Apple's $1,199 M2 MacBook Air isn't as good as it seems

By TechThop Team

Posted on: 30 Jul, 2022

There are two versions of the M2 MacBook Air, one with an 8-core GPU and one with a 10-core GPU, just like the M1. Both models have been tested here at Macworld, the $1,499 step-up model and the $1,199 entry-level model with 256GB of storage.

As that is a pretty big price difference, we were prompted to wonder what exactly you are getting for all that money. As it turns out, you are getting quite a bit for your money.

As a result of fewer GPU cores, less RAM, and a suboptimal SSD configuration, the cheapest MacBook Air has a hard time competing with its more expensive sibling. Some of the improvements it made were shocking, but some of them were pleasant surprises.

We tested both the top-end and entry-level versions of the M2 Air in our speed and performance tests. We have included equivalent scores for the 256GB version of the M1 MacBook Air released in 2020, as well as for the quad-core Intel i5 model.

The first test we did was to measure the processing power using the Geekbench 5 and Cinebench R23 CPU benchmarks. Since our 2022 breaths of the air have the same processor, we didn't expect a huge difference, although the top-end model we tested had twice as much RAM.

Despite its entry-level price tag, the entry-level Air performed quite well across all four tests and showed gains of up to 16.5 percent when compared to 2020's M1 Air. This is an impressive start for the segment.

 As an interesting side note, the 256GB Air achieved slightly higher scores in Cinebench's multi-core component than the 1TB model, although this difference was small and could well be due to an anomaly or an inconsistent testing environment.

The PC benchmarks give you an idea of the speed of a machine on paper, but we want to know how these Macs will perform in real life. As usual, we set iMovie and HandBrake 1.5 to stabilize, export, and encode our videos.

The M2 Airs' export speed didn't differ much when exporting a 4K file at High settings, but in every other test, we saw significant performance loss when using the cheaper model. 

The exporting process took 27.6 percent longer at ProRes settings. As a result, stabilizing an iMovie clip took 43 percent longer than using the M1 model from 2020.

The 256GB model was slower by 27.2% and 20.48% in our HandBrake tests than the 1TB model. In both cases, it was faster than its sibling, but it was slower than the M1 model in both instances.

The Blackmagic Disk Speed Test is used to test the read and write speeds of our review Macs. After reports that the SSD in the base Air is 50 percent slower, we were eager to see how it performed in this test.

Despite these dire predictions, the 256GB Air was unable to disprove them. On average, read speeds were 47.9 percent slower than those of the 1TB model, and write speeds were 50.2 percent slower. 

As a result, both the entry-level Air and the 2020 Air are considerably slower than the previous model. We expect much stronger SSD performance for $1,199 than you'll notice in normal day-to-day use.

As Apple's publicly released specs for these two machines indicate that there will be significant differences between Rising of the Tomb Raider and Civilization VI. The 256GB model has a 10-core GPU whereas the 1TB Air has an 8-core GPU, so it will have lower frame rates.

The results of the tests were somewhat confusing. Although the top-end Air model is undoubtedly a better gaming machine, the cheaper model does not appear to be significantly handicapped by the loss of two GPU cores in Tomb Raider.

Apple's $1,199 MacBook Air performs less impressively than its higher-end counterpart on graphically demanding games, however. If you buy the cheapest Apple product, you'll get the best design and processor for the lowest price.

The MacBook Air M2 performs no better than a cheaper model from 2020. MagSafe, an improved display, and a new design don't boost performance. If you plan to buy one, upgrade the configuration. An M1 Air can save you a few hundred dollars.

source: Macworld

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