This story is part ofCNET’s full coverage of and about the annual Apple Developer Conference.
TheFrom Apple adds a lot of new features, but it also brings back my least favorite: a starting price of $999. For most of its life, the MacBook Air has sat comfortably at $999, but in 2018, a redesign raised the price by $200. By 2020, the starting price was back at $999, and things felt like they should. guess what? It’s now 2022, and with another redesign, the MacBook Air now starts at $1,199…again.
I play this just because that big leap for a very popular laptop would put it out of reach of the many students and artists who could get the most out of it. But new price aside, I like just about everything in the new version. It’s also worth noting that the 2020 M1 MacBook Air is still available right now for $999.
distanceI had the chance to get some limited hands-on time with the new MacBook Air. But there wasn’t much time left, so I mostly focused on the new physical design and how the system looked and felt.
The M1 MacBook Air, one of the first line of Macs to port from Intel to Apple Silicon, isn’t a bad looking device, but based on a design launched in 2018, it’s almost a long time ago in computer jargon. The new version moves from the traditional smooth, tapered design to the boxy, stretchy look of the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro laptops from late 2021. It’s a more modern, more structural design (in that it largely rejects the ornate style).
But the new MacBook Air surpasses the Pro models it copies in one important aspect: It adds a new color to the usual gray and silver (and the M1 Air’s gold) — the new midnight color, which appears in matte black. It’s the most impressive new MacBook look in a long time, and it reminds me of the old matte black polycarbonate MacBooks of the mid-2000s.
Its footprint is a hair smaller than before, as is the weight, at 2.7 lbs vs. 2.8 pounds for the M1 MacBook Air. But the new model looked smaller and more portable than that when I picked it up—largely because it’s thinner, at 11.3mm. The M1 version tapers off, but measures 16mm at the rear hinge.
The new M2 MacBook Air won’t go on sale until July, so it may be a while before I can do a more in-depth hands-on test. I’m particularly keen to see how the 1080 resolution webcam works, which is probably the most important upgrade for many people who are tired of the awesome 720 resolution webcam in previous MacBook Air laptops, even and including the M1.
I’m also interested in spending more time with the new, larger 13.6-inch (versus 13.3-inch) screen, which Apple says is 25% brighter, at 500 nits. It also adds MagSafe, which came back in the new MacBook Pro systems last year, and its touchpad is, according to Apple, a bit larger, but it won’t put a number or percentage on it.
Almost none of these improvements are available on the new 13-inch MacBook Pro, which was also announced at WWDC 2022. It lacks the bigger screen, better camera, MagSafe connectivity, and new colours. It’s, on paper at least, exactly the same as the late 2020 13-inch MacBook Pro, only with the new M2 chip replacing the M1. However, it remains the only way to place your hands (or fingers) on the nearly extinct touch bar.