Friday came and went in a late night blur…but how did the new M2 MacBook Air hold up?
At least DHL did their bit
This was the first Mac I had ordered on pre-order day. I really didn’t know what to expect.
After nearly missing the boat, by trying to spec out my order, I secured my choice, and then it was then a case of waiting a week for delivery.
Like most of us, I have had mixed blessings as far as couriers go. I had tried to arrange to collect my order in store, but for whatever reason, once the order is placed, that cannot be done. So, come last Thursday evening, I knew that come the morning, it would just be a case of waiting for DHL to come knocking at my door, before my day could get started in earnest.
Luckily, they were not too late, and I had the M2 MacBook Air in my hands by around 11.30. My day’s work was about to start!
What was planned then?
The day was going to be centred around shooting a video covering my first thoughts on the new M2 MacBook Air. In so doing, it also meant I would be using the machine for many hours on that first day, and would be able to write about it for you today too, with hands-on experience.
My initial thoughts were to take the M2 MacBook Air out the box, no charging, and see how far it got me through the day. I wanted to edit, render and export the video…oh, and also make the thumbnail as well. A tough ask, I am sure you’ll agree.
It’s light, VERY light! Ok, so my reference points were a 2019 Intel MacBook Pro, and my 16-inch M1 Max MacBook Pro. Both chunky machines, but nothing can prepare you for the featherweight, lightness of this M2 MacBook Air. It has taken productive portability to another level.
I have always considered the M1 Max MacBook Pro, certainly my 16-inch model, was designed to be left in one space, but could be moved if required. It’s dimensions and sheer weight, just make it too cumbersome to move around. But the M2 MacBook Air has a USP, and it is…portability. If your lifestyle and workflow necessitate that you can be productive, anywhere, with minimum fuss, then this M2 MacBook Air will be the perfect choice for you.
Ports make the difference
The port array on these M2 MacBook Airs, whilst not as comprehensive as the MacBook Pro, are good enough to see you through the day. You have two Thunderbolt USB 4 ports, which, annoyingly, are on the same side. I am guessing there will be an engineering reason behind that, as Apple are not in the business of making random mistakes. From a usability perspective, though, it would have been so much better had they placed one on each side.
Those ports are suitable for both charging, and external displays. I hooked the M2 MacBook Air up to my Studio Display over the weekend, and out of the box, it worked perfectly. The only small niggle, I came across, was Universal Control with my 16-inch MacBook Pro. It was ‘iffy’ – it worked for a bit, but would then just stop for no obvious reason. The fact these are both current, Apple Silicon, brand-new Macs, and Universal Control struggled, surprised me. Oddly, it works fine with the 2015 27-inch iMac in the office.
The 3.5mm headphone jack comes with advanced support for high-impedance headphones, which is handy, but clearly, not for everyone. I mean, I am a bit of an audio man, yet as I sit writing this on the M2 MacBook Air, I am wearing AirPod Pro!
I guess the ‘biggie’ in the port department, though, is your two Thunderbolt ports are left free, as MagSafe is back. Missed for so long, in favour of USB-C charging, MagSafe is once again with us in all its glory. You’ll get a very long, colour-coded, braided cable in the box. If a cable can be quality, then this one ticks the boxes. The only surprise, is that the two plugs don’t match. At one end, you have the magnetic MagSafe plug which is colour coded, but the USB-C plug on the other end is white. It stands out like a sore thumb. I’m not sure what the reason behind that choice may have been.
I have the higher-spec’d of the two models that were available on launch day – 8-Core CPU, 10-Core GPU and 512GB of storage. That config means I got the 35W dual port charger. The dual ports are super handy, but slow!
Last night, I was charging the M2 MacBook Air ready for today. I had been busy on it all afternoon, and it needed some ‘juice’. It seemed to take a very long time. I removed my phone from the other port in case that was the reason. I knew the charger was supposed to decide which of your devices required more power, and charge accordingly, but it made very little difference.
If your lifestyle dictates you need rapid charging, then I’d suggest you check out the 67W power brick that is available. Not a massive point, but something I thought you’d like to know. For me, it really makes little impact, as I generally put it on charge overnight.
Power & quiet productivity
The battery life is impressive. Sadly, the brain, mine at least, has a nasty habit of forgetting what the Intel machines were like to use. Once you’ve used Apple Silicon, you get mighty used to it – and fast!
Thinking back, the fans would be spinning, pretty much whatever I did, and it would be hot. The M2 MacBook Air, of course, is fanless. The quiet working environment is bliss. I have got used to it with the M1 Max, but this is an equal joy to use.
As I mentioned earlier, I pushed the M2 MacBook Air last Friday.
Out of the box, it came with about 85% charge. I was using it on and off all day. Come around 5pm though, I started to edit the 15 minute, 4K, multi-cam video on it. And it did well – I got the low battery warning about 6 hours later. Ok, I didn’t quite manage the full render, export, and thumbnail on one charge, but it was impressive nonetheless.
Although smaller in dimensions, obviously, the keyboard feels the equal to that of my larger MacBook. You now have a full-sized fingerprint ID button top right, and 12 full-height function keys as well. I am no touch-typist, but it feels comfortable to work on for long periods.
The edges of the body do sit a little uncomfortably on my hands as I type, but big hands and a small-bodied M2 MacBook Air, means there will be some compromise, I guess. Again, it is no dealbreaker, just worthy of mentioning.
There was a touch of that – at least I suspect it was that.
Late in the evening, editing the video, when I’d place the playhead at a given point, the playback monitor would turn black, and the audio was from an earlier clip. It was odd, and my best guess, it was some kind of throttling, or RAM memory swap issue. The only way I found to get around it, was to change the resolution of the playback quality. For reference, I edit in Premiere Pro, not the Mac optimised Final Cut.
But – let’s all just remember, this small, indiscretion is occurring on a 13.6-inch, ultra-light, fan-free notebook! A few years back, can you imagine being able to comfortably carry out productive work like this on such a device?
Actually, the only time I felt this M2 MacBook Air get hot over the weekend, was when it was sync’ing Dropbox. Then it got mighty toasty, but other than that, it has been cool to the touch, no matter what I was working on.
Camera & speakers
In my video, I carried out a quick experiment with the cameras between this, the M2 MacBook Air and that of the M1 Max MacBook Pro. We are told, that they are exactly the same 1080p cameras. To my eyes, the results were slightly better in terms of colour on the M2 Mac. Both are fine though if you plan to make FaceTime or Zoom calls. The three mic set-up reproduced my voice pretty well, without much reverb, echo or boom.
The speakers are – ok. That doesn’t sound a glowing indictment, I know, but again, I am coming from the 16-inch M1 MacBook Pro. Those speakers are ludicrously good – hitting, way above their weight for mere laptop speakers.
The four speakers you’ll find on the M2 MacBook Air, have a wide stereo sound though, and support for Spatial Audio when playing music or video with Dolby Atmos. In short, they are fine; more than you may expect from a Mac with such a tiny form factor, and offer a comfortable enough listening experience.
If you have read many of my articles, you’ll know I have a thing about screen size. Bigger is best, and enough is never enough.
I finished working on the M2 MacBook Air at around 2am Saturday morning – yup, it had been a long day, but it had given me a good ‘feel’ of what this Mac was all about.
The biggest surprise was this LED-backlit panel. With a native resolution of 2560×1664 and 500 nits of brightness, it packs a punch. Now, the odd thing I found, was that working on this 13.6-inch screen didn’t feel small. Oddly, I felt more at home on here than the 16-inch MacBook Pro! Go figure!
I still can’t figure out how or why that would be the case, but by the end of that long day, my eyes did not feel as if they were bleeding, and I felt happy enough working on here. I think it may have been because I knew that is what I would be doing. I had set out my stalls early.
By-the-by – it may not have ProMotion, mini LED or have a 120Hz refresh rate, but the display on here is great, even for video or Photoshop work.
And what about the colour?
Well, I knew when choosing the midnight option, there may be an issue with fingerprints – and so it proved!
The colour is just stunning. An iridescent, very dark charcoal blue, that changes hue depending on your viewing angle. I am still happy with my choice – the other colours look a little tame and boring to me.
The fact you have to carry a micro-fibre cloth with you wherever you go, is a small price to pay for the lush colour of the body on this M2 McBook Air. The smudges clean of easy enough though…oh, and I am very fussy about fingerprints on any of my devices, so I may not be the fairest judge.
Positive. If you want me to put my money where my mouth is, then, how about this?
I am keeping this M2 MacBook Air, and it will be my daily driver at the office. The 27-inch iMac is still on the desk, but this tiny M2 Mac is just quicker at everything it does.
This week I will be selling two Macs because this M2 MacBook Air feels so good. Going will be a 21.5-inch iMac and a 15-inch MacBook Pro. I really don’t think you need more convincing of how good I think this new, M2 MacBook Air is, and how well it will fit into my workflow.
If you are tempted, try one out. In the real world, I can tell you, away from benchmarks and tear-downs, this M2 MacBook Air is a little workhorse.
Consider me a happy, David!
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