The M2 MacBook Air is finally here; the pre-order date has passed and you can now actually walk into an Apple store and try one out for yourself.
But buying Apple’s laptops these days isn’t exactly the easiest task. They’re not very good at helping you along the journey – unless you know exactly what you need (or want), there are so many options to choose from.
Don’t worry – I’m here to help. In this buying guide, we’ll work through the entire configuration process for the M2 MacBook Air and get to the bottom of which one is right for you.
I want you to set two budgets before we get started:
- Ideal budget. This is the amount you can comfortably wave goodbye to today without any worry. You still want value, obviously, but you’ve saved it, kept it aside and it is ready to go.
- Stretch budget. This won’t break the bank, but it’s that little extra you can squeeze out of your account if you need to. It won’t feel quite so comfortable but providing you end up with something that delivers loads of value, you’ll get over it (eventually).
Right, with your budget in hand, let’s get into it!
The base model
I’ve heard so much nonsense talked about base model Apple silicon machines.
People will tell you that 8GB of unified memory isn’t enough in 2022. And, in some use cases, I absolutely agree with them. But if you fit into that bracket, you probably know you need more memory – and you’re probably not reading this guide.
If you’re unsure, but have a feeling that you’re going to be undertaking some relatively intensive video, audio, or coding work, focus on that stretch budget and put the emphasis on the amount of unified memory in your M2 MacBook Air. That way, you’ll have no buyer’s remorse.
For everyone else, the 8GB of unified memory offered in the base model is plenty. Ignore talk about “swap file usage” and ignore rumours about the mysterious out-of-memory error messages (I’ve never seen them).
I’ve been running my business on an 8GB M1 MacBook Air for nearly two years and it has never broken a sweat. I’m typing this blog post on a base model M2 MacBook Air, and that machine will perform the same function for as long as it needs to.
If your budget won’t stretch much further than the base model – go for it. You won’t regret it one bit.
If you want to spend more on an M2 MacBook Air, keep reading.
Processor and memory options
There are two processor options for the M2 MacBook Air. They both feature an 8-core CPU, but for £100/$100 more, you can swap the 8-core GPU for a 10-core GPU.
Is it worth it? On its own – no. I challenge anyone to spot the difference between an 8-core and 10-core GPU in a MacBook Air. If you’re that in tune with video performance, you’re far better off buying a MacBook Pro.
So, I’d leave that option unselected for now and only return to it at the end if you think the additional £100/$100 is no big deal.
Unified memory is where it gets far more interesting. In fact, I’ve written an entire guide on the subject, which you can find here.
In essence, 8GB is for most normal users (remember – ignore the naysayers, it will do you proud), 16GB is for anyone who is worried about 8GB not being enough and who has the budget to upgrade, and 24GB is for people who absolutely know they need 24GB.
You get four options when it comes to storage on the M2 MacBook Air – 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, and 2TB. A bit like memory, there is a lot of nonsense talked about how much space you need these days.
If like me, you barely keep anything on your laptop locally (for instance, you rely on services like iCloud Drive and Dropbox for your files), the 256GB option is entirely viable.
A case in point: I have 256GB SSDs in my M1 MacBook Air and 24-inch M1 iMac, and I haven’t run out of space on either of them. Nowhere close, in fact.
There has been a lot of talk, concern, arguing, and trouser-on-fire moments about the base model M2 MacBook Air and its 256GB SSD. Now that I have one in my possession, I can confirm that you have absolutely nothing to worry about with that SSD. Unless you’re pushing it relentlessly every day and keeping an eye on benchmarking software while you’re doing so – it doesn’t matter.
Like many people, I’m bored of that conversation. So, it’s time to move on – if you want 256GB and your use case fits mine, go for it!
Storage from Apple isn’t cheap – it doubles in price as you increase it. I would therefore suggest going no further than 512GB if you do want to spend more. That is unless you really do have a need for lots of large media files on your laptop.
I’m a big advocate of external SSD storage. I use it constantly to edit my videos, and always recommend Sandisk if you’re after something fast, robust, and reliable. Remember – the only thing you can increase in the future is storage. Every other specification you choose while configuring your M2 MacBook Air is locked in when you hit that ‘buy now’ button.
We now have a choice of three power adaptors. This isn’t the most exciting thing you’ll add to your basket today, but it’s a choice you’ll need to make, regardless.
The M2 MacBook Air comes with a 30W charger as standard. This is fine for most people and it’s the one I went with. If you’d like a faster charger, you can spend an extra £30/$20 and get the 67W charger.
Is it worth it? Well, it’s worth noting that you can get this charger for ‘free’ if you opt for the 10-core GPU and at least 512GB of storage. If you don’t go for that configuration and you’re not particularly fussed about how fast your MacBook Air charges (it’s no slouch at 30W), I’d save yourself a bit of money.
There’s also the option of a 35W dual USB-C charger for £30/$20. This can be had for ‘free’ instead of the 60W charger with that higher spec option, but otherwise… I’d give it a miss. There are loads of cheaper third-party options out there for multi-charging your devices.
Pre-installed software and AppleCare+
I can’t tell you whether you need Final Cut Pro or Logic Pro, but if you do, now is a good time to buy them. They’re not cheaper when added to the purchase of a new Mac, but they will come pre-installed for less faff on your part.
As for AppleCare+, I personally never buy it these days. If you’re not aware, it protects against accidental damage for three years, and you get expert technical support from Apple.
I can’t tell you if it’s worth it or not, but in my experience, modern Macs are incredibly robust. I’m tempting fate here, I know, but I can’t think of the last time I had a problem with a Mac that resulted in it heading back to Apple.
Remember – all new Macs come with a one-year warranty as standard, so you’ve got that much peace of mind, regardless.
I’d leave AppleCare+ until last. If you’re already into your stretch budget and can’t stretch it any further, I don’t think reducing your spending elsewhere is sensible just to make way for AppleCare+.
What have you ended up with?
That’s it – you’re done! All that’s left to do is check out, pay, and eagerly await your new M2 MacBook Air.
What spec have you ended up with? Let me know in the comments, below!
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