It’s been a while, but Apple finally has a 15-inch version of the classic MacBook Air. I say long because I remember covering rumors of a 15-inch Air over 10 years ago. This time around, however, the rumors were correct – at its annual WWDC event in June, the 15-inch Air debuted alongside the Apple Vision Pro headphones.
Of these two, the 15-inch Air is clearly the more practical and affordable. In fact, on every product announced by Apple at WWDC, the 15-inch MacBook Air at $1,299 was the cheapest. And its practicality comes from the fact that it is an almost exact clone of the excellent 13-inch MacBook Airjust slightly swollen.
There are very few differences between the two versions. The 15-inch weighs 3.3 pounds, compared to 2.7 pounds for the 13-inch, but its larger footprint still makes it very light for its size. The screen resolution jumps slightly, from 2,560 x 1,664 to 2,880 x 1,864, and the audio system has four speakers in total instead of just two.
Other than that, it’s essentially identical to the 13-inch Air, with two USB-C ports and a MagSafe connection on the left side, an audio jack on the right. The 13-inch and 15-inch models have the iPhone-inspired notch on the top edge of the screen to accommodate the Full HD webcam. Both sizes are also available in the same Starlight, Midnight, Space Gray and Silver color options. I’m testing the Starlight version but I prefer the bolder and darker Midnight color overall.
Screen size: the bigger the better, especially
Taking the nearly perfect portability of the 13-inch MacBook Air and making its screen slightly larger might seem like a minor upgrade. Why would anyone need that? I blame the shift to hybrid jobs and working from home. While your home office 13-inch laptop might be fine for occasional use or as a work computer when connected to an external monitor, it’s a bit small for use as an all-day, everyday productivity machine. .
Especially if you wear glasses or, like me, wear progressive lenses and still need to zoom your Google Docs up to 125% or even 150%, the larger screen on the new Air is fantastic. In recent days, I have replaced the Air 15 inch for my usual 13 inch machine. Since then, I’ve completely ignored the larger monitor I occasionally plug the 13-inch into on my desk. The Retina display isn’t an OLED or mini LED panel, but it’s still bright and clear, equally capable of both viewing spreadsheets and streaming TV.
The keyboard, always a MacBook highlight (at least since the end of the butterfly keyboard era), is the same size and functionality as the 13-inch Air, just with more dead space around the left edges and right. But the touchpad is larger, similar to those on current larger MacBook Pro models.
One of the only ways the larger size suffers from its clone-like nature is that pairing the two USB-C/Thunderbolt ports on one side, along with the MagSafe connection, means the laptop won’t can be connected only on its left. side, either to the power supply or to the accessories. For a larger laptop like this this can be awkward and lead to awkward cable routing.
Learn more about MacBooks:
Different sizes, same performance
In my first hands-on testing, I ran a few benchmarks on this machine and last year’s 13-inch MacBook Air M2. Both systems achieved almost identical scores in applications such as GeekBench, Cinebench, and 3DMark.
For everyday use, mid-level Photoshopping, and even playing games, the M2 chip in current MacBook Air models is more than powerful enough. I also did a lot of light video editing on the M1 and M2 systems.
The most advanced chips, the M2 Pro and M2 Max, are only found in much more expensive Macs, including Mac Studio and Mac Pro desktops and 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro laptops. And while the larger screens of the MacBook Pro models are great, starting at $2,000 for the 14-inch and $2,500 for the 16-inch, it’s a big investment if you’re just looking for more screen.
Of course, with a larger screen like the new Air’s, you should try a few games (although your Mac game options are… limited). Resident Evil Village and No Man’s Sky are some good examples of (relatively) recent high-end games that run well on M2 Macs. And with a bigger screen, the 15 inch Mac has an excellent display for cloud gaming, using services like Nvidia’s GeForce Now. Many of my favorite gaming laptops these days are 15-inch models. The screen size works well without the overall form factor becoming overbearing; that is to say, it is always easily transportable.
If you’re a dedicated MacBook owner with a relatively new 13-inch MacBook Air M1 or M2, it’s hard to justify the 15-inch as an additional purchase. But if you’re replacing or swapping out an older Air or even an older MacBook Pro, like an outdated Intel model, then the Air 15 inch would be my choice for a laptop that stays in the same place most days. For frequent or daily trips, the 13 inch Air is always my first choice, even if it means I still have to increase the zoom level on my documents.