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Apple MacBook Air M2 (2022) vs Apple 24-inch iMac M1 (2021): Which M-powered computer should you buy?

Apple revealed the all-new MacBook Air (2022) during its main WWDC22 keynote, along with macOS Ventura. This notebook packs the company’s M2 chip in an overhauled chassis that features a more futuristic design language. It now looks similar to some of the other Macs that Apple has recently introduced. On the other hand, we have the 24-inch iMac M1 from 2021. It’s a solid all-in-one (AiO) computer that caters to a specific audience. Considering both Macs are M-powered, you might also want to take a look at the list of best apps for Apple silicon. This is the MacBook Air M2 (2022) vs 24-inch iMac M1 (2021) — the battle between two very different M-powered Apple computers.

Apple's 2021 iMac in blue with matching accessories.

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Apple MacBook Air M2 (2022) vs Apple 24-inch iMac M1 (2021): Specifications

Apple MacBook Air M2 Apple 24-inch iMac M1
  • Apple M2 (8-Core CPU)
  • Apple M1 (8-Core CPU)
  • Apple M2 (8-Core GPU)
  • Apple M2 (10-Core GPU)
  • Apple M1 (7-Core GPU)
  • Apple M1 (8-Core GPU)
  • 11.97 x 8.46 x 0.44 inches
  • 2.7lbs
  • 21.5 x 18.1 x 5.8 inches
  • 9.83lbs (varies by model)
  • 13.6-inch Liquid Retina display (2560 x 1664), up to 500 nits peak brightness, True Tone technology
  • 24-inch 4.5K Retina display (4480 x 2520), up to 500 nits peak brightness, True Tone technology
  • Two Thunderbolt 4 ports
  • MagSafe 3 port
  • Headphone jack
  • Two Thunderbolt 4 ports
  • Two USB 3 ports
  • Headphone jack
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • 256GB
  • 512GB
  • 1TB
  • 2TB
  • 512GB
  • 1TB
  • 2TB
  • 8GB
  • 16GB
  • 24GB
  • 8GB
  • 16GB
  • 52.6Whr battery
  • Up to 18 hours of video playback
  • 30W charger
  • [none]
  • Four-speaker sound system with wide stereo sound and spatial audio support when playing Dolby Atmos content
  • High-fidelity six-speaker system with force-cancelling woofers and spatial audio support when playing Dolby Atmos content
  • 1080p FaceTime HD camera
  • 1080p FaceTime HD camera
  • Wi-Fi 6
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • Wi-Fi 6
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • Silver
  • Starlight
  • Space Gray
  • Midnight
  • Blue
  • Green
  • Pink
  • Silver
  • Yellow
  • Orange
  • Purple
  • Starts at $1,199
  • Starts at $1,299

Design: Choose your supermodel

Side view of green 24-inch iMac

Evaluating a design can be a very subjective matter. Nonetheless, we can make objective comparisons and observations that help you pick one of the two Macs. Fortunately, both the MacBook Air and iMac feature the modern body design that Apple has started deploying on M-powered Macs. So neither of the two looks outdated or chunky. They’re both slim, relatively light, and very easy on the eyes.

MacBook Air side view in four colors

As you’d expect, though, the MacBook Air has a portable build that is both lighter and thinner. So if being rooted in one place with your Mac is a dealbreaker, then the iMac is not what you’re looking for. In the iMac’s defense, this computer comes in an array of seven vivid colors that outmatch the four finishes of the Air. Though the iMac has a very thick bottom chin — which arguably makes it uglier than the MacBook Air.

Display: A top notch vs a top-notch display

The notch on the new MacBook

Display is one of the most important aspects to consider when buying a new computer. That’s especially relevant for those who work in photo or video editing and aim at quality screens. Fortunately, both the MacBook Air M2 and 24-inch iMac M1 have decent (but different) ones. Starting with the obvious — the former features a 13.6-inch Liquid Retina notched display. On the other hand, the latter goes for a 24-inch 4.5K Retina display. Both have a peak brightness that goes up to 500 nits and support the True Tone technology — which tweaks the color warmth depending on your environment and lighting.

Front view of 24-inch iMac with keyboard, mouse, iPhone, and AirPods

Perhaps what we can consider as the biggest difference between the two is the screen size. The iMac offers more screen real estate — which is ideal for those who multitask using different apps simultaneously. Those who watch series and movies on their Macs might also appreciate how wide it is when compared to the MacBook Air. Ultimately, the iMac is a stationary device — so it makes sense for it to go above and beyond in this particular department. It’s worth noting, though, that the MacBook Air has a slightly higher pixel density.

Performance: Pick an M

Apple M2 specifications graphic

The M1 chip is around 2 years older than the M2 — and that’s a lot in tech years. Nonetheless, the differences between them aren’t way too big. Two of the M2’s highlights are its better GPU and power efficiency. So those who plan to play games on their Macs might find themselves leaning towards the MacBook Air. As for power efficiency, the iMac doesn’t have a battery — so the M1 requiring more power to perform shouldn’t impact you to a notable degree.

m1 chip overview

Though, considering the MacBook Air doesn’t have a cooling fan, playing intensive AAA games on this Mac can be a bad idea. The iMac will handle cooling better, despite having the older chip. Both computers can pack up to 2TB of SSD. However, the MacBook Air offers more RAM options than the iMac. The latter goes for 8GB and 16GB, while the former includes an additional 24GB option, if you need it. Ultimately, both Macs are fluid and should handle everyday tasks without any issues. Don’t forget, though, that you get more ports and better speakers on the iMac.

Bottom Line: You’re the best judge

The MacBook Air M2 and iMac M1 are very hard to compare — simply because they belong to very different categories. One is a portable, lightweight notebook. The other is an AiO with a larger build. If you always work from the same desk, getting the iMac might make more sense. If you depend on your Mac on the go, then the MacBook Air is the one to go for. It’s also worth mentioning that the MacBook Air M2 (2022) starts at $1,199, while the base 24-inch iMac M1 (2021) model costs an additional $100.

Personally, I would go for the MacBook Air. I tend to work from different places and dislike being rooted to a single space. Additionally, the M2 Mac is newer and will likely receive software support for a longer time period. That’s not to mention that I’m a big fan of the Midnight finish that is unavailable on the M1 iMac.

    Apple MacBook Air M2 (2022)

    The 2022 MacBook Air offers the M2 chip and a redesigned chassis with MagSafe support. Best Buy can notify you when it’s available.

    Apple 24-inch iMac M1 (2021)

    The iMac is the perfect option for those who want an all-in-one desktop computer. It is powered by the Apple M1 chip.

Which Apple computer will you be buying, and why? Let us know in the comments section below.

The post Apple MacBook Air M2 (2022) vs Apple 24-inch iMac M1 (2021): Which M-powered computer should you buy? appeared first on XDA.

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