Oops, Apple did it again: the new MacBook Air is throttling performance
If you were struggling to decide between the newly released M2-powered MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models then some information has come to light that could push fence-sitters over the edge, after the new MacBook Air is revealed to throttle its own performance by up to 25% under prolonged workloads.
These results come from The Verge’s review (opens in new tab) of the new MacBook Air, in which a 30-minute loop in the multi-core test was run to more accurately portray how the device would cope with prolonged and demanding tasks, rather than using a benchmarking application such as Cinebench R23. These benchmarks are useful, but given their short duration, they can’t accurately reflect real-world performance.
The fanless design is the likely culprit, with the machine forced to throttle its own performance in order to reduce the risk of overheating, and it’s worth noting that the M2-powered MacBook Pro 13-inch didn’t encounter the same performance issues during the same tests as it sports a single cooling fan to help reduce temperatures under load.
Another thing to consider if you’re on the fence is that the M2 MacBook Air has slower SSD speeds, likely to try and keep manufacturing costs low but combined with the performance loss this should drive home that while they contain the same chip, the Air and Pro are different for a reason. If you need to run applications for a longer duration, such as editing and rendering video footage, you’d be better buying the MacBook Pro 13-inch (M2, 2022) or even the larger 14-inch or 16-inch M1 Pro and M1 Max models.
Analysis: Don’t overlook the M1 MacBook Pro
This news will probably upset a few Apple fans as the MacBook Air was definitely the most hyped model of the two M2 launches, but don’t let a very specific area of its performance dissuade you from buying one – providing it’s actually the right fit for your needs.
If you’re looking for an affordable entry-level Macbook then you’d actually be better off sourcing the older MacBook Air (M1, 2020) version, especially if you can wait until the Black Friday sales.
It’s previously dipped as low as $799 from its original MSRP of $999 / £999 / AU$1,599, and given the new M2 MacBook Air starts at $1,199 / £1,249 / AU$1,899, it’s still a solid buy for the price.
If you do need more power, go for the older MacBook Pro models as previously mentioned, or hang on until they get their own inevitable M2 Pro and M2 Max refresh.
In a sense, the new MacBook Air should only hold appeal for those who want a redesigned look, need a little bit more power than the original M1 Air, or if you’re the type of person who likes the have the very latest model of a gadget.
It feels as though Apple has already fallen victim to its own generational releases in this situation. When the M1 launch was so good, it’s hard to follow up that success in such a short period of time, especially for a company that’s fairly new to processor development.
The M2 simply won’t offer enough of a boost to performance for most people to justify its larger MSRP, and given the proposed longevity of the laptop, it’s unlikely that current M1-device users actually need to upgrade for some time.
Don’t forget that there are other devices on the market that could suit you as well, and many of the best laptops on the market are not Macbooks, though there’s very little that offers the same performance and features as the older M1-powered MacBook Air for the same price.
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