Apple MacBook Air M2 storage speed test: Yes, it’s slow

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Previously, a number examiners reported than Apple entry level The SSD of the MacBook Pro M2 is significantly slower than that of the MacBook Pro M1 due to the configuration of the storage models in the computer. Apple has confirmed The edge that the base MacBook Air M2 has the same storage configuration as the Pro, so naturally we wondered if it would suffer from the same issue. Well, we finally got our hands on a base model (including 256GB of storage and 8GB of memory) and the answer is: yes, it does.

Based on the results we see in Blackmagic’s Disk Speed ​​Test app, the base model MacBook Air M2 has write speeds that are typically 15-30% slower than the 512GB model sent. by Apple. The edge to review – and read speeds that can be 40-50% slower.

This is not an unexpected result since the base Air only includes a single NAND chip, while the M1 models and 512GB (and larger) M2 models have two, which can enable speeds almost twice as fast.

MacBook Air 512GB M2 1GB review.

A screenshot from the Blackmagic Disk Speed ​​Test showing scores of 2260.5 writes and 1433 reads.

MacBook Air 256GB M2 1GB review.

A screenshot from the Blackmagic Disk Speed ​​Test showing scores of 2187.7 for writes and 2824.4 for reads.

MacBook Air 512GB M2 5GB review.

A screenshot from the Blackmagic Disk Speed ​​Test showing scores of 1537.7 for writes and 1536.3 for reads.

MacBook Air 256GB M2 5GB review.

Although I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the speeds we see from this base MacBook Air are wrong, they’re (especially when it comes to reading data) the kind of speeds you can easily get on laptops that are a bit more, well, meh. For example, the base model is only a little faster than my 2019 Intel MacBook Pro in terms of write speeds, and its read speeds are significantly slower. To pull a Windows machine out of a hat, Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Go 2 (which starts at $600) also loses at the base Air in writes but demolishes it in reads. (Read speeds are usually more important for general use, measuring how fast your device can access files on its system.)

We didn’t have an M1 Air with 256GB to test, but the 512GB model we have on hand is also faster than the base M2 model in reading and writing, as you can see in the results. below.

A screenshot from the Blackmagic Disk Speed ​​Test showing scores of 2514.7 for writes and 3051.2 for reads.

MacBook Air 512GB M1 5GB review.

A screenshot from the Blackmagic Disk Speed ​​Test showing scores of 1298.8 for writes and 2665.6 for reads.

MacBook Pro Intel 256GB 5GB review.

As Edge Editor Dan Seifert explains in his review of the M2 Air, slower storage speeds can impact a number of tasks, including file transfers, and can also slow overall performance since Macs use the SSD space as temporary memory (swap memory) when their built-in RAM is worn out.

That said, will these particular differences impact you? People the Air is marketed to probably won’t see a life-changing contrast between the 256GB and 512GB models when it comes to day-to-day performance. I ran two 4K YouTube videos on 25 open Chrome tabs for 30 minutes on both machines without needing to tap into swap memory. Boot time was also pretty identical – I turned on both devices side by side a few times. And I didn’t see much difference when it came to opening any of the apps I normally use, including Chrome, Safari, Messages, Photos, Activity Monitor, Slack, Music, etc.

For MacBook Advantages target audience, however, a limitation like this could be a deciding factor. If you’re someone with a heavier workload (who may very well notice a difference), we generally recommend buying a MacBook Pro with an M1 Pro or Max chip instead of an Air.

A screenshot of Activity Monitor showing that the computer has 8 GB of physical memory, 6.39 GB is used, and 0 bytes of swap is used.

Activity Monitor in base MacBook Air after 30 minutes of playing two 4K videos on 20 other tabs.

That said, these results will definitely be important to some people. If you are in this camp, you need to pay $200 to go from 256GB to 512GB, bringing the price of the eight-core MacBook Air M2 from $1,199 to $1,399. If that sounds like a lot, you can also get 512GB of storage and 8GB of RAM in the always excellent MacBook Air M1 for $1,199 (the same price as the base M2 Air). My real-world comparisons showed that the M2 machines are visibly better for graphics-intensive use cases (like running games), but their performance differences don’t have a huge impact on other machines. other tasks (photo and audio editing, Internet work, etc.) that a casual user could do.

We have contacted Apple to comment on these specific results and have not yet received a response. When we asked the company about the different storage configurations for our review of the device, spokeswoman Michelle Del Rio provided the following statement:

Thanks to the increased performance of the M2, the new MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro are blazingly fast, even compared to Mac notebooks with the powerful M1 chip. These new systems use a new, higher density NAND that offers 256 GB of storage using a single chip. While the 256GB SSD benchmarks may show a difference from the previous generation, the performance of these M2-based systems for real-world activities is even faster.

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