September 26, 2023


Unlimited Technology

MacBook Air 2022 Rumors: Will It Have an M1 or M2 Chip?

M1 MacBook Air

The most recent MacBook Air, from late 2020. 

Dan Ackerman/CNET

Apple unveiled the Mac Studio and Mac Studio Display at Tuesday’s “Peek Performance” event, but a new MacBook Air was a no-show. The last time we got upgrades to Apple’s most universally useful laptop was in 2020. Last year was a dry spell for the MacBook Air, but we’re still holding out hope for 2022. 

The MacBook Air has undergone many revisions since the original 2008 version, and the current physical design dates from March 2020, when Apple released what was probably the final Intel-powered version of the laptop. Later that year, in November, the MacBook Air was one of three Macs to upgrade to Apple’s new M1 chips, although there were no other design or feature changes. 

November 2021 (and now Apple’s March event) passed without a new MacBook Air, but it could happen later in the year. Here are the changes we’re mostly likely to see. 

M2 chip, or maybe 1.5 

The late 2020 MacBook Air, Mac Mini and 13-inch MacBook Pro all got the first-gen M1 Apple Silicon chip. In 2021, new 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro laptops got upgraded versions, called the M1 Max and M1 Pro, with better graphics performance. Some Apple watchers, including Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, say new 2022 Macs will have a new M2 chip, which could boost CPU performance while not changing the M1’s graphics capabilities much at all. That would allow the Air to grow, but not encroach all that much on the more expensive MacBook Pro territory. 

A March tweet from Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, however, predicts that the next MacBook Air will have an M1 chip, not a new M2 processor. 

MacBook Pro 2021

The late 2021 MacBook Pro, with an updated design. 

Dan Ackerman/CNET

New Pro-style design 

Right now the 13-inch MacBook Air and the 13-inch MacBook Pro are part of one generation of MacBook design, while the 14-inch and 16-inch Pro laptops are part of a newer one. The more current version has a chunkier, squared-off look that’s almost retro-feeling. The older models still have gently curved lids that taper to a point. While there have been periods of design transition where some Macs look very different than others, I expect all the latest MacBooks at least to conform to the new Pro design language. Kuo’s March tweet also points to the MacBook Air getting a new form factor design and more color options. 

Upgraded webcam

It’s been an uphill fight to get better webcams in laptops. I’ve been talking this idea up for years, and only deep into the COVID 19-fueled work-from-home era are we finally getting better cameras. The 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros, as well as the 24-inch iMac and 27-inch iMac (which is one of the last Intel Macs you can buy), have 1080p-resolution full HD cameras. The difference between these and the frankly pretty weak 720p-resolution camera in the MacBook Air is stunning. PC makers from Dell to Lenovo to HP are finally putting full HD cameras in many laptops, and if the MacBook Air followed, it would eliminate one of the only knocks against the product. 

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Revised ports 

The latest MacBook Pro laptops did a bit of an about-face, returning some long-missing ports to service, namely the HDMI and SD card ports. Does this mean the company is aware that having just a couple of USB-C/Thunderbolt ports for all your charging, input, output and accessory needs isn’t enough? HDMI would be a very handy option to have again, especially for anyone working from home and connecting to a larger display.

We’ll also have to wait and see if the MacBook’s audio jack survives another round. Apple removed it from iPhones several years ago, but has kept it in laptops. It was only in early 2022 that I started seeing some upcoming laptops, like the Dell XPS 13 Plus, finally take a chance on removing the headphone jack. I suspect the next MacBook Air will still have one, but the headphone jack’s days may be numbered.

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