Last week saw Apple open up pre-orders for the M2 MacBook Air. The countless Apple fans who have put their money down without seeing any reviews beyond Apple’s own glowing launch will be glad to see that the latest leaked performance details match up to the promises made, although the devil will be in the details… details that won’t be known until third-party testing on the macOS laptops.
We do have one detail so far, which confirms something long suspected, but also raises another important question.
The eagle eyes of Twitter’s Mr Macintosh have spotted the MacBook Air showing up on the popular benchmarking site GeekBench, with a single-core score of 1899 and a multi-core score of 8965.
I suspect this will be a MacBook Air being reviewed under embargo (with many expecting these reviews to be published on Thursday, thanks to a well-timed screen cap from a popular YouTuber).
Nevertheless, these numbers are almost identical to that offered by the new MacBook Pro. Given the latest Apple Silicon chipset – the M2 – powers both the MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air this should not come as a surprise. Still, I wonder just how effective the MacBook Air will be under a sustained demand for performance.
On paper, the M2 MacBook Pro can deliver more performance thanks to a fan providing active cooling, allowing the ARM-based M2 chip to run at a higher rate. Unfortunately, tests on the MacBook Pro show the M2 facing throttling and thermal issues when placed under load; and the embarrassing result is that the previous M1 MacBook Pro was faster in this real-world test.
What does this mean for the MacBook Air? Apple’s glowing launch has made it clear that the story of the MacBook Air will be based on performance, particularly in comparison to equivalently priced Intel-based laptops. And for the average user, the MacBook Air will be sufficient, but so would an equivalent Dell or HP laptop.
With power such a big part of the story, the expectation of more power to do more demanding tasks is ever-present. The professional branding on the MacBook Pro has not delivered on that promise during an extended test. Will the MacBook Air suffer the same fate at the top-end of the envelope? And will that matter to those just looking for “a good laptop”?
The first MacBook Air units should arrive on Friday. We should find out our answer over the weekend.