Apple M2 MacBook Air hands-on: Bigger screen, bigger price

This story is part of WWDC 2022CNET’s full coverage of and about Apple’s annual developer conference.

That new M2-powered MacBook Air from Apple adds a ton of new features, but it also brings back my least favorite: a starting price of over $999. For most of its life, the MacBook Air has sat at a comfortable $999, but in 2018 a redesign added $200 to the price. By 2020 the starting price was back at $999 and I felt like things were as they should be. Guess what? It’s 2022 now, and with yet another redesign, the MacBook Air now starts at $1,199…again.

I’m only emphasizing this because this significant leap for a very mainstream laptop puts it out of reach for many of the students and artists who could make the most of it. But apart from the new price, I like almost everything else about the new version. It’s also worth noting that the late 2020 M1 MacBook Air will be available for $999 for now.


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Handy with Apple’s new M2 MacBook Air


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After this WWDC 2022 Keynote, I had a chance to get some hands-on time with the new MacBook Air. But there wasn’t much time, so my main focus was on the new physical design and how the system looked and felt.

One of the first Macs to move from Intel to Apple Silicon, the M1 MacBook Air isn’t a bad-looking machine, but it’s based on a design that debuted in 2018, which is about ages ago when it comes to computers. The new version moves from the traditional soft, tapered design to the boxier, blockier look of late 2021’s 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro laptops. It’s a more modern, constructivist design (in so far as it largely eschews decorative stylization). .

M2 MacBook Air

Dan Ackerman/CNET

But the new MacBook Air goes beyond the Pro models it’s copying in one important way: it adds a new color to the usual gray and silver (and the gold of the M1 Air) — a new midnight color that comes in the form of matte black surface appears. It’s arguably the most striking new MacBook look in a long time, and it reminds me of the old matte black polycarbonate MacBooks of the mid-2000s.

Its footprint is a hair smaller than before, at 2.7 pounds versus the M1 MacBook Air’s 2.8 pounds, as is the weight. But the new model felt even smaller and more portable when I picked it up – mostly because it’s thinner at 11.3mm. The M1 version tapers down but measures 16mm at the rear hinge.

The new M2 MacBook Air won’t be available until July, so it may take some time before I can test it more thoroughly and hands-on. I’m particularly excited to see how the 1080 resolution webcam performs, which is probably the most important upgrade for many people who are fed up with the never great 720 resolution webcam in previous MacBook Air laptops, up to and including the M1 Version.

M2 MacBook Air touchpad

Dan Ackerman/CNET

I’m also keen to spend more time with the new, slightly larger 13.6-inch screen (vs. 13.3-inch), which Apple says is 25% brighter at 500 nits. It also adds MagSafe, which returned in last year’s new MacBook Pro systems, and its touchpad is slightly larger, according to Apple, but it wouldn’t put a number or percentage on it.

Interestingly, almost none of these improvements are available in the new 13-inch MacBook Pro, also announced at WWDC 2022. It misses the bigger screen, better camera, MagSafe connection, and new colors. It’s exactly the same as the late 2020 13-inch MacBook Pro, at least on paper, except that the new M2 chip replaces the M1. However, it remains the only way to get your hands (or fingers) on the almost extinct touch bar.

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