Apple MacBook Air (M2, 2022) vs MacBook Air (M1, 2021): Which should you buy? - MrLiambi's blog


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Thursday, 14 July 2022

Apple MacBook Air (M2, 2022) vs MacBook Air (M1, 2021): Which should you buy?

Apple revealed a new MacBook Air with the M2 processor and an all-new design during its Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in June 2022. 

It arrived around two years after the MacBook Air (2020), which transitioned the series onto Apple Silicon, offering the M1 chip under its hood and despite the new model, the M1 MacBook Air still exists in the line up. 

So, if you're in the market for a MacBook Air but you aren't sure which is the right model for you, let us help. We've used both side-by-side. This is how the MacBook Air (M2, 2022) compares to the MacBook Air (M1, 2020). 



Let's first talk about price, because it might be that your budget tops out at a certain point and the decision will come down to that.

The MacBook Air (M1, 2020) starts at $999 in the US and £999 in the UK. It is available in three colour options. 

The MacBook Air (M2, 2022) starts at $1199 in the US and £1249 in the UK. It is available in four colour options.


  • MacBook Air (2022): 304.1 x 215 x 113mm, 1.24kg
  • MacBook Air (2020): 304.1 x 21.2 x 41-161mm, 1.29kg

The MacBook Air (M2, 2022) has an all-new refreshed design compared to the 2020 model and it's stunning. Switching out the signature wedge that we've seen on the MacBook Air since 2008 - including the M1 model - the M2 model moves towards a flat lid, flat bottom and a boxier look overall - similar to that of the MacBook Pro models.

The bezels around the display have reduced compared to the MacBook Air (M1) model, the MacBook Air logo at the bottom of the screen has been removed for the new model and the speakers have been repositioned too. The keyboard also has full-height function keys on the 2022 MacBook Air, compared to half on the 2020 model.

Both the MacBook Air 2022 model and the 2020 model have Apple's Magic Keyboard with Touch ID in the top right corner, though the 2020 model has speaker grilles either side of the keyboard, while the 2022 model has its speakers positioned at the top of the keyboard, below the screen, making use of the hinge gap. 

Other differences between the two MacBook Air models when it comes to design, is the M2 model comes in Silver, Space Grey, Starlight and Midnight colours, while the M1 model comes in Silver, Space Grey and Gold options.


  • MacBook Air (2022): 13.6-inch, Liquid Retina display (2560 x 1664), 500nits, True Tone
  • MacBook Air (2020): 13.3-inch, Retina display (2560 x 1600), 400nits, True Tone

The MacBook Air (2022) has a 13.6-inch Liquid Retina display, which is fractionally bigger than the 13.3-inch display of the MacBook Air (2021). This is thanks to the reduced bezels on the newer model, and the introduction of the notch at the top of the display, which is a feature you'll find on the larger MacBook Pro models. It's also a feature that might divide opinion, though we didn't notice it in use, and it also means the menu bar isn't as squashed which we like.

Aside from the reduced bezels compared to the 2020 MacBook Air, you might have noticed we mentioned Liquid Retina display for the 2022 model. The older model offers a Retina display. Essentially this means the 2022 model offers brighter and punchier colours with more vibrancy compared to the M1 model. It's also brighter at 500nits compared to 400nits.

This is all noticeable when positioning the two MacBook Air models side-by-side, but the MacBook Air M1 model still has a fantastic display. Both models also offer True Tone technology, a P3 wide colour gamut and their resolutions both offer a pixel density of 224ppi.

At the top of the M2 MacBook Air is a 1080p camera, while the M1 MacBook Air has a 720p camera.


  • MacBook Air (2022): M2 processor, up to 10-core GPU, up to 24GB RAM, up to 2TB SSD
  • MacBook Air (2020): M1 processor, 7-core GPU, up to 16GB RAM, up to 2TB SSD

The MacBook Air (M2, 2022) model runs on Apple's M2 processor. It is available with an 8-core GPU with 256GB SSD or a 10-core GPU with 512GB SSD. Both models can be upgraded to 2TB SSD - though at some cost - and the 8GB of RAM can also be upgraded to either 16GB or 24GB. 

The MacBook Air (M1, 2020) model, runs on Apple's M1 processor. When it first launched, it offered a 7-core GPU model and an 8-core GPU model, though only the 7-core model is available now. There's 8GB of RAM as standard, upgradable to 16GB, and there's 256GB SSD as standard, upgradeable to 2TB. 

Both the MacBook Air (2022) and the MacBook Air (2020) come with two USB-C (USB-4) / Thunderbolt 3 ports, but the MacBook Air (2022) also reintroduces MagSafe 3 for charging onto the Air. Fast charging is supported and there's a 30W charger in the box or a 35W dual charger, depending on the model you opt for.

In use, the MacBook Air (M2, 2022) is quicker than the M1 MacBook Air (M2, 2021), even in everyday tasks, though the M1 is still a solid performing machine and will be more than adequate for many, like students. 

Battery and speakers

  • MacBook Air (2022): Up to 18-hours, four-speaker, Spatial Audio support
  • MacBook Air (2020): up to 18-hours, stereo speakers, support for Dolby Atmos playback

Both the MacBook Air (M2, 2022) and the MacBook Air promise an 18-hour battery life for watching video, and 15-hours when surfing the web. Of course it depends on the user as to how long this actually translates to in use, but we got around 11 hours of productivity with the MacBook Air M1 and around 12 hours with the MacBook Air M2, so we'd say for us, there was a slight improvement with the newer model.

We would say the general speaker performance is better on the MacBook Air M1 though depsite the M2 Air offering four-speaker audio. The 2020 model offers a wider soundstage, while the M2 MacBook Air is a little muffled at higher volumes - likely down to the speaker positioning. 

That said, the MacBook Air M2 does offer Spatial Audio support for the built-in speakers when playing music or video with Dolby Atmos, and this works well. Spatial Audio with dynamic head tracking is also supported when using AirPods 3, AirPods Max and AirPods Pro, and this works brilliantly too. The M1 MacBook Air doesn't support this, but you can of course still use AirPods with it.

The M1 MacBook Air does however support Dolby Atmos playback and overall, it offers good audio from its stereo speakers.



The Apple MacBook Air (M2, 2022) is an excellent machine. It delivers a solid and smooth performance from a design that's lightweight, portable and beautiful. The MacBook Air (M1, 2020) model is an excellent performer too though and if you don't like the new Air design, the M1 model sticks with the tried and tested wedge look. 

You pay quite a bit more for the newer model over the 2020 model, but for the extra chunk of cash, you get performance gains, the new design, battery and display improvements, a higher resolution camera, more RAM options, more colour options and Spatial Audio support. 

You won't lose out too much by opting for the M1 MacBook Air though because while all the extras are lovely to have, they aren't essential. The MacBook Air 2020 model is still a great machine that will be more than adequate for many. If your budget allows for the newer model, you won't be disappointed, but the older model will serve you well too.

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