One can assume that the pre-order date for the M2 MacBook Air is looming. Exactly when it’ll arrive is anyone’s guess, because all Apple has told us thus far is that the next generation of their no-longer-wedge-shaped laptop is “coming next month”.
I can’t wait to get my hands on one, but I’m only doing so because I need to review it and offer a long-term opinion on Apple’s latest MacBook Air. If I were a regular buyer, I wouldn’t be waiting so eagerly for that pre-order date. Instead, I’d be sticking with my M1 MacBook Air (the one I’m typing on now, in fact) because I have no reason at all to upgrade.
However, you might be in a different situation. You may have spent the days following the WWDC announcement pondering whether or not to go for either the M1 or M2 MacBook Air.
Well, help is at hand, because I’ve got six definitive questions for all MacBook Air buyers.
Question 1: How much are you willing to spend on a laptop?
The M1 MacBook Air starts at $999, whereas the M2 version kicks off proceedings at $1,199. Spec up the latter, and you’ll spend up to $2,500 on your new laptop. The M1 MacBook Air, on the other hand, tops out at $1,999.
Both are wonderful laptops. I can say that confidently about the M1 MacBook Air, because it’s my favourite laptop of all time, and while I’m yet to try out the M2 edition, it’s pretty much nailed-on to be just as good. This is why the price should always be your starting point; either of these laptops will last you many years if well looked after.
So, the first question is: how much are you willing to spend on a laptop? Does the M2 MacBook Air feel too expensive? Is the $999 asking price for the M1 MacBook Air too tempting to resist? If you can spend a bit more, what’s your top budget?
Combine your answer to this question with the next five, and you’ll know which MacBook Air to buy.
Question 2: Do you want the latest and greatest?
The M2 MacBook Air is brand-new. It features a new screen, new chassis, and the next generation of Apple Silicon.
Some people will, therefore, want one simply because it’s the latest and (presumably) greatest. This is absolutely fine – you should never feel ashamed or as though you’re kidding yourself if you just want the new MacBook Air.
But if you sit on the other side of the fence, you’ve probably got a keener eye on your budget. You might even be worried about the potential pitfalls of buying a brand-new model that is as yet untested by consumers (more on that later).
Which camp do you fall into?
Question 3: Was something holding you back with the M1 MacBook Air?
There may be a very good reason you haven’t bought an M1 MacBook Air yet. Perhaps it was the inability to go beyond 16GB of unified memory. Maybe you didn’t like the idea of buying a laptop with a design that has been around for many years.
The M2 MacBook Air offers improvements over the M1 MacBook Air in a few areas. The screen is slightly bigger and 100 nits brighter. It’s quicker in single-core performance thanks to that M2 chip (although I still challenge anyone to demonstrate the relative boost that delivers during everyday use) and it has significantly better video capabilities. It even has MagSafe and full-height function keys.
Sure, the M2 MacBook Air still only supports one external monitor, and there aren’t any additional ports, but if any of the points above were holding you back from buying an M1 MacBook Air, the new one is probably the laptop you’ve been waiting for.
Question 4: How important is unified memory to you?
The M1 MacBook Air tops out at 16GB of memory. I maintain that this is more than enough for most ‘normal’ users. But I’m conscious that there are also users out there who know exactly how much memory they need.
If that’s you, the fact the M2 MacBook Air can be specced up to 24GB of unified memory could be the tipping point.
Despite this, I feel it my duty to note that I’m yet to max out the 8GB of unified memory in my M1 MacBook Air – I’ve never seen an out-of-memory message, nor has the machine struggled, even during 4K video editing. Perhaps I’m just not pushing it enough.
But, maybe you will push your MacBook Air – that’s the reason this question is so important.
If you know you need more unified memory than 16GB, you know you need more unified memory than 16GB. Go pre-order that M2 MacBook Air (as soon as you can)!
Question 5: Is video work important to you?
One of the key differences between the M1 MacBook Air and its new big brother is the GPU.
The M1 MacBook Air can only be configured with a 7-core GPU. This is fine for most people, but if you really want to do a lot of video production work on your MacBook Air, the M2 version is a clear winner.
Apple’s latest laptop can be configured with a 10-core GPU, and it also has a next-generation media engine tucked away inside that slender frame. The result is up to 35% better graphics performance than the M1 MacBook Air.
As I’ve said before, the M2 MacBook Air could be the perfect stand-in laptop for video editors whose main production machine is static (for instance, a Mac Studio). Although I still need to get my hands on one and give it a thorough Final Cut Pro test, the M2 MacBook Air looks like a beast of a mobile video editing rig for the right person.
Question 6: What’s your appetite for early adoption?
I touched on this earlier, but it’s worth repeating. Early adoption of technology will always go one of two ways. That shiny new thing will either live up to expectations or fail miserably.
The M2 MacBook Air hasn’t been tested at scale yet. And, just like any brand-new product, this could mean that there are inherent issues Apple is yet to discover. There might be display problems, build quality inconsistencies and even unforeseen performance issues.
Do you really want to risk any of that? Granted, the risk factor is a little lower these days, but if you’d rather let others get in there first and report their negative findings to Apple, opting for the tried-and-tested M1 MacBook Air today is probably a safer bet if you’re at all nervous.
Only you can answer those questions above. They’re personal, entirely subjective, and, often, elicit answers that only make sense to you.
This is completely fine. In fact, I’d wager that you’ll decide to buy one of these two laptops for reasons you can’t fully justify or explain – it’ll just feel right.
So, the last big question I have is this: which one are you going for? Let me know in the comments!