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MacBook Air M2: we tested Apple’s new laptop

MacBook Air M2: we tested Apple's new laptop

This story is part WWDC 2022CNET’s full coverage from and about Apple’s annual developer conference.

Apples new MacBook Air powered by M2 adds a lot of new features, but it also brings back what I like least: the laptop’s starting price is over $1,000. For much of its life, the MacBook Air sat at $999, but in 2018 redesign bumped the price up $200. In 2020, the starting price was back to $999 and I felt things were as they should be. Guess what? It’s now 2022, and with another redesign, the MacBook Air starts at $1,199…again. (It’s £1,249 in the UK and AU$1,899 in Australia.)

I stress this simply because this significant leap for a very mainstream laptop will put it beyond the reach of many students and artists who might get the most out of it. Other than that, I like pretty much everything else about the new version. It’s also worth noting that the Late 2020 MacBook Air M1 remains available, for now, at $999.


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Hands-on with Apple’s new MacBook Air M2


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After Monday WWDC 2022 Keynote, I was lucky enough to have some hands-on time with the new MacBook Air. It wasn’t a lot of time, so I focused mostly on the new physical design and the look and feel of the system.

The M1 MacBook Air, one of the first set of Macs to move from Intel to Apple Silicon, isn’t a bad machine, but it’s based on a design launched in 2018, which is about ages ago in computing terms. The new version moves from the traditional soft and tapered design to the squarer, more blocking look of the late 2021 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro laptops. It’s a more modern and constructivist design, in that it largely rejects decorative stylization.

Macbook Air M2

Dan Ackerman/CNET

But the new MacBook Air goes beyond the Pro models it copies in one important respect: it adds a new color to the usual gray and silver (and the M1 Air’s gold) – a new Midnight color, which appears as a matte black finish. . It’s by far the most striking new MacBook look in a long time and reminds me of old matte black polycarbonate MacBooks from the mid-2000s.

Its footprint is a hair smaller than before, as is its weight, at 2.7 pounds versus 2.8 pounds for the MacBook Air M1. But the new model was even smaller and more portable than that when I picked it up, largely because it’s thinner, at 11.3mm. The M1 version tapers down, but it measures 16mm at the rear hinge.

The new MacBook Air M2 won’t go on sale until July, so it might be a while before I can give it a more in-depth hands-on test. I’m especially looking forward to seeing how its 1080p resolution webcam performs, which is probably the biggest upgrade for a lot of people who are tired of the never-great 720p webcam from previous MacBook Air laptops, up and there including the Version M1.

MacBook Air M2 touchpad

Dan Ackerman/CNET

I’m also very interested in spending more time with the new, slightly larger 13.6-inch screen (up from 13.3-inch), which Apple says is 25% brighter, at 500 nits. It also adds MagSafe, which returned in last year’s new MacBook Pro systems, and its touchpad is, according to Apple, slightly larger, but it wouldn’t put a number or percentage on it.

Interestingly, almost none of these improvements are available in the new 13-inch MacBook Pro, also announced at WWDC 2022. It lacks a bigger screen, better camera, MagSafe connection, and new colors. It’s, on paper at least, exactly the same as the Late 2020 13-inch MacBook Pro, just with the new M2 chip replacing the M1. However, this remains the only way to put your hand (or fingers) on the Touch bar off.