Apple MacBook Air M1 vs. M2: 8 Key Comparisons

Abdul Wahab Asif
6 min readJul 14, 2023

When buying a MacBook Air, the choice of processor will significantly impact its overall performance and user experience. This is why many users are eager to understand the differences between the M1 and M2 processors and determine which one best meets their needs. This guide delves into the dissimilarities between these two chips so you have the knowledge needed to choose the perfect MacBook Air for your needs.

Display

The displays of MacBook Air models from 2020 to 2023, including the M1 and M2, feature Wide color (P3) with True Tone technology. However, there are significant differences in screen size. The MacBook Air M1 (2020) offers a 13.3″ Retina display, while the MacBook Air M2 (2022) and M2 (2023) feature Liquid Retina displays of 13.6″ and 15.3″ respectively, providing increased screen real estate and more pixels.

Macbook Air M1 vs M2 display

Image source: Apple

Also, the Air M2 models (2022 and 2023) offer higher brightness with 500 nits compared to the MacBook Air M1’s 400 nits. Therefore, those seeking the best display experience from a MacBook Air should consider the MacBook Air M2 of 2022 or 2023 for their larger screen size and improved brightness.

Design

The MacBook Air M1 (2020) weighs approximately 2.84 pounds and measures 12.01 inches in width and 8.35 inches in depth. The MacBook Air M2 (2022) shares similar dimensions but offers thinner bezels for a slightly larger display, and is lighter at 2.73 pounds.

The MacBook Air M2 (2023) departs significantly from its predecessors, being the first 15-inch model with dimensions of 13.42 inches in width and 9.37 inches in depth. It’s slightly heavier at 3.33 pounds, but still one of the lightest 15-inch laptops on the market. Both Air M2 models (2022 and 2023) pack uniform thickness with rounded bottom edges, compared to the M1 model’s tapered “wedge” design. They also offer the MagSafe 3 charging option besides the two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports included with the Air M1 (2020).

MacBook Air M1 vs M2 Design

Image source: Apple

The M2 2022 and 2023 models also stand out by offering the new color option called “Midnight” while replacing the M1 model’s gold color with “Starlight.” Both these models also offer a notched display to make room for the upgraded webcam (more on this below).

Good to Know: If you’re unable to decide between the MacBook Air’s M2 models, explore the key comparisons between the 13-inch (2022) and 15-inch (2023) MacBook Air.

Performance

The MacBook Air M1 (2020) features the Apple M1 chip, while the MacBook Air M2 (2022 and 2023) is powered by the Apple M2 chip. The M2 chip has 20 billion transistors, a whopping 25% increase over the M1 chip. On the CPU side, this results in an 18% increase in performance over the M1 chip, even though it has the same number of cores. With that at hand, M2 MacBook Air’s 2022 and 2023 models are faster than the M1 MacBook Air, thanks to the higher clock speed and more transistors.

MacBook Air M1 vs M2 Performance

Image source: Unsplash

However, both M1 and M2 MacBook Air options offer incredible performance for most everyday tasks. The M1 chip can run many applications simultaneously, with swapping between them being zero trouble. The performance increase of the M2 chip makes it better for intensive creative work like professional video editing, RAW photo editing, or coding.

RAM and Storage

The MacBook Air M1 (2020) offers 8GB and 16GB RAM options, suitable for most multitasking needs. In contrast, the MacBook Air M2 (2022) and M2 (2023) also offer a 24GB RAM option for those seeking more power in their MacBook Air. Moreover, the Air M2 models deliver 50% more memory bandwidth compared to the M1 model, with up to 100GB/s of unified memory bandwidth.

Regarding storage, each Air M1 and M2 (2022 and 2023) offer storage options of 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, and 2TB SSDs. So you can pick from a range of storage configurations to suit your space needs for storing files, applications, and media.

Battery

The MacBook Air M2 models have a larger battery than their predecessor, with a 52.6-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery compared to the M1’s 49.9-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery. Apple claims that the M2 MacBook Airs can last up to 18 hours on a single charge, which is the same as the M1 MacBook Air. However, the M2 MacBook Air models have been found to be slightly longer-lasting than the M1 MacBook Air.

MacBook Air M1 vs M2 Battery

Image source: Unsplash

Also, while the MacBook Air M2 (2023) has more room for a larger battery, it also packs a larger display, which significantly affects battery life. As a result, you get the same 18-hour battery life. However, it’s been observed that the MacBook Air M2 (2022) lasts up to 16 hours of web browsing and up to 18 hours of video playback, while the MacBook Air M2 (2023) offers up to 17 hours of web browsing and up to 19 hours of video playback.

Webcam

While the MacBook Air M1 (2020) features a FaceTime HD camera with a 720p resolution, the M2 MacBook Air models (2022 and 2023) offer a notable improvement in webcam quality. The M2 models are equipped with a higher-resolution 1080p camera to provide clearer and more detailed video calls and recordings. Both M2 models pack a notched display to accommodate the higher-quality webcam.

Audio

Both MacBook Air M1 and M2 (2022 and 2023) feature a three-mic array with directional beamforming to provide clear and focused audio during video calls and recordings. Each model also packs a 3.5mm headphone jack, though M2 MacBook Air models (2022 and 2023) also support high-impedance headphones through the headphone jack.

MacBook Air M1 vs M2 Audio

Image source: Unsplash

Moreover, the MacBook Air M1 (2020) packs stereo speakers, while the M2 (2022) takes it a step further with a four-speaker sound system. The M2 (2023) continues to elevate the audio with a six-speaker sound system, including force-canceling woofers for increased bass response. However, the M2 (2023) hides the speakers within the laptop’s hood, leading to slightly limited clarity of the audio output compared to previous MacBook Air models with traditional speaker grills.

Price

The MacBook Air M1 (2020) starts from $999, whereas the M2 (2022) and the M2 (2023) cost $1099 and $1299 respectively. Although the MacBook Air M2 (2022) comes at a $100 premium compared to the MacBook Air M1, it offers some decent upgrades like better performance and a more modern design.

On the other hand, the MacBook Air M2 (2023) is priced $300 higher than the M1 model, but it encompasses all the upgrades introduced in the M2 (2022) variant while also featuring a larger screen size. Anyway, these pricing differentials reflect the added value that comes with each model, so you can comfortably choose any MacBook Air that suits your needs, knowing it’s worth the price.

How to Choose: MacBook Air M1 or MacBook Air M2

When choosing between the MacBook Air M1 and the MacBook Air M2 (2022 and 2023 models), several factors come into play. If you have a tight budget of $1000, the MacBook Air M1 is an excellent choice with solid performance and a compact design. But if you can stretch your budget by an additional $100, the MacBook Air M2 (2022) becomes an enticing option, thanks to its refreshed design, thinner bezels, improved performance, and new color options.

Macbook Air M1 vs M2: How to Choose

Image source: Unsplash

If you want a larger display in your MacBook, the MacBook Air M2 (2023) with its 15-inch display is an incredible option. Although it comes with a $300 higher price tag compared to the M1, you get an excellent blend of portability, productivity, and performance.

Read more Mac articles by Abdul Wahab here.

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Abdul Wahab Asif

Tech content writer & blogger with a knack for writing expert Mac, iOS, and Windows articles for leading tech blogs.