Getting started with the MacBook Air M2: Bye-bye wedge


To WWDC todayApple not only unveiled its new M2 chipbut also the first two devices to be equipped with it: the Redesigned MacBook Air and the 13-inch MacBook Pro. Although the Pro looks mostly similar to older models, the Air has received a complete redesign, including a new square profile, four color options, and a thinner, lighter design that’s 20% more smaller in volume than the last generation Air. I got to play around with the new Air quickly today at Apple Park, and so far I’m just glad it looks noticeably different, given that it’s been four years since Apple last not redesigned the MacBook Air for the last time.

Of the Air’s four colors, my favorite is Midnight, which is a deep blue. Our editor Dana Wollman, who attended the event with me, says the same. Silver and Space Gray patterns are very familiar, as is Starlight, a hue introduced on one of the newer Apple Watches.

If you’re a fan of Apple’s MacBook wedge silhouette, you’ll need to warm up to this new, squarer look. I didn’t mind – I actually prefer the refresh as the older aesthetic looks pretty dated to me at this point. It’s similar to the newer MacBook Pros, so if you liked those, you’ll like it. Much like recent Pros, the new Air has a full-size row of physical function keys.

At the right end of it is the power button with an integrated Touch ID sensor. Unlike previous Mac laptops with a Touch ID button, the button here has a matte finish with an outline for your fingertip. Dana is a fan of the groove here, which makes it easy to feel where you should put your finger. It also doesn’t have the kind of glossy finish of yore that tended to attract fingerprints.

Importantly, the new MacBook Air has a larger 13.6-inch Liquid Retina display, up from the last model’s 13.3-inch Retina display. This made the photo that was being edited one of the demo units bright and crisp. Speaking of brightness, the new Air goes up to 500 nits, compared to 400 nits on the last generation models. The screen is also about 64 pixels larger.

I also liked the quality of the webcam stream when I opened the FaceTime app, although I didn’t take a photo or spend too much time staring at my face. Of course, the quality has a lot to do with the improved webcam, which is now 1080p (instead of 720p). Again, I haven’t taken a call or spent enough time with the device, so I can’t tell you if it’s noticeably better than before.

FaceTime app opens on New MacBook Air with M2.

I box tell you that I definitely noticed the new notch that houses the camera. Again, this resembles recent MacBook Pros and has been a polarizing feature since its introduction. My colleague Devindra Hardawar, who reviewed MacBook Pros, didn’t mind and I’m inclined to agree with him. Although I thought the notch was oddly tall, it didn’t extend past the macOS title bar, ending just a hair before its bottom edge.

With the new MacBook Air, Apple is bringing back the MagSafe charging port – just like it did with the 14 and 16 inch MacBook Pro released last fall. The company has also made MagSafe cables that are color-matched to the four new laptop hues, in case aesthetics are important to you. I have plugged and unplugged such a lead from the socket on a demo unit several times and can tell you that it works well and feels secure when plugged in.

A downside to the port layout on the new Air is that the MagSafe and two USB-C/Thunderbolt ports sit on the left edge, while a solo headphone jack sits on the right. I would prefer if Apple offered one USB-C per side, so it would work better with more dongles. But maybe the reason the company couldn’t make it happen has to do with the new four-speaker audio system, which, by the way, supports Spatial Audio when you’re listening to music or videos with Dolby Atmos.

Close-up of a MagSafe charger plugged into the new MacBook Air with M2.

Close-up of a MagSafe charger plugged into the new MacBook Air with M2.

Despite the added speakers and a bigger screen, the new MacBook Air manages to be slightly lighter than the M1 model, weighing 2.7 pounds compared to the latter’s 2.8 pounds. It didn’t skimp on things like the keyboard or trackpad either, and I enjoyed typing a few sentences on the machine, thanks to decently sized buttons with adequate depth.

Of course, one of the biggest highlights of the new MacBook Air is the M2 processor inside. The most significant upgrade brought by this SoC is a hardware-accelerated multimedia engine and 100 GB/s memory bandwidth. It also has 10 graphics cores now, up from eight previously, and a slightly larger 52.6 watt-hour battery that Apple says can last up to 15 hours of web browsing. The new Air can also support fast charging with a 67W adapter which Apple says can reach 50% in 30 minutes. It should be noted that the 10-core version of the new Air comes with a 35W adapter with two additional USB-C ports.

The base model comes with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, and goes up to 24GB and 2TB, respectively. The new Air will cost $200 more than before, starting at $1,199, and will ship next month. The M1-powered model will still be available starting at $999 as well. Now we just need to get a review unit and test it out to see if it’s worth the price hike.

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