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Apple MacBook Air M2 (2022) Review: Lightweight, Heavy Hitting

Rating:
8/10
?
  • 1 - Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 - Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 - Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 - Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 - Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 - Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 - Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 - Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 - Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 - Absolute Design Nirvana
Price:
Starting At $1,149
Apple MacBook Air M2 resting on desk next to AirPods Pro and PS4 controller
Marcus Mears III / Review Geek

Apple’s MacBook Air M2 (2022) is an all-new entrant to a line of historically well-loved portable computers. This edition brings a goliath of a processor, an updated design, a beautiful 13.6-inch Liquid Retina display, and satisfying keystrokes.

With an M2 chip powering this featherweight of a laptop, there’s little you can’t do—even gaming is an option. Just be sure to opt for the right amount of RAM, or you may run Mac-first into some roadblocks.

Here's What We Like

  • M2 Chip performance
  • Satisfying keyboard & trackpad
  • Lightweight, portable design
  • Suitable for semi-intensive gaming
  • MagSafe charging

And What We Don't

  • Expensive
  • Shell attracts fingerprints
  • Low RAM throttles performance in some areas
  • 60Hz display

Review Geek's expert reviewers go hands-on with each product we review. We put every piece of hardware through hours of testing in the real world and run them through benchmarks in our lab. We never accept payment to endorse or review a product and never aggregate other people’s reviews. Read more >>

Design and Display

Person typing on MacBook Air M2 laptop while sitting at desk
Marcus Mears III / Review Geek

  • Dimensions: 0.44 x 11.97 x 8.46in (1.13 x 30.41 x 21.5cm)
  • Weight: 2.7lbs (1.24kg)
  • Colors: Midnight, Starlight, Space Gray, Silver
  • Display: Liquid Retina, LED-backlit, IPS & True Tone technology, HDR10
  • Screen Size: 13.6-inch
  • Native Resolution: 2560×1664
  • Brightness: 500 Nits

While we’ve seen the iconic wedge form factor for the lightweight Airs of the past, the 2022 edition introduces a design more akin to that of your standard laptop. That doesn’t make it any heavier, though; in fact, at 2.7lbs (1.24kg), the 2022 M2 is the lightest MacBook Air since early 2015, despite continuous strides in performance.

Another iconic, or perhaps infamous, addition to this Mac: the notch. Some hate it, some don’t mind it. I fall into the latter of the two groups, but I can definitely see where the former is coming from. The M2 Air doesn’t look quite as clean as the MacBooks of the past that feature an uninterrupted display from bezel to bezel, but it’s a minor ding on an otherwise outstanding display.

Speaking of the display, I’m a fan…for the most part.

MacBook Air M2 with Review Geek open
Marcus Mears III / Review Geek

At 500 nits, it’s nice and bright to use comfortably at a few notches under the highest setting, and it also gets quite dim for winding down at nighttime. True Tone tech helps keep colors vibrant from frame to frame, ensuring no element looks washed out whether you’re soaking up some on-screen action or stretching your graphic design muscles. Where I believe this screen falls short is its refresh rate cap of 60Hz.

Does this matter for work or school? Absolutely not, the M2 Air’s display is more than worthy to handle productivity. Media enjoyment and gaming, on the other hand, suffer a blow to enjoyment. If you’ve never used a screen with a higher refresh rate than 60Hz, you won’t be disappointed in the slightest. Coming from a 120Hz or higher display, though, you’ll likely wonder why Apple decided to stop at the lowest respectable refresh rate available.

MacBook Air M2 resting on desk while closed
Marcus Mears III / Review Geek

What about the shell around the display, though? A Midnight exterior surrounds the Apple Silicon within my review unit; it’s thin, smooth, and polished. I hope the blueish-black color option sticks around for the Macs to come because it’s up there with my favorite shades from Apple’s product line (along with the dark green of the iPhone 13 and the sleek Space Gray). The only downside: it holds onto fingerprints and smudges like it’s starting a collection.

This is easy enough to do away with using Apple’s recommended cleaning techniques (I prefer a quick once over with a Clorox wipe), but anytime you pick up, put down, type, or browse the web, your fingerprints will be right there with you.

As a welcome surprise, there’s no deck flex in the slightest, even when you try to make it rear its head. While it feels lightweight, and it definitely is, the MacBook Air M2’s chassis also gives you confidence in its structural integrity just by using it.

Connectivity

  • MagSafe 3 charging port
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • 2 Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports
  • External Display Support: 1 external display with up to 6K resolution at 60Hz
  • Bluetooth Version: 5.0

If you use an HDMI cord to present work or watch your favorite shows on a bigger screen, you won’t be happy with the 2022 Air’s limited port selection. Featuring a meager 2 Thunderbolt USB-C ports, a single 3.5mm audio jack, and a MagSafe charging port, the MacBook Air is more concerned with cleanliness and portability than connectivity and expansion options. Do you have what you need for a portable productivity laptop? Probably, but if you’re coming from a Windows machine, it can be hard to shake the feeling that something is missing.

Of course, adapters are always a possible solution, but this is nothing new with Apple products. Want to use wired headphones on anything newer than an iPhone 7? Buy an adapter. Need to take some files home from work on a USB-A flash drive? There’s an adapter for that. Ethernet instead of Wi-Fi? Here, have an adapter. At some point, the dongles and daisy-chained wires hanging off the side of the laptop muddy the clean aesthetic more than it would to instead include a few extra ports.

Satechi Multi-Port Adapter

Need more than USB-C ports? This adapter has everything you might want.

Thankfully, Bluetooth is around to save face. Many of the problems that come with few ports are solved with wireless connectivity, and the 2022 Air’s Bluetooth worked flawlessly. I tested out my AirPods Pro, a DualShock PS4 Controller, and a JBL Pulse speaker. All three worked within seconds of enabling Bluetooth and connecting to them.

M2 Performance: Walking on Air

  • Chip: Apple M2
  • CPU: 8-core, 4 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores, 16-core Neural Engine
  • GPU: 8-core (up to 10-core)
  • RAM: 8GB (upgradeable to 16GB or 24GB)
  • Storage: 512GB (256GB, 1TB, or 2TB available)

How many of you enjoy clicking File Explorer on Windows or Finder on Mac and having enough time to buy a new computer before your files load? I’m guessing not many. The M2 CPU will never give you that problem; it’s an absolute powerhouse.

Whether I was touching up photos, sinking into a game, or simply getting some work done, the M2 Air handled it with ease. Now, try doing three or four things at the same time, and there’s a good chance you’ll run into an issue—maxed-out RAM usage.

With all of the background processes and resource-hungry web pages of today, the default 8GB doesn’t quite cut it anymore. Should you opt for 8GB of RAM if you’re planning to use the MacBook Air for work or school? It’s hard to say.

If you usually run multiple applications at one time, including Google Chrome (a notoriously RAM-famished browser), you’ll probably want 16GB. If your work is primarily completed in text editors (looking at you, programmers and publishing biz folk), or you’re happy sticking to a few apps at a time, you can probably skate by with 8GB.

If you’re a numbers person, check out the section that compares the M1 chip to the new M2. If you’re a gamer, I’ve got you covered, too.

Gaming

At the June 2022 WWDC, Apple, with help from Masaru Ijuin, made bold claims about the efficiency of the M2 chip with respect to gaming. I’ll admit to my skepticism, given my own attempts at MacBook gaming in the past—but the results were somewhat humbling.

At first, I planned, “let’s start with something a little more the MacBook Air’s speed.” So I booted up Cuphead. Of the many performance-hungry games available on Steam, Cuphead is not one of them. As expected, the M2 Mac chewed through the action without issue. “Okay,” I thought, “onto something a bit tougher.”

Navigating through the unforgettable world of Disco Elysium, I was a little taken aback by how smooth it all ran; this isn’t a particularly stressful game, but there were no noticeable frame drops, stutters, or crashes, and I soon found myself lost in the game’s dialogue.

As a final test, I started Sid Meier’s Civilization VI: Gathering Storm and cranked the settings as high as the game allowed. To my surprise, the 2022 MacBook Air handled it like a champ. The average turn time was around 10 seconds, and, if you’ve ever played a Civilization title on a lesser machine, you know turns can take upwards of a minute. The game looked great with the graphics as high as they could go, and playing on a Mac was never a deterrence from expanding my in-game empire.

A true testament to the processing power of Apple Silicon, Mac-based gaming is met with new beginnings. Of course, you won’t be running the most demanding titles in 4K (or anything in 4K for that matter); the MacBook Air simply isn’t built to handle that much graphical stress. However, if you’ve written off Mac gaming over the years, now’s the time to give it another try.

Speakers, Webcam, and Microphones

  • Webcam Resolution: 1080p
  • Speakers: Four-speaker sound system, support for Spatial Audio
  • Microphones: Three-mic array with directional beamforming

How does the M2 MacBook Air sound? Not bad, not bad at all. My usual gripe with laptop audio is that it comes through hollow and echoey—the 2022 Air employs a four-speaker sound system, though. This gives way to rich, dynamic sounds from both music and dialogue. I enjoyed surfing YouTube, catching up on The Haunting of Bly Manor, and playing some cafe-style jazz in the background while I worked.

After a comparison between my daily driver MacBook Pro 2016 and the Air M2 (Stairway to Heaven was my comparison song of choice), I noticed two main differences: the Pro is louder when set to the same volume, but the Air produces a much fuller sound. Music sounds shrill on the MacBook Pro when compared to the heavier bass that comes through on the Air.

The 1080p webcam is fit for FaceTime with family, Zoom meetings with colleagues, and online classroom attendance. Whether in low or adequate lighting, you’ll be able to make out the details that matter. I wouldn’t use the webcam to shoot video for professional endeavors, but I’m happy with its performance for the usual suspects.

Microphone Test on the MacBook Air M2 (2022)

As you can hear in the mic test below, my voice comes through crisp and clear regardless of ambient noise like my AC and tower fan.

I can absolutely recommend this speaker, microphone, and webcam combo to remote workers, online students, and those who enjoy frequent video chats.

Keyboard and Trackpad: Satisfaction Guaranteed

MacBook Air M2 keyboard and trackpad
Marcus Mears III / Review Geek

Some laptops seem to have it all, right up until you get down to typing on the keyboard. Thankfully, the 2022 MacBook Air’s keyboard is phenomenal.

Pressing each key, you can feel a slight bounce that creates swift, satisfying keystrokes across the board. The Space Bar, Return, and Shift keys are all equally effective regardless of where your finger lands when pressing them.

There are 2 available layouts, U.S and ISO, with 78 or 79 keys respectively. The form factor is your typical QWERTY arrangement with a row of 12 function keys and a Power button that doubles as a fingerprint scanner.

Unlike the one found on Lenovo’s ThinkPad e14 gen 2, I like this power button/fingerprint scanner because it doesn’t compromise its tactile feel as a key for the sake of reading fingerprints.

MacBook Air M2 keyboard
Marcus Mears III / Review Geek

I do have one small gripe, though. There are no keys to control the keyboard’s backlighting, meaning you’ll have to adjust it through software. This isn’t the end of the world, but it can be annoying when you don’t want to tab out of your application just to bump the lighting up in Control Center. It does of course have keys for changing the screen’s brightness, so no worries there.

The trackpad, similar to the keyboard, is excellent. The more I use trackpads from other brands, the more I appreciate Apple’s design. It’s wide enough to accommodate scrolling and capturing tall screenshots, responsive to your clicks, and simple to use. On top of that, there are the added benefits of Force Touch capabilities for further control over your text and apps. I have zero qualms in this area.

Battery Life and Charging

  • Battery life as advertised: Up to 18 hours of movie playback, up to 15 hours of wireless web browsing
  • Power adapter: 30W (up to 35W), USB-C to MagSafe 3, 2m (6.56in) length

When it comes to battery life, the M2 Air’s is substantial. I saw an average of 11-12 hours of mixed-use (productivity, movie playback, and light gaming) before the battery fell to 10% and I plugged it in to charge. This meant waking up and logging on from around 8:15 am to 7 or 8 pm, at which time I’d hook the MagSafe cable up for a few hours before using it the next morning. This lasting battery life, combined with its lightweight build, makes the M2 MacBook Air an excellent laptop for daily commuting and extended travel.

Something to note: the 2022 MacBook Air will run a little warm after an hour or two of resource-intensive work or play. The temperature never reached worrying levels, but it definitely reached noticeable levels.

On average, charging from 10% to 100% using the included 30W power cord took around 2 and a half hours. Not the fastest ever, but still respectable.

M1 vs M2: Improvements Across the Board

Below, you’ll find comparisons between an M1 chip (from late 2020) and the newest installment, the M2. These benchmark scores were collected using Cinebench R23 and Geekbench 5.

Cinebench R23

CPU CPU (Single-Core) CPU (Multi-Core) MP Ratio
M1 Chip 1495 6248 4.18x
M2 Chip 1588 8320 5.24x

That’s a ~5.9% increase in single-core performance when rendering a scene and a ~25% increase for multi-core performance. This makes sense when looking at the differing MP Ratios, which measure the performance increase between a single-core and multi-core processing.

What does this mean? The M2 processor can render the scene used in Cinebench’s test in roughly 3/4 of the time it takes the M1.

Geekbench 5

CPU Single-Core Score Multi-Core Score HTML5 (Single-Core) HTML5 (Multi-Core) Ray Tracing (Single-Core) Ray Tracing (Multi-Core)
M1 Chip 1750 7737 1720 7856 2639 14664
M2 Chip 1917 8810 1802 8715 2793 15894

You can see similar results in Geekbench 5, along with some extra info that Cinebench doesn’t test for.

I’m most interested in the HTML5 and Ray Tracing scores. There’s roughly a 10% increase in the speed that the M2 chip loads on page HTML5 elements when compared to the M1. This means you’ll start watching your YouTube video or browsing Twitter that much faster every time you log on.

With Ray Tracing becoming more common in the gaming industry, it’s interesting to see how capabilities are progressing on Mac. While it may not be a massive leap in performance from generation to generation, it is moving forward.

Should You Buy the Apple MacBook Air M2 (2022)?

Of the few things holding the M2 MacBook Air back, pricing is perhaps the most prominent. It can easily be the deciding factor between upgrading or not, and for that reason, I think you should only upgrade if you’re a few years behind the curve, or you’re set on having the latest in the lineup. If your older Mac is still running strong, I’d hold off for a few generations and see how you feel then.

However, if you’re currently on the hunt for a lightweight laptop, it’s hard not to recommend the M2 Air. It’s got portability, style, performance, and comfort. Plus, it’s the first Mac I’ve considered gaming on past the first day I tried it.

Be sure to look out for the upgrade options when considering a 2022 MacBook Air. For the best results, I’d upgrade to 16GB of RAM, and think about upping your storage to 1TB if you’re not on a cloud storage plan and will be making it your main laptop.

The MacBook Air M2 (2022) comes in Silver, Starlight, Space Gray, and Midnight (as reviewed). You can pick it up today starting at $1,099.

Rating:
8/10
Price:
Starting At $1,149

Here’s What We Like

  • M2 Chip performance
  • Satisfying keyboard & trackpad
  • Lightweight, portable design
  • Suitable for semi-intensive gaming
  • MagSafe charging

And What We Don't

  • Expensive
  • Shell attracts fingerprints
  • Low RAM throttles performance in some areas
  • 60Hz display

Marcus Mears III Marcus Mears III
Marcus Mears III is the Reviews Editor for How-To Geek and Review Geek. He’s a lifelong technology enthusiast with over three years of experience developing prose that keeps readers in the know. With hundreds of articles across a number of tech publications like MakeUseOf and iGeeksBlog, Mears’ work helps readers around the globe learn to make the most of their devices and software. Read Full Bio »