Apple's M2 MacBook Air is a super-fast WFH companion with a dreamy keyboard

A full-sized function row!
By Alex Perry  on 
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2022 MacBook Air M2 laptop open against a blue backdrop with cloud patterns
A notch above. Credit: Molly Flores / Mashable
MacBook Air M2
The Bottom Line
Apple's M2 MacBook Air could use more ports and a higher refresh rate, but overall, anyone who's been rocking an older MacBook for a while should upgrade to this one ASAP.
Buying Options
Mashable Score 4.5
Cool Factor 4
Learning Curve 5
Performance 5
Bang for the Buck 4.25
The Good
  • Lighter despite bigger display
  • New redesign works
  • Fantastic keyboard
  • Great performance
The Bad
  • Needs more ports
  • Only 60Hz refresh rate
  • Camera notch

Mashable Choice
Mashable Choice is a badge of honor, reserved for the absolute best stuff you can see, use, or do. If it's Choice, it's worth your time.

Let me cut to the chase: If you’ve been waiting four or five years to upgrade your MacBook Air, go ahead and do it now. 

That’s because the new 2022 MacBook Air, powered by Apple’s in-house M2 silicon, is just about the ideal work-from-home (or work-from-wherever, really) companion. For a starting price of $1,200, this new M2 Air delivers everything you need any job centered around using a computer: Rock-solid battery life, a larger 13.6-inch display than previous models, a keyboard that’s to die for, and enough horsepower to handle everyday tasks with ease.

Is it perfect? Absolutely not. The new M2 MacBook Air is still in dire need of upgrades to things like refresh rate and the port selection. But if you’re like me and you’ve spent way too much time working on an older MacBook Air, this upgrade is a no-brainer.

Bigger, but still slim

2022 MacBook Air
No tapering here. Credit: Molly Flores / Mashable

Apple’s latest MacBook Air is a direct successor to the M1-powered MacBook Air from late 2020, so I’ll use that model as a baseline for most comparisons. Its physical appearance is actually one of the areas in which the two models differ the most.

This new M2 Air model comes with a redesign that won’t mean much to the layperson but might be noticeable to more tech-savvy individuals. Previous MacBook Air laptops have come with a bottom half that tapers down in size from one end to the next. In other words, while using the laptop, the end of the keyboard and trackpad portion of the body was thinner than the part that connects to the display. 

That staple of MacBook Air design is a thing of the past now. Apple instead went with an all-around uniform thickness of 1.13 cm, while the 2020 model bottomed out at 0.41 cm but went up to 1.61 cm at its thickest. As someone who appreciates symmetry and consistency, this pleases me; I want my laptop to be the same size on one end as it is on the other. Its peak thinness may not be the same as before, but overall, this is still a very slim machine.

And that’s impressive because Apple upgraded the display from its former 13.3-inch size to a new 13.6-inch size. A third of an inch may not sound like a lot, but in ultra-portable laptop terms, it can make a big difference. I’ve spent the last three and a half years working on a 2016 MacBook Pro with a 13.3-inch display and immediately felt the difference here, so trust me on this.

2022 MacBook Air
The camera notch isn't great. Credit: Molly Flores / Mashable

That Apple was able to size up the display while maintaining a respectable level of thinness and actually cutting down the weight (2.7 lbs. versus 2.8 lbs. on the 2020 Air model) is certainly impressive. One thing I find less impressive is the new camera notch, a holdover from the 2021 MacBook Pro. This is something I can tolerate on a phone screen (though I don’t much care for it there, either) because it’s smaller. But I do find the notch a touch distracting on a larger laptop display. 

To Apple’s credit, the notch doesn’t actually get in the way when streaming videos (everything from YouTube to Sling has black bars where the notch would be anyway), but it just looks bad to me. 

That said, the notch contains one major upgrade in the form of a 1080p camera, rather than the lowly 720p lens from the last go-round. Simply put, your video calls will look much better if you decide to pull the trigger on the new M2 MacBook Air, and not just because of increased resolution. I’ve had to carefully position myself in front of an overhead light behind me for every work call for years because, if I didn’t, that light would drown out my own face. With the new M2 MacBook Air, that overbearing glare becomes a glowing circle in the corner while my face remains visible.

A selfie of the reviewer using the M2 MacBook Air's camera
That light made the webcam on my older MacBook Pro unusable. Credit: Alex Perry / Mashable

The last big physical change is the addition of a MagSafe charging port alongside the two previously existing Thunderbolt / USB-C ports on the MacBook Air’s left side. This, of course, allows you to charge the laptop while keeping two Thunderbolt / USB-C ports open. Still, I would’ve liked one or two more of these ports to keep parity with the crappy old 2016 model I’ve used, which has four in total. One thing I won’t complain about, though: This bad boy comes with a 3.5mm headphone jack on the right side. 

Before moving on to how it feels to actually use the thing, here’s a more detailed look at the M2 MacBook Air’s specs:

  • Four colors: space grey, starlight, midnight, silver

  • 13.6-inch display with 60Hz refresh rate

  • 1080p front-facing camera

  • 8GB, 16GB, or 24GB RAM

  • 256GB to 2TB storage

  • MagSafe 3 port, two Thunderbolt / USB-C ports, 3.5mm headphone jack

Kingly keyboard

View of the 2022 M2 MacBook Air keyboard against a blue surface
This keyboard is the best. Credit: Molly Flores / Mashable

From the perspective of someone who’s been stuck on one of Apple’s horrendous old butterfly keyboards for years, switching to the M2 MacBook Air was roughly what I imagine it feels like to go to heaven. This is a fantastic keyboard — one that should be a selling point for anyone stuck on a butterfly keyboard.

Key presses feel substantial but hardly make any noise. Merely pushing the keys in while typing feels good, man. It actually feels like pressing a real button, unlike the butterfly keyboard, which felt like pushing down on something that was stuck in molasses. That said, this keyboard seems nearly identical in feel to the 2020 M1 MacBook Air, so it’s not some revolutionary vanguard of keyboard design. Rather, it’s a continuation of a positive trend.

There is one major change, which is that the function row along the top has been extended so the keys are full-sized rather than half-sized like they were on the 2020 Air. In practice, this mostly means the escape key feels huge, coming in at the same form factor as the tab key. I gotta say, I dig it. I have somewhat big fingers so more size is always better, in my view. There’s still a Touch ID key on the upper right corner of the keyboard, too, and it works flawlessly as a means to log into the machine rather than type out a password every time. 

Needless to say, this keyboard is the best reason to upgrade if you’re still on a somewhat older MacBook. I wish I could say the same for the display.

Needs more hertz

2022 M2 MacBook Air open and in profile view against a blue backdrop with repeated cloud patterns
The display is great, but could be better. Credit: Molly Flores / Mashable

To be clear, this new M2 MacBook Air’s display is, broadly speaking, a good one. Its 2560x1664 resolution keeps images, videos, websites, and what have you looking sharp as can be on a display this size. At 500 nits of max brightness, it’s 25 percent brighter than the 400-nit-max 2020 Air model. You will not run into any problems with this display when using it for almost any everyday task.

I just have one big beef with it: The refresh rate tops out at 60Hz. For a laptop that costs a minimum of $1,200, that’s just not good enough. It’s adequate for streaming, as that just happens to be the max refresh rate on just about every streaming site, but basic web browsing looks and feels so much better at 120Hz. I want that smoothness, folks. I need it.

Still, don’t let the display be a reason not to get the new M2 MacBook Air. Like I said, it’s more than good enough in every other respect, and I quite enjoyed using it as a second screen for watching baseball while I used my main TV for other things. The refresh rate may not be as fast as possible, but its overall performance profile paints a more pleasant picture.

Fast and quiet

A view of the 2022 M2 MacBook Air's MagSafe charging port as well as Thunderbolt / USB-C ports
You'll charge up with MagSafe this time around. Credit: Molly Flores / Mashable

The M2 processor, just like its M1 and M1 Pro predecessors, keeps this new MacBook Air running real fast. This isn’t terribly surprising, as top-of-the-line performance is one of the reasons people are so willing to pay the exorbitant "Apple tax" on every device the company makes. We expect greatness from Apple products and that’s what this new MacBook Air provides.

In my testing, I primarily used it as an everyday work-and-web-browsing machine. That means chatting with my boss on Slack, participating in video calls with dozens of coworkers, browsing Twitter, writing articles, streaming aforementioned baseball games, and bulk-deleting emails to get down to that sweet, sweet “inbox-zero” feeling. 

These are all things that, in one way or another, would slow down my 2016 MacBook Pro. They’re also all things that, in no way at all, hindered the 2022 M2 MacBook Air.

The entire experience is speedy and fluid, backed up by GeekBench benchmarking scores that put it near or above the more expensive 2021 MacBook Pro in some respects. And while Apple doesn’t rate the battery life any differently than the 2020 Air (i.e., 15 hours of web browsing / 18 hours of video playback), that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I was able to get 24 hours of real-time usage between charges, which is more than acceptable for a laptop like this.

And the best part is that it’s totally, 100 percent silent the entire time. No fan, no problem.

An easy decision, either way

There is no debating that the new M2 MacBook Air is about as good as you can hope for from the Air line. The only thing that’s worth discussing is how necessary of an upgrade it is for you.

Thankfully, I don’t think it’s that difficult of a call to make. If you still have a butterfly keyboard or a MacBook from before Apple switched to its homemade M-series silicon (and you can afford $1,200+ for a new laptop), go ahead and make the switch. Whether you commute to and from an office, or work from home full-time, the new MacBook Air is an ideal job companion with excellent performance and one of the best keyboards around.

With that in mind, however, the M1 MacBook Air from 2020 is slightly cheaper, starting at $1,000. It has a slightly different design, but is only a tiny bit heavier and may be slightly more compact thanks to a smaller display. Its keyboard is also excellent, though not quite as much since it doesn’t have a full-sized function row. But the M1 processor, older as it may be, is no slouch, and if you already have one of those machines, there’s no reason to upgrade right now. And if you feel like saving a bit of money, you can buy the older M1 Air without losing too much.

A 90Hz to 120Hz display would’ve made the M1 model more obsolete, but for now, there are good reasons to stick to that one.

Either way, Apple’s new MacBook Air is an excellent machine that is a light at the end of a long, winding tunnel for someone who’s been using one of those awful old keyboards for years.

Topics Apple MacBook

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