The 2020 MacBook Air was a great laptop, but it was kind of a stepping stone. Apple essentially took the previous-generation Intel MacBook Air, slapped a new M1 chip in it, and called it a day. Again, great laptop — but it hardly fulfilled the promise of what Apple Silicon could bring to the series. That, however, has now changed — Apple has finally launched a MacBook Air designed from the ground up with Apple’s own processor in mind.
The 2022 MacBook Air boasts an all-new design, a new M2 processor, and a new, notched display. It’s more in line with the design language on offer by the MacBook Pro, but still, the super thin and light laptop that we’ve always loved. But it’s also a little more expensive. Sure, the M1 model is still available, but it can’t help but feel a little dated next to the new Air. Should you spring for a shiny new MacBook Air?
Well, if you can swing it, yes. The 2022 MacBook Air is a killer machine.
- Great design
- Excellent performance
- Good display and webcam
- Solid speakers
- Great keyboard and trackpad
- More expensive
MacBook Air (2022) design
The 2022 MacBook Air represents a big design change compared to the previous generation, in more ways than one. For starters, Apple has gotten rid of the edge shape that had defined the laptop since its creation almost 15 years ago. That, however, isn’t necessarily a bad thing — the device is still super thin and super light, and easy to slip into a bag or backpack. In fact, it’s thinner than the previous generation at its thickest point, and as a result, feels thinner to carry.
Of course, the overall design is very similar to the recent MacBook Pro models. The device has a kind of flat-edged look, however, those edges are obviously not as thick as the MacBook Pro. At just a little over 11 millimeters, you’ll immediately notice how thin the device is whenever you pick it up.
On the left edge, you’ll find a MagSafe power input, and two Thunderbolt ports, while on the right there’s a headphone jack, and that’s it. The slim selection of ports is a little annoying, but given the addition of MagSafe, you have an extra Thunderbolt port to play with while the device is charging. I would have liked to see at least one Thunderbolt port on the right side, too.
Open the lid, and Apple has taken a few more bits and pieces from the MacBook Pro — though not everything. It seems as though the black keyboard bed is reserved for Pro devices, though on the Midnight model I’m reviewing you’ll barely notice. On the Silver, Space Gray, and Starlight models, it’s a little more obvious. As you would expect from Apple, you’ll get a nice, big trackpad, too.
Generally, I love the look and feel of the 2022 MacBook Air. Some may miss the tapered look, but I’m happy with what Apple has done here.
MacBook Air (2022) keyboard and touchpad
Speaking of the keyboard and touchpad, they’re both excellent. You would expect nothing less from an Apple-built touchpad — the touchpad here is big, responsive, and high-quality. Apple is still simply head and shoulders above the competition when it comes to the touchpad, and it shows here.
The keyboard is excellent on this laptop too. There are no remnants of the butterfly keyboards of a few years ago here, and the MacBook Air is better for it. You’ll get a good amount of travel, and the keys are well-spaced for my typing sensibilities. It’s pretty much the same typing experience as the 14-inch MacBook Pro — which is to say it feels great. Better than any MacBook Air alternatives, by far.
MacBook Air (2022) speakers and microphones
Unlike the MacBook Pro and previous-generation MacBook Air, the 2022 model does away with the speaker grille on the bed of the laptop, instead favoring small speaker grills in the hinge and under the keyboard. You might assume that the result is a sub-par speaker experience, but on the contrary, the speakers in this laptop sound excellent.
Under the hood, the MacBook Air offers two tweeters and two woofers, and they support Apple’s Spatial Audio tech for a more immersive experience.
Now, they’re not quite as full-bodied and powerful as the speakers in the MacBook Pro — but given the fact that they have to be more compact than those in the MacBook Pro, that makes sense. Still, they can get loud, relatively detailed, and excellent for listening to all kinds of audio, whether it’s music, podcasts, or dialog from videos.
The microphones are solid too. There are three microphones in the MacBook Air, and they’re great at picking up audio for video calls. I wouldn’t recommend using them for things like live-streaming and recording podcasts, but they’re perfectly good for most situations.
MacBook Air (2022) display and webcam
The MacBook Air doesn’t just have a new look — it also has a new display. While the previous-generation model had a 13.2-inch display, the new model steps things up to 13.6 inches. Now, that really only accounts for the extra screen real estate that you get next to the notch, but any extra screen space is good.
Let’s get this out of the way — the notch doesn’t matter. The only thing that it cuts into is the menu bar, and I don’t use that many apps that have that many menu items. Those that do will find that the menu items simply pop up on the other side of the notch. It’s fine.
The display quality is quite good. It’s a little brighter than the last-generation model, at 500-nits compared to 400-nits. I didn’t have a previous-generation Air handy to compare to but found that the screen was easily bright enough for all situations, including working outside.
Now, the overall display quality isn’t quite as good as that on the MacBook Pro, which offers a Mini LED display that’s able to deliver true black levels and higher contrast. But colors are still nice and vibrant, and frankly, the display is still better than much of the competition, even in this price range.
Along with the display, the webcam has gotten an upgrade too. Gone is the old 720p webcam in previous MacBook Air models — in favor of the same 1,080p one found in the MacBook Pro. It’s a definite improvement, and it doesn’t just look crisper — it looks more vibrant and colorful too. Sure, it’s no replacement for a really high-end camera, but it’s more than good enough for video calls.
MacBook Air (2022) performance
One of the headline improvements in this model of the MacBook Air is the fact that it’s one of the first computers to feature Apple’s new M2 chip. The M2, according to Apple, offers an 18% faster CPU and 35% faster GPU.
In the base model, you’ll get an 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU, but you can upgrade to get a 10-core GPU instead, in case you want a slight performance boost in the graphics department. The base model also has 8GB of RAM, but you can upgrade to up to 24GB. Our model has the 10-core GPU, with 16GB of RAM.
In day-to-day use, the 2022 MacBook Air performs like a champ. It was easily up to the task of handling my workflow of having Mail, Podcasts, Slack, and Chrome with up to a few dozen tabs open at a time, and I never experienced it slow down or stutter with these kinds of apps. Granted, I haven’t been doing a lot of music or video production lately, but those who do use their laptops for those kinds of heavier workflows will likely want to upgrade to a MacBook Pro anyway.
That said, even audio and video professionals who tend to have lighter production workflows will likely be able to get by with the MacBook Air. Not only does it excel in day-to-day use, but it performs excellently in benchmarks too. Here are the results I achieved.
- GeekBench 5: 1,899 single-core, 8,842 multi-core
- CineBench R23: 1,602 single-core, 8,016 multi-core
These are excellent results, particularly when it comes to single-core performance. The M2 is handily able to best even the MacBook Pro there, however obviously, the MacBook Pro is a better-performing machine in multi-core performance. In other words, the MacBook Air is excellent at performing quick, simple tasks, but if you regularly perform sustained workloads, such as long stretches of video rendering, the MacBook Pro will come in handy.
MacBook Air (2022) battery
The M1 MacBook Air boasted excellent battery life and was easily able to handle a full workday. That remained true with the M2 MacBook Air, and I found the battery life to be extremely similar to the last-generation model. Apple rates the laptop as offering the same battery life, with up to 15 hours of wireless web usage. I didn’t quite get that far, and was able to get to the end of an eight-hour work day with around 30% of the battery remaining — but that’s still an incredible feat for a laptop.
As mentioned, the 2022 MacBook Air can charge through MagSafe or through the Thunderbolt ports. If you buy the base model, you’ll get a 30W charger, but with a more expensive model, you’ll be able to choose between a new dual-port 35W charger, or a 67W charger. With the latter, you’ll be able to charge to 50% in around half an hour, though obviously, the other chargers will take a little longer.
MacBook Air (2022) software and features
The 2022 MacBook Air comes with Apple’s macOS Monterey, which is the latest and greatest public release of macOS. It’ll get upgraded to macOS Venture when that operating system launches in the fall, though that may be a few months away.
Another feature on offer here is the fingerprint sensor in the keyboard. The sensor works quickly and accurately, and can really come in handy for logging in, paying for items, and more. I would have liked Face ID, especially given the notch, but the fingerprint sensor is still nice to have.
Surprise — the2022 MacBook Air is a killer machine. Sure, it’s not quite as powerful as the new MacBook Pro, but it’s super thin and light, performs excellently, and generally offers a premium experience. The price bump over last year’s model is a little annoying, but if you can afford to spend the extra money, it’s worth it. That said, if the extra $200 is too much of a stretch for you, the M1 MacBook Air is still a great computer.
Apple’s biggest competition comes from itself, in the last-generation M1 MacBook Air. That laptop is still an amazing computer, and worth considering if you’re looking to save some cash.
Should I buy the MacBook Air (2022)?
Yes. It’s the best thin-and-light laptop right now, especially for macOS fans.
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