MacBook Air Buyer's Guide: Comparing the Generations

Apple's MacBook Air has undergone major changes in recent years, with several significant generational improvements – making it all the more important to consider if now is a good time to upgrade or even if an older model will suffice for your needs.

MacBook Air 15 Inch Feature Yellow
In 2022, Apple introduced a substantial refresh for the ‌MacBook Air‌ featuring a complete redesign and the M2 chip. One year later, it added a variant of the same machine with a larger, 15-inch display. Both the 2018 and 2020 Intel-based ‌MacBook Air‌ models have been discontinued. Apple still sells a ‌MacBook Air‌ with this design, the 2020 model with the M1 chip starting at $999 – the cheapest ‌MacBook Air‌ available from the company today, and even lower prices may be found with third-party retailers or second-hand. In terms of the latest models, the 13-inch ‌M2‌ ‌MacBook Air‌ starts at $1,099, while the 15-inch ‌M2‌ model starts at $1,299.

See the breakdown below for each new feature, change, and improvement that was added with each ‌MacBook Air‌ model since 2018 compared to its direct predecessor:

MacBook Air (M2, 2022/2023)

  • Thinner design with flat lid, rounded bottom edges, and uniform thickness
  • 13.6- or 15.3-inch Liquid Retina display
  • Apple ‌M2‌ chip
  • Up to 10-core GPU
  • Hardware-accelerated H.264, HEVC, ProRes and ProRes RAW
  • ProRes encode and decode engine
  • Up to 24GB unified memory
  • 100GB/s memory bandwidth
  • 500 nits brightness
  • 1080p FaceTime HD camera
  • Four-speaker sound system or six-speaker sound system with force-cancelling woofers
  • 3.5mm headphone jack with support for high-impedance headphones
  • Bluetooth 5.3
  • MagSafe 3
  • Fast-charge capable with available 70W USB‑C Power Adapter
  • Available in Silver, Space Gray, Starlight, and Midnight
  • 1.24 kg (2.7 pounds) or 1.51 kg (3.3 pounds)

MacBook Air (M1, 2020)

  • Apple ‌M1‌ chip
  • 8-core CPU
  • Up to 8-core GPU
  • Media engine
  • Hardware-accelerated H.264 and HEVC
  • Video decode engine
  • Video encode engine
  • 16-core Neural Engine
  • Up to 16GB unified memory
  • 62.5GB/s memory bandwidth
  • Wide colour (P3)
  • Image signal processor with computational video
  • Up to 18-hour battery life

MacBook Air (Intel, 2020)

  • Up to Intel Core i7 processor
  • Intel Iris Plus Graphics GPU
  • Up to 2TB storage
  • Magic Keyboard
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • 1.29 kg (2.8 pounds)

MacBook Air (Intel, 2018)

  • Tapered "wedge" design
  • 13.3-inch Retina display
  • Up to Intel Core i5 processor
  • Up to 4-core CPU
  • Intel UHD Graphics 617
  • Up to 16GB memory
  • Up to 1.5TB storage
  • Butterfly Keyboard
  • 400 nits brightness
  • Full standard colour (sRGB)
  • 720p ‌FaceTime‌ HD camera
  • Stereo speakers
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • 802.11ac Wi‑Fi 6
  • Bluetooth 4.2
  • Up to 12-hour battery life
  • Available in Silver, Space Gray, and Gold
  • 1.25 kg (2.75 pounds)

While the ‌M1‌ ‌MacBook Air‌ is ostensibly good value for money at $999 and can be found even cheaper with education pricing and elsewhere via third-party retailers, it is notable that the ‌M2‌ 13-inch ‌MacBook Air‌ is now just $1,099. 2018 or 2020 Intel ‌MacBook Air‌ users will still benefit from upgrading to the ‌M1‌ ‌MacBook Air‌, but given that it is only $100 cheaper than the ‌M2‌ model – they are much better off upgrading to the latest model. $100 is a comparatively small price to pay for a much newer machine with a more modern design, the ‌M2‌ chip, a larger and brighter display, faster memory, a 1080p camera, better speakers, ‌MagSafe‌ 3, fast-charging, and more.

Most ‌M1‌ ‌MacBook Air‌ users will still stand to benefit from upgrading to the ‌M2‌ model, especially if they are looking for a bigger screen and opt for the 15-inch model, but some will be better off waiting for the next major refresh. Apple is already rumored to be working on new MacBook Air models featuring the M3 chip for release in 2024, sporting substantial performance and efficiency improvements.

Related Roundup: MacBook Air
Related Forum: MacBook Air

Top Rated Comments

Unggoy Murderer Avatar
16 weeks ago
The M1 Air really isn't a hard sell at all. Really great spec, excellent hardware and build quality, best battery by a mile, no Windows. Unless someone actually really needs a MacBook Pro, this'll cover pretty much what most people will need.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Mr. Dee Avatar
16 weeks ago
Apple really should be selling the M1 Air for 799. It’s almost a 4 year product using an old design, albeit still a great one. 1,000 is just asking for too much.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
azentropy Avatar
16 weeks ago

Apple really should be selling the M1 Air for 799. It’s almost a 4 year product using an old design, albeit still a great one. 1,000 is just asking for too much.
It is routinely discounted as such here in the US. I still say after the M3 MBA they plop the M2 into the previous form factor and rename it the MacBook SE and price it at $999. With the drop of the M2 MBA price that seems less likely unless they went even lower ($899?) or raise the price back up with the M3.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
masotime Avatar
16 weeks ago
I told ChatGPT to summarize the bullet points into a table ('') and it came up with this. Y'all really need to do better or AI will literally take over your jobs.

Attachment Image
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
KPOM Avatar
16 weeks ago

Apple really should be selling the M1 Air for 799. It’s almost a 4 year product using an old design, albeit still a great one. 1,000 is just asking for too much.
I wouldn’t be surprised if this model is mostly for the educational channel, perhaps with some enterprise channel sales, where they routinely give greater discounts than to the general public.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
svish Avatar
16 weeks ago
All Macbook Air's with Apple silicon are great laptops.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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