When the M2 MacBook Air first launched in July 2022, there were two main storylines: It surprisingly cost $200 more than its M1 predecessor and the new midnight black finish was a fingerprint magnet. But those two points missed a bigger story.
After using the M2 MacBook Air daily for over two months, I can confirm that the midnight black finish is indeed a fingerprint magnet — although the fingerprints easily wipe away. I’m also happy to assert that the extra $200 is well worth the performance boost, for those who need it. The M2 MacBook Air also includes a host of other refinements that combine to make this one of the most impressive laptops ever made.
Since ZDNET’s audience is primarily professionals, technology enthusiasts, and innovation lovers, we have no hesitation in naming the M2 MacBook Air our Product of the Year for 2022.
Why it’s the top product of 2022
One of the other common criticisms of this product when it was first released was that it’s now a bit of a tweener in the Mac product line — with the very-capable M1 MacBook Air still on sale and now serving as the entry-level, under-$1,000 Mac laptop and the robust MacBook Pro line being the go-to option for professionals and creators who need more oomph.
But, a longer look at the M2 MacBook Air allowed me to throw a lot of power-hungry tasks at it and wait for it to buckle. I transferred monstrously large files, built multimedia-intense PowerPoints, rendered and compressed video files, and loaded up my three favorite Adobe Creative Cloud apps — Premiere Pro, Photoshop, and Lightroom.
I was very surprised to find that the machine never blinked.
My work laptop is a 16-inch MacBook Pro (2021) running the M1 Pro chip. That machine is an absolute beast that delivers jaw-dropping desktop-class performance. In testing the M2 MacBook Air, what shocked me was how close it came to matching my MacBook Pro for most tasks.
My conclusion: The M2 MacBook Air can now handle about 75% of what you used to need a MacBook Pro to do.
That can potentially save you $500-$1,000. The M2 MacBook Air I tested included the 10-core GPU and 16 GB of RAM and retails for $1,700. But, a comparable MacBook Pro is going to run you at least $2,000-$2,500.
The other factor with the M2 MacBook Air is that it’s a lot easier on your back. My 16-inch MacBook Pro weighs 4.7 pounds and is 14 inches long and 9.77 inches wide. It seriously weighs down a bag. The M2 MacBook Air weighs 2.7 pounds and is 11.97 inches by 8.46 inches. It’s a featherweight by comparison.
Professionals and creatives who are doing complex video and photo editing, animation, illustrations, and rendering massive files will still want the full power of a MacBook Pro to handle those tasks, of course. And the biggest thing I miss when using the M2 MacBook Air is my MacBook Pro’s spacious and fluid 16.2-inch XDR display.
But a lot of people are going to be surprised at how much the M2 MacBook Air can do and how well it can do it.
Beyond its raw power, the M2 MacBook Air is also the first redesign of the MacBook Air product line in over a decade and Apple has delivered a hardware design that impresses with both its form and function. The upgrades include:
- Much-improved webcam, now at 1080p
- Thinner bezels around the screen and more usable space
- A 13.6-inch display that’s 20% brighter
- Full-sized Touch ID fingerprint scanner
- Full-sized function keys
- Louder, clearer speakers
- MagSafe power connector with colored cables to match the laptop
While no Apple product ever really flies under the radar, the accomplishments of the M2 MacBook Air have been underappreciated during 2022. So we’re happy to shine the spotlight on it as the best product of the year.
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Google Pixel 7 — While the Pixel 7 Pro is Google’s flagship smartphone, the Pixel 7 offers nearly all the high-end features (except the 120Hz screen, big battery, and telephoto camera) and it regularly sells at a street price of $500, making it arguably the best phone for the money on the market.
Apple Watch Ultra — One of the biggest surprises of the year was the prowess of Apple’s first high-end sports watch, which features premium materials that take beating, enhanced GPS tracking, extended battery life, and even underwater functionality.