The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of the MacBook Air M1 vs the M2. At face value, they may seem the same but there are differences you should take into consideration that may play a role in you choosing one over the other. The major differences between the two include processor performance, storage speed, camera, and ports.
First, let’s look at the tech specs of both in the table below.
|Tech Spec||MacBook Air M1||MacBook Air M2|
|Storage||256GB SSD||256GB SSD|
|Graphics||Integrated M1||Integrated M2|
|Ports||Two Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports, headphone||Two Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports, headphone, MagSafe Charging|
|Wireless Technologies||Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0||Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0|
|Battery Life||Up to 18 hours||Up to 18 hours|
Screen Display: MacBook Air M1 vs MacBook Air M2
When we look at the screen display, the size difference is actually pretty negligible. The difference is only just slightly bigger than the width of your pinky finger. Both displays are based on LCD technology (Retina Display vs Liquid Retina Display). Retina and Liquid Retina displays are Apple terminology to describe high pixel density per square inch. In this case, the pixel density is 227 pixels per square inch for the MacBook Air M1 and 224 pixels per square inch for the MacBook Air M2.
Both the MacBook Air M1 and MacBook Air M2 can only support one external monitor with up to 6K resolution and 60Hz refresh rate.
CPU: MacBook Air M1 vs MacBook Air M2
This is the biggest difference between the MacBook Air M1 and the MacBook Air M2. Apple claims that at the time of introduction, the M1 CPU core was the fastest low silicon power core in the world. That is to say, it is the most energy efficient processor. Both processors have 4 energy efficient cores and 4 high performance cores. The table below describes the major differences (and similarities) between the two processors.
|Cores||8 cores (4+4)||8 cores (4+4)|
|L1 Instruction Cache||192 KB||192 KB|
|L1 Data Cache||128 KB||128 KB|
|L2 Cache||12 MB||16 MB|
|System Level Cache||8 MB||8 MB|
|Image Signal Processor||Yes||Yes|
Source: Wikipedia M1, Wikipedia M2
When we look at the table, there are really only two glaring differences in the technical features of both processors. The first one being L2 Cache, and the second feature being transistor count. L2 Cache decreases the time it takes to move data from memory to the processor itself. It is a buffering zone for data queued up to be processed by the processor. The M2 processor has 25% more transistors in the same space dimensions as the M1. That means that data has less distance to travel between transistors, which reduces processing time and means increased performance. Does that mean it’s a 1:1 ratio between transistor count and performance increase? Continue reading to see actual performance benchmarks.
RAM: MacBook Air M1 vs MacBook Air M2
The major difference in the memory (RAM) between the M1 and the M2 is that the M2 can be configured with more memory. The MacBook Air M1 can only be configured up to 16GB of RAM. The MacBook Air M2 has configuration options of 8GB, 16GB and 24GB.
Storage: MacBook Air M1 vs MacBook Air M2
There has been a lot of noise around the MacBook Air M2’s storage configuration. The MacBook Air M1 used two NAND SSD storage chips that ran in parallel to store data, which resulted in fast read and write speeds. The MacBook Air M2 base model only comes with one single NAND chip. Apple’s official response to this was first reported on The Verge:
Thanks to the performance increases of M2, the new MacBook Air and the 13-inch MacBook Pro are incredibly fast, even compared to Mac laptops with the powerful M1 chip. These new systems use a new higher density NAND that delivers 256GB storage using a single chip. While benchmarks of the 256GB SSD may show a difference compared to the previous generation, the performance of these M2 based systems for real world activities are even faster.Apple MacBook Air M2 (2022) review: a whole new Air-a – The Verge
However, benchmarks by The Verge have shown that just because the single NAND chip is faster, it is still not as fast as two NAND chips on the M1 running in parallel. Those benchmarks showed that write speeds were 15-30% slower and read speeds were 40-50% slower.
Camera: M1 vs M2
When considering the cameras on the MacBook Air M1 and M2, you must remember that the resolutions are what people on the other side will see. 1080P is a big difference between 720P. The person on the other side may have a larger monitor resolution and want to expand your video call to get a better image of you. You can get a visual of the difference by looking at the sizes below. The 720P is drastically smaller than the 1080P image.
Graphics Processing Unit (GPU): M1 vs M2
The graphics processing unit (GPU) on the MacBook Air M1 and M2 are integrated chips. The MacBook Air M1 has an 8-core GPU with a performance of 2.6 TFLOPS. The MacBook Air M2 has a ten-core GPU with a performance of 3.6 TFLOPS.
Battery Life: M1 vs M2
Both the MacBook Air M1 and the MacBook Air M2 claim to have up to 18 hours of battery life. The actual battery life varies in the real world due to how you use the laptop during the day. What is different however between the two is when you look under the hood at the batteries themselves. The MacBook Air M1 has a built-in 49.9‑watt‑hour lithium‑polymer battery. The MacBook Air M2 has a 52.6-watt‑hour lithium‑polymer battery. This means that the M2 can spend more energy over the course of an hour than the M1, but has the same uptime as the M1.
Price: MacBook Air M1 vs M2
The MacBook Air M2 is roughly 16% more cost over the MacBook Air M2 ($200 cost difference). Given that you get roughly 25% more transistors in the processor, 33% greater GPU performance, 33% better camera resolution, you could make the argument that Apple is giving you an okay deal. Not a great deal, but a fair one. But only because the storage speed is disappointing when compared to the M1. If the MacBook Air M2 was designed with two NAND storage chips running in parallel, moving to the M2 would be a no-brainer.