Similar many Macs before information technology, the MacBook Air had a pricing trouble until very recently. It was a well-designed ultraportable, but its computing operation and features were slightly backside the curve in the face of impact screens, more powerful processors, and other futuristic ideas from Windows equivalents around or below the MacBook Air’southward quondam $one,299 starting cost. This month, Apple dropped that price to $1,099, changing the calculus significantly, though the MacBook Air is otherwise nearly identical to its predecessor. (Note: Our tester unit comes in at $1,299 with what we consider an essential storage upgrade.) The upshot? The aforementioned solid laptop as ever, but for less coin. The 2022 Air doesn’t stand out in a crowded field of excellent ultraportables that includes the even-better 13-inch Apple MacBook Pro, only it’s worth a look if y’all’re partial to macOS and maximum mobility.
An Iconic Wedge
Sloping from dorsum to front in a wedge shape that pays homage to the original MacBook Air, which was introduced more than a decade ago, the 2022 MacBook Air is now Apple’s least expensive and lightest laptop. It snags this distinction because the 12-inch MacBook, previously the lightest Mac laptop, and the 2017
MacBook Air, previously the cheapest Mac laptop, are no longer for sale.
The cheapest and about portable entry point into the macOS ecosystem plain has enormous appeal, merely by default. And, at least in terms of size and weight, the MacBook Air holds its own in the wider world of Windows ultraportable laptops. At 0.61 inch thick at its thickest point, the Air essentially hits the 0.6-inch mark that well-nigh other ultraportable makers strive for, and its slimmest point at the front border is a vanishingly sparse 0.16 inch.
The 2.75-pound weight, 12-inch width, and eight.4-inch depth as well deport themselves nicely. The Microsoft Surface Laptop 2, for case, is 0.57 past 12.1 by 8.8 inches (HWD) and weighs two.viii pounds, while the Razer Blade Stealth is 0.58 past 12 by 8.three inches and weighs the same as the Microsoft machine. The electric current king of the ultraportable laptop category is the Dell XPS 13 ($949.99 at Dell)(Opens in a new window)
, and it’southward significantly smaller despite having the same 13.three-inch screen size as the MacBook Air and the Blade Stealth. The XPS thirteen is an impressive 0.46 by 11.9 past vii.8 inches and weighs 2.seven pounds.
Meanwhile, the 13-inch MacBook Pro, Apple’s step-up model from the Air, is on the heavy side (3.02 pounds), though its dimensions are by and large the same every bit the Air’s (0.59 by 12 by eight.iv inches). Overall, the similarities in sizes and weights are the all-time indicator of just how potent the contest is among 13-inch ultraportables. The MacBook Air is far from lonely amidst thin-and-low-cal laptops.
As ever, the thinness and lightness do not come at the expense of sturdiness. The MacBook Air feels very solid, with no noticeable flex anywhere on the chassis. That’s thanks mostly to a metallic blend made entirely of recycled aluminum shavings. You tin can have Apple tree utilise 1 of three different color finishes to the alloy: the Space Gray or Silverish that are as well available on the Apple iMac and MacBook Pro lineups, or the Gilt color that is unique to the Air. Our review unit of measurement is clad in Gold, drawing praiseworthy comments over the several days I used it around the part. It’s bold and beautiful, but given its unmistakable reddish hue, I think Apple should have called it Rose Gold. It tends to look more pink or coppery, depending on the lighting.
Retina Display, Now Automatic White Balance
There’s a very small-scale indentation on the front edge to help your fingers open the display lid. Doing then exposes the 13.iii-inch LED-backlit Retina Display, which has a not-quite-4K resolution of 2,560 by 1,600 pixels arranged in a 16:ten aspect ratio. It’s a brilliant brandish, and it now has support for Apple’due south True Tone feature, which emerged kickoff on the company’s iPads.
Truthful Tone automatically makes colors warmer or lighter to complement the residuum of the room’s ambient light. Information technology’southward a feature that trickled down from the MacBook Pro lineup, and while I wouldn’t telephone call information technology a necessary improvement, I do notice that it lends a distinctly pleasing, warmer tint to the screen under the fluorescent lights of PC Labs. If you don’t like it, yous can plow True Tone off in the Arrangement Preferences app.
Though information technology gains True Tone, the MacBook Air’s screen is however slightly inferior to the MacBook Pro’s screen, and missing the touch option that many Windows laptops offer. The MacBook Pro has a slightly higher maximum brightness (500 nits versus 400 nits), and I found my eyes were about comfortable when turning up the MacBook Air’s brightness level to one click below its maximum. The MacBook Pro’s screen can too display a wider range of colors, though unless you’re the type of computer user who needs or prefers to perform color calibration on your screens, y’all’d be hard-pressed to notice the difference.
You lot volition definitely observe the lack of a touch screen, however. The MacBook Air lacks the option for full-screen touch support that is available on virtually of its Windows competitors, and it’southward also missing the long, thin, secondary bear upon display known as the Touch Bar that, as of the 2022 models, now comes standard-upshot on the MacBook Pro.
The MacBook Air does offer a Bear upon ID sensor, withal, which lets yous log in to your macOS account using your fingerprint. Yous can also utilise your print to authenticate Apple tree Pay and App Store purchases. The Affect ID sensor is located in the upper right corner of the keyboard. It doubles every bit a power button, which you lot by and large won’t need, since the MacBook Air turns on automatically as soon as you lot open the lid.
This automated booting is usually a time saver, but I regret that when the laptop is already powered down and I so open up the lid to clean the keyboard, I must first await for it to boot up, then shut it down and commence with cleaning. You lot can disable it with a Terminal command, but I wish in that location were an easier way to stop the automatic booting in System Preferences.
Controversial Keyboard, Excellent Touchpad
One of the reasons I’m prone to regularly cleaning the MacBook Air’s keyboard: I’m very conscious of the bug that some owners have reported with previous versions.
With earlier iterations of this so-called “butterfly” keyboard, which is at present standard equipment on all new MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros, debris getting nether the keys was a concern. Material getting into the very shallow butterfly-style key switches beneath the keys has prompted a lawsuit and an out-of-warranty repair program for previous MacBook Pro models that apply them. The new MacBook Air features the third generation of this butterfly-keyboard design, which Apple claims to have improved in unspecified ways, other than that it offers a “quieter” typing feel. It’s the same generation of the lath that’s used on the new MacBook Pro, too.
The typing experience is indeed unique on these laptops because of these shallow key switches. Information technology’s more akin to tapping on a keyboard than typing. I’ve gotten used to it, and sometimes I even enjoy the tapping sensation, although I still prefer keys with more than travel distance, especially the ones found on Lenovo’south ThinkPad lineup. For people who blazon only occasionally, at that place’southward cypher radically wrong with the MacBook Air’due south keyboard; if you’re a novelist or a software engineer, though, you lot may want to consider a laptop with greater central-travel altitude instead. At the very least, you want to audition this keyboard before you buy; information technology is like no other, for better or worse.
The MacBook Air’s glass touchpad, however, is fantabulous. Information technology’southward large and pinpoint-authentic, and it makes use of haptic feedback for a uniform clicking sensation no thing where your finger rests. I far prefer it to any Windows touchpad I’ve always used. Again, though, endeavour earlier you buy, especially if you’re wedded to separate click buttons.
The Air’s ancillary features, like its speakers, are the same on this yr’south model every bit last twelvemonth’due south. In short, that ways functional, albeit unremarkable, sound and webcam quality, and support for 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The ports again comprise a headphone jack, plus two USB Type-C ports that support Thunderbolt 3 speeds. For more details on these features, check out our review of last year’due south model. The fact that there are merely three ports tin can be constraining, but the state of affairs is the aforementioned on the entry-level MacBook Pro, and some superthin Windows laptops are also ditching all ports except audio and USB-C. So the MacBook Air isn’t unique in its bantamweight I/O selection.
Apple offers a one-year warranty and 90 days of phone technical support with the MacBook Air, though Apple Shop employees are often willing to set common issues—especially software and keyboard problems—fifty-fifty if your MacBook Air is outside of its warranty period.
A Power-Sipping CPU
Like the ports and speakers, the CPU, retentivity, storage, and graphics options on the 2022 MacBook Air are all identical to the ones available on the 2022 edition.
The base model comes with an Intel Cadre i5 processor, 8GB of memory, and a 128GB PCI Express SSD for system storage. Our test unit modifies this configuration by stepping up to a 256GB SSD, which adds $200 to the price but is highly recommended unless you store all of your photos, movies, and other digital media in the deject. Other configuration options include 512GB or 1TB SSDs, and 16GB of retentivity.
The one sorely missed component-upgrade option is the power to pay more than for a more than powerful CPU. The 1.6GHz Intel dual-core fleck is the MacBook Air’s sole option. Apple tree doesn’t divulge the specific CPU models in its computers, but the information we do know most the chip from our benchmark software suggests it is likely Intel’south Core i5-8210Y(Opens in a new window). The benefits of the ultra-depression-power Y-series chips include little fan noise and the potential for marathon battery life, both of which apply to the MacBook Air, at the expense of often sluggish performance on resource-intensive workloads such equally video rendering and image editing.
This tradeoff is one reason that the Dell XPS 13, the Microsoft Surface Laptop 2, the Razer Blade Stealth, and the MacBook Pro all employ more powerful U-series Cadre i5 or Core i7 processors, which consume roughly double the power as the Y-serial only are far more than capable all-around performers. In the nautical chart beneath are the tested configurations of the MacBook Air and its chief competitors in the configurations that we’ve reviewed. All of them are priced similarly to the MacBook Air, with the exception of the slightly more expensive, niche-filling HP Spectre Folio.
The differences betwixt the Y-series and U-series chips are best illustrated on theoretical benchmarks like Cinebench, a 3D rendering exercise that taxes all of a CPU’due south available cores and threads. Information technology doesn’t matter whether information technology’south a Core i5 or a Core i7; as you tin can see, both laptops based on Y-series processors performed significantly worse than their U-serial counterparts on this test.
For a real-earth await at how this deficiency might bear upon functioning, consider our Adobe Photoshop examination. Using an early 2022 release of the Artistic Deject version of Photoshop, we apply a serial of ten circuitous filters and furnishings to a standard JPEG test image. We fourth dimension each operation and, at the end, add up the total execution time. The MacBook Air took more than 4 minutes to consummate all of the filters and furnishings, versus just 2 minutes and 24 seconds for the Razer Blade Stealth.
In addition to the Photoshop test, which affords some time for the laptop to rest and cool down between applying each filter or outcome, we also exam a system’s ability to evangelize sustained maximum performance by encoding a 12-minute 4K video to 1080p using the Handbrake app. The MacBook Air was more than twice equally tiresome as the MacBook Pro and Blade Stealth at performing this test. This puts the MacBook Air in a tough spot confronting competitors with similar prices and chassis sizes.
But many people in the market for an ultraportable laptop will never run Photoshop or catechumen a 4K video to 1080p. And the story that the benchmark numbers don’t tell is that for common computing tasks, the MacBook Air performs just fine. In fact, I streamed total-screen 1080p video from a website on an external monitor while clicking through multiple browser tabs in Firefox and Safari on the MacBook Air’s main display without experiencing a hint of sluggishness. This is a better experience than some Windows laptops with Y-series processors I’ve used, some of which occasionally hung when I opened lots of browser tabs.
At that place’south as well i thing at which the MacBook Air is unquestionably excellent: working for more than 20 hours without being plugged in. On our battery rundown test, which involves playing a local 720p video file at 50 percent screen brightness with Wi-Fi turned off until the bombardment dies, the MacBook Air lasted only 2 hours longer than the MacBook Pro, but significantly longer than either the Razer Blade Stealth or the Surface Laptop 2.
Finally, I tested the speed of the MacBook Air’south storage using the Blackmagic Disk Speed Test(Opens in a new window). Information technology accomplished an average 920MBps write speed and 1,288MBps read speed, which is on the low end for a PCI Express SSD. The fastest ones nosotros’ve tested tin can top 3,000MBps, and there is some evidence that the MacBook Air uses a slightly slower SSD than last year’s model, perhaps with fewer PCI Express lanes. (Apple tree declined to comment on the specifics of the SSD.)
In contrast, on the aforementioned speed test, the 2022 version of the 13-inch MacBook Pro performs slightly better, with a one,222MBps write speed and a 1,666MBps read speed, and the xv-inch MacBook Pro achieved average read and write speeds of effectually 2,600MBps. (That suggests that the 15-inch MacBook Pro is using a full-fatty PCI Express x4 SSD, for more than background, see our comprehensive guide to the all-time M.2 SSDs.) Still, the MacBook Air’south SSD is plenty fast enough that storage throughput won’t be a operation clogging, or indeed detectably slower, for the kinds of tasks this laptop is built for. And it’southward still significantly faster than any Series ATA-based SSD and (by far) whatsoever platter-based difficult drive.
The Pro Divergence
That slight storage-speed difference betwixt the MacBook Air and the entry-level MacBook Pro is but 1 more case of the tough decision that faces people shopping for a mainstream Apple tree laptop. The differences are pocket-size but significant, so let’s tally them upwards.
The 2022 MacBook Pro is a quarter-pound heavier than the MacBook Air, has slightly shorter bombardment life, lacks the choice for the Gold chassis color, and is $200 more expensive in its starting model versus the Air’south. In substitution for those traits, it offers significantly better theoretical computing performance, and the added side benefits of the Touch Bar and a slightly more than capable Retina Brandish.
We think most people—especially students who are planning to proceed their laptops through four years of college—should make the small-scale compromises required to ensure that they take the extra computing operation when or if they need information technology, and opt for the MacBook Pro. The MacBook Air may be the aforementioned laptop it was last year at a lower price, merely the entry-level MacBook Pro has improved, yr over yr, to a much greater degree. And, if you’re open up to the Windows 10 world, the Dell XPS 13, Razer Blade Stealth, and Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 are all equally feasible contenders.
The Bottom Line
The 2022 edition of Apple tree’due south MacBook Air is cheaper and has a slightly richer feature set than its solid predecessor, making it a decent ultraportable for buyers who won’t perform many resources-intensive calculating tasks.
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