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Picking your favorite Mac is problematic because, ideally, every Mac you bought should be better than your last one. Choosing your favorite Mac is looking at how well it met your needs at the time and how long it was able to meet them. After nearly two years of use, the M1 MacBook Air might be my favorite Apple product of all time. With the M2 MacBook Air’s release, I want to examine why Apple is still selling the M1 MacBook Air, and why the best laptop for business customers might not be the latest model.
About Apple @ Work: Bradley Chambers managed an enterprise IT network from 2009 to 2021. Through his experience deploying and managing firewalls, switches, a mobile device management system, enterprise grade Wi-Fi, 100s of Macs, and 100s of iPads, Bradley will highlight ways in which Apple IT managers deploy Apple devices, build networks to support them, train users, stories from the trenches of IT management, and ways Apple could improve its products for IT departments.
Why not get the newest MacBook Air?
When Apple keeps an older product around while introducing a newer one, the question remains: Why would you get the older model, when the newer one that’s faster is only a few hundred dollars more? That few hundred dollars might be a deal breaker for folks on a tight budget. For businesses and schools looking to buy Apple gear in bulk, a $200 savings can add up significantly. The starting price for the M1 MacBook Air is $999, while the starting price for the M2 MacBook Air is $1199. Both computers are amazing. I’d argue that they’re some of the best personal computers made in the history of the world. The price, reliability, and performance are incredible. When comparing the two, you’re comparing minor things for most people.
Let’s assume you’re looking to buy 100 laptops from Apple, and you’re buying at retail costs (I don’t want to look at discounts for bulk purchases, K–12 discounts, etc.). One hundred of the M1 MacBook Airs will be $99,900. 100 of the M2 MacBook Airs is $119,900. What looks like a minor cost increase for the newest model costs your organization nearly $20,000. Let’s say you had budgeted $120,000 for your laptop refresh; I’d argue you’d be better off upgrading to 16GB of RAM or 512GB of storage in the M1 vs. the stock M2 machine.
What’s the best laptop for business?
Plain and simple: the MacBook Air is the best laptop for business customers. The big question is which Air and which specs. I would argue that the stock MacBook Air M1 with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage is the best overall value for business and education customers. It’s plenty fast, has very reliable hardware, and has amazing battery life.
Yes, the M2 MacBook Air is technically a better computer, but I don’t think it’s enough of an upgrade to warrant spending an additional $200 per laptop. This opinion isn’t a knock against the latest MacBook Air, either – it’s amazing. Everything about it is terrific, and it might be the best overall laptop Apple has ever made for the general consumer. My point is that for the money comparing the ROI of the M1 vs. the M2 – business and education customers won’t see enough value for the average use case to warrant the upgrade unless the budget is of no concern. When I say average use case, I mean someone who generally works off their laptop without a massive external display setup at their desk, travels to and from customer sites, uses AirPlay in the classroom/conference room, etc. Most users won’t care about the performance improvements.
I would argue that the biggest reason the average user would prefer the M2 Air is the upgraded webcam, but I don’t know that I could justify $200 more on a bulk purchase per laptop. It’s an improvement, as seen in the video I’ve embedded above. If just a handful of users need an upgraded video meeting experience, you can use Continuity Camera with MacOS Ventura or a dedicated webcam like the StreamCam.
Overall, Apple has the MacBook Air lineup in a very healthy place. The M2 Air is excellent, and if you have $1200 to spend on a laptop, you’ll be pleased with it. However, if you’re buying for a business or a school and are looking to keep your device purchase within your budget, it’s tough to ignore the $999 price point ROI of the “old” MacBook Air. The M2 MacBook Air might be considered the Air+ because the M1 MacBook Air is that good. It’s hard to find a reason against it when buying in bulk. The M1 MacBook Air is incredibly fast, has a great battery life, and is a computer one could only dream about a few years ago. If I am giving my honest advice for the best laptop for business and education, it’s hard to say anything but the M1 MacBook Air.
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