Apple’s new MacBook Air has received both critical and commercial acclaim. The first reviews have highlighted the new design, the long battery life and the welcoming software; while the volume of pre-orders increased the waiting time to four weeks.
If you look beneath the surface, you’ll see that all is not perfect with the MacBook Air, and it’s important to understand how Apple’s choices will affect your MacBook Air experience
Let’s start with the good. Apple has significantly increased the base performance of the M2 MacBook Air (and the M2 MacBook Pro). For day-to-day use, web browsing, media playback, social media apps, and office work, these laptops will be super-smooth…though, to be fair, almost every laptop family will start at $1199 have a similar baseline for the core consumer apps.
If you’re looking for a laptop to help you stay organized, you shouldn’t have any significant problems with any of Apple’s Macs in general, and this MacBook Air in particular.
You’ll also be buying a laptop with a new design language that can stand alongside the fashion end of the Windows 11 laptop market… a thin, angular chassis, a screen that dominates as much of the potential viewing area as possible, a long battery life, a large and sprawling touchpad, physical function keys… it’s all there.
And that includes the problematic side, because as much as the manufacturers would have us believe, no laptop is perfect.
Let’s talk about the new Apple Silicon chipset in the M2. This has helped boost baseline performance, but there are issues when the M2 is put under load and tasked with heavy work like rendering videos. Tests on the M2 MacBook Pro showed that even with the fan running at full power, the MacBook had to throttle its performance to prevent the chip from overheating. The M2 MacBook Pro takes longer than the M1 MacBook Pro to perform the same task.
Unfortunately, the M2 MacBook Air suffers from the same problem – perhaps unsurprising given that it uses the same M2 chipset. What’s surprising is that Apple has put itself in a situation where the new machine – a machine that may be consumer-focused but is advertised with the power to do what you need it to do – has less potential for hard work than their predecessors.
The CPU isn’t the only area where Apple seems to have skimped on specs. While the entry-level 256GB of storage offers the same space as the 256GB model of the M1 MacBook Air, Apple has condensed the storage into a single NAND chipset on the M2 Air, compared to two 128GB NAND chipsets on the M1 Air.
With only one chip compared to the previous model’s dual chips, the M2’s data throughput to the SSD is half that of the M1 Air. While this doesn’t carry over to the higher memory models, Tim Cook and his team offer for the common consumer who just “wants to get a laptop, one of those Apple laptops,” looks at a slower macOS laptop.
Apple’s official comment is that this weakness of the Air’s SSD is offset by the strength of the other components around it:
“Thanks to the performance gains from M2, the new MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro are incredibly fast, even when compared to Mac laptops with the powerful M1 chip. These new systems use a new, higher-density NAND that provides 256GB of memory in a single chip. While benchmarks of the 256GB SSD may show a difference compared to the previous generation, the performance of these M2-based systems is even faster for real-world activities.”
That may be so, but Apple – for whatever reason – made a conscious decision to offer a slower 256GB for consumers. It’s worth noting that Apple’s decision didn’t slow down the more expensive 512GB model.
Finally, there is the issue of the battery and charger. Thanks to the aforementioned ARM-based Apple Silicon, the MacBook Air’s battery life is pretty much best-in-class; ARM offers lower power requirements compared to similar tasks on Intel-based machines, in addition to the efficiency you can find when the operating system only has a very small number of hardware configurations to work with (unlike Windows, which has to work with everything under the sun). ).
No, I’m talking about charging the battery. We’re not at the iPhone stage where Apple can get away with not shipping the MacBook with a charger, but it feels like we’re getting close. If you’re buying the entry-level MacBook Air, you’ll find a basic 30W charger in the box. Opt for a higher model and you’ll find a slight increase in spec and a 35W charger. This is Apple’s new dual-port USB-C charger, so you can charge both your Mac and your iPhone or iPad – there’s just enough power for that (slow); it’s a nice thought for those who travel light.
If you want to use the MacBook Air’s full potential when it comes to charging, you’ll need to buy another charger — specifically Apple’s 67W charger. This typically costs $59, and while it’s not as painful as the $150 required for the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro fast chargers, it’s still an additional cost, imposed by Apple. You can upgrade the charger to either 35W or 67W at the point of sale for $20, but this feels like a salami cut from Apple to squeeze as much money as possible outside of the top prize.
There is no doubt that Apple has strived to make this MacBook Air the best MacBook Air yet. And in normal use, Apple’s truncation of the specs and BOM doesn’t make much of a difference. The MacBook Air isn’t sold as your average laptop. It’s sold as one of the best Apple laptops it’s ever made, with a strong blend of performance, potential and ease of use.
showstopper? no Something to consider? Certainly. Apple’s decision to scale back the potential of the M2 chipset, offer slower read and write speeds on the entry-level MacBook Air, and taunt those who want to make the most of the laptop’s feature set feels decidedly un-Apple .
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