Apple MacBook Air M2 test: more beautiful, faster and still just as quiet

Construction

Do we need to remember that Apple always takes care of the chassis of its computers? The finishes here are impeccable, as usual. The champagne gold color (“starlight”) is in any case very bright and even difficult to detect in our photos. It does not work for “bling bling”, a sobriety that we appreciate, although of course it is a matter of taste. You can always turn to the classic silver and space gray colors, or even the brand new midnight blue for a little more originality.

Macbook Air M2

The starlight color is quite soft.

© The Digital

At first glance, there are some differences from previous generations. The screen is slightly larger than before as it goes from 13.3 to 13.6 inches and its edges are thinner. As with the MacBook Pro 14 and 16, there is now a notch around the webcam, and then the selection matches, even if the MacBook Pro 13 is omitted. The computer otherwise loses the speaker grilles located on each side of the keyboard, but we will return to this in more detail in the audio part of our test. At least not more small holes that got dirty over time.

Macbook Air M2

The screen is slightly larger and the edges thinner.

© The Digital

Finally, it will be necessary to approach the computer a little closer to see that the chassis is now flat and that it has been refined by a few millimeters, going from 1.61 cm on the highest part to 1.13 cm on the whole the edge. On the sides, there is unfortunately very limited connection with two USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports and a mini-jack connector. The good news is that the MagSafe port returns to charge your computer using the famous proprietary magnetic cable. The latter will loosen suddenly in case of accidental collision, which might save the ultraportable from a bad fall. Note that the two USB-C ports also accept charging, but this will be slower.

Macbook Air M2

The MacBook Air chassis is no longer chamfered.

© The Digital

Macbook Air M2

Connectivity is still limited, although MagSafe is back.

© The Digital

Wifi 6 is included, but Bluetooth is limited to the 5.0 standard. The webcam is finally evolving towards a Full HD (1080p) definition, which significantly improves the image quality. In high light, the result is honestly good, and even in poorer light conditions, the image is much less pixelated, whereas the old model was really flawed at this point, as we can see in this example.



MacBook Air M2’s 1080p webcam.


MacBook Air M1’s 720p webcam.

The keyboard is still very comfortable, just as the Trackpad is perfectly stable and flexible to use. The function keys have been enlarged and are now the same size as the others. As for the Touch ID fingerprint sensor, it is also there to unlock your Mac, certain applications and Internet accounts without a password.

Macbook Air M2

The function keys are now larger.

© The Digital

The feet of the computer are flatter than before, and you must always have the patience to disassemble the chassis using a Pentalobe P5 screwdriver, which is still not very useful, as everything is soldered to the motherboard and no parts can be replaced.

Macbook Air M2

Under the computer.

© The Digital

Using heavy handling software, the MacBook Air M2 heats up in the center of the keyboard with a 45 ° C peak, which is not insignificant for an ultraportable. That said, it is by no means dangerous and the computer stays cool in office use. This slightly higher heat than the competition is the price of the marble-quietness that the MacBook Air delivers: yes, the absence of ventilation is a delight to the ears on a daily basis.

Macbook Air M2

The MacBook Air M2 heats up in the center of the keyboard, but it’s completely silent.

© The Digital

Editor's rating: 4 out of 5

Performance

We’ve already been able to test the M2 chip in the MacBook Pro 13, but many were waiting to find out if the MacBook Air would not overshadow it for its performance. Just a reminder, the memory bandwidth of the Apple SoC goes from 60 to 100 GB / s, and the unified memory (RAM) can now reach 24 GB compared to 16 GB with the M1. Our test model has – like the 13-inch Pro model – 8 CPU cores and 10 GPU cores, but for the sake of good order, the most entry-level MacBook Air has only 8 GPU cores. It otherwise has 16 GB of unified memory and a 1 TB SSD.

Apple MacBook Air M2: more beautiful, faster and still just as quiet

MacBook Air M2 scored 112 on our CPU test index, which puts it in line with advanced thin PC processors like AMD’s Ryzen 7 6800U and Intel Core i7-1260P. However, it does not come close to the H-Series processors contained in slightly thicker chassis like the Core i7-12700H. It’s also about 7% less efficient than the MacBook Pro M2, which has active ventilation that allows higher operating frequencies over time. The difference is especially noticeable on long processing (eg Adobe Premiere and HandBrake), where the Pro is almost 30% faster.

Compared to the MacBook Air M1, we noticed about a 15% performance increase, which is not insignificant. Overall, the latter is particularly noticeable on Adobe Premiere, where the M2 is significantly faster, at around 45%.

In terms of graphics performance, the MacBook Air M2 ranks between the MacBook Air M1 and the MacBook Pro 13 M2. It is thus about 20% slower than the Pro in Premiere and 30% slower in Blender 3.1, but 22% faster than the Air M1 in Premiere and almost 30% faster in Blender 3.1. On the other hand, it’s no match for the hardware acceleration from an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060, which is significantly faster, except in Photoshop, where the M2 comes out on top. Keep in mind once again that MacBooks have the advantage of offering the same performance on battery power as when connected to the mains, which is not the case with laptops.

Apple MacBook Air M2: more beautiful, faster and still just as quiet

We also compared the computer to its peers in the game Shadow of the Tomb Raider in Full HD (1920 x 1200 pixels) and the few extra GPU cores in the M2 have strangely not changed anything: the MacBook Air M2 reached just under 16 fps, just as the MacBook Air M1 with graphics set to “very high” and 18 fps in ” medium”. The MacBook Pro M2 and its active ventilation are clearly better with an average of 29 fps in “very high” and 34 fps in “medium”, which is playable.

Macbook Air M2

The MacBook Air M2 is not made to play, except for titles with very little demand.

© The Digital

Finally, the SSD is still as fast with theoretical write speeds of 2.9 GB / s and 2.7 GB / s in read, which is very good, but not as fast as the most advanced SSDs exceeding 6 GB / s.

Editor's rating: 4 out of 5

Screen

The Liquid Retina display on the MacBook Air is now 13.6 inches, it goes to a definition of 2560 x 1664 pixels and a large occupancy rate of 86%. The IPS panel is, as always, perfectly calibrated with a delta E of just under 1.4 and an average color temperature of 6961 K.

If the panel is glossy, the reflections remain light because the average reflectance is only 25.7% and the maximum brightness of 520 cd / m² is excellent. The small errors must be found on the side of persistence at 22 ms, which is high, although it will have no effect in office automation, as well as on the side of the contrast ratio of 1390: 1, only on average. In particular, the MacBook Air monitor has to handle OLED panels, which are increasingly present in many competing computers, thus offering them infinite contrast and zero persistence.



Editor's rating: 5 out of 5

Sound

We find on the MacBook Air M2 a new configuration of speakers, now more present next to the keyboard, as we have explained, but below the screen. An original location that we have never seen before. The sound reproduction is therefore a little different from what we could hear on previous models, but we find a very similar and still excellent signature. The bass is audible (which is rare on ultrabooks, remember), and the mid and high levels are perfectly controlled, given the chassis’ thinness.

Macbook Air M2

The speaker grille has disappeared on the sides.

© The Digital

Highs are a little softer than before, no doubt due to the placement of tweeters that no longer sit on the front. If the stereophonic space is still surprising for a laptop, it can be criticized for being a bit less wide than that offered by the previous MacBook Air.

Otherwise, the headphone output is error-free as usual, with a fantastic dynamic range of 115dB, completely negligible 0.0013% distortion and inaudible -61dB crosstalk. The output power of 340 mVRMS is still impressive and makes it easy to use headphones for monitoring.

Apple MacBookAir M2 Average PCs tested
Output level 340mVRMS 157mVRMS
Distortion + noise 0.0013% 0.014%
Dynamic range 115dB 100dB
Cross speech -61dB -64dB
Editor's rating: 5 out of 5

Mobility / Autonomy

The size of the MacBook Air does not really change, although it is a bit thinner. It measures a total of 30.4 x 21.5 x 1.13 cm and weighs 1.24 kg, only 50 g lighter than the MacBook M1. It therefore remains easy to transport, but is clearly not the lightest computer at the moment, some now pass under a kilogram. The charger block weighs 187 g, which will only weigh it all up a bit. We have also received the new model with two 35 W USB-C ports, which allow you to charge another device at the same time, if necessary – typically a smartphone.

Macbook Air M2

The block charger is still very compact and now MagSafe.

© The Digital

In terms of battery life, we were eager to find out if it would reach the excellent score from the MacBook Pro M2, which lasted just under 18 hours of video playback on Netflix, brightness set at 200 cd / m², headphones connected and 50% volume . The MacBook Air M2 did not perform as well as its predecessor, but the result is still impressive as it shut down after 13 hours and 6 minutes, far ahead of all the PCs passing through our lab.

Apple MacBook Air M2: more beautiful, faster and still just as quiet

Strengths

  • M2 efficient.

  • Finishes always neat.

  • Very well calibrated plate.

  • Perfectly quiet computer.

  • Excellent headphone and speaker output.

  • Very good autonomy.

  • 1080p webcam.

Weak points

  • Warm up a bit.

  • Very limited connection.

Conclusion

5 stars by LesNumériques.com
Global brand

Editor's rating: 5 out of 5

How does grading work?

With the MacBook Air M2, Apple signs a welcome aesthetic renewal that modernizes the series with new colors, thinner edges and especially a 1080p webcam. Good pointers that come on top of an excellent construction and screen. The performance of the M2 chip is there and is worth competing ultrabooks, but Apple still has the advantage in terms of energy efficiency, silence and autonomy. For those who demand better performance and longer battery life, you will have to turn to the MacBook Pro 13 M2, which has stood out in these aspects despite an aging design.

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