The M2 MacBook Air has become far more controversial
than you would expect from an entry-level Apple laptop. Part of that is because it’s more pricy than the device it replaces (which isn’t even being replaced, you can still buy the M1 version).
Not only that, some reviewers took note that Apple is now only using 256GB NAND chips for internal storage. That’s deeply in the weeds of computer architecture, but the M1 machines used two 128GB chips in the smallest configuration. That means that if you bought base models of each version (M1 and M2), the SSD read and write speeds would technically be faster on the M1 version because the controller can write to both chips at the same time.
On paper, it looks like Apple is trying to save money by releasing a product that is actually more expensive but slower than the one it replaces–at least at the entry level.
Oh, I almost forgot that those YouTube reviews love to talk about how the MacBook Air does not have a fan, and is therefore “thermally throttled,” which is a nerd-speak way of saying that the processor will slow down when it gets too hot under intense load.
Do you know what you have to be doing to get the MacBook Air hot enough to experience this? I don’t know, I’ve tried. I’ve exported 4K video from Final Cut, bounced an hour-long podcast from Logic, and exported 1,100 RAW files into JPEGs from Lightroom. None of those tasks made the MacBook Air noticeably hot to the touch and I’m pretty sure they qualify as more than “light computing and productivity work.”
More importantly, it handled all of them faster than any other computer I’ve ever owned, except for the M1 Pro MacBook Pro I’ve had sitting on my desk for six months. Most people, however, aren’t upgrading to a MacBook Air from anything with an M1 Pro or M1 Max.
Most people are upgrading from something like a 2015 iMac or a 2017 MacBook Air, either of which is running old Intel processors. If you are getting by with anything not running Apple Silicon, the M2 MacBook Air will be the very best computer you have ever owned, and not by a little.
You want to know what’s faster than the M2 MacBook Air at complex, processor-intensive tasks like exporting 4K video or audio projects? A handful of Macs with the word Pro or Studio in the name, not one of which you could buy for less than $2,000.
But, getting back to the statement at the top, most people aren’t doing any of those things. You want to know what’s faster at all of the things most people do with a computer? Nothing. Well, I guess the M2 13-inch MacBook Pro because–as YouTubers will remind you–it has a fan.
Which made me think the problem has nothing to do with whether the M2 MacBook Air is very good (it is), or even perfect (of course, it isn’t). It made me think the problem is that the people who review computers have lost perspective on what most people do with those computers.
And so, I shared those thoughts in a Twitter thread: