Apple's recently introduced M2 MacBook Air is a lightweight notebook that uses Apple's M2 processors. It supplements the previous generation M1 MacBook Air, which remains in production.

This revised system looks different than the previous MacBook Air systems, and it is—the first new case design in five years. The most distinctive new feature is a camera notch in the display, which allows a thinner bezel. Also notable is the return of the MagSafe 3 connector. Finally, the M2 processor allows a maximum of 24 MB RAM—50% more than the M1's maximum.

Comparing the current M2 MacBook Air to the previous M1 MacBook Air is instructive. The new system is slightly thicker and deeper and marginally smaller in width, with weight remaining almost exactly the same. As with previous generations, these systems are available in Silver and Space Gray, but Apple has added two new colors—Starlight (which replaces Gold) and Midnight.

ISC tested an M2 MacBook Air for two months. This particular system includes an Apple M2 processor with an 8-core CPU and an 8-core GPU, 24 GB of RAM, a 512 GB SSD, and macOS 12 Monterey. Installed and tested third-party software included Microsoft Office (including Teams), Box Drive, Adobe Creative Cloud (including Acrobat Reader), Claris FileMaker Pro, Slack, Webex, Zoom, Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, and Mozilla Firefox. Systems management and security software tested included BigFix, FortiClient, GlobalProtect, and JAMF.

With its 1080p camera, the M2 MacBook Air is well-suited for video conferencing. The video quality of the display is quite good, and the four speakers give good sound reproduction for a notebook. The general quality of the Retina (2560x1644) 13.6-inch display is excellent. In practice, the much-discussed camera notch rarely interferes with functionality, and Apple seems to have planned ahead to ensure that almost all menu items still fit—ISC expects further adjustments in future versions of macOS.

The M2 MacBook Air evaluated was tested against expectations for capable previous-generation MacBook Airs in institutional use at the University. It has performed as expected. Overall performance is good to excellent in all tasks. Battery life is as expected, ranging from a high of twelve hours in light office use to a low of between four and five hours in heavy video conferencing use.

The return of the MagSafe 3 power connector frees up both USB-C ports for other uses, which makes the restricted number of those ports seem less constraining. Having both USB-C ports on the left side is still somewhat annoying, especially when traveling.

The M2 MacBook Air is not perfect. The oft-discussed inability to drive more than one external display remains true—just like it was with the M1 MacBook Air.

ISC sees the M2 MacBook Air as an impressive and much-improved successor to the M1 MacBook Air. Properly configured, the M2 MacBook Air is approved for general University use under the Lightweight portion of the Notebook Purchasing Guide.

Thanks to JM Conway, Nate Cosgrove, and Sarah Nachmias for their assistance with this evaluation.