sent messages in Messages, new sharing and collaboration tools for Safari and Passkeys to replace your passwords. Plus, Metal 3 support promises to deliver better games for the Mac. 

MacBook Air M2 (2022): Outlook

MacBook Air M2 photo editing

(Image credit: Future)

Based on our initial impressions, the new MacBook Air 2022 could be one of the best laptops of the year. The design is delightfully portable, and the display is simply awesome in person. I also like the powerful sound system and the potential of the mighty M2 chip. 

So who would get the $1,299 / AU$1,999 13-inch MacBook Pro? Anyone who wants even more power (thanks to its active cooling system) and 10-core GPU standard. Plus, the Pro offers even longer battery life of up to 20 hours of video playback.

But for the vast majority of buyers, the new MacBook Air will be Pro enough. Stay tuned for our full review and test results. 

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.