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Shaking hands with Apple’s new MacBook Air M2

Whenever Apple launches a new MacBook Air, it’s a big deal. Apple’s lighter, thinner model is one of the world’s best-selling laptops and has traditionally been the most affordable option for those wanting a portable Mac.

Announced at the company’s annual Worldwide Developer Conference, the new 13-inch MacBook Air M2 is noteworthy for a few reasons, though not all of them would be welcome.

The good stuff includes Apple’s new ultra-powerful, battery-friendly M2 chip under the hood. This gives the MacBook Air the ability to do weird things, like play multiple 8K and 4K video streams at once. And the extra battery life achieved by using Apple’s own silicon chips is one of the real breakthroughs in laptop technology in recent years. Like the M1 models before it, you can expect to get anything from 18 hours or so to 18 hours or so on a single charge, an astonishing feat.

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Apple MacBook Air M2. Photo: Adrian Wechler

The second title change is the physical redesign, which eschews the MacBook Air’s iconic ‘wedge’ shape in favor of the square look that is the current crop of MacBook Pros. People can have mixed feelings about this. While it does make the MacBook Air a little more contemporary, the wedge design will always be associated with good things. Holding the new model in my hands, I couldn’t help but feel a little sad saying goodbye to the original template. That said, the new Air M2 is (very) slightly lighter than its M1 predecessor, 20pc smaller in overall volume, despite having a slightly larger screen (13.6 inches versus 13.3 inches).

The new ‘Liquid Retina’ display on the M2 Air is brighter and slightly higher resolution than its predecessor, while there’s also a slight jump in webcam quality, 1080p (compared to the mediocre 720p on the previous model).

MagSafe charging makes a comeback here, though you can still charge the MacBook Air via either of its two USB-ports. The only other port is the headphone jack.

For those who feel they need some serious muscle power, the new M2 Air can pack up to 24GB of RAM, while there’s a 16GB limit on the M1 machine. It can also be configured up to a 10-core GPU instead of the M1’s 7-core GPU.

The Touch ID button is also on board.

But it’s not all good news. The new MacBook Air M2 model (still available) costs €300 more than the M1 model. That’s a really high price for a MacBook Pro. Indeed, the updated 13-inch MacBook Pro model with Apple’s new M2 chip is only €100 more.

More worrying is the serious gap in pricing that has opened up between Ireland (or the EU) and the US. While the new MacBook Air M2 model costs €1,529 here, it ranges between €1,130 and €1,230 in the US, depending on which state you tax the sales tax. It’s the kind of big gap that hit tech pricing a decade ago. (It costs €1,475 in the UK, which is pretty close to the EU price.) This is the first Apple laptop in a while that makes more sense to buy in the US because of the pricing structure.

That said, it should still be an attractive option for those looking for a very light, powerful laptop.

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