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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

15-inch MacBook Air review: Sometimes bigger is better

The 15-inch MacBook Air (bottom) is larger than its 13-inch sibling, but otherwise almost entirely identical.

One of the lessons to be taken from the Apple silicon era is that the chips are what they are. An M2 performs more or less the same whether it’s in a Mac mini or MacBook Air or iPad Pro. So when I say that Apple’s new 15-inch MacBook Air is more or less identical to the 13-inch M2 MacBook Air, I really mean it—at least in terms of how it works.

Instead, this new Air expands the definition of what a MacBook Air can be. With a 15.3-inch diagonal Liquid Retina display, it’s got the biggest screen of any consumer-targeted laptop in modern Apple history1. For the first time in ages, potential buyers won’t be forced to choose between a smaller screen and a much more expensive pro-level laptop.

Until now, if you wanted to buy a Mac laptop with a screen larger than 14 inches, the starting price was $2499 (for the 16-inch MacBook Pro). Now it’s almost half that price because the 15-inch Air starts at $1299. Of course, if you buy an Air you lose a lot of the high-end features of the MacBook Pro: more ports, a spectacular screen, and a more powerful processor. But if all you care about is the size of the display and perhaps weight—at 3.3 pounds, the Air is 70 percent of the weight of the MacBook Pro—you can save $1200. That’s a spectacular change in the economics of buying a Mac laptop.

two macbooks, open

Apple clearly thinks that the 15-inch MacBook Air will appeal to PC-using switchers who haven’t previously considered buying a Mac for this very reason. If they choose to pop into an Apple Store and look at one, they’ll find all the things that made the original M2 MacBook Air so great. It’s got an adorable curved flat design (available in the same color options of Silver, Space Gray, Starlight, and Midnight). The M2 processor is powerful enough for almost everyone. It’s thin and light, with no cooling fan required. It’s just got a bigger screen! That’s it.

charts showing the M2 Airs are basically the same speed, other than lower graphics scores if you have fewer graphics cores

Well… that’s almost it. To counteract the extra power draw of the bigger screen, Apple has increased the size of the Air’s battery, but all that does is make the battery life of the two models identical. There’s also a bit extra space in the 15-inch model’s case for a more expansive speaker system. (When I compared it to the 13-inch model, I noticed some differences, but they were extremely subtle.)

There are a few other tiny differences between the new models. The base-model 15-inch Air’s M2 chip has ten graphics cores. The base-model 13-inch Air only has eight graphics cores. When the two models are configured identically, the difference in price between them is $100, not $200.

Similarly, the $1099 13-inch Air comes with a pretty plain 30-watt power adapter. The 15-inch Air, like the more expensive configurations of the 13-inch model, comes with the 35-watt adapter with two USB-C ports that Apple introduced last year, but online orders can opt to swap it for a single-port 70-watt adapter that enables fast charging, at no extra cost.

all the Air colors
Still no vibrant colors, alas.

I wish I had more to say about the new 15-inch MacBook Air, but really, the best compliment I can give it is that it’s just as great as the 13-inch model I reviewed last summer. I liked that laptop so much that I bought one for myself. Now Apple sells that same computer but with a 15.3-inch display. If you’ve hesitated to consider buying a MacBook Air because its screens always seemed a bit too cramped, you now have another option. If you’ve always wanted a bigger display but didn’t want to pay more than $1000 for the privilege, your time is now.

This laptop has literally everything that made the M2 MacBook Air great. It’s just bigger. Sometimes, bigger is better.

  1. Apple’s last foray into this world was the 14-inch iBook, which offered a bigger display than its 12-inch counterpart, but with the same resolution! The new 15-inch Air offers more than a million extra pixels than the 13-inch model. 

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