MacBook Air 15
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MacBook Air 15

May 12, 2023

15-inch MacBook Air [left], 13-inch MacBook Air [right]

Apple has introduced a new model of MacBook Air at WWDC 2023, with a 15-inch MacBook Air now a larger option for consumers. Here's how the specs differ from the existing 13-inch model.

WWDC is often the venue of new Mac launches, and for 2023, that involved supersizing the MacBook Air. While Apple has offered a 13-inch MacBook Air for quite some time, it now has a 15-inch version in its catalog.

It's obviously bigger than its stablemate, and has a larger screen too, but Apple has included a few other alterations to the compact notebook.

The M2 MacBook Air 15-inch has an 8-core CPU, 10-core GPU, and 15.3-inch Liquid Retina display with True Tone.

The M2 MacBook Air 13-inch can be configured with an 8-core GPU or a 10-core GPU.

Bigger's usually better, but in the realm of thin and light notebooks, that's not always the case. Even for notebooks from the same manufacturer.

Apple refreshed the 2022 MacBook Air with a major redesign, one that brought it in line with the stylings of the MacBook Pro family. This meant saying goodbye to the signature wedge, in favor of a flatter appearance.

The 13-inch MacBook Air is 11.97 inches wide and 8.48 inches deep, with a uniform 0.44 inches of thickness across the board.

At 2.7 pounds, the 13-inch MacBook Air is lighter than the 2020 model and its MacBook Pro counterparts.

Sharing the styling of the 13-inch model, the 15-inch MacBook Air is 13.4 inches wide and 9.35 inches deep, which obviously is bigger than its 13-inch stablemate. At 0.45 inches thin, it's marginally thicker, but only just.

As part of the upgrade from the old style to the modern, the 13-inch MacBook Air uses a 13.6-inch Liquid Retina display, complete with an IPS LED-backlit panel. This includes the "dreaded" notch in the middle of the top edge, which houses the webcam, though we really should be getting used to the aesthetic by now.

The 2022 MacBook Air has a resolution of 2,560 by 1,664, giving it a pixel density of 225 pixels per inch.

As for display technologies, the 13-inch model has Wide Color (P3) support and True Tone, as well as a brightness of 500 nits.

As the name suggests, the 15-inch MacBook Air has a 15.3-inch Liquid Retina display, again using an IPS LED-backlit panel. Once more, the notch is in full effect.

It has the same display technologies too, as well as brightness. At 2,880 by 1,864, the resolution of the 15-inch is higher, but only negligibly less pixel-dense at 224ppi.

The M2 included in the 13-inch MacBook Air houses an eight-core CPU with a combination of four performance cores and four efficiency cores. They're joined by Unified Memory, starting at 8GB with 16GB and 24GB options also available.

There's also the 16-core Neural Engine for dealing with ML tasks such as image processing. Growing from the M1's lack of it entirely, the M2 houses Media Engines, which provides hardware-accelerated encoding and decoding of video.

The M2 option for the 15-inch model is pretty much the same CPU-wise, as well as for the Neural Engine and Media Engine. The difference is in the GPU.

For reference, the M2 in the 13-inch MacBook Air can manage a score of 1,898 in single-core tests and 8,941 in multi-core tests under Geekbench.

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The M2 chip in the 13-inch MacBook Air has two GPU options, which starts with an 8-core GPU with a 10-core variant also available. At the time of launch, Appel said the M2 GPU offered 25% higher graphics performance than the M1 "at the same power level."

For the 15-inch, Apple dispensed with the 8-core GPU option, leaving you only with the 10-core GPU variant. This does simplify matters, since we know that a 10-core GPU will be graphically superior to the 8-core equivalent.

For reference, Geekbench's Metal benchmark for the 13-inch MacBook Air with the 8-core GPU reached 26,123 points.

The video output capabilities of the 13-inch MacBook Air was for its own internal display and one external display, up to 6K in resolution at 60Hz. This is unchanged for the 15-inch model.

In its 2022 update, the 13-inch MacBook Air uses a 1080p FaceTime HD camera, following years of using a 720p version. At the time of launch, Apple said it delivered twice the low-light performance of its earlier camera.

The image was also given a boost by the M2's inclusion of an image signal processor, and Apple's advances in computational video and photography.

In a case of "if it's not broke, don't fix it," Apple has kept with the same setup for the 15-inch model.

The MacBook Air has historically been relatively bereft of physical ports, under the expectation that users may not necessarily want to carry a lot of stuff with a notebook they bought to be light and easily portable.

The 2022 MacBook Air uses a pair of Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports, though Apple did include MagSafe 3 charging as part of that refresh. The addition meant users didn't have to consume one of the other few ports for charging the MacBook Air back up.

For wireless connectivity, the M2 13-inch MacBook Air has Wi-Fi 6 support and Bluetooth 5.3, though it did previously use Bluetooth 5.0. The 15-inch model matches the 13-inch here. .

The 13-inch MacBook Air has a 52.6-watt-hour lithium polymer battery, which Apple claims can manage up to 15 hours of wireless web access, or 18 hours of video.

The 15-inch MacBook Air has a larger 66.5-watt-hour version, but it lasts for the same amount of time as the 13-inch.

Recharging is performed either via one of the two USB-C connections or over MagSafe 3 for both models. The latter is better if users want to keep their data-related ports free, but there's always the option of recharging via dock for the single-cable life.

Apple includes a 30W USB-C power adapter with the 8-core GPU version of its 13-inch MacBook Air, but 10-core GPU versions could use the 35W Dual USB-C Port Compact Power Adapter. A 70W adapter upgrade is also available.

The 15-inch has the 35W variant, again with the 70W upgrade potential.

The 13-inch MacBook Air refresh was also the first time Apple included fast charging capabilities in the model, so it could get up to 50% charge in 30 minutes if you used it with a more powerful 70-watt USB-C power adapter.

Similarly, there's fast-charging available on the 15-inch MacBook Air.

Apple increased the speaker count to four for the 2022 13-inch MacBook Air, up from two in the previous version. They include support for Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos as well.

The 15-inch uses a six-speaker system, again with Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos.

For physical connections, a headphone jack is also available for both models, but upgraded to handle high-impedance headphones preferred by audiophiles.

On the microphone side of things, Apple uses a three-mic array with both models, which includes directional beamforming to assist with services like "Hey Siri," or more typically, improving call quality.

Both models use Touch ID for security, with a dedicated button located on the keyboard.

Each also uses a 78-key or 79-key backlit Magic Keyboard with 12 full-heigh function keys and 4 keys in an inverted-T arrangement. A Force Touch trackpad resides below the keyboard.

The 8-core GPU version of the 13-inch MacBook Air starts with a 256GB SSD, with 512GB, 1TB, and 2TB upgrade options available. For the 10-core GPU edition, it starts at 512GB as stock with 1TB and 2TB upgrade options, though you can get a 256GB configuration

The 8-core GPU 13-inch MacBook Air, including 8GB of memory and 256B of storage, starts from $1,099. Upgrading the CPU to 10-core is $100 more.

The 15-inch MacBook Air, also with 8GB of memory and 256GB of storage, costs $1,299.

Going from 8GB to 16GB is $200 more expensive for both models, and 24GB is another $200 again.

Storage increases start at $200 from 256GB to 512GB across the board, $400 from 512GB to 1TB, and $400 from 1TB to 2TB.

For two models within the same product family, you'd expect there wouldn't be that many differences between the models, aside from the obvious. Combing through the specifications sheets, it seems that is precisely the case here.

The 15-inch MacBook Air is larger than the 13-inch MacBook Air, and that does bring with it some advantages. That extra screen size means there's a higher resolution and more physical screen to play with, but that's really about it.

In practically every other area of comparison that's based on what it can do as opposed to physical traits, there's not really much difference at all here. Sure, you're not able to get the 15-inch MacBook Air with the 8-core GPU the entry-level 13-inch model starts with, but feature-wise, they're effectively identical.

For $200, we're talking about just under two inches of extra diagonal screen estate, as well as a chip upgrade to the 10-core GPU version, and a better 35W charger instead of a 30W version. That, and a negligible extra bit of physical size and weight.

If it were just screen and physical size differences alone, the $200 probably isn't worth paying for the 15-inch when the 13-inch will do just fine, especially if you're on a budget. The GPU improvement isn't a massive difference for the average user, but it still counts for something.

For those who actually care about larger screens, the extra cost of the 15-inch is a small price to pay for something closer to what they actually want.

It's going to be an M2 MacBook Air regardless of which you choose. The decision is pretty much whether size really does matter to you.

The M2 MacBook Air 15-inch can be ordered now from B&H Photo, with the latest prices and deals in our M2 MacBook Air 15-inch Price Guide.

Every M2 13-inch configuration, meanwhile, is on sale in our M2 MacBook Air 13-inch Price Guide, with the best discounts across the product range highlighted in our MacBook Air deals roundup.

Based in South Wales, Malcolm Owen has written about tech since 2012, and previously wrote for Electronista and MacNN. In his downtime, he pursues photography, has an interest in magic tricks, and is bothered by his c...