Last month, when Apple unveiled the 15-inch MacBook Air, everything was as expected. Apple merely placed the internals and design of the M2-powered Air it unveiled a year ago in a larger shell with a larger screen. Done and finished.
I therefore assumed this review would be an easy task going into it. “It’s like a MacBook Air, but bigger.” But it does the 15-inch MacBook Air’s genuine experience a disservice. See, from the first titanium-clad PowerBook G4 through the 15-inch MacBook Pro Apple launched a decade ago, a 15-inch Mac was my ideal machine for a very long time. Those computers were capable, had a large enough screen to use all day, and were portable enough to take anyplace. However, Apple has recently put a lot of emphasis on the “Pro” moniker, driving up the price to far over $2,000, making it prohibitively expensive for the majority of consumers.
- Performance from the M2 chip is impressive.
- A really beautiful exhibition
- Excellent battery life, sound
- Superior trackpad and keyboard
- The M2 chip is already a year old.
- Refresh rates for displays are only 60Hz.
But the 15-inch Air with an M2 transports me back to those times. This laptop could easily serve as my sole PC. Similar to the 13-inch variant, it is potent, offers a protracted battery life, and has a high-quality (though not ultramodern) display. Another distinguishing feature of the Air series is that it is very thin and light. And with a starting price of $1,299, it’s a lot less expensive than any laptop Apple has provided with a screen this size.
The MacBook Air and its smaller sister only differ in a tiny number of ways. The 15.3-inch display with a 2,880 x 1,864 resolution is the most noticeable. 224 pixels per inch is the result, which is the same as the 13-inch Air. One of Apple’s “Liquid Retina” displays, it offers a modest 60Hz refresh rate, a brightness of 500 nits, and support for the P3 “wide color” gamut.
The tiny LED displays on the 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro lack features like a significantly higher contrast ratio, HDR capability, a little bit more pixels per inch, and a 120Hz maximum refresh rate. The MacBook Air’s screen is bright, sharp, and completely enjoyable to look at for extended periods of time, while Apple’s conventional screens are also extremely attractive. My primary computer is a MacBook Pro, and although I initially noticed the reduced refresh rate, I quickly forgot about it.
The remaining variations between the two Air versions are slight. The 10-core GPU version of the M2 is standard on the base 15-inch model, whereas the 13-inch comes with an 8-core GPU by default. The remaining internal specifications for all base models are identical and include 256GB of storage and 8GB of RAM. (The model I’m testing costs $1,699 in configuration and has 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage.)
In addition, the 15-inch Air boasts a six-speaker sound system with “force-canceling woofers” for better bass as opposed to the smaller model’s four speakers. Since a few years ago, Apple has produced unexpectedly good laptop speakers that sound incredibly vibrant and full while playing back music or movies. Although they’re not nearly as nice as the ones in the 16-inch MacBook Pro, their added volume and thickness make them sound better than those in the Air. However, the Air’s speakers still produce a dynamic, enjoyable sound. Although the lack of bass is obvious when the volume is turned up to its highest setting, I was content to listen to music all day at a volume in the middle.
The 15-inch Air is merely a little larger version of the 13-inch device other than those two features. It also includes the same few ports: two USB-C connections, a headphone jack, and a MagSafe port for power. The same four colors—or, more precisely, shades of gray—are available for the laptop. At this moment, all Mac laptops have fantastic keyboards, big trackpads, and Touch ID sensors. Thankfully, the butterfly keyboard fiasco is a distant memory.
Performance-wise, the 15-inch Air is also essentially identical to the smaller model. Geekbench 5 scores were almost the same as those we got when testing both the 13-inch Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro, both of which also use the M2 chip. The same goes for Cinebench R23 and a few others we tried. It’s worth noting that while single-core performance is similar to the 14-inch MacBook Pro with an M2 Max chip, multi-core and graphics performance is where the M2 can’t quite keep up. That said, for most users, there’s plenty of power here.
|Model||Geekbench 5 CPU||Geekbench 5 Compute||Cinebench R23|
|MacBook Air 2023 (M2, 15-inch)||1,903/8,928||27,870||1,595/7,893|
|MacBook Air 2022 (M2, 13-inch)||1,907/8,665||27,083||1,576/7,372|
|MacBook Pro (M2 Max, 14-inch)||1,970/15,338||71,583||1,603/14,725|
|Dell XPS 15 2022 (Intel i7-12700H, RTX 3050 Ti)||1,680/11,412||60,205||1,724/13,100|
You probably already know that Apple’s new 15-inch MacBook Air is essentially an enlarged version of the same laptop that was released a year ago. Although saying so would be damning it with faint praise because it is, in fact, one of the best Apple laptops I have used in a very long time. It’s a MacBook Air, but with a substantially bigger screen and only a small premium above the 13-inch model. The only significant caveat, in my opinion, is that the base model’s memory and storage space are extremely limited. Even with only 8GB of RAM, the M2 is lightning fast, but upgrading is recommended if you want to ensure its continued performance in the future.
Get the 13-inch version if portability is your top priority or if you frequently travel. The 15-inch Air would be my first choice if I were shopping for a new laptop right now. It’s simple to use, doesn’t weigh you down, and loads quickly. Having a large display in such a small device is a nice bonus.