The 15-inch MacBook Air Chip

As the rumors continue to swirl around the looming 15-inch MacBook Air, some leakers are now reporting it will ship with the M2 Apple silicon rather than the earlier-rumored M3. That earlier rumor never made much sense to me unless Apple was willing to use the M3 in all new hardware from now on. Wouldn’t it be confusing if the Mac Pro was based on M2 while the less expensive, less powerful MacBook Air was already on M3?
Regardless, I’ve heard from many readers and listeners that are waiting for this computer to release. I suspect many people will want a bigger screen laptop that isn’t at MacBook Pro specs (and price).

Using the M2 MacBook Air

After much waffling, I ended up buying an M2 MacBook Air. I purchased this as a second Mac. My main machine is a 16″ MacBook Pro with all the bells and whistles. I love it, but it’s vast and expensive. I’ve wanted something thin and light to go along with it. In addition to my 16″ MacBook Pro, I’ve had a loaner 14″ MBP (basic build) for a few months. Its owner wants it back, however, which further lit the candle for me to consider adding a MacBook Air to the toolbelt.

I realize having two Macs is a luxury, but I was curious, and the Apple Store had a nice build in stock (1TB Storage, 16 GB Ram, Space Gray). I bought it to kick the tires and determine if I wanted to spend that much money to have a second computer. (This MacBook Air costs the same amount as a new band saw.) After a week of use, I figured I’d pick between three options.

  1. I would not be in love with the MacBook Air, and I’d return it, going back to the one Mac lifestyle.
  2. I’d love this particular MacBook Air and keep it.
  3. I’d love the MacBook Air but return it to get a different custom build.

Having used the new M2 MacBook Air for four days, option one is off the table. I dig this Mac. A thin and light Mac to go along with the big one is an excellent fit for me. I haven’t decided between options two and three yet, but here are some initial observations:

  • Thin and light is not an understatement. This thing with the lid is about as thick as the 14″ MacBook Pro base (not including the lid). Putting this Mac in my bag will be no problem and almost no weight. The base is the minimum thickness you could have while still supporting a headphone jack.
  • The 14″ MacBook Pro screen is noticeably better than the MacBook Air screen when side by side. The MacBook Air screen is acceptable and does not feel inferior when not set next to a 14″ MacBook Pro.
  • When working in Final Cut and Screenflow (or rendering video from either of those apps), there is a considerable difference between my 16″ MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air. Render times are around 350% longer on the MacBook Air. That said, it does render the video, and I have something I can upload and share. It can do production work, but I wouldn’t want to do production work on it every day. In a pinch (or when on a trip), the MacBook Air is up to the task.
  • When doing any single-core operation, the MacBook Air excels. I’ve been writing, emailing, planning, and even photo editing (with Apple Photos), and I can’t tell any difference between the MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air.
  • The MacBook Air keyboard feels better than it does on my MacBook Pro. Maybe it’s just me, but it feels like there is just a little more resistance. It could just be that one is new and the other has some mileabe on it.
  • The sound through the MacBook Air is acceptable. The sound through the MacBook Pro is excellent.
  • I also like the design symmetry between the MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air. They are clearly of the same lineage, and I like that.

M2 MacBook Air Reviews

The initial reviews are in on the M2 MacBook Air. My two favorite are Jason Snell’s at Six Colors and Brian Heater at Tech Crunch. Overall, it seems that the M2 MacBook Air delivers on its promise. It’s a small, light Mac that can do most tasks, but isn’t built for heavy lifting. Having held one of these Macs, I really can’t understate how thin and light it feels. It reminds me of the first time I picked up an iPhone 5.

I’m reading a lot of hand-wringing about the thermal limits and throttling. I think this is getting blown out of proportion. IF you run a diagnostic at the MacBook Air designed to punish the processor, which is the lowest end Apple silicon chip combined with it’s substantial improvements over the M1 and the fact it doesn’t have a fan, it’s going to throttle. IF that is your normal workload, you should probably buy a MacBook Pro.

I’m much more interested in its performance for everyday Mac tasks – browsing, writing, email, and the likes. It seems the machine runs just fine for those tasks.

M2 MacBook Air Ship Dates

I expected the ship dates on the new M2 MacBook Air to get pushed back far and fast. I was wrong. As of today you can get a stock build M2 in the first week of August (the Midnight color sets you back a week) and a build-to-order machine also before the end of August.

You’ll also likely be able to get some builds right in the Apple Store starting this Friday. I expected things to be much bleaker at this point.

The Controversial 13″ MacBook Pro

A lot of us (myself included) have been piling on the recently updated 13″ MacBook Pro. You have to admit it really stands out in Apple’s current line as a relic of days gone by. That said, it now has the M2 chip and it is now for sale. Jason Snell wrote a piece for Macworld explaining why it may make sense. Still, it’s weird. The 14″ MacBook Pro is far superior and the new MacBook Air is also a better computer by several metrics for less money.

We’ve been speculating on Mac Power Users now for some time about the idea of a 15″ MacBook Air. There are plenty of people that would like a bigger screen without the MacBook Pro power (and price). In my head, the 13″ MacBook Pro exists as a placeholder for that mythical 15″ MacBook Air.

In the meantime, I stand by my advice, “Friends don’t let friends buy the 13″ MacBook Pro.”

Thoughts on a Big MacBook Air

Yesterday Chance Miller published an opinion piece at 9to5 Mac on the need for a 16-inch MacBook Air. Stephen Hackett has been talking about the same idea on the Mac Power Users for months now. The idea would be that Apple has two laptop models (consumer (Air) and pro) along with two sizes for each model (small and big).

We’ve got two sizes on the MacBook Pro. Why not have that on the MacBook Air as well? Stephen suggested 13 and 15 inches. Chance is arguing for 16 inches. I would probably tend toward 12 and 15 inches. Regardless, having a larger screen consumer-grade MacBook would be an excellent idea. Because of the significant differences in pricing between the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, it’s unlikely a larger MacBook Air would cannibalize sales for the 16″ inch MacBook Pro. If anything, I think it would cause more people to upgrade from the smaller MacBook Air than downgrade from the big MacBook Pro.

I also just like the symmetry of it all. You go into an Apple store and answer two questions:

  1. Consumer or Pro?
  2. Small or large?

Now that Apple has sorted out the Mac and is making excellent laptops, this would be the next logical step in my mind.

Rumored New MacBook Air

Mark Gurman is back, this time with a rumored new MacBook Air design in the works for later this year or next year. The goal is thinner and lighter with a smaller bezel. The MacBook Air is already pretty thin and light, but it really isn’t that much lighter than the 13” MacBook Pro. (2.8 vs. 3.1 pounds).

Either way, it appears the Macintosh Renaissance is in full swing. If you are thinking about getting a new Mac, but in no particular hurry, I’d recommend waiting a year. I expect the entire line of options will be different a year from now.