Apple MacBook Air M2 test: nicer, faster and still quiet

building

Do we have to remember that Apple always takes care of the chassis of its computers? The finishes here are flawless, as usual. The champagne gold color (“starlight”) in any case is very light and even hard to find in our photos. Seems less “bling bling”, a kindness we appreciate, even if it’s obviously a matter of taste. You can always bring back the classic silver and gray colors of space, or even the new midnight blue for a little originality.

Macbook Air M2

The color of the star is quite soft.

© The Digital

At first glance, there are some differences from previous generations. The screen is a little bigger than before because it ranges from 13.3 to 13.6 inches and its edges are thinner. Like the MacBook Pro 14 and 16, now there’s a notch around the webcam and so the lineup is compatible, even if the MacBook Pro 13 isn’t. Otherwise the computer will remove the speaker grilles located on either side of the keyboard, but we will return to this in more detail in the audio portion of our test. In any case, there are no more small holes that get dirty over time.

Macbook Air M2

The screen is a little bigger and the bezels are thinner.

© The Digital

Finally, the computer must be approached to see that the chassis is now flat and that it is trimmed to a few millimeters, from 1.61 cm at the highest side to 1.13 cm at the entire edge. On the sides, unfortunately there is limited connectivity with two USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports and a mini-jack socket. The good news is that the MagSafe port is back to charge the computer using the famous proprietary magnet cable. The latter suddenly disappears in the event of an accidental collision, which may save the ultraportable from a bad fall. Note that the two USB-C ports also accept charging, but they may be slower.

Macbook Air M2

The MacBook Air chassis is no longer bevelled.

© The Digital

Macbook Air M2

The connection is still limited, even if 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 further improves image quality. In high light, the result is frankly good, and even in low light conditions, the image is less pixelated, while the old model is really lacking at this point as we can see in this example.



The 1080p webcam on the MacBook Air M2.


The 720p webcam on the MacBook Air M1.

The keyboard is still very nice, as is the Trackpad which is perfectly solid and smooth 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 available to open your Mac, some applications and internet accounts without a password.

Macbook Air M2

Function keys are even bigger now.

© The Digital

The computer legs are flatter than ever, and you always have to be patient to disassemble the chassis using a Pentalobe P5 screwdriver, which is less usable because everything is soldered on the motherboard and there are no parts to replace.

Macbook Air M2

Under the computer.

© The Digital

By using heavy processing software, the MacBook Air M2 heats up the center of the keyboard with a peak of 45 ° C, which can’t be neglected for an ultraportable. As such, it is not dangerous and the computer stays cool for office use. This slightly higher heat than the competition is the price to pay for the marble silence provided by the MacBook Air: yes, the loss of ventilation is a joy for the ears every day.

Macbook Air M2

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

© The Digital

Editor's Rating: 4 out of 5

Manifesting

We’ve already been able to test the M2 chip on the MacBook Pro 13, but many are waiting to see if the MacBook Air won’t cover it with the same performance. Just a reminder, the memory bandwidth of the Apple SoC is from 60 to 100 GB/s and the unified memory (RAM) can now reach 24 GB compared to 16 GB on the M1. Our test model has – like the 13 -inch Pro model – 8 CPU cores and 10 GPU cores, but for the record, the most entry level on the MacBook Air has 8 core of the GPU. Otherwise it has 16 GB of combined memory and a 1 TB SSD.

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

The MacBook Air M2 scored 112 on our CPU test index, putting it in line with high-end thin PC processors like AMD’s Ryzen 7 6800U and Intel Core i7-1260P. However, it’s nowhere near H-series processors with a slightly thicker chassis like the Core i7-12700H. It’s also about 7% less efficient than the MacBook Pro M2 with active ventilation that allows higher operating frequencies over time. The difference is especially noticeable with high processing (Adobe Premiere and HandBrake, for example) where the Pro is almost 30% faster.

Compared to the MacBook Air M1, we know about 15% gain in performance, which is not to be missed. Overall, the latter is more noticeable in Adobe Premiere where the M2 is much faster, at approximately 45%.

In terms of graphic display, the MacBook Air M2 sits between the MacBook Air M1 and the MacBook Pro 13 M2. That’s why it’s about 20% slower than Premiere’s Pro and 30% slower than Blender 3.1, but 22% faster than Premiere’s Air M1 and almost 30% faster than Blender 3.1. On the other hand, it doesn’t match the hardware acceleration provided by the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060, which is faster, except for Photoshop where the M2 comes out on top. Keep in mind once again that MacBooks have the advantage of offering the same battery power performance as when connected to mains, which is not the case with laptops.

Apple MacBook Air M2: more beautiful, faster and still 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 a few additional GPU cores on the M2 have not surprisingly changed: the MacBook Air M2 barely reaches 16 fps, like 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 at “very high” and 34 fps at “medium”, which can be played.

Macbook Air M2

The MacBook Air M2 isn’t made to play, except for titles that have little demand.

© The Digital

Finally, SSDs are as fast in theoretical write speeds as 2.9 GB / s and 2.7 GB / s read, which is very good, but not as fast as most high-end SSDs that exceed 6 GB. / s.

Editor's Rating: 4 out of 5

Screen

The Liquid Retina screen on the MacBook Air is now 13.6 inches, it goes to a definition of 2560 x 1664 pixels and a huge occupancy rate of 86%. The IPS panel seems to have always been fully calibrated with a delta E of about 1.4 and an average color temperature of 6961 K.

If the panel is glossy, the reflections will remain bright, as the average reflectance is only 25.7% and the maximum brightness of 520 cd / m² is very good. Small errors can be found on the 22 ms long continuity side, even if it has no effect on office automation, as well as on the 1390: 1 contrast ratio side, usually only. . The MacBook Air’s screen has to face the OLED panels that are especially prevalent in many competing computers, thus offering them infinite variety and no continuity.



Editor's Rating: 5 out of 5

Audio

There’s a new configuration of speakers on the MacBook Air M2, now more available next to the keyboard, as we explained, but under the screen. An original placement we haven’t seen before. So the sound reproduction is a bit different from what we hear in previous models, but we find the same and still good signature. Bass is audible (which is rare on ultrabooks, keep in mind) and the mids and highs are perfectly controlled, due to the thinness of the chassis.

Macbook Air M2

The speaker grille is missing on the sides.

© The Digital

The heights are a bit softer than before, no doubt due to the placement of the tweeters that no longer sit in the front. If the stereophonic space is still weird for a laptop, it could be criticized for being a little wider than the previous MacBook Air offered.

Otherwise, the headphone output is flawless as usual, with a lot of dynamic range of 115dB, completely unobtrusive 0.0013% distortion and inaudible -61dB crosstalk. The output power of the 340 mVRMS is still impressive and facilitates the use of headphones for monitoring.

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

Activity / Autonomy

The size of the MacBook Air never changes, even if it’s a little thin. It measures a total of 30.4 x 21.5 x 1.13cm and weighs 1.24kg, just 50g lighter than the MacBook M1. So it remains easy to carry, but clearly not the lightest computer at the moment, some now go under the one-kilo bar. The charger block weighs 187 g, which weighs very little on the whole thing. We also received a new model with two 35 W USB-C ports that allow you to charge another device at the same time if needed-usually a smartphone.

Macbook Air M2

The block charger is still very compact and is now MagSafe.

© The Digital

In terms of battery life, we’re excited to see if it reaches the best mark of the MacBook Pro M2, which lasted under 18 hours of Netflix video playback, the light set at 200 cd / m², the headphones plugged in and volume. at 50%. The MacBook Air M2 didn’t perform as well as its predecessor, but the result was still impressive, as it shut down after 13 h 6 min, far ahead of all the PCs that pass through our lab.

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

Strong points

  • M2 effective.

  • The finish is always smooth.

  • Very well calibrated slab.

  • Completely silent computer.

  • Very good headphone and speaker output.

  • Very good autonomy.

  • 1080p webcam.

Weak points

  • Heating a little.

  • Very limited connection.

Conclusion

5 stars on LesNumériques.com
Global brand

Editor's Rating: 5 out of 5

How does grading work?

With the MacBook Air M2, Apple has signed a welcome aesthetic renewal that modernizes the series with new colors, thinner borders and a 1080p webcam in particular. Good points come on top of a very good build and screen. The performance of the M2 chip is up and running compared to ultrabook competitors, but Apple still has the advantage in terms of energy efficiency, quietness and autonomy. For those who demand better performance and longer battery life, you should resort to the MacBook Pro 13 M2, which showcases these aspects despite an outdated design.

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