Apple’s MacBook Air M2 is a svelte, powerful redesign

·7-min read
Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, July 18 — There is something breathtaking about tech and how it moves so fast. Change is not something to react to, but part of the mission. It’s been a few years of waiting and change has finally come to the MacBook Air M2 with a tweaked design to remind us just who made ultraportables objects of desire.

Light and airy

What you’ll notice first is that the laptop has somehow gotten even thinner and that includes the bezels.

At 1.24kg the weight is distributed fairly evenly around its thin chassis and feels like hardly anything on your lap. The highlight is of course the thin-bezelled display, a 13.6-inch IPS screen that is LED-backlit.

While I didn’t really find the new notch where the webcam is placed obtrusive on the MacBook Pro M1, I find it a little harder to ignore on the Air. Let’s hope Apple figures out how to shrink the camera so it can merge into the bezels because I personally find it irksome though not enough to not recommend the laptop.

I like the new design—the previous wedge shape was outstanding in its time but design sensibilities have evolved as should Apple’s. Apple bringing back a MagSafe charger is also a good choice as no other adapter connection experience comes close and the braided cables are so much more durable.

What Apple still can’t find itself doing is adding more ports. There’s the charging port, two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports and the audio jack (surprisingly Apple still hasn’t dropped it). That’s it.

The finish is gorgeous—nothing like that glossy aluminium sheen and this time you get to choose between Midnight (deep blue), Starlight (gold), Space Grey (dark grey) and Silver.

What I don’t get is why Apple is not just giving us the black model we all know will sell. The Midnight is currently the “it” colour of the season but other reviewers are reporting it is a fingerprint magnet so the other shades should be a safer bet. Starlight, which is the colour of my review unit, always puzzles me. Who asks for gold laptops? What is the proportion of the population that wants a colour you can spot from the moon?

My suggestion for people who like the Air but like none of the colours: get a casing in a shade you actually like or a transparent one and go crazy with stickers.

Daily use

Transferring my old test setup to the new one is of course easy with Apple’s peer-to-peer wireless transfer. You could also transfer between Macs with a cable, but here’s a tip: you need a fast transfer Thunderbolt cable and not the cable that comes with your older Type-C adapter as it only has USB 2.0 speeds.

My job involves using the same apps and doing the same processes over and over, so differences between speeds of tasks is something I will notice.

Apple has retired the wedge design for a sleeker, slimmer profile and a much-appreciated MagSafe port.
Apple has retired the wedge design for a sleeker, slimmer profile and a much-appreciated MagSafe port.

Apple has retired the wedge design for a sleeker, slimmer profile and a much-appreciated MagSafe port.

I did find the MacBook M2 to be slightly faster, even when compared with the MacBook Pro M1 as I found response times improved very slightly. The thing is though, the performance isn’t quite enough that you have a reason to upgrade from an M1 model.

Still it was fun to see how much I could do on the MacBook Air M2. A few years ago, a MacBook Air was something made for word processing and not much else. With the M2, I could load Blender, a 3D creation suite in the shortest time, record and edit video, and run multiple high resource apps at the same time without seeing a noticeable lag.

Vtubing or streaming as a virtual character is currently a popular trend so I tried it on the MacBook Air M2 as an experiment.

Using a 3D avatar in a web browser-based program, I opened up The Sims 4 as well as the OBS streaming software and recorded a video. Each operation similarly would not tax most systems but running them all together would require a fairly intense CPU load. It was no problem at all for the MacBook Air M2. It’s fairly impressive considering the laptop has no external or separate graphics processor, relying entirely on the processing power of the new M2 chip.

However, the MacBook Air M2, like the M1, has one particular shortcoming in that it lacks cooling features. There are no dedicated vents or fans.

It means completely noiseless operations — I still remember some of the older MacBook laptops sounding like planes taking off — but it also means that temperatures can rise pretty quickly. With climate change and rising temperatures across the world, is Apple assuming that MacBook Airs are only going to be used in air-conditioned or cooler locations? The laptop is built such that to manage temperatures, it will throttle/slow down performance.

You won’t get that with a MacBook Pro that actually has fans to manage internal temperatures.

Thus it seems if you’re going to be working long hours on more intensive apps such as apps for video editing or 3D graphics, the Pro might be a better bet.

On battery life, Apple has a larger battery and with the M2 chip, claims a longer battery life thanks to its more efficient processor. But in my real-life test for just average use—surfing, Twitter, music, some word processing I got just about 14 hours. That time wasn’t including the time I was pushing the laptop more with Blender, OBS or gaming. That means you could go a whole work day without charging or not have to rush home if you forget to bring your charger, continuing in the tradition of the MacBook Air’s battery longevity.

To buy or not

Recent reports have stated that M2 models with 256GB will see slower write speeds due to those models having only a single NAND chip, while higher storage versions will have two NAND chips.

Why does this matter? Apple argues that its technology allows high-density chips to pack 256GB on a single chip, but there are some people who would argue that with the new M2 MacBooks costing more, they shouldn’t be slower than previous units.

The larger screen offers more display space in a thinner chassis.
The larger screen offers more display space in a thinner chassis.

The larger screen offers more display space in a thinner chassis.

In summary you’ll get better read/write performance on M2 models with higher storage but here lies the problem—you could buy the MacBook Air M1 and top up RM800 for the 512GB storage.

It would still be cheaper than the base MacBook Air M2.

Of course the M2 processor is a better performer than the M1, but the question is is that performance bump enough to justify buying the more expensive new model? Get the M2 if: you want a bigger screen, MagSafe adapter, and the fastest and lightest portable computer, with portability being one of your top concerns.

Get the M1 if: you want to spend less and get more for your money and think you can live without the MagSafe or wider display.

Get the Pro M1/M2 if: you will be working more than 3-4 hours of video editing or other CPU-intensive tasks.

The MacBook Air M2 is a beautiful machine and a welcome revamp. However the extra cost might be a dealbreaker for some unless you factor in the larger display and MagSafe adapter. To order the new models, you can go to the Apple online store or put in a reservation at your nearest Apple authorised reseller. Pricing starts at RM 5,499.00 for the base MacBook Air M2 with the 8-core CPU, 8-core GPU with 256GB storage and RM 6,699.00 for models with the 8-core CPU, 10-core GPU and 512GB. Both models come with a base 8GB of RAM.

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