Apple M2 MacBook Air: What we know so far as pre-orders begin on July 8

Customers in the UAE can start placing orders at 4pm on Friday, but the much-hyped laptop will only be available 'later this month'

Apple's new MacBook Air with the M2 processor comes with MagSafe charging and a notch on the screen. Bloomberg
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Pre-orders for Apple's newest MacBook Air, with the M2 processor, will begin on July 8, the company has said.

The successor to the M1 version from 2020, introduced last month at the company's Worldwide Developers Conference, comes with a revamped silicon architecture that promises an even more fluid experience.

Pre-orders in the UAE will begin on Friday at 4pm. Shipping and availability, however, will be “later this month”, according to Apple.

That means it will still take a while before we get an up-close-and-personal look at the new MacBook Air. Here's what we know about it so far.

How powerful is the M2?

Here's a summary of how Apple guarantees the performance of the M2 chip:

The M2 processor was built around power, machine learning — with the Neural Engine — and energy efficiency. On paper, it looks really good, but the real test is when you actually get to use the device.

How much will it cost?

The base M2 MacBook Air will cost Dh4,999 ($1,361), with 8GB of memory, 256GB of storage and a CPU and GPU both with 8 cores. This compares to the Dh4,199 starting price of the M1 MacBook Air launched in November 2020.

That price goes down to Dh4,579 for education purposes; Apple gives special discounts to students and educators on a range of its products.

If you decide to go for maximum specs — upgraded to a 10-core GPU, 24GB of memory and 2TB of storage, plus pre-installed Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro — it will set you back Dh12,348.98.

How does it differ from the M1 MacBook Air?

Both max out at 8 cores in terms of CPU, but the M2 can be configured to up to 10 cores versus the M1's 7-core limit. Both retain a maximum storage of 2TB, battery life of up to 18 hours and two USB-C (also known as USB-4 or Thunderbolt) slots. The Neural Engine remains at 16 cores, but it's now able to process 15.8 trillion operations per second compared to the M1's 11 trillion.

The M2 MacBook Air's display also has minor improvements: it's now slightly bigger at 13.6 inches (compared to the M1 MacBook Air's 13.3 inches) and now uses Apple's Liquid Retina display (Retina), plus a 2650 x 1664 resolution (2560 x 1660) and a brightness of 500 nits (400 nits).

It does, however, have a notch, just like in the iPhone and the previous MacBook Pros. But its notch-hiding feature would make the screen look “whole”, and would be a hit-or-miss with users.

And while it's slightly thicker at 1.13cm, the new MacBook Air is lighter at 1.24kg than the previous model's weight of 1.29kg.

The M2 MacBook's FaceTime HD camera has been bumped up to 1080p compared to the previous 720p, while audio now has a four-speaker stereo system and support Spatial Audio, dynamic head tracking — when using any compatible AirPods — and Dolby Atmos. The previous model only had dual speakers.

Its 3.5mm audio port now comes with support for high-impedance headphones — also known as sound devices audiophiles would fancy — a feature Apple first used in the 2021 MacBook Pro.

Besides the resident silver and space grey colours, it will come in starlight and midnight, which are already being used on the iPhone 13.

MagSafe's return frees up one USB slot

Apple brought back MagSafe charging into the M2 MacBook Air — and that's good news because that frees up a USB slot.

The M1 MacBook Air only had two USB-C slots and one of them was used for charging, meaning you only had one more slot available if it was plugged in. A dedicated MagSafe port for charging provides access to this valuable commodity, when required.

The M2 MacBook Air will also have a number of charging options, including a new 35W compact power adapter with two USB-C ports, which lets users charge two devices simultaneously. This is, however, only available in eight countries — Canada, China, Japan, Mexico, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and the US.

In another first, it will support fast charging with an optional 67W USB-C power adapter, which promises a charge of 50 per cent in 30 minutes.

Also interesting is whether MacBooks will do away altogether with the 3.5mm audio port in the future, but that would repeat a similar situation before MagSafe was reintroduced. Remember, the latest iPhones already use the Lightning port to connect headphones/headsets, and iPads have USB-C, so that isn't farfetched.

Is it good for gaming?

Apple has never explicitly marketed its MacBooks — particularly the latest generations — for gaming, but the architecture of Apple's M chips allows for that, and Apple has already said that its M chips are able to run graphics-intensive games smoothly. The M2 was designed to run games 30 per cent faster.

Moreover, Apple has increasingly included gaming highlights in its MacBook presentations — and even for iPhones — showing the power of MacBooks. The 2019 launch of Apple Arcade, the company's full-scale venture into the gaming sector, indicated their intentions.

Apple has been putting special focus on professionals and creators with its MacBooks' photo and video capabilities, but we anticipate that they will be doing more for games in the near future, considering Arcade's integration all over its ecosystem of devices.

Updated: May 15, 2023, 3:08 PM