Monday, June 6, 2022

MacBook Air 2022

Apple (MacRumors, Hacker News, Slashdot):

Built from the ground up around M2, MacBook Air has an entirely new design that is remarkably thin from every angle. It measures just 11.3 mm thin and is only 2.7 pounds, and features a durable, all-aluminum unibody enclosure that feels incredibly solid and is built to last. This thin and light design integrates its components so efficiently that it results in an astonishing 20 percent reduction in volume. With the power efficiency of M2, all of the capabilities of MacBook Air are built into a silent, fanless design. In addition to silver and space gray, MacBook Air is now available in two new finishes — midnight and starlight.

MagSafe returns to MacBook Air, giving users a dedicated charging port that is easy to connect, while protecting MacBook Air when it is plugged in by quickly releasing if the charging cable is accidentally pulled. MacBook Air also features two Thunderbolt ports for connecting a variety of accessories, and a 3.5 mm audio jack with support for high-impedance headphones.


MacBook Air includes a new 1080p FaceTime HD camera with a larger image sensor and more efficient pixels that deliver twice the resolution and low-light performance of the previous generation.

It’s sad that the super-thin MacBook Air probably has a much better camera than the super-thick Studio Display.

The new MacBook Air sounds great, though. MagSafe is an addition, so you don’t lose a Thunderbolt port like with the MacBook Pro. The RAM ceiling is now 24 GB. The display is larger (but has a notch). Unfortunately, it looks like the trackpad is also larger.


Update (2022-07-06): Apple (Hacker News):

Beginning Friday, July 8, at 5 a.m. PDT, the completely redesigned MacBook Air with M2 will be available to order, and will start arriving to customers worldwide on Friday, July 15.


Update (2022-07-08): Marco Arment:

From what I saw during the first minute, only the base-model Air was actually available for July 15 delivery.

Any change beyond the two stock configs bumped it to at least July 20–26, and usually August 2–9.

Update (2022-07-14): Jason Snell:

So how is this a MacBook Air and not a MacBook Pro? There are some key differences. The screens on those laptops are much brighter and offer high refresh rates via ProMotion. They’ve got an additional Thunderbolt/USB 4 port, an HDMI port, and an SDXC slot. And most importantly, they’re powered by Apple’s higher-end M1 Pro/M1 Max chips, which are capable of performing heavy workloads.


However, there is one big difference between the M2 MacBook Air and the 13-inch M2 MacBook Pro, and it’s not the chip—it’s the cooling system. The MacBook Pro has a cooling fan, and the MacBook Air doesn’t. This means the MacBook Air always runs silently, which is nice, but it also means that it will get hotter—and when the M2 chip inside the MacBook Air gets too hot, it has to slow itself down in order to keep working.

To test the difference, I ran the Cinebench test suite on both M2 laptops. In a normal, single run of the test, the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro offered similar levels of performance. But when the test looped, running for more than 10 minutes, the two systems began to separate. The test kept the M2’s processor cores running, the chip heated up, and at some point in the process, the Air needed to slow things down in order to keep things (relatively) cool. (I’ll point out that, even throttled, the M2 Air scored higher than the M1 Air in the same 10-minute test.)

Dan Seifert:

This new [Midnight] color is gorgeous out of the box, with a deep blue-black finish that can change depending on the light. But as soon as you pick it up, it gets covered in greasy fingerprints that are a chore to clean off.


In testing, the 35W brick only charged the Air 25 percent in 30 minutes with the lid closed — half the speed of the 67W brick — and those speeds were further slowed down when I plugged my iPhone into the charger’s other port. I really wish Apple had just put two ports on the more powerful brick, though there are plenty of cheaper third-party options with more power and more ports than Apple’s options, and they work just fine with the Air’s MagSafe cable.


The lousy camera was the one thing that kept the M1 Air from getting a perfect score, so I’m very happy to see it has been addressed.


In my benchmark testing, the M2 Air outguns the M1 model in every test, though the differences aren’t especially stark. But the M2 Air is noticeably slower than the MacBook Pro M2, which has a thicker chassis and a fan to help keep the chip cool under long-running heavy workloads, like a 30-minute Cinebench 23 multi-core benchmark.

Joe Rossignol (Reddit):

One notable detail confirmed by The Verge is that the $1,199 base model equipped with 256GB of storage has a single NAND chip, which will lead to slower SSD speeds in benchmark testing[…] Apple said that while benchmarks of the new MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro with 256GB of storage “may show a difference” compared to previous-generation models, real-world performance is “even faster.”

See also: MacRumors, John Gruber.

Update (2022-07-19): John Gruber (tweet):

It’s a little bit weird when you use an app that has so many menus that one or more of them fall on the far side of the notch, but I don’t regularly use any apps with that many menus. I’ve got 26 apps running on this MacBook Air right now, and not one of them has too many menus to fit on the left of the notch.


The practical effect of this pixels-per-inch difference is that the default display resolution of the MacBook Pros is exactly 2×; on the Air, the default resolution uses scaling.


Switching to this new thinner fan-less MacBook Air from a thicker MacBook Pro that makes frequent, clearly audible, use of its fan sounds like a downgrade. But for the overwhelming majority of Intel-based MacBook Pro users, it’s not.


In my daily use, this $1,900 MacBook Air feels identical to my $4,700 MacBook Pro.


It’s best, in my opinion, to consider the $1,500 configuration as the default model (10 GPUs, full-speed SSD performance, and the new 35-watt charger), and to consider the $1,200 configuration something more like the “discount” configuration.


The biggest (and smallest) room for improvement with the new MacBook Air would be options for larger and smaller displays.

Kirk McElhearn:

The M2 MacBook Air has a full-size function key row; I found the mini-keys on the previous model annoying, and it’s good to have the larger keys, especially for the power button, which doubles as the Touch ID sensor.


Comparing my M1 MacBook Air with the new M2 model, the write speed of the latter is more than 20% slower (using BlackMagic Disk Speed Test’s 5 GB testing routine), and the read speed is nearly half as fast.

Mark Ellis:

So, the M2 MacBook Air is slower at exporting 4K footage than the M1 version when multitasking, by a not inconsiderable 29 seconds. Yet, with everything closed, they performed identically.


So, if you upgrade from the 256GB SSD to the 512GB SSD, you gain an extra 23 seconds during a 4K export when multitasking.

Update (2022-09-26): Michael Larabel (via Hacker News):

For ending out this week, here is a follow-up article looking more closely at the Apple M2 in the MacBook Air against the AMD Ryzen 7 PRO 6850U “Rembrandt” within the Lenovo ThinkPad X13 Gen3.

Update (2022-12-14): Mark Ellis:

The difference this time is that I actually put the M2 MacBook Air to proper work. Rather than running the aforementioned and entirely unscientific Final Cut Pro export ‘benchmark’, I attempted to undertake some proper 4K video editing.

That was the test I should have carried out originally because it revealed that the likes of Max Tech really did hit on something. Although, I should note at this juncture that I never disbelieved those guys – I just wasn’t particularly keen on the hyperbolic reporting.

Yet, they were right. This isn’t good enough.

Update (2023-03-03): Scott Anguish:

Switching between it and my work 16” M1 MacBook Pro the biggest thing I’m noticing, and not liking at all, is the screen. Not the size, but the quality. It just isn’t anywhere near as sharp looking.

10 Comments RSS · Twitter

I think the rumors were entirely true, because they really need to ramp up production for USA school buying during summer.

But this looks like a really cool computer, right?

The only complaint people immediately had is lack of more colors?

The new MacBook Air was going to be my next portable Mac. I'm a little baffled by the pricing though.

Here in Germany the price for the MacBook Air with 16 of RAM is 2,079 EUR. You can get the base MacBook Pro 14" with the same amount of RAM and otherwise better specs for 2,249 EUR directly from Apple. If you shop around you can even get it for ~2,000 EUR.

Maybe the Pro will see a price increase soon? Otherwise it seems to be a much better deal. Only downside is weight and maybe slightly worse battery-life.

@Dan — The German price for the new MacBook Air M2 base model with 16 GB RAM is announced to be 1,729 €. The current M1 Air with 16 GB is 1,429 €.

@Anna: My mistake. I compared it to the better speced MBA model. Also, I need the 512 GB SSD, the same amount as the MBP base model has.

If you take the MPA base model and upgrade RAM and the SSD, the price is 1,959 EUR. Still quite steep, considering that you can get a similar MBP for ~2K.

@Dan I see the Pro on Geizhals Euro 1897.99 even from a reputable seller.

If we extrapolate the M1 GeekBench scores, adding 18%, the M2 would be at 2013 single core and 8754 multi core. The 8 core M1 Pro is 1769 single core vs. 8488 multi core.

It's really not a clear-cut choice. For CPU performance alone, I would probably go for the Air M2. Even though the M1 Pro is an inch faster multi core, the better single core performance will probably make it faster in practice (even in large parallel builds, there are often phases where everything depends on a single unit that should be compiled first). Also, the Air M2 has the benefit of being passively cooled.

On the other hand, if you want to use more than one external screen, you need the GPU headroom, or want an additional Thunderbolt and HDMI connector, then the 8 core Pro is the better option.

IMO only the 10 core M1 Pro has a large enough delta to be clearly differentiated from the Air M2 if you care about performance.

My MacBook recommendation to family/friends/colleagues will be: buy an Air M2. Unless you needs a lot of CPU or GPU cores for your work or connect >1 displays, then get a MacBook Pro with at least an M1 Pro with 10 cores or and M1 Max.

And sadly they are doubling down on the Ugly Notch. Worst hardware choice Apple has made in a long time, even more so than the butterfly keyboards.

@Daniël Thank you for the comparison. I'm confident that CPU and GPU on both models are adequate for my needs. That being said, I think the Pro (with fan) will probably be able to sustain high CPU and GPU load for much longer than the Air (no fan). I'm more interested in RAM and SSD capacity though.

I still think that the Air got more expensive. It used to have a bigger discount in comparison to the Pro line. My hunch is that the Pro will see a price hike soon, at least in overseas markets.

@Dan I agree, I think it's a nice laptop for its price, but the Air M1's price point made it a really excellent machine to expand the Mac's market. A 1519 Euro base price is beyond the 1000-1200 boundary where many people will say, "gee, I have heard great things about Apple Silicon, let's try a Mac". Sure, there is still the Air M1, but by now it's a 20 month old model. If they want to keep it around as the budget model, they should've at least made it the 8 GPU core version and not the binned 7 core variant.

A lot has been said about Apple's foreign prices, but this time around it's quite flagrant. The base model is $1199 in the US excluding VAT. Adding the 21% VAT which is typical for many EU countries, gives us $1450.79, which is currently 1353.82 Euro, yet we get charged 1519 Euro.

At any rate, I think one of the reasons it's priced as it is, is that they have supply constraints anyway, so any M2 Air that they can produce the coming months will be soled at that premium anyway. Once production/supplies are at a normal level again, I wouldn't be surprised that you could get it 100-200 Euro off at many retailers pretty soon. (If inflation doesn't get out of hand.)

I need a new notebook but can't really justify the MBP, so the new Air is attractive to me. I had my M1 Air delivered two days before the keynote, and have now returned it within the return window, intending to get the new one when it appears. The kicker for me is more RAM; though I have no beef with the fanless design and don't do anything intensive on notebooks, I might want to virtualise a bit and having a higher RAM ceiling will be good for that. I still look forward to a pro Mac Mini that isn't a Studio, though.

> For CPU performance alone, I would probably go for the Air M2. Even though the M1 Pro is an inch faster multi core, the better single core performance will probably make it faster in practice (even in large parallel builds, there are often phases where everything depends on a single unit that should be compiled first). Also, the Air M2 has the benefit of being passively cooled.

I would agree for most users, but not developers. The active cooling should be a better choice if you find yourself compiling a lot, as it will throttle less. You also get higher memory bandwidth on the M1 Pro.

General-purpose users should absolutely get the Air, but I think Apple is correct to brand the 14-inch Pro as a "pro" — that's whom it's there for. (Now, the 13-inch Pro is a weirder matter.)

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