When you wow the world with your first shot at something, it becomes easier to fail than to win again. So the fact that Apple’s Macbook Air 2022 didn’t really live up to some of our expectations perhaps says more about what we expected than the device itself.
Over the last two years, Apple has shown that its in-house, ARM-powered chips were indeed a threat to Intel’s dominance in PCs. The company has since come up with two new variants of this chip, and, with the Macbook Air, it’s starting to differentiate between its devices.
The M2 chip in this device is more powerful than the M1 in its predecessor. The difference in performance is about 10%, based on benchmarks—hard to tell in regular day-to-day performance. The Macbook Air is actually meant for regular, not heavy, use.
The key issue, however, is that Apple uses a slower storage variant on the 256GB variant of this device. Since Macbooks convert storage into RAM when you exhaust the on-board memory, this can lead to slowdowns that look mighty annoying on an Apple device.
You see, Apple’s devices are about experience, the fact that the company controls the development of a device from the ground up, creating a synergy between hardware and software that literally no other consumer electronics firm can offer. As a result, even if an Apple device sometimes has lower specifications than competing ones, it often ends up offering significantly better performance on an experiential level.
On the 2022 Macbook Air, the slower storage can be troublesome for those who perform memory-intensive activities. For instance, I have about 35 or more tabs open at a time on Chrome , on a daily basis, along with apps like Slack, Microsoft Teams, Safari and WhatsApp Web. As a result, the total RAM usage hovers around 7GB, leaving 1GB headroom for anything else I might do.
In day-to-day usage, I often ended up seeing a drop in frame rates when I was doing a four-finger swipe on the touchpad —a key Mac gesture—or when waiting for WhatsApp Web to update the new chats that had come in while I was tending to conversations elsewhere. Someone who wants to run more intensive tasks, like video editing (even for shorter periods), will definitely see these slowdowns more often.
To be sure, this also happens on a device like the M1 Macbook Pro, but it takes significantly longer. On some days, the Macbook Air behaved this way from the get-go.
There’s another kink. The new Air seems to heat up faster than its predecessor. Macbook Airs with Apple’s new chips don’t have cooling fans inside, which means that the processor can’t provide top performance for as long as a Pro. Laptops throttle processors to avoid overheating and save battery life. The faster throttling happens, the lower the actual perceived performance of a device.
That said, this is unlikely to happen to any regular user. It takes things like 4K video exports, etc., to get the laptop to this level. Simple games from the company’s app store run smoothly enough on the Air.
Fortunately though, the 2022 Macbook Air is not just about the M2 chip—which was the case with its predecessors. It has a whole new design, an improved camera, and a notch.
The wedge shape of the Macbook Air that many of us have come to know and love has been retired, replaced with a more block-like design that looks sleeker in some ways. It’s only about 11mm thick, and, at 1.2kg, it’s a few grams lighter than its predecessor. The wedge design looked thinner but the math says otherwise.
Another very small change that I enjoyed is the taller screen. The Macbook Air now has a 13.6 inch screen instead of 13.3, and the 0.3 inches have been added to the height of the screen, giving the new design a much taller profile when it’s in use, and a more distinct look after years of the same Apple design.
Yes, there’s a notch on the screen, but it doesn’t bother me. You can choose to dislike the notch but it also houses the 1080p webcam, better resolution than older Macbook Air editions. It’s not a “good” camera per se but it has certainly improved. As far as laptop webcams go, Apple still isn’t the best, but it’s no longer among the worst either.
So, should you buy it?
Over the last two years, reviewers and users have wondered how Apple devices running on these new ARM chips really differ from each other. With the 2022 Macbook Air, that question is answered.
It doesn’t feel like the Macbook Air we expected but it’s still a very able device. Many of the faults I mentioned above are only notable because I switched directly from an M1-powered Macbook Pro. Despite its faults, then, the Macbook Air will suit most non-power users. But for anyone running millions of Chrome tabs and an array of apps at the same time, I would recommend at least the 512GB edition of this device. For power users, video editors, etc, the Pro is the one to go for, though an easily throttled CPU may ruin that experience for them as well.