MacBook Air M2 vs MacBook Air M1: Which to Buy?

Estimated read time 8 min read

Compared to the M1 model, the M2 MacBook Air is more powerful and has better features. Other than the SSD problems I will discuss in this article. 

The M2 model is the more powerful machine, so if you’re just looking for that, that’s what you should choose. But if you’re looking for the best deal, is it a better purchase? And for that, we need to take a closer look.

MacBook Air M2 vs MacBook Air M1: Design

MacBook Air M2 vs MacBook Air M1 Design

The M1 model underwent a significant overhaul this year, and it now features a wedge design where the laptop gradually thickens from the front to the back.

Similar to the 14 and 16 inch MacBook Pros, the M2 model is much more squared off and has the same thickness throughout. However, it is obviously much thinner.

However, both of these are actually very portable. The M2 model is 50 grams or 0.1 pounds lighter, but that doesn’t really a noticeable difference.

Both laptops come in space gray and silver. Gold is another color option for the M1 model. The M2 model also includes Midnight and Starlight.

MacBook Air M2 vs MacBook Air M1: Ports

MacBook Air M2 vs MacBook Air M1 Ports

Some port-related aspects have changed, while others have remained the same. On the M2 model, there are still two Thunderbolt ports available. Both are situated on the left, just like the M1. This, unfortunately, means that you can still only use the left side of the M2 MacBook Air to charge it and connect accessories.

However, the M2 model comes with a MagSafe, so we are getting an upgrade here. So you can now charge your MacBook Air quickly and securely without using a Thunderbolt port.

The ports on the M2 MacBook Air are Thunderbolt 3 ports, which is another thing that left some people a little disappointed. So we still only have native support for one external monitor.

MacBook Air M2 Audio Jack

High impedance headphones are now supported by the 3.5 millimeter headphone jack on the M2 MacBook Air. I’m not sure how many users will care, but if that’s what you’re after, you’ve found it.

MacBook Air M2 vs MacBook Air M1: Display

MacBook Air M2 vs MacBook Air M1 Display

The display is one of the biggest improvements we received with the M2 model. First, we’re switching from the M1 MacBook Air’s 13.3-inch retina display to the M2’s 13.6-inch liquid retina display.

With 500 nits of peak brightness as opposed to 400 on the M1, the display is brighter and has a marginally higher resolution.

Additionally, both laptops have P3 displays, which have a wider color gamut and both offer true tone for better color reproduction. This means that there are sensors that can detect the color temperature of the ambient light in the room and then adjust the displays.

One more benefit of the M2 MacBook air’s newer display is that it now supports more than 1 billion colors, as opposed to 16.7 million on the M1 model.

Now, depending on what you’re going to be doing, you’ll need to decide how much these display improvements matter to you. It won’t make much of a difference if all you do is work with spreadsheets and Word documents, but if you do the kind of work where color accuracy is crucial, it will make a huge difference.

MacBook Air M2 vs MacBook Air M1: Keyboard and Trackpad

MacBook Air M2 vs MacBook Air M1 Keyboard and Trackpad

Both of these laptops have incredible keyboards that are on par with any laptop keyboard I’ve ever used in terms of the typing experience. The one thing that I like about the M1 model is that because of the wedge design, the front of the laptop is super low. And the M2 MacBook Air, even though it has the same design as the larger MacBook Pro, it’s so much thinner that the edge is not really an issue.

With the M2 MacBook Air keyboard, we did receive one upgrade in the form of a larger touch ID button and a full height row of function keys at the top. Although the functionality is unchanged, using the larger keys is more comfortable.

Now, the M2 MacBook Air’s trackpad has also been slightly enlarged. Additionally, out of all the laptops I’ve ever used, the trackpads on MacBooks are probably my favorites.

MacBook Air M2 vs MacBook Air M1: Camera

As opposed to the M1 MacBook Air’s 720P resolution, the M2 MacBook Air’s camera now has a higher resolution of 1080P. On the M2 chip, we also get a newer image signal processor and improved low life performance.

Here is a camera comparison test between the M1 and M2 MacBook Air. You should be able to tell from this what kind of image quality you can expect.

MacBook Air M2 vs MacBook Air M1 Camera

MacBook Air M2 vs MacBook Air M1: Speakers

MacBook Air M2 Speakers

Now, if you quickly examine the MacBook Air’s body, you’ll see that the speaker grills to the right and left of the keyboard have been removed. The four speakers that Apple added to the M2 MacBook Air are located on the back of the keyboard, directly below the screen.

I wasn’t really sure how the sound quality would turn out, but there has been a noticeable improvement over the M1 models; the speakers are louder and the mids and highs are a little little more. The audio also has more presence overall.

Audio quality in a laptop is one of Apple’s real strengths.

MacBook Air M2 vs MacBook Air M1: Performance

MacBook Air M2 Performance

Even though I believe it’s fair to say that the majority of the target audience for these laptops won’t be overly interested in benchmarks, there are still some interesting things to consider when we compare these two chips. Most of them are in favor of the M2, but not all.

As far as CPU performance goes, the M2 has more powerful high performance cores and more efficient high efficiency cores.

Geekbench Single-Core Performance

MacBook Air M21920
MacBook Air M11703

Geekbench Multi-Core Performance

MacBook Air M28939
MacBook Air M18939

Geekbench GPU Performance

MacBook Air M2 (8 Core)23699
MacBook Air M2 (10 Core)27318
MacBook Air M1 (7 Core)16764

Cinebench Single-Core Performance

MacBook Air M21582
MacBook Air M11499

Cinebench Multi-Core Performance (10 Min)

MacBook Air M27932
MacBook Air M17291

Cinebench Multi-Core Performance (30 Min)

MacBook Air M27210
MacBook Air M16489

Therefore, as you might expect, it performs better than the M1 in terms of single and multi core performance.

The M2 MacBook Air outperforms the M1 when it comes to GPU performance because it has more GPU cores.

When we go back and look at sustained CPU performance with cinebench, we see that the M1 shows about an 11% drop, in performance when comparing a 10 minute test, to a 30 minute test and then the M2 shows about a 9% drop.

I don’t anticipate the vast majority of MacBook Airs ever doing that. Of course, one of the MacBook Pro models is probably a better choice if consistent performance is a necessity for you.

SSD Performance

MacBook Air M2 vs MacBook Air M1 Storage Performance

SSD performance is another topic that has received a lot of attention. And as you can see, the M1’s 256GB model actually offers faster read and write speeds than the M2’s 256GB model. And the reason for that is that Apple uses a single 256GB chip in the M2 as opposed to 2x128GB chips in the M1.

MacBook Air M2 vs MacBook Air M1: Battery Life

MacBook Air M2 Battery

Battery life is the only benefit that has not changed. And the playback times for videos on both of these models are rated at 18 hours and 15 hours, respectively.

Compared to the M1 Air’s 49.9 watt hour battery, the M2 Air’s is 52.6 watt hours. And I can easily use both of these for a full day. And Apple has really impressed me with this.

MacBook Air M2 vs MacBook Air M1: Conclusion

A new design, a more potent processor, a larger and better display, a better camera system, and better speakers are all features of the M2 MacBook Air. You can upgrade the unified memory to a maximum of 24GB and you have MagSafe  for fast charging.

Some of the improvements made to the M2 MacBook Air, in my opinion, are really nice to have. The majority of the target audience, in my opinion, won’t find the increased processing power to be a significant selling point. But if the display, the camera and speakers are your top priorities, go ahead and pick one up.

Personally, I believe that 256GB of storage and 8GB of RAM is a bit low for a laptop that will provide me with processing power for at least five years. Therefore, if I had $1200 to spend, I would purchase the M1 MacBook Air and upgrade to 16GB of RAM.

In order to save some money and upgrade the internal storage, I would also think about purchasing a refurbished M1 MacBook Air.

Avatar for Jaskaran Singh

Jaskaran Singh

Jaskaran, a tech enthusiast from childhood, inspired by his father, began his tech journey by rooting Android phones. He now writes on various tech topics, aiming to simplify complex ideas for a broad audience. His writing is direct, concise, and flows effortlessly, making tech topics accessible and engaging.

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