For the first time since its introduction in 2008, Apple has given the Macbook Air a new design. Together with the new M2 chip, the group is setting a new standard for ultra-mobile notebooks. Only one thing is missing.
It was a revelation of what a notebook could look like: when Apple founder Steve Jobs pulled the first Macbook Air out of an envelope on stage in January 2008, it not only had a gigantic wow effect, it also set the laptop market apart a real tremor. The Ultrabook was born. From Friday is now with the new MacBook Air the first complete redesign since its inception. We’ve already been able to try it out – and apart from a single detail, we’re enormously impressed.
You can see at first glance that the Macbook Air with the M2 chip is a new model. The drop-shaped design that has been familiar for years is a thing of the past. Instead, the redesigned Macbook Air with rounded corners, a case that is uniformly thick throughout and the narrower display bezel fits more clearly into the current design philosophy of the latest Apple notebooks.
Airy light new design
Nevertheless, it is still clearly an “Air”. With a height of just 113 millimeters, it is still considerably slimmer than the rest of the group’s notebook line, even undercutting the old Air: It measures 161 millimeters at the thickest point – almost half a centimeter more. This makes it the thinnest Apple notebook to date. Apple also remains true to the Air principle when it comes to weight: the new model weighs just 1.24 kilograms. Because the weight is distributed more evenly, carrying it around by a corner makes it almost feel lighter.
Can you do that? MacBook Air up, two more transformations appear. The more obvious one is the redesigned display. The frame has shrunk significantly, and the camera now peeks out of a recess at the top edge. This allows Apple to make the display a little bigger with the same case footprint. Instead of 13.3 inches, it now offers a 13.6-inch screen diagonal. The resolution increases only slightly with 2560×1664 pixels. But with 500 nits it is brighter than its predecessor.
As usual, the display is very sharp, colors are displayed very well, but not quite as impressively as is the case with the more expensive MacBook Pro models. The relatively high brightness ensures that the screen is easy to read even outdoors in the sun.
The second interior innovation concerns the keyboard. Apple now uses the more expensive Macbook Pro models. The F-keys are no longer narrower than the rest of the keyboard, but full-fledged keys. The keyboard’s stroke is quite soft, and it’s pleasant to type on despite the short drop.
A feast for the eyes and ears
Apple has cleaned up next to the keyboard. While the keyboard of the older models was bordered by two speaker strips, these have disappeared with the new design. The sound now comes from two boxes that Apple has hidden in the display hinge. That doesn’t detract from the sound. Although the thin case doesn’t allow for any real bass depths, the sound still works for you Notebook-Speakers impressively full.
In correspondingly produced films and series, the new audio system even has a treat in store: it supports full 3D sound with Dolby Atmos. With supported headphones such as the third-generation Airpods, the notebook even recognizes when you move your head and spatially adjusts the sound accordingly. For full music enjoyment, you should connect headphones or a box, despite the good speakers, but the audio quality is very good in video calls, and voices sound very natural.
Anyone who often takes part in conferences or meetings with their notebook will appreciate another innovation of the updated Macbook Air. As with the more expensive Pro models, Apple has finally improved the camera quality. Instead of 1280 x 720 pixels (720p), the new Facetime camera now offers Full HD quality with 1920 x 1080 pixels. This is clearly visible: Instead of washed-out surfaces, the conversation partners now get crisp, clear recordings from the home office. Everyone has to decide for themselves whether this is always an advantage.
There is another innovation on the side: also with the MacBook Air As with the more expensive Pro models, Apple is bringing back the Magsafe connection that fans have been missing for years. This has several implications. For one thing, of course, charging becomes less risky. Because the charging cable is clipped on with a magnet, it is less serious if you get caught on the cable. Instead of ripping the notebook off the table or even breaking off the connector, the magnet simply detaches.
On the other hand, there is another advantage: Unlike the entry-level MacBook Pro, the new Air even has two USB-C ports for a monitor, external hard drives and so on when it is charging. If you don’t want to lug around a cable, you can simply use one of the USB-C sockets for charging. The included 35-watt power supply can also be used for this: Magsafe is ultimately just a plug on a removable cable, the power supply accepts any USB-C cable.
The many innovations in the design ensure that the big star of the Macbook Pro presented at the same time (already tested here by us), Apple’s self-developed second-generation computer chip called M2, is almost a distant memory in the Macbook Air. That’s not because the chip isn’t worth a look.
With its processor system consisting of four high-performance and four efficiency cores, as well as eight or ten graphics cores, depending on the model selected, it offers MacBook Air lots of power. Compared to the predecessor, it turns out to be about 15 percent faster in test programs when multiple cores are used. With programs that can only use one core, it calculates even faster than a Macbook Pro with an M1 Pro chip. However, it is generally slower than the premium M1 chips, M1 Pro, M1 Max and M1 Ultra. As a result, the Macbook Air unfortunately inherits one of the biggest shortcomings of its predecessor: It can only address a single monitor without additional hardware and software. That’s a shame, it’s not the end of the world for most users.
The only disadvantage compared to the entry-level MacBook Pro that also runs with the M2 is an advantage for many users. Unlike the Pro, the Air doesn’t have a fan. When it is fully loaded, it can therefore call up slightly less performance. On the other hand, it can’t get loud at all. And calculates silently even with hours of full load.
This seemed a bit surreal, especially during the endurance test. The Macbook Air and its predecessor with the M1 chip stood silently next to each other while both chips had to calculate one image after the other at 100 percent capacity in the Cinebench program. Although both got a little warmer, it wasn’t uncomfortable with either model.
The battery performance was more than impressive: The M1 MacBook Air, known for its endurance, just barely managed the magic mark of three hours despite full load, two minutes after exceeding it it switched off. The successor with the M2 still had eight percent in reserve. It only switched itself off after 3:20 hours. If you consider that it offers more performance and also a brighter display – both notebooks had a display that was switched on at half brightness the entire time – this plus is very considerable. Especially since Apple actually only advertises the battery performance as equivalent.
In everyday life, such extreme loads are of course the exception. If you use the Macbook Air for surfing, watching videos or for office work, you can expect significantly longer runtimes. Apple advertises a runtime of up to 18 hours, which is realistic with very little use. In the test, the device lasted well beyond a normal working day every day, and there should be reserves for most users even on long days. That’s a strong achievement.
The Better Pro
Especially the comparison with the sibling model, the 100 euro more expensive Macbook Pro with M2, makes the Air look even more attractive in comparison. The new, very successful design, the more connections and the larger display are a clear plus for the MacBook Air and makes it the tool of choice for most “pros”. In most cases, the Air makes up for the fact that the performance lags slightly behind in extremely performance-intensive tasks with its non-existent noise level. Very few will miss the touch bar, which is only available on the entry-level model of the Macbook Pro.
In order to become a new benchmark for mobile work computers in almost every respect, only one thing is missing: Unfortunately, Apple still does not support an independent mobile phone connection in any of its mobile computers. A 5G option would be particularly desirable for the Macbook Air in order to be able to work even more easily on the go. Apple is rumored to be working on its own mobile phone chip. So maybe the successors will be able to remedy this shortcoming at some point.
Conclusion: simply better
That MacBook Air is a product update as one wishes it to be. The new design is very chic, brings many great innovations and desired features. You don’t have to make any compromises: Compared to the previous model, it’s better in almost every respect. And the more expensive entry-level model of the MacBook Pro is likely to lose a few buyers as a result of the Air.
If you can do without the new design and its advantages and want to save money, the previous model, which is still available, is still a good choice. With a good deal – right at the start of sales, Apple offers students a discount through price reductions and vouchers as part of the back-to-school program – you should consider the small surcharge. The entry-level model of the Macbook Pro is actually only interesting for users who absolutely want a touch bar. If you need more power, you should rather go for the more powerful – and also significantly more expensive – noble models with M1 Pro and better.
The Macbook Air will be available Friday, July 15, 2022 in Midnight (Black Blue), Polaris (Silver with Gold Cast), Space Gray, and Silver. It costs in RRP from 1500 euros.
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