MacBook Air M2 review: better than its predecessor, but pricier too

The MacBook Air M2 offers the perfect blend of power and portability for students, but it comes with a higher price tag too.

MacBook Air M2_laptop open on desk (21 by 9)
(Image: © Future)

Live Science Verdict

Apple has finally overhauled the MacBook Air in an impressive fashion, and in doing so has created an Apple Silicon machine for almost everyone.

Pros

  • +

    Great performance

  • +

    Very good battery life

  • +

    Slimline design

Cons

  • -

    More expensive than previous model

  • -

    No fast charger as standard

  • -

    Increased storage is a must

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Key specs:

Price: $1,199.00

Screen size: 13.6-inch

Weight: 2.7 lbs (1.225 kg)

Memory: 8 GB as standard, 16 GB and 24 GB options

Battery life: up to 18 hours

Storage: 256 GB, 512 GB, 1 TB, or 2 TB versions

Warranty: 1 year, extendable with AppleCare.

Operating system: macOS Ventura

Display: 13.6-inch Liquid Retina display with 2650x1664 resolution

CPU: Apple M2 chip (8-core CPU, 8-core GPU, 16-core Neural Engine)

Graphics: M2 includes 8-core GPU (configurable with 10-core GPU)

Ports: 2x Thunderbolt USB-C ports, MagSafe, 3.5 mm headphone jack

Apple has reinvented a classic with the new MacBook Air M2, but is it worth picking up?

Before 2022, the cheapest way to get an Apple laptop was the MacBook Air M1. It wasn’t a bad machine by any means (and earned a spot in our best laptops for students guide), but it certainly had many glancing enviously at the MacBook Pro’s 14 and 16-inch redesigns – in spite of the hefty price tag.

That laptop may be a laptop for coding, but it’s overkill for most students. Thankfully, Apple has revised its MacBook Air design with the MacBook Air M2. It’s not as powerful as its Pro counterpart, but it does still offer many of its advantages for a considerably lower price.

Your mileage may vary, depending on how you feel about the corners that have been cut – the MacBook Air M2 doesn’t have an HDMI port, and the display isn’t quite as transformative as the Pro’s. Instead, it offers excellent performance that blows past what Intel Macs were capable of, in a thin and light design (it weighs just 2.7 lbs) that now comes in four different colors.

It’s still not cheap though, and you’re ideally going to want to add more storage if it’s going to be your main machine, but for 90% of the Mac laptop audience, the MacBook Air M2 will be perfect.

MacBook Air M2: Set up and usability

MacBook Air M2_laptop open on desk, logged in

(Image credit: Future)
  • Easy to set-up

Once you’ve opened the box and slipped the very small laptop out of it, the set-up process is as easy as opening the lid and waiting for the startup chime.

From there, the MacBook Air will ask for your WiFi information, and allow you to set up accessibility settings before logging into your Apple ID to collect your settings and apps. The whole process should take just a couple of minutes, before leaving you at your new desktop.

MacBook Air M2: Design, specs, and features

MacBook Air M2_laptop from behind slightly open on desk

(Image credit: Future)
  • Sleek design
  • 4 color options
  • We miss the illuminated logo

While there’s still part of us that wants a light-up Apple logo on the lid, the MacBook Air M2 remains immediately recognizable as a MacBook – it has rounded corners, a slim profile, and (sadly not illuminated) logo on the top.

It also comes in four different colors: Space Gray, Silver, Stardust, and Midnight. Our review unit is the Midnight version and, as you can no doubt tell from the photos, it attracts fingerprints like nobody’s business. It doesn’t take much to cover it in smudges, but we’d expect it to be a little less obvious on the other color options.

On the left-hand side, you’ll find a pair of USB-C ports and a MagSafe connector for charging, and the right has just a 3.5 mm headphone jack. We’d have certainly liked a right-sided USB-C port, especially since you can charge via those ports too, but the key takeaway is that unless you’re all in on USB-C you’ll need a dongle or two to get going.

Open the lid and you’ll be presented with a slimline, but full-sized keyboard that has TouchID built into the button in the top right corner. The keys have scissor switches which should make this MacBook Air an instant upgrade for anyone who’s had experience with the prior butterfly switches. The trackpad below the keyboard remains industry-leading, too.

The new Liquid Retina display is absolutely excellent, but we’ve been spoiled by the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros that offer much deeper blacks and a higher contrast ratio. Still, it’s a great display with impressive color accuracy. The notch returns, too, and contains a 1080p webcam (finally).

MacBook Air M2: Features and performance

MacBook Air M2_laptop slightly open on desk

(Image credit: Future)
  • M2 chip is a big upgrade in power
  • Great battery life
  • Near silent running

We’ve waxed lyrical about the performance benefits of the Apple Silicon line-up once the M1 arrived a couple of years ago, but it really does bear repeating that it’s a huge step up over the Intel machines of prior generations.

The M2 continues that trend, albeit at an iterative pace rather than the generational leap of the M1 over its predecessors. Apple says it offers 1.4 times the performance of the MacBook Air M1, and while we can’t put an exact figure on it, we can say that we threw everything at the M2 and nothing seemed to stress it out.

Editing audio, images, web browsing, gaming – you name it, the M2 chip makes it look easy. It has four efficiency cores for standard tasks, with another four that kick in when things get taxing. It also incorporates the GPU on the same SoC (system on chip), which means the Unified Memory is able to be distributed directly to where it’s needed.

Keeping the components together also allows for fantastic battery life (up to 18 hours) because things aren’t constantly being copied between parts of the system. It also helps that the M2 is fanless, meaning it runs silently, even when you’re juggling multiple tasks.

Other than the small amount of base storage, our only other real complaint here is that Apple didn’t add the 67W fast charger in the box. While the MagSafe cable matches the laptop’s color (something even the Pro models don’t get), it caps out at 30W and the faster charger will cost you an extra $20 when purchasing. That doesn’t sound a lot, but even at the low-end, this is an $1,199 machine.

MacBook Air M2: Price

  • Prices start at $1,199 / £1249

The MacBook Air M2 starts at $1,199 / £1249 (opens in new tab), which will get you an 8-core GPU, 8-core CPU, 8 GB of Unified Memory, and 256 GB of SSD storage.

That’s a good deal cheaper than the MacBook Pro 14-inch (opens in new tab) which starts at $1,999, but we’d still advise against that base variant because 256 GB of storage is unlikely to be enough in the medium to long term.

While Apple does offer an additional two GPU cores and 512 GB storage for $1,499 / £1,549 (opens in new tab), we’d recommend building to order with double the RAM and double the storage for $1,899 / £1949 if at all possible (though at that point, you're moving into the MacBook Pro price range).

Whatever you go for, make sure you’re absolutely certain with your choices – the MacBook Air isn’t upgradeable after purchase.

MacBook Air M2: User reviews

MacBook Air M2_laptop closed on desk

(Image credit: Future)

The MacBook Air M2 has an average customer rating on Amazon of 4.7 stars out of 5 (opens in new tab), with the main drawback noting the lack of storage as mentioned above.

Many have praised the size of the display in such a portable laptop, the speed of the M2 chip, and the excellent battery life.

Should you buy the MacBook Air M2?

If you have a MacBook Air M1, the performance jump alone here isn’t enough to make the M2 version a “must buy.” If you’re coming from an Intel Mac, though, it’s the best MacBook Air Apple has ever made, and the changes thanks to Apple Silicon will be transformative.

For students new to the Mac ecosystem who have the cash to spend, it’s also a very easy recommendation. The slim profile, portability, and powerful chipset make it easily one of the best MacBooks for students out there.

If this product isn’t for you

If you’re looking for yet more power, the MacBook Pro 14-inch (or even the MacBook Pro 16-inch) is a great alternative but does come with a huge price tag. That said, it also includes a bigger, brighter display, additional ports (including HDMI), and an SD card slot.

Meanwhile, if you want a Mac but aren’t married to the idea of a laptop, the Mac Mini M1 (opens in new tab) is a great choice so long as you have a mouse, keyboard, and monitor to attach to it.

However, if you decide that you’d rather get a Windows laptop, then the Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 is a beautiful alternative that packs a performance punch.

Lloyd Coombes freelance tech and fitness writer for Live Science. He's an expert in all things Apple as well as in computer and gaming tech, with previous works published on TopTenReviews, Space.com, and TechRadar. You'll find him regularly testing the latest MacBook or iPhone, but he spends most of his time writing about video games at Dexerto.com. He also covers board games and virtual reality, just to round out the nerdy pursuits.