Apple unveiled a few new MacBooks on WWDC 2022a rare hardware launch at the developer conference, and while both are equipped with the new M2 Apple Silicon chip, the similarities pretty much end there.
The MacBook Air 2022 got a brand new design that aligns it with the MacBook Pro 14 and 16. That includes the new square chassis, the return of MagSafe charging, the notch (okay, I didn’t say they were all good stuff), an improved 1080p webcam, a quad speaker system and a pair of USB 4 ports.
In comparison: the MacBook Pro 2022 continues to cling to the past with the exact same design as the 2020 model. You still have the Touch Bar, a 720p webcam, stereo speakers and only two USB ports.
While we’ll have to get the laptops for review before a full comparison is possible, it’s hard to imagine a user would be better served by the M2 MacBook Pro, which carries a $100 price tag over the M2 MacBook Air. . Let’s take a closer look at why I think you should skip the M2 MacBook Pro in favor of literally every other laptop in Apple’s lineup.
Getting the ‘Pro’ out of MacBook Pro
Again, we haven’t had a chance to test these laptops yet, so I’ll stick with Apple’s claims and our past experience with the M1 models for now. It’s safe to say that the performance of the MacBook Pro M2 will be much closer to the MacBook Air M2 than the base MacBook Pro 14 with its M1 Pro chipset. This is hardly shocking as the pricing certainly reflects that with the MacBook Pro M2 starting at $1,299, a full $700 less than the MacBook Pro 14.
The real question is what advantages you get over the MacBook Air M2 in terms of performance and the answer is: not much. Like the last generation, the MacBook Pro gets fans and a slightly larger chassis to improve thermal performance over the same M2 chipset in the air. In our tests, the M1 Air even outperformed the MacBook Pro in one-off tests (5,962 to 5,882 on Geekbench 5.2), where you’d expect to benefit from more sustained demanding tasks. The reality is that Apple has done its job so well with the M1 and presumably the M2, that the thermal blow isn’t enough to throttle the Air that often, so for the vast majority of users the difference will be unnoticeable. If anything, it might be even more true this time around, as Apple no longer has to deal with the thermal challenge of the old Air’s wedge design.
We’ll be able to settle this argument quickly once our labs get their hands on these laptops, but if you’re considering the MacBook Pro because you’ll be doing photo or video editing work, for example, any benefits you’ll see if you go with the MacBook Pro will almost certainly be outweighed by the associated costs, which I will now discuss.
Can’t touch this
I know there are people who love the Touch Bar, but if Apple’s Butterfly Switch Keyboards, this experiment has failed and time is up. The MacBook Pro 2022 will force Apple to continue supporting it, but it never got the necessary third-party support to make it as useful as it could have been.
My personal experience with the Touch Bar was terrible over three separate Touch Bar MacBook Pros I owned; it was glitchy and unreliable. It was one thing to put up with the Touch Bar in the MacBook Pro M1 two years ago when it was either that or an Intel-based MacBook Pro, but Apple took it further with its design and when you pay $1,299 and up for a laptop, you shouldn’t settle for the last-generation design. If you like the Touch Bar, I suggest you take a look at the Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 16″ or Asus ZenBook Pro 14 Duo because the larger secondary display on those models represents a much more useful implementation of the concept.
2 gates 2 furious
Neither M2 MacBook gets the lavish arsenal of ports that the MacBook Pro 14 and 16 offer, but the fact that you’re getting one less port on the MacBook Pro M2 just feels wrong on every level. Of course, I’m talking about the return of MagSafe to the Air M2. This much-loved charging port provides fast and safe charging as it disconnects instantly without destroying the cord or your laptop if someone or something accidentally trips on it.
However you feel about MagSafe, that means you can charge while still having two USB 4 ports free to plug in a monitor and a USB drive – or whatever else you need. On the MacBook Pro M2 you only have one USB 4 port when you need to charge your laptop.
Can you hear and see me now?
The MacBook Pro M2 similarly remains in the dust when it comes to its webcam and speakers. The MacBook Air M2 gets the much-anticipated boost for a 1080p webcam, along with a four-speaker sound system that should rival that of the MacBook Pro 14 and 16. We were quite impressed with the output of the 720p webcam on the M1 MacBook Pro , but if external webcams Moving more and more to 4K or larger 1080p sensors, it feels old-fashioned to still have a 720p camera in your “Pro” laptop.
It’s a similar story with the stereo speakers in the MacBook Pro M2. I have no doubt that, like the previous model, they will be better than many competitors, but given that its more affordable sibling offers double the amount of speakers, it’s clear it will have an audio advantage.
Up a notch
Yes, the MacBook Air M2 has the controversial notch at the top of the screen, while the MacBook Pro M2 retains its more traditional look, but that includes those hefty top and bottom bezels that Apple eventually nearly removed from its lineup. Most would agree that you won’t see the notch again pretty soon, even more so than on the iPhone, because macOS can hide it well. However you feel about the notch, the Air M2 has some screen benefits to brag about.
The first is that it bumps into a 13.6-inch screen while maintaining a nearly identical form factor to the old 13.3-inch model. Apple also claims that the Air M2 is 25% brighter than the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro M1 models, with a brightness of 500 nits. Again, we’ll determine this for ourselves when we get them into the labs, but that’s quite a bump for travelers or students who have to work in brightly lit environments.
I’m sure the MacBook Pro M2 will be a solid laptop. After all, its predecessor deserved a rare five out of five stars from us. But Apple has moved on over the past two years, breaking away from multiple elements that can be found in this laptop. It now feels like a price placeholder to avoid an $800 gap in Apple’s laptop lineup between the MacBook Air M2 and the MacBook Pro 14-inch.
The simple truth is that based on everything we’ve seen so far, depending on your needs, you’ll be better served by saving yourself $100 and going for the MacBook Air M2 or by saving a little extra and going for the MacBook Pro to go 14 inches. If you’re leaning towards the latter, be sure to keep our best apple deals as we’ve seen $100 to $200 off M1 Pro configurations. We expect to see discounts at least as high below the Amazon Prime Day Apple Deals when that event takes place this summer.