M2 MacBook Air’s flash storage is slower with the 256 GB configuration

Flash storage in the base model of the new M2 MacBook Air performs slower in benchmarks and real-life than higher-capacity models with 512GB of storage and up.

Apple's redesigned M2 MacBook Air notebook displays a vibrantly colored image
256GB models use a single NAND storage chip | Image: Apple
  • Teardown videos, and Apple itself, have confirmed that 256 GB configurations of the new M2 MacBook Air and Pro are slower vs. higher-capacity ones.
  • Need faster flash storage in your MacBook Air? Then you’ll need to upgrade your base model to one with 512 GB of storage for an extra $200.
  • The RAM and NAND flash chips are soldered to the motherboard, meaning you cannot go add more RAM or storage to these things after they’re sold.

Why the 256GB M2 MacBook Air has slower storage

Why on Earth would there be slower flash storage in the base Air? Some nasty move by greedy Apple designed to nudge us into purchasing higher-priced configurations, no? It more likely has to do with the ongoing supply chain and chip shortage issues.

YouTube channel Max Tech has confirmed that the base Air model has exactly the same storage configuration as the base M2-powered 13-inch MacBook Pro, which also suffers from slower storage. And, surprise—both use a single NAND chip. All other storage configurations, come with multiple NAND chips. And because multiple NAND chips run in parallel, flash storage read and write performance is faster across all configurations except the single-NAND 256 GB models.

Apple spokesperson Michelle Del Rio told The Verge:

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

So to sum up, the base 256GB M2 MacBook Air has a single NAND chip. Meanwhile, higher-storage configurations (512GB and up) use two NAND chips, resulting in nearly twice as fast speeds. The Verge has tested the flash storage performance of both the base 256GB model of the M2 MacBook Air and the 512GB one using Blackmagic’s Disk Speed Test app. The results confirm that the base Air model has slower flash storage, with 15-30 percent slower write speeds than those of the 512GB model 40-50 percent slower read speeds.

So which M2 MacBook Air configuration should you buy?

So what can you do about this? If you’ve already bought a new 256GB MacBook Air, nothing. If you’re still contemplating a purchase, you have two options. Firstly, you can add a 256GB M2 MacBook Air to the shopping basket at apple.com/store/ and use build-to-order options to upgrade flash storage to 512 GB for an extra $200.

Or, and this is what we’d recommend to anyone, you should go ahead and purchase the 256 GB configuration instead. It’s an extra $300 but you’ll also get an M2 chip with ten graphics cars instead of eight and Apple’s new 35-watt charger (the base model ships with an eight-core GPU and the old 30-watt power adapter with a single USB-C port). Read: How to get haptic feedback when typing on iPhone