Apple’s new M2 MacBook Air chargers tested: Twice the ports or twice the speed?
July 27, 2022 July 27, 2022
We’re big fans of the new M2 MacBook Air. It’s not a perfect laptop–we want a better webcam, it’s a fingerprint magnet, and it’s expensive–but we do think it’s one of the best everyday laptops for everyday users. When you buy one, you have three power adapters to choose from, depending on the model you select.
To test the charging performance of these three power adapters, we took a brand new M2 MacBook Air and drained it down to 1 percent battery life, then used its included USB-C to MagSafe cable to attach it to one of the power adapters. We had no applications running and kept the lid closed while charging, opening it briefly every 10 minutes to record the current state of charge before closing it again.
This gives us a look at the total charge performance over time for all three adapters, and the tale is interesting (if not really surprising).
The charging rates for all adapters are limited as the laptop approaches a full charge–that’s normal behavior for nearly all rechargeable batteries. The 67W USB-C Power Adapter is clearly the fastest, as one would expect.
What’s that fourth line in green? Since the 35W Dual USB-C Port Compact Power Adapter has two ports, we wanted to find out how fast your MacBook Air will charge when both ports are in use. So we charged an iPhone while charging the MacBook Air, and when that iPhone was nearly fully charged we swapped it out for another to keep a consistent load throughout our test. We’ll examine the results in detail below.
There’s a reason Apple gives you a plain 30W charger with the least expensive MacBook Air model, though at starting price of $1,199 we think Apple should have just given all MacBook Air buyers the same option (35W dual-port or 67W single-port).
It’s a little slower than the 35W adapter, as you might expect. You get to a half charge in just under an hour, about 10 minutes longer than the 35W model. A full charge takes about 140 minutes, 20 minutes longer than the 35W model. It’s not bad performance, but if you’re already spending $1,199 for a laptop you should probably spend $20 more for one of the other two options.
This new adapter has two things going for it. First, it’s more compact than most of Apple’s other chargers. It doesn’t stick as far out from the wall, and the ports aim downward, which is quite convenient. Second, it’s got two USB-C ports, so you can charge two devices at a time with a single outlet.
Apple says the charging rates are independently controlled, so the 35W maximum is divided up between the two ports based on need as negotiated by the USB Power Delivery 3.0 spec. Most of the time you’ll get an even 17.5W split, but if you plug in something that requires less juice, such as an Apple Watch or AirPods, it will get 7.5W while the other port gets up to 27.5W.
We tested this charger two ways: with only the MacBook Air plugged in and with the MacBook Air and an iPhone 13 plugged in. When the iPhone approached a full charge, we swapped it out for another to keep a relatively consistent load on that second port.
You can see that charging two devices has the expected dramatic impact on charging performance. With the whole power adapter to itself, the MacBook Air got to 60 percent in one hour, and a full charge in about two. When sharing with an iPhone, it only got half as much charge in that first hour and a full charge took about 75 percent longer.
That’s the benefit of this product: flexibility. If you’re not in a hurry, you can charge two devices in a couple hours with just a single outlet. If you want to charge faster, you can just use one USB-C port. Third-party accessory makers have offered products like this for years, so it’s nice to see Apple finally jump on the bandwagon.
If you want to fast-charge your MacBook Air, you’ll need a power adapter that delivers over 60 watts, such as Apple’s 67W USB-C Power Adapter. Using it, we got to 52 percent state of charge in 30 minutes, almost exactly matching Apple’s 50 percent in half an hour promise. Given that you can easily get five or six hours of real work done with half a charge, that’s a really nice benefit.
The charge curve starts to slow down as the battery gets full, of course. A full charge takes just over an hour and a half, which is still quite good given that the battery will easily last all day. This power adapter is a lot bigger and only has a single USB-C port, but it sure is fast.
The 67W USB-C Power Adapter costs the same as the 35W Dual USB-C Compact model: $59 if purchased separately, or $20 more if you upgrade the base model MacBoook Air. We think the $20 upgrade cost is probably worth it–the 30W adapter is slower, bigger, and less flexible than the 35W model and much slower than the 67W model.
But the 35W Dual USB-C Port Power Adapter feels like the real winner here. You can’t fast charge, but you have the flexibility to charge two devices slowly if you’re not in a hurry or one device at a perfectly reasonable speed if not.
The 67W adapter is really only a priority for those who are often in situations where they need to get a lot of juice quickly, and that’s honestly not often a concern with the awesome battery life of the MacBook Air. But if you often find yourself with only 45 minutes to get as much charge as you can during a layover between flights, thistle 67W adapter might be the better choice.
Even so, we think there are better choices. Consider something like the Anker 735 charger, which is about $60 like Apple’s and has 65W of total power output, but is smaller and has two USB-C ports and one USB-A port.