The MacBook Air is Apple's best-selling laptop thanks to competitive pricing and features. The M2 model has an updated design with MagSafe and a notched display. The M1 model is also available with an old design and low entry price.
● Apple Silicon M1 or M2 processor
● Up to 24GB of RAM
● Up to 2TB of flash storage
● Two USB 4/Thunderbolt 3 ports
● True Tone Retina Display
● Magic Keyboard
● 15 to 18 hour battery life
● Find great MacBook Air deals
● Discounted prices start at $899
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The MacBook Air is Apple's most popular Mac laptop with its blend of performance and portability. The M2 MacBook Air introduces a new design with more ports and improved performance while the M1 MacBook Air is still for sale at a low entry price.
Since it is the lowest price for a Mac laptop, the MacBook Air has been a popular choice for education markets. Apple targets the lower price and portability above all else when designing its thin and light laptop.
M2 MacBook Air Features
Apple redesigned the MacBook Air to take full advantage of the M2 while remaining ultra-thin and light. The range of minor updates adds up to a well-rounded laptop in 2022.
The tapered case has been traded for a case with a uniform thickness. This brings the MacBook Air design in line with the 14-inch MacBook Pro and 16-inch MacBook Pro.
Even without the taper, Apple managed to keep the MacBook Air incredibly thin, with it being only 0.44 inches thick. That makes it Apple's thinnest laptop yet.
Apple kept the oversized trackpad and black Magic Keyboard. The display bezel is thinner overall and has a notch cutout for the webcam.
The M2 processor is a direct successor to the M1. It is slightly larger with more transistors but still uses an 8-core CPU. It has an 8-core GPU in the base configuration, which can be bumped up to 10-cores.
The CPU in the M2 is up to 18% faster than the M1. It is also aided by the Media Engine, which wasn't introduced to the M1 lineup until the M1 Pro and M1 Max.
The GPU can be up to 35% faster than the M1 when upgraded to the 10-core variant. That means professional apps, games, and editing tools will perform much better.
Computers running the M2 processor can still only connect to one external monitor via Thunderbolt at once.
Webcam and ports
Apple upgraded the M2 MacBook Air webcam to 1080p. The webcam should also see image quality gains thanks to an improved image signal processor in the M2.
Apple didn't include more Thunderbolt ports, so it still has the same two Thunderbolt/USB-4 ports as the previous generation. However, it does have MagSafe, which means the laptop can be charged without taking up a vital port.
The headphone jack was also updated to support high-impedance headphones.
M1 MacBook Air Features
When Apple transitioned the MacBook Air to the M1 processor, it altered little else about the device. It had the same 13.3-inch Retina Display with P3 color gamut and 400 nits of brightness.
Apple included two Thunderbolt/USB-4 ports on the side, which are a new spec above the previous Thunderbolt 3 ports. These enable wider compatibility with modern USB Type-C cables but are functionally the same.
The tapered case design goes from 0.63 inches to 0.16 inches to give the device an even thinner overall look. Even though Apple still calls this device the "air" for its size and weight, it is thicker than the 13-inch MacBook Pro at its thickest point.
Apple says the M1 MacBook Air is up to 3.5x faster with 5x faster graphics than the Intel model it replaced. The claim stands up to benchmark scrutiny. Its single-core performance competes with Apple's Intel-based Mac Pro, and its multi-core score is higher than all Macs except those with more than 8 cores.
The M1 chip's balance of power and efficiency allows the new MacBook Air to be fanless, offering silent performance. The big-little layout of the eight-core processor makes it easy on power consumption but able to kick in performance cores when necessary. The efficiency cores by themselves outperform the Intel Core-i3 processor.
It runs macOS which has been overhauled to support the new M1 processor. macOS Monterey introduced new features like SharePlay and Universal Control to bring more utility to users steeped in the Apple ecosystem. Users can also run apps originally designed for iOS and iPadOS thanks to the processor.
Apple has moved its entire lineup to the new Magic Keyboard first introduced in the 16-inch MacBook Pro. A redesigned scissor mechanism with 1mm of travel means no more sticky keys from previous generations. The new keyboard also included the inverted-T arrow keys.
Previous generations housed a butterfly keyboard, which had multiple updates and changes to attempt to address reliability issues. The butterfly switch was prone to stuck keys or broken mechanisms, leading to a higher failure rate than previous scissor-switch designs.
Apple had implemented keyboard repair programs for the butterfly keyboard, but the introduction of the new keyboard seems to be a final admission that there was some issue at hand. Even the latest iPad Pro keyboard uses the new Magic Keyboard design.
The late 2020 model with M1 chip offers improved video-chat capabilities. While the laptop still has a 720p webcam, the M1 chip uses Apple’s newest image signal processor (ISP) for improved image quality.
The new ISP adds greater dynamic range, better noise reduction, and superior auto white balance and machine-learning-enhanced face detection to make you look clearer in FaceTime or Zoom calls. That translates to improved video in low-light conditions.
The 2018 revision incorporated a Touch ID sensor for biometric identification. Touch ID has remained on the 2019 and 2020 refreshes and will likely be part of the MacBook Air until Apple possibly implements Face ID in a future model.
The T2 security chip is a separate piece of custom Apple Silicon that, for some key operations, sits between the Intel processor and macOS. It hosts the Secure Enclave for Touch ID and provides encryption services to macOS. The T2 chip also provides a secure boot, meaning the only processes that can run at startup are trusted and approved macOS software.
MacBook Air History
In June 2022, the MacBook Air was reimagined with a uniform thickness, MagSafe port, and notched display. It runs the M2 processor and has several upgrades throughout, including a larger 13.6-inch display.
The Liquid Retina display is a 2560p by 1664p at 224 pixels per inch. It has 500nits of brightness and uses the P3 color gamut.
The M2 processor is up to 18% faster than the M1 and has a Media Engine for improved video editing and export. It still only supports one external display, but the added MagSafe port frees up an additional Thunderbolt for accessories.
There are four colors available: Silver, Space Gray, Starlight, and Midnight. All models have a black Magic Keyboard with a large glass trackpad.
Rumors suggest Apple could release a 15-inch model in late 2023.
In October 2018, Apple redesigned and rebooted the MacBook Air after nearly a decade of selling models with the second-generation design.
The third-generation model added a Retina Display, Touch ID, and three color options. It essentially replaced the 12-inch MacBook, which Apple phased out of its lineup in the following months. This design has two Thunderbolt 3 ports, a 13.3-inch display at 2560 x 1600 resolution, and – initially – the maligned butterfly keyboard.
A March 2020 update added faster 10th-generation Intel processors, the Magic Keyboard, and a lower $999 starting price. That model had a less-than-ideal cooling setup, as many users complained about its fans kicking in frequently. In hindsight, that may have been because Apple was prioritizing a significant hardware update for later that year.
In November 2020, Apple ditched Intel, launching an updated model with Apple Silicon. The M1-powered Macbook Air brought much-improved performance and battery life. Apple promised up to 3.5x faster processing power than the previous generation, with up to 5x the graphical performance. Its battery can last up to 15 hours of web browsing. This update also removed fans, allowing for silent operation.
In 2010, Apple released the second-generation models with a tapered case and solid-state storage. There were 11-inch and 13-inch options.
This generation was well-received, helping to push the design into the mainstream. Within the next five years, the market was flooded with clones, and Microsoft later coined the name "Ultrabook" to denote Windows laptops that borrowed heavily from the MacBook Air.
With each update, Apple added more internal memory and faster processors. This was the last generation to include non-Retina displays and a MagSafe port.
Apple discontinued the 11-inch model in 2017 and the second-generation 13-inch model in 2019.
In 2008, to the delight and astonishment of those watching, Steve Jobs reached into a small envelope to reveal Apple's latest breakthrough product. The first MacBook Air had a 13.3-inch display and was 1.9cm thin, a remarkable design feat for its era.
This initial model made significant sacrifices to achieve that thin profile and solid battery life. Its 1.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor delivered less-than-stellar performance. The $1,799 entry-level model only had an 80GB hard drive, and a model with a 64GB solid-state drive and 1.8GHz processor cost $3,098.
One of the most controversial moves was Apple's decision not to include a CD/DVD drive. This move attracted significant skepticism and blowback at the time, given the prominent position optical drives still held in consumer technology. With iCloud and other cloud platforms looming on the horizon, Apple envisioned optical drives' relevance fading quickly. So, the company sacrificed the drive in the name of thinness and attractive design, a bet that ultimately paid off.
This move foreshadowed future decisions like the iPhone's headphone jack removal and the switching of all MacBook ports to Thunderbolt 3/USB-C.
MacBook Air Price Guide
The late 2020 M1 MacBook Air starts at $999. This model has 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. For $1,249, you get an M1 chip with an additional active GPU core and 512GB storage.
A maxed-out M1 model with 16GB of RAM and 2TB SSD costs $2,049.
The 2022 M2 MacBook Air starts at $1,199. It has 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage by default and can be increased to 24GB of RAM and 2TB of storage for $2,499.