The MacBook Air just got a big makeover — and not just because it now comes in dark blue. Apple just took the wraps off the latest version of its most popular laptop, which promises a huge boost in performance thanks to the new M2 chip packed inside, all within a refined design that borrows many of the things we loved about last year’s MacBook Pro models.
The new MacBook Air is launching in July and starts at $1,119, or $1,099 for education users. And after getting some brief hands-on time, we think it just might be the new best MacBook to buy for most people. Wondering if you should make the upgrade? Here are our early impressions.
A refreshed design with slick new colors
The MacBook Air was already one of the thinnest and lightest laptops out there, and it’s slimmed down even more for 2022. The latest Air is 20% smaller overall compared to the 2020 model, with slim edges that are under half an inch thick. It all comes wrapped in a 2.7-pound build that felt easy to pick up.
But here’s what really caught my eye. For the first time in a while, the MacBook will come in a decent range of colors. The MacBook Air 2022 is available in Silver, Space Gray, Starlight (gold), and an especially compelling Midnight option that coats the laptop in an attractive dark blue. This is a refreshing change from the Silver and Space Gray that most Macs have stuck to over the past years, and gives the MacBook Air an extra weapon against similarly colorful Windows laptops like the HP Dragonfly Elite and Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 4. I haven’t been this intrigued by a MacBook’s design since the 2017 Rose Gold MacBook, and both the Midnight and Starlight Air models looked great in person.
Other key changes include a larger and brighter 13.6-inch Liquid Retina display, which is made possible thanks to slimmer bezels. As with the 14-inch MacBook Pro, this comes at the expense of a webcam notch up top, but based on my many months with the latest Pro, I don’t find it much of a distraction. The new MacBook Air also borrows the same MagSafe charger we saw on the newest Pro, which quickly attaches and detaches magnetically and helps keep your Mac from going flying if someone trips over the cable. This dedicated charging port also means that you’ll have access to both USB-C Thunderbolt ports for your accessories and storage drives (though you can still charge via USB-C if you like).
The MacBook Air’s Magic Keyboard felt as snappy as ever in my limited hands-on time, and I was very happy to see the return of physical function keys for quickly adjusting things like brightness and volume. I really appreciated this extra touch on last year’s Pro models, and it makes quick shortcuts way easier to use than on the older generation’s Touch Bar.
Many of us are still on video calls for most of the day, so I’m glad to see that the new Air has a sharper 1080p FaceTime webcam (up from 720p) that promises twice the resolution and low-light performance of the previous model thanks to the processing smarts of that M2 chip inside. You’ll also get a four-speaker sound system that supports Spatial Audio for 360-degree sound in compatible songs and movies.
A big performance boost from the new M2 chip
Sure, the new MacBook Air looks great, but the biggest upgrades are under the hood. When we reviewed the 2020 MacBook Air, which was the first to launch with Apple’s own M1 processor, we found it offered a huge leap in overall performance over its Intel-based predecessors. The new model will see the debut of Apple’s second-generation M2 chip, which promises some significant gains over that already-speedy chip.
The M2 has more transistors and memory bandwidth, which is a fancy way of saying it delivers up to 18% better overall performance than M1-powered MacBooks, while being up to 1.9 times faster than a competing Intel-powered Windows laptop. The new processor has gotten an even bigger boost in terms of graphics, as Apple is promising up to 35% better GPU performance over its M1 laptops. That should make the new MacBook Air even more reliable for doing intensive video editing or 3D rendering, as well as playing demanding Mac games.
We’ll have to put the MacBook Air through our usual tests to see just how much better it is than the last-gen model, but it makes a promising first impression. Swiping between over a dozen apps felt smooth and instant, and the notebook was able to play up to seven simultaneous streams of 4K video in Final Cut Pro without any noticeable stutters.
The new MacBook Air ships with Apple’s macOS Monterey software, which recently brought handy new features to the Mac like SharePlay (for watching content over FaceTime with a friend) and a revamped Safari for smooth web surfing. It’s set to get even better this fall with the macOS Ventura update just announced at WWDC, which will introduce a new Stage Manager feature for easy multitasking as well as some performance refinements to improve the Mac gaming experience. Gaming giant Capcom is planning to bring its hit game Resident Evil Village to Mac thanks to this update, which bodes well for those hoping for more big-name video game titles on Mac. Ventura will even let you easily use your iPhone as your Mac’s webcam, complete with support for handy features like Portrait Mode for that nice bokeh effect and Studio Lighting for illuminating yourself in a dark room.
Oh, there’s a new MacBook Pro too
In addition to the new MacBook Air, Apple is also updating the 13-inch MacBook Pro with its M2 chip. This is largely the same MacBook Pro that launched in late 2020, just with more power for churning through big video edits and intense Photoshop projects. Apple also promises up to 20 hours of battery life on this model, which is launching next month with a starting price of $1,299. However, we think most people can skip this model — it still has the less-than-ideal Touch Bar from the last iteration, lacks a MagSafe port and, other than two extra hours of promised battery life, doesn’t offer many benefits over the new MacBook Air.
So, should you upgrade?
If you haven’t bought a new MacBook in a while, the new MacBook Air is looking like an absolute no-brainer for most people. We’ve long recommended the previous Air as the best laptop for Apple users, thanks to performance that can run circles around anything in its price range when it comes to everyday multitasking and creative workflows. And if Apple’s claims around the M2 chip hold true, the MacBook Air could be a worthy MacBook Pro replacement for those who need a bit more power for doing demanding visual work and playing games on the go. As someone who loves the 14-inch MacBook Pro’s design but doesn’t need its frankly absurd amount of power, the new Air seems like the perfect laptop for me.
If you own an M1 MacBook Air and are happy with its performance, you can probably skip the M2 model. But if you’re still clinging on to an older, Intel-powered Mac, this should be the perfect upgrade point. The M1 MacBook Air will remain in the lineup for $999, but at least on paper, the M2 model’s performance boost and better design is worth the extra cash. Just don’t bother with the new M2 MacBook Pro — you’ll get a bigger screen, better webcam and updated ports on the new Air.
We’ll be putting both of Apple’s new MacBooks through our full review process as soon as we get our hands on them. The $1,099 MacBook Air and $1,299 MacBook Pro aren’t available for pre-order just yet, but with the laptops launching next month, we expect orders to open in the very near future. In the meantime, you can visit their store pages on Apple’s website right now to compare them and figure out exactly which configuration best suits your needs.