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MacBook Air 2022 refresh might not get new M2 processor

Updated Mar 9th, 2022 2:56PM EST
MacBook Air
Image: Apple Inc.

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Apple unveiled a brand-new Mac desktop during the Peek Performance event on Tuesday, which brought over the most powerful M1 System-on-Chip (SoC) released to date. The M1 Ultra further raises the bar when it comes to performance and efficiency. But it’s interesting to see that Apple isn’t moving to the second-gen M2 SoC just yet. It might not happen anytime soon either, as the MacBook Air 2022 might still run on an M1 chip version rather than the M2.

The new MacBook Air 2022 refresh wasn’t part of yesterday’s event, and there’s no telling when Apple will unveil it. The release date will likely be at some point in the back half of 2022, but that could even be pushed. So we’ll have to see.

However, the laptop represents one of the most exciting product refreshes of 2022. That’s because plenty of rumors say the MacBook Air is due for a redesign. That’s on top of any performance bump, which would be possible via some sort of an M1 SoC upgrade.

Apple M1 processor family
Apple M1 processor family: M1, M1 Pro, M1 Max, and M1 Ultra. Image source: Apple Inc.

Will M2 be better than the M1?

Last year, Apple didn’t release a new MacBook Air model when it refreshed the MacBook Pro and introduced the notch design for laptops. But 2021 rumors claimed that Apple would unveil a redesigned Air in 2022. More recently, there was talk of Apple debuting the M2 chip for some of this year’s MacBook models. The Air seemed like an obvious choice, considering what Apple has done so far.

But the same reports said that Apple will continue to upgrade the M1 SoCs for other 2022 Macs. The new Mac Studio confirmed those rumors, at least in part.

The logic here seems to be that Apple will introduce a new M-series SoC every few years. The M1 powered the late 2020 MacBook Air, Pro, and Mac mini. Then Apple used the chip for the 2021 iPad Pro and iMac Pro. And yesterday, we saw the first M1 iPad Air. Separately, Apple has developed larger, more powerful M1 variations for high-end Macs: The Pro, Max, and Ultra.

Whenever the M2 SoC does arrive, it’ll likely offer improved speed and efficiency compared to the entry-level M1. But it’ll likely target entry-level devices, like the MacBook Air, the cheapest MacBook Pro, iMac, and plenty of iPads. There’s no telling if that will happen in 2022, however. That’s because the newest MacBook Air rumor doesn’t mention the M2.

Well-known analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has started tweeting his Apple predictions, in addition to his periodical release notes to consumers. He just pushed out the following update about the MacBook Air 2022 refresh. The leaker says the laptop will feature an M1 chip instead of the expected M2 upgrade.

Apple Macs with M1 chips
Apple Macs featuring M1 chips: MacBook Air (2020), MacBook Pro (2020 and 2021), iMac Pro (2021), and Mac mini (2020). Image source: Apple Inc.

The new MacBook Air M2 rumor

If his information is accurate, the 2022 MacBook Air refresh will happen late this year, likely in time for the holiday shopping season. The laptop will feature a new design and offer buyers multiple color options. That’s in line with other MacBook Air rumors. But Kuo says the laptop will not get a mini-LED display, which is the big screen upgrade that Apple delivered for the 2021 MacBook Pros.

As for the M1 chip, Kuo doesn’t specify what M1 version will power the 2022 MacBook Air. A move to M2 will imply that the new Air will receive a performance bump. All Apple product refreshes offer performance improvements. Therefore, it seems unlikely for Apple to rely on the same entry-level chip for the 2022 MacBook Air.

The only way to improve the MacBook Air performance without moving to the M2 chip is using an M1 variation that’s faster than the current M1. The next logical jump would be the M1 Pro, but that’s just speculation.

Apple could always introduce an M1 variation sitting between the M1 and the M1 Pro when it comes to performance. Whether the MacBook Air 2022’s M1 chip gets a name of its own or not, we can expect it to feature more CPU and GPU cores than the original M1.

Finally, there’s no telling when the M2 SoC will drop. Aside from 2022 MacBook Air refresh rumors, we also have rumors that say Apple might refresh the entry-level MacBook Pro this year. We’ll just have to wait and see whether the device gets the M2 treatment or not.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

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