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Here’s why people are saying to avoid the $1,199 M2 MacBook Air

Apple’s latest MacBook Air with the new M2 chip has been controversial, to say the least. The new MacBook Air features a refreshed design and is the successor to the M1, Apple’s new M2 system-on-a-chip.

But since the new M2 MacBook Air dropped, tech reviewers, experts, and regular people are saying you should avoid the base configuration of this new machine due to some pretty substantial performance issues. For a more affordable laptop, this is a frustrating bind that potential MacBook Air buyers are being put in.

The keyboard of the MacBook Air.
Luke Larsen / Digital Trends

For starters, the $1,199 base configuration has an eight-core GPU, while the upgraded version has a full 10-core GPU. This isn’t what Apple told us at WWDC when it showed off the new Air. Apple promised an 18% increase in graphical performance over the M1. What the company didn’t say, however, was the model it showed off was the more expensive upgraded M2 MacBook Air, which retails for $1,499. The model with an eight-core GPU will have a much smaller performance advantage compared to the seven-core M1 MacBook Air.

Then there’s the issue of the slow SSD. The base model comes with a measly 256GB of SSD storage, which itself is an insult to consumers for nearly $1,200. But the problem is bigger than storage space.

The SSD features a single NAND chip instead of two, as is the norm. This is reportedly producing far slower read/write speeds than the 512GB model. In fact, the base model M2 MacBook Air’s storage is a whopping 50% slower than 2020’s M1 MacBook Air, which featured two flash chips.

Just look at these benchmarks posted by YouTuber Max Tech:

  • 2020 M1 chip read/write speed: 2900/2215
  • 2022 M2 chip read/write speed: 1446/1463

But wait, it gets worse. The combination of the slow SSD and the 8GB of shared memory actually bottleneck performance so hard that according to Max Tech, there can even be tasks such as file transfers in which it’s even slower than the M1 MacBook Air, which doesn’t have this same deficiency. Yikes. The issue was first discovered in the M2 MacBook Pro 13-inch, but they apply just the same to the MacBook Air.

This wasn’t something we were able to verify ourselves at DT, as our review unit came with the 512GB SSD, which was plenty zippy.

The screen of the MacBook Air on a table.
Digital Trends

Finally, there’s no fast charger. Apple includes a basic 30-watt charging brick with this model, while the upgraded version comes with a 35-watt dual charger. It’s not much faster, but at least it’s an improvement. A $300 dollar improvement, though? You can easily buy a 67-watt fast charger for under $30 from the Apple Store. But you shouldn’t have to.

Don’t take this the wrong way. We love the new design language Apple went with for the M2 MacBook Air. The boxy, industrial minimalism look brings it in line with the rest of Apple’s devices. The M2 chip also holds so much potential for computing in general. Apple Silicon is changing the face of the computer world — there’s no question about it.

But Apple seems to be holding it back with this nerfed base model M2 MacBook Air, and almost everybody agrees. You’ll probably want to upgrade to the better configurations or opt for the M1 MacBook Air.

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Nathan Drescher
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Nathan Drescher is a freelance journalist and writer from Ottawa, Canada. He's been writing about technology from around the…
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