Reviews of the new MacBook Air with M2 are starting to pop up. So where’s all this heat coming from?
On the heels of the new M2 MacBook Pro, Apple’s updated MacBook Air with M2 is finally shipping and getting into the hands of reviewers. So, what’s the deal? Is it something that creatives should keep an eye on?
We have to start with a little disclaimer. We’re going to throw a bit of shade towards the new MacBook Air when it comes to creative workflows. But that’s not to say the new Air isn’t a great little machine. It’s well-designed, well-built, and comes with the best trackpad in the laptop game. The speakers are also pretty solid and come with a nice 500-nit 13.6-inch IPS display at a 2,560x1,664 native resolution. Battery life is outstanding, and MagSafe with fast charging is officially back on the MacBook Air.
All in all, it's a fantastic laptop. For some.
But now it’s onto the stuff that creatives care about.
Some Like It Hot
No, nobody likes a hot computer, but just like Marylin Monroe and Jack Lemmon, the new M2 chip and MacBook Air are an odd pairing. While the M2 does provide a robust amount of power for such an efficient chip, most of that power is locked away due to thermals.
As you can see from the graph created by the Verge for their review, if the MacBook Air is stressed for a semi-long period, thermal throttling kicks in. This is where the chip's power is reduced to dissipate heat. Without a fan for active cooling, prolonged workflows such as RAW photo editing, complex video editing or rendering, and even compiling code will see reduced performance.
However, the work you'll need to be doing to stress this laptop is extreme for such a slim machine.
On the Topic of Storage
There’s also the issue of storage. The new MacBook Airs allegedly have the same issues as the MacBook Pro when it comes to the base-model storage option. Due to Apple using a single NAND flash memory chip for the 246 GB SSD, there could be a reduction in speed and performance, especially when dealing with memory swapping.
You can learn more about this issue here. But is it really an issue? Well, not really. Let's read on.
Why You Should Still Buy It
The new M2 MacBook Air is in a precarious position. Even with an identical chip, it's not as powerful as the MacBook Pro due to the lack of a fan. Yet, somehow it’s still being thought of as a powerhouse. At least from the reviews we've seen.
If you are a creative who thinks the storage issues or thermal throttling will affect your use case, then you’re a creative who needs a MacBook Pro. The Air was always an everyday machine used for general productivity, web browsing, and entertainment. Having it compared to a MacBook Pro is understandable, but it’s in no way a machine that creatives with heavy workflows should get. If used within the parameters of its productivity use case, the MacBook Air is a perfect machine. In some cases, even with the base-model storage, since Word documents aren't really that big.
Having said that, if you have a new M2 Air, it’ll definitely be able to handle light video and photo editing in a pinch. So if you’re a creative that’s editing proxies or JPEGs on location, this is a nice machine to have on hand. It’s light, great for non-creative uses, and has enough power to punch well above its weight.