MacBook Air 2022 vs. MacBook Air 2020: M2 and M1 compared

The MacBook Air is Apple's best-selling Mac, and our favorite Mac. When a new version arrives, it's big news. The 2022 MacBook Air is a significant update vs. the previous model, the MacBook Air (2020). Besides offering a more powerful chip, the 2022 model comes in a new design with a bigger and better display. The MacBook Air (2022) also sees the return of the MagSafe charging port and more, like an updated FaceTime camera. None of this means you shouldn't consider the older model. In some cases, the 2020 version might be the laptop for you. Let's take a look at the differences so you can decide.

MacBook Air (2022) vs. MacBook Air (2020): Key differences

Although there are clear differences between the MacBook Air (2022) and MacBook Air (2020), it's amazing how similar they are in key areas such as storage capacity and battery life. The older model could be a better choice depending on your most important preferences. Take a look:

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Header Cell - Column 0 MacBook Air 2022MacBook Air 2020
CostFrom $1,199From $999
Space Gray
Space Gray
Display Size13.6-inch (diagonal) Liquid Retina display13.3-inch Retina display
Resolution2560 by 1664 pixels2560 by 1600 pixels
Brightness500 nits400 nits
CPU8-core Apple M2 chip8-core Apple M1 chip
GPUUp to 10-core7-core
Camera1080p FaceTime HD camera720p FaceTime HD camera
SoundFour-speaker sound systemStereo speakers
Audio supportDolby Atmos
Spatial Audio
Dolby Atmos
PortsTwo Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports, headphone jackTwo Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports, headphone jack
Battery Adapters30W USB-C Power Adapter (included with M2 with 8-core GPU)
35W Dual USB-C Port Compact Power Adapter (included with M2 with 10-core GPU and 512GB storage, configurable with M2 with 8-core GPU)
Fast-charge capable with available 67W USB-C Power Adapter
30W USB-C Power Adapter
Battery lifeUp to 18 hoursUp to 18 hours
Dimensions0.44 x 11.97 x 8.46 inches0.63 x 11.97 x 8.36 inches
Weight2.7 pounds2.8 pounds

Despite the impressive specs of the latest MacBook Air, you can see here that the older version still has a lot to offer — starting with a less expensive price. So the question here is, how many bells and whistles do you need?

MacBook Air (2022) vs. MacBook Air (2020) A game-changing design

M2 Macbook Air Space Gray Magsafe Cable

M2 Macbook Air Space Gray Magsafe Cable (Image credit: Gerald Lynch / iMore)

The latest MacBook Air introduces a flat design and looks similar to the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models from 2021. The older MacBook Air offers a wedge design that sets it apart from other MacBooks. In addition, the new design enabled Apple to add a MagSafe charging port and a slightly bigger and better display. This time, the MacBook Air has a 13.6-inch (diagonal) Liquid Retina display versus the 13.3-inch (diagonal) Retina display found on the older model. The Liquid Retina display offers 2560 by 1664 pixels with 500 nits brightness vs. the 2560 by 1600 pixels and 400 nits found on the 2020 version. The newer display also comes with a better 1080p FaceTime HD camera and screen notch, featured on the two largest MacBook Pro models as well.

Design-wise, the MacBook Air (2022) also includes two new colors: Midnight and Starlight, which replaced the Gold colorway found on the 2020 model. Both models are also offered in traditional Space Gray and silver.

MacBook Air (2022) vs. MacBook Air (2020) M2 performance better all around

M2 Macbook Air Starlight Side

M2 Macbook Air Starlight Side (Image credit: Gerald Lynch / iMore)

One of the biggest reasons to choose the latest MacBook Air over the previous model is the transition from the Apple M1 chip to the Apple M2 chip. The next-generation silicon means more speed and power efficiency thanks to a more powerful 8-core CPU and up to a 10-core GPU. As a result, Apple says the M2 is up to 1.4 times faster than the M1 model, although battery life remains the same, up to 18 hours between charges for both.

Specifically, Apple claims the M2 offers 1.4x faster video editing performance, 1.2 times speedier image filters and effects performance, 1.3 times faster gaming, 1.6 times faster scene edit detection, 1.4 times speedier photo stitching, three times faster video transcode performance, and 1.2 times faster image upscaling. However, these numbers assume you purchase a MacBook Air (2022) with an 8-core CPU, 10-core GPU, and 24GB of RAM. In tests, Apple compared that model with a MacBook Air (2020) with an 8-core CPU, 8-core GPU, and 16GB of RAM. Both had a maximum of 2TB of storage.

MacBook Air (2022) vs. MacBook Air (2020): Price changes

The MacBook Air (2022) still represents the least expensive MacBook around. Unfortunately, the starting price has increased by $200, with the entry-level version clocking in at $1,199 vs. $999 for the older model. This means the all-new 13-inch MacBook Pro (2022), still starting at $1,299, is now just $100 more than the least expensive MacBook Air. The price differences on both sides are nothing to scoff at and could make it harder to make a decision on which MacBook is the one right for you. Throw in the likely discounts we'll soon be seeing on the MacBook Air (2020), and the choice could prove even more difficult to make.

Another point: Continued worldwide shortages could mean there's limited supply for the MacBook Air (2022) — at least for a few weeks or months.

MacBook Air (2022) vs. MacBook Air (2020): Which one should you get?

Macbook Air M2 Closeup Screen Hands On Wwdc

Macbook Air M2 Closeup Screen Hands On Wwdc (Image credit: Gerald Lynch / iMore)

The MacBook Air (2022) is the better choice for most folks, even at a higher price than the previous model. This laptop offers a fresh design, a better Apple M2 chip, a larger display, MagSafe, a 1080p FaceTime HD camera, and more. However, if you're less concerned about speed and performance updates, don't understand why MagSafe is oh-so-cool, need a MacBook now, and don't want to wait, or want to simply save some cash, there's absolutely nothing wrong with selecting the older model. This also applies if you're considering upgrading to the new Air (2022). If the 2020 MacBook Air still works for you, you should stick with it — after all, it still contains Apple silicon, offers the same battery life and storage availability, and comes with a well-received wedge design.

Bryan M Wolfe
Staff Writer

Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.