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Apple’s New MacBook Air Is $200 More—and Probably Worth It – The New York Times

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Dave Gershgorn
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Whether you’re looking to replace your MacBook or ready to buy your first one, you should hold off until July, when Apple starts shipping the newest iterations of the 13-inch MacBook Air and MacBook Pro.

As in most years, Apple took time out of this week’s software-focused Worldwide Developers Conference to announce new laptops. This year, the announcements included a new version of the MacBook Air, Apple’s best-selling laptop and our current recommendation for the best MacBook. Apple has completely redesigned the Air around its new, faster M2 chip—the second processor in the line since the company dropped Intel in 2020—and has added a host of upgrades to the display, webcam, speakers, and charging speed. Although we haven’t gotten a chance to test all these features yet, we believe that they are meaningful changes that could make the new laptop an even better pick.
When we look for the best MacBooks, we consider how well a laptop can handle day-to-day tasks like browsing the web, editing photos, coding, and watching TV shows, as well as the machine’s battery life, number of ports, and display. On those measures, for most people we generally like the 2020 base model of the MacBook Air, which is still for sale. But before recommending the new, more expensive version, we’ll need to have more hands-on time to test the display, webcam, and charging speeds over a MagSafe connection, as those are all changes that are more noticeable than a slightly faster processor.
The new, 13.6-inch display is larger than the previous, 13.3-inch screen, but it also offers more brightness and a wider color range, which should make graphics and video look better. To fit that larger screen into a similarly sized laptop, Apple has added a camera notch at the top, similar to that of the iPhone and the 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro models. Nestled within that notch is a 1080p webcam, the same camera as in the 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros, and a nicer camera than the 720p version found in the new 13-inch MacBook Pro, a crucial benefit in the videoconference age.
Apple has also brought back MagSafe charging—a magnetic charger that neatly snaps on and off—on the MacBook Air. This charger is easier to plug in and also detaches quickly in case you trip over the charging cable. Crucially, the MagSafe port also frees up one of the laptop’s two USB-C ports from charging duty, which means you can use both ports for accessories. We’re glad Apple is bringing MagSafe back, as it’s a nice quality-of-life upgrade, and it makes the laptop less accident-prone.
Although small usability upgrades like that will factor into our recommendations for most people, the new processor will be a major factor when we consider the new MacBook Air in a future update to our guide to the best video and photo editing laptops, which are meant for more specialized uses. Apple is claiming substantial, though not breathtaking, improvements. During the announcement, the company touted performance that would be about 40% faster for video editing and 20% faster for photo editing. If we get similar results in our real-world testing, that will be impressive for a machine not even intended for professional work—existing, M1 chips already halved the processing times for tasks like video editing when pitted against Intel processors.
If the M2 MacBook Air improves on the experience of the M1 version, that will make the newly announced M2 13-inch MacBook Pro a strange in-between to consider. Starting at $100 more than the new MacBook Air, the 13-inch MacBook Pro has the same M2 processor but adds a cooling fan inside, which Apple says will keep the processor cool when it’s under heavy loads for long periods of time. We’re looking forward to testing for the differences ourselves.
Following the keynote at Apple Park, we had a few minutes to look at the new laptops, and after having the same basic design for so long, the new MacBook Air case feels more modern; it also comes in four colors, including a new sleek black-blue color called midnight that shifts its hue at different angles. All the new laptops will ship in July, and as soon as we’ve had time to thoroughly test the new models, we’ll be updating our recommendations.
This article was edited by Mark Smirniotis and Jason Chen.
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Wirecutter is the product recommendation service from The New York Times. Our journalists combine independent research with (occasionally) over-the-top testing so you can make quick and confident buying decisions. Whether it’s finding great products or discovering helpful advice, we’ll help you get it right (the first time).
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