Hands-On, Laptop

MacBook Air (M2) Hands-On: The Exemplary Productivity Laptop

MacBooks have always been some of the best productivity laptops in the business, and this remains true for the latest M2-powered MacBook Air. Sporting a new design, an even faster M2 chip, as well as a taller, larger display, it is now a more complete productivity laptop.

Of course, that also means the new MacBook Air demands a premium. With a RM5,499 starting price, it is markedly more expensive than its predecessor, which retails from only RM4,399. But after spending a brief time with the M2 Air, I’m certainly a fan: it’s easily one of the most refined laptops in its class.

First, let’s get the specifications of the MacBook Air M2 out of the way first. As mentioned, it features Apple’s blazing fast M2 chip, which is said to be up to 1.4x faster compared to the M1 model. Despite offering better performance, it still retains the laptop’s impressive battery life of up to 18 hours.

Aside from that, the M2 Air also gets a larger, brighter 13.6-inch Liquid Retina notched display with 500 nits of brightness. Measuring 11.3mm thin with a 1.24kg chassis, this is certainly a thin and lightweight laptop as well. I definitely wouldn’t mind lugging it around in my backpack. Oh, it also gets the MagSafe charging connector back.

Two main variants of the MacBook Air M2 are offered. The RM5,499 base model features an M2 chip with an 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU, 8GB of unified memory, and 256GB SSD storage. A tier up is the RM6,699 model, which offers a faster 10-core GPU and a 512GB SSD; this is the more practical configuration, in my opinion.

Off the bat, the notched screen of the M2 Air is quite…well, jarring to look at. But in normal use, it’s really not that bad. It blends in with the menu bar, and when playing videos or running apps in full screen, the notch basically disappears. Honestly, I don’t mind it at all, and I love the minimal bezels surrounding the screen.

As for the new Air’s screen quality itself, it is definitely above average. While the 13.6-inch 2560 x 1664 display isn’t the highest resolution panel in today’s market, its bright, vibrant colours with wide viewing angles do make for a pleasant viewing experience.

Performance wise, I haven’t used the M2 Air long enough to assess how well the M2 chip can keep up with my daily tasks. But in my short time with the laptop, it does feel very fast and responsive, though this has always been one of the winning qualities of macOS.

Speaking of performance, the powerful M2 chip in the new Air is cooled passively; that is, there’s no fan inside the chassis of the laptop to cool the chip. It will be interesting to see how much this would affect the performance of the chip, though the benefit of this fanless design is a completely silent laptop with no system noise.

And then there’s the build quality of the MacBook Air M2; one area where Apple has always delivered. Needless to say, the Air feels very well-constructed. The chassis has absolutely no creaking with added pressure, the hinge is smooth, and I can easily open the laptop’s lid with only one finger.

But it doesn’t matter if a laptop is well-built if its input devices are subpar, especially for a productivity laptop. Well, thankfully, the M2 Air has a fantastic keyboard and trackpad. While the keyboard doesn’t offer particularly long key travel, its low actuation force, cushioned bottom out, and good tactile feedback make for a very comfortable keyboard to type on for long periods of time.

Same goes for the trackpad. I really appreciate just how wide it is, not to mention the fact that it is very accurate. Naturally, gestures work seamlessly too. It’s no secret that MacBook trackpads are very refined, and I absolutely don’t see the need to use a physical mouse with the new Air.

Well, unless I want to do some gaming.

All in all, I’m very impressed with the MacBook Air M2, but I do have one qualm with the design of the new laptop. Now, even though its thinner than the M1 Air at its thickest point, I still prefer the tapered design of the older model. It gives the illusion of a thinner laptop, and the more rounded, proportional chassis of the new Air makes it feel…not as thin.

Nonetheless, the M2 Air is definitely a more refined laptop overall with a bigger, brighter display, faster performance, and a sleeker-looking design, though I personally prefer the design of the previous model. Even though the new Air is also costlier now with a RM5,499 starting price, I’d argue the improvements are worth paying for.

Of course, only a full review of the MacBook Air M2 can really shed some light on whether or not it can really justify the higher price tags.

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