M1 vs M2 MacBook Air ULTIMATE Comparison 2023
M1 vs M2 MacBook Air
Are you looking at buying a new MacBook or maybe you already have an m1 MacBook air and want to see how the new m2 MacBook air stacks up against it well in this ultimate comparison article?
I’m going to be comparing the two in everything from pricing form factor ports battery life how hot they get and some performance differences including coding creative workflows video editing 3d gaming and more.
So let’s not waste any time and get straight into it let’s start with the most important factor which is of course
As you already know there is a 200 us dollar price difference between the two models and on paper it looks like the m2 air is the better buy more features more performance new design.
But what I don’t often hear mentioned is just how cheap you can get an m1 MacBook air these days this is because the m1 air has been out for two years at this point and is now technically outdated by the redesigned m2 air this means there’s a ton of m1 air stock on the second-hand market.
You can pick up a lightly used m1 air or anywhere from 600 to 800 us dollars right now or 850 for a refurbished model directly from apple themselves which as I’ve said in the past is as good as a brand new one and as time goes on and apple tries to completely phase out the m1 MacBook air with the new m2 MacBook air.
I think we’ll see additional massive discounts on resellers such as amazon and also best buy so what might initially seem like a 200 price difference in reality is more like 400 to 600 and the question to ask yourself throughout this article is are the extra features and performance on the new m2 MacBook air really worth up to 50 percent more cost compared to the m1.
Moving on to physical differences both MacBook’s have an almost identical footprint although the m2 is just slightly less thick which might not be obvious at first glance due to the rounded bottom chassis of the m1 speaking of that rounded chassis you might find it more comfortable to type on the m1 versus the m2.
Where your wrists might dig into that hard edge in terms of weight the m2 is just barely lighter than the m1 so you almost certainly won’t notice a difference.
I also strongly recommend reconsidering the midnight color because although it looks really nice it does scratch and smudge very easily starlight is quite nice or you can’t go wrong with either space grey or silver
Screen And Webcam
Both devices are a 13-inch footprint the screen is actually slightly larger on the m2 due to the smaller bezels the panel technology and color accuracy though is essentially identical between the two despite apple using fancy marketing terms like the liquid retina.
Which is basically just the same LCD screen as the m1 but with rounded corners and a notch, yes the notch love it or hate it one noticeable difference.
However, is that the m2 screen can get 25 brighter at 500 nits versus just 400 for the m1 so if you spend a lot of time outside in the sun or in environments with a lot of glare you definitely will notice this.
You also get a 1080p webcam on the m2 MacBook air versus 720p on the m1 a welcome update but certainly not a game changer
Audio And Speakers
The audio is also better on the m2 with a four-speaker sound system and support for spatial audio.
Keyboard And Trackpad
The trackpad on the m2 is slightly wider than the m1s and moving on to the keyboard you can immediately see the larger function keys on the m2 but in terms of overall typing experience, I think most people will enjoy the m2 a little bit better because of the more tactile response versus the slightly more mushy keys of the m1 although at the end of the day there’s really not much difference at all between these keyboards.
Moving on to ports they’re very similar between the two on the right-hand side you get the standard 3.5-millimeter audio jack however on the m2 you also get built-in support for high-impedance headphones for any audio files out there on the left-hand side both MacBook’s to have two thunderbolt USB 4 ports.
One thing to note is that you can only output to one external monitor and this is the same on both m1 and m2 airs so that might be a deal breaker to some you’ll also notice the m2 air has a MagSafe charging port and yes it comes with a color-matched cable this is great because it frees up a thunderbolt port and gives you access to the fast charge feature allowing you to charge to 50 in just 30 minutes.
Only if you buy the 67-watt charger at an additional cost.
Looking on the inside you can see that the m2 MacBook air is using a slightly different thermal system with thermal material across the entire logic board to transfer heat away from the m2 chip versus the m1.
Which has a metal heatsink over the chip instead and no you can’t replace the ram or ssd on either machine it’s all soldered or glued down
Performance Differences Between M1 vs M2 MacBook Air
Let’s start with the differences between the m1 and m2 chips themselves when looking at the base models which is what I’m featuring in this article honestly.
There’s not that much difference you get the same cpu cores for efficiency and four performance for a total of eight although the cpu cores on the m2 are slightly more powerful you also get one extra gpu core on the m2 and again they’re slightly more powerful and double the memory bandwidth and an extra media engine adding ProRes to the existing support for h264 and hevc.
We saw introduced with the m1 now one thing to bear in mind is you do get some additional upgrade options on the m2 that you do not get on the m1 for example you have the option to upgrade the gpu cores from 8 to 10 on the m2 versus 7 to 8 on the m1.
You can also go up to 24 gigabytes of ram on the m2 and you also get a couple more color options and also charger options when purchasing on the apple website but apart from that i mean yeah these things are pretty much identical.
Let’s be honest most people won’t be pushing this machine hard enough to notice any performance differences anyway i mean the majority of MacBook air users simply browse the internet and read emails.
However, there are a lot of popular workflows on this machine that are a little bit more complicated.
Coding And Development
So let’s see how they compare let’s start with the cpu and look at some coding and development despite the improvements to the m2 cpu cores this only translates into about a 15 percent improvement over the m1 or for single-core workflows almost no difference and in real life usage.
We see the same minimal differences around 10 to 12 percent depending on the task even for a lengthy 20-minute code compilation you’re just not going to be seeing a big boost on the m2 so for all of you developers and coders out there.
However, if you do any kind of light video editing which yes is entirely possible even on an entry-level MacBook air the edge does go to the m2 because of the aforementioned ProRes support.
You’ll mostly notice this during actual timeline editing when scrubbing or doing live playback for example the m2 will be smoother and more responsive but again only if there’s ProRes footage being used rendering is a similar story if it’s just ProRes.
The m2 is significantly quicker although for timelines containing a mixture of codecs including one ProRes footage stream the difference is much less so if you don’t use a lot of ProRes footage or you don’t even know what ProRes is both machines will perform almost exactly.
Let’s also have a quick chat about gaming which again is actually a pretty popular activity on these devices despite the lack of a fan on paper and for short bursts, the m2 is about 25 percent faster but once the chassis and m2 chip has heated up the performance difference is more like 5 to 10 percent.
I’d also mention the internal ssd speeds because there is a huge difference between the two but only with the 256-gigabyte m2 air base model long story short the 256-gigabyte ssd on the m2 air is 50 percent slower than the m1s now you may not notice this difference but in some cases you definitely will.
if you’re planning on upgrading the base model 256 gigabyte ssd to the 512-gigabyte option for the m2 air this issue won’t apply to you.
Moving on to the battery apple claims both Macs have roughly the same battery where you’ll get about 15 hours of wireless web browsing i found in real life with a mixture of everyday tasks you’ll get closer to about 12 hours.
Honestly, i think when it comes to laptops and battery life once you get past about 10 hours it doesn’t really matter anyway because that’s more than a full day of work.
Okay so how about just normal day-to-day usage well to be quite honest they both accomplish the exact same task.
And that is being a lightweight portable laptop with great battery life if you have the money go for the m2 air the screen is really nice it is thinner and you’ll get that small performance boost and the extra features like MagSafe are really nice just bear in mind again that slower SSD on the m2 256 gigabyte base model.
But if you’re on a budget and you don’t mind going for a lightly used second-hand m1 MacBook air i definitely think that is the way to go for a lot of people reading this article.
You’ll get basically everything good about the apple silicon air platform and only miss out on things you likely won’t notice that much anyway. So I think both of these laptops are incredible devices yes the m1 MacBook air i think is the tried and trusted companion for a lot of people out there and will continue to be for probably the next five to ten years but i also think the m2 MacBook air although it’s maybe not a significant upgrade and only has a couple more nice features for that extra price tag that’s still a really decent option as well if you can afford it.
Well thank you so much for reading this article please let me know your thoughts in the comments below.