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MacBook Air M2 vs. MacBook Air M1: The $200 Question

Yes, Apple still sells a $1,000 laptop, but it misses out on the latest features.

MacBook Air M2 2022 laptop
Dan Ackerman/CNET

Apple's MacBook Air is the company's lightest, thinnest and most affordable laptop. The Air is regularly our top recommendation for anyone in need of a solid, reliable everyday laptop. And when Apple released the 2020 MacBook Air with its first-gen M1 system-on-chip, the performance was as impressive as its design for the $999 price.

Now, the new MacBook Air is here with Apple's new M2 SoC. The M2-based Air looks better in every way, but you're going to pay more, too, with a starting price of $1,199. 

MacBook Air (13-inch, M2) vs. MacBook Air (13-inch, M1)

MacBook Air (13-inch, M2) MacBook Air (13-inch, M1)
Starting price $1,199, £1,249, AU$1,899 $999, £999, AU$1,499
Display 13.6-inch, 2,560x1,664-pixel Liquid Retina (500 nits brightness) 13.3-inch, 2,560x1,600-pixel Retina (400 nits brightness)
No. of CPU cores 8 8
No. of GPU cores Up to 10 7
Starting / max RAM 8GB / 24GB 8GB / 16GB
Starting / max storage 256GB / 2TB 256GB / 2TB
Wireless 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0
Connections Thunderbolt/USB 4 USB-C (x2) Thunderbolt/USB 4 USB-C (x2)
Webcam 1080p FaceTime HD camera 720p FaceTime HD camera
No. of speakers / mics 4 / 3 2 / 3
Battery life Up to 18 hours Up to 18 hours
Power adapter 30-watt USB-C (8-core GPU), 35-watt dual USB-C (10-core GPU) 30-watt USB-C
Weight 2.7 pounds (1.24 kg) 2.8 pounds (1.29 kg)

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The MacBook Air M2's design changes from the tapered wedge look of the 2020 and earlier models to more of a blocky slab, more like the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro laptops from late 2021. The 2022 Air didn't receive all of the additional ports of the 2021 Pro models: There's no SD card slot, it doesn't get an HDMI output for an external display and it has just two USB-C Thunderbolt ports. However, the updated Air does have MagSafe charging. 

Now playing: Watch this: MacBook Air M2 vs. MacBook Air M1: Worth the Extra $200

Built around a larger 13.6-inch Liquid Retina display, the MacBook Air M2 has a new fanless body available in four colors: silver, space gray, starlight and midnight. The laptop is just 11.3 millimeters thick and weighs only 2.7 pounds (1.2 kilograms) -- a touch lighter than the M1 version.

If video call quality is important to you, which is probably a "yes" for everyone at this point, going with the M2-based Air gets you a higher-resolution 1080p webcam along with three mics and a four-speaker sound system. 

The MacBook Air M2 unsurprisingly delivers better performance. Apple said with the new M2 chip, Final Cut Pro performance is nearly 40% faster than on the M1 Air and Photoshop is up to 20% faster. Battery life is up to 18 hours of video playback and with an optional 67-watt power adapter it can charge up to 50% in 30 minutes. You can see some of our own performance test results below, with even more in the full MacBook Air M2 review

Geekbench 5 (multicore)

Apple MacBook Pro (14-inch, M1 Pro, 2021)
Lenovo Yoga 9i
Apple Macbook Pro (13-inch, M2, 2022)
Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, M2, 2022)
Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, M1, 2020)
Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED


Longer bars indicate better performance

Cinebench R23 (multicore)

Apple MacBook Pro (14-inch, M1 Pro, 2021)
Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED
Apple Macbook Pro (13-inch, M2, 2022)
Lenovo Yoga 9i
Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, M2, 2022)
Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, M1, 2020)


Longer bars indicate better performance

With all of that said, though, many people don't need all those extras, especially at a $200 premium. The good news is that Apple is keeping the M1-powered MacBook Air in the lineup at its $1,000 starting price. Though the new model is great, the Air M1 should still provide excellent performance for everyday use for years -- particularly important if you're looking for a lower-cost option to get through high school or college. 

Dan Ackerman/CNET

The updated Air not only has a new look but its performance is closer to that of a MacBook Pro than past Air models. Along with the upgraded processing power, you'll find a larger, better display, a full-HD webcam, four-speaker audio and it's even a touch lighter. You will pay a little more for it, however.

Read our MacBook Air M2 review.


Dan Ackerman/CNET

The M1-powered MacBook Air from 2020 stays on as Apple's entry-level laptop. The design hasn't been updated since 2018 really but not exactly a knock against it -- it's still one of our all-time favorites. Performance and battery life remain excellent for anyone looking for a grab-and-go productivity machine. Plus, the starting price, especially with an educational discount, makes it a great pick to carry a student through high school or college. 

Read our MacBook Air M1 review.


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