The M2 MacBook Air is here, and like the M1, Apple has two options to choose from, with an eight-core GPU and a 10-core GPU. We’ve tested both models here at Macworld, with the entry-level model starting at $1,499 (the model we tested and reviewed here is $1,899 with 1 TB of storage and 16 GB of RAM), and the entry-level model with 256 GB of storage costs $1,199 .
This is a huge difference in price, which leads you to wonder what exactly you will get for the extra money. As it turns out, you get a lot.
With fewer GPU cores, less RAM, and an SSD configuration that seems to complement read and write speeds, the cheaper MacBook Air faces several hurdles in trying to compete with its more expensive siblings. At times we were shocked by his poor performance, but there were also some pleasant surprises.
Read on to find out how the higher-end and entry-level versions of the M2 Air fared in our speed and performance benchmarks. We added the same scores to the 256 GB version of the M1 MacBook Air released in 2020 and the quad-core Intel i5 model released in the same year.
M2 MacBook Air: Raw Processing Power
We started looking at processing power using Geekbench 5 and Cinebench R23 CPU benchmarks. While the high-end model we tested has dual RAM (16GB vs 8GB), our 2022 Airs has the same processor with the same number of CPU cores, so we don’t expect a huge difference here.
With gains of up to 16.5 percent over the 2020 M1 Air in all four tests (it never lags more than 2.2 percent), the entry-level Air is off to a promising start to track its pricier sibling. In fact, the 256GB Air scored just above the 1TB model in the multi-core Cinebench division, although it was less than 1 percent and may have been an anomaly.
M2 MacBook Air: Real World Missions
CPU benchmarks give you an idea of how fast the machine is on paper, but we want to know how these Macs perform in the real world. We set up the usual battery stability, export and encryption in iMovie and HandBrake 1.5.
There was no difference in the M2 Air’s speed when exporting a 4K file at high settings, but in every other test we saw performance loss when using the cheaper model. Exports took 27.6 percent more in ProRes settings. Meanwhile, iMovie took 43 percent longer to install the clip; In fact, we had to wait much longer to use the M1 as of 2020 (it’s an entry-level unit that costs just $999).
In our HandBrake tests, the 256GB model was 27.2 percent slower and 20.4 percent slower than the 1TB version, respectively. In both cases the speed was closer to the M1 than its sibling.
M2 MacBook Air: Disk Speed
We test the Mac read and write speeds of our Blackmagic Disk Speed Test review. We were particularly interested to see how the Base Air performed in this test, after reporting even its SSD. 50 percent 30 percent slower in read speed and write speed. (Basically explained by tears (In the device, Apple is using a single 256GB chip instead of two 128GB chips like last year.)
The 256GB Air memory could not defy these dire expectations. Average read speeds were 47.9 percent slower than the 1 TB model, while write speeds were 50.2 percent slower, much worse than expected. Either way, the entry-level winds much slower than the 2020 model. You probably won’t notice the slowdown in normal daily use, but for $1,199, we’re expecting a very solid SSD performance.
M2 MacBook Air: Gaming Performance
Finally, we looked at the performance of the two Airs that play in several demanding games: Rise of Tomb Raider Civilization VI. Both games have a benchmarking mode that allows you to measure frame rates without using any additional software.
It’s a test that Apple’s published specifications of the two devices expect to see a significant difference. Simply put, the 1TB Air we tested has a 10-core GPU, while the 256GB model only has 8 cores, so the frame rate is expected to be lower.
However, the test results were somewhat confusing. Tomb Raider numbers were mostly expected, with the Air-8 core lagging 43 percent at high settings and 26 percent on average. (In both cases, the entry-level M2’s frame rates were lower than the M1 from 2020). The MacBook Air is slightly better on the M2 and Medium on high settings.
The high-end Air is undoubtedly a great gaming machine, but the loss of two GPU cores doesn’t seem to cripple the cheaper model as expected. However, performance varies from game to game, and we’d advise caution if you’re planning to try a title that’s particularly demanding on graphics.
It’s no surprise to find that this year’s $1,199 MacBook Air performs less impressively than the top model. more disturbing, What is the price It’s slow when it comes to disk read and write speeds (about 50 percent each, according to our tests) and real-world scaling, exporting, and encryption tasks.
It’s always tempting to search for the cheapest configuration of a new Apple product to enjoy the new design and application at a fraction of the cost. As for the M2 MacBook Air, we’d advise against using it, as testing says you’ll get a machine that performs better than the cheapest model from 2020, some actually worse. Granted, you get a bigger and better screen, MagSafe and a new design, but the M2 lacks a performance boost.
If you decide to buy a new plane—we recommend paying extra for an upgraded configuration—be sure to find the lowest price by browsing our guide to the best MacBook Air deals. Or get the M1 Air and save a few hundred dollars.