Hands on with Apple's new 15-inch MacBook Air at WWDC

Posted:
in General Discussion edited June 2023

Apple unveiled the long-rumored 15-inch MacBook Air at WWDC and I was on hand at Apple Park to take the new portable laptop for a spin.

Editing on the 15-inch MacBook Air
Editing on the 15-inch MacBook Air



The larger MacBook Air doesn't look dissimilar from the existing MacBook Air. Just, you know, larger.

The screen size has grown from 13.6 inches to a more substantial 15.3 in the new model. Apple scaled the resolution proportionally, going from 2560 by 1664 on the 13-inch to 2880 by 1864 on the 15-inch.



With the increased resolution, Apple kept the same pixel density of 224 pixels per inch. Since the screen is bigger, I felt more comfortable sitting slightly further away while typing on, which made the screen look even better than on the 13-inch.

15-inch MacBook Air display
15-inch MacBook Air display



Apple touts the same specs on the screen like 500 nits of brightness and support for the P3 wide color gamut. What mattered though was how great the screen looked while using it.

Sure enough, Apple had lots of vivid photography and sample video loaded up on the MacBook Air I could peruse which made the display absolutely pop.



There was lots of sun in Steve Jobs Theater as you can see in some of the photos which did make the screen hard to see at certain angles. Like the 13-inch, the 500 nits of brightness will be tough in exceptionally bright outdoor environments.

Unsurprisingly, the 15-inch MacBook Air is larger and slightly heavier than its smaller bretherin. It measures .45 inches tall compared to .44 inches on the existing model.

Holding the new 15-inch MacBook Air
Holding the new 15-inch MacBook Air



When you hold it in your hand, you can't discern this at all. Matter of fact, because it is wider, it decieves you into thinking it feels thinner.

There wasn't much of a change in weight, only increasing half a pound from 2.7 to 3.3 pounds. I'd have no problem sliding this into my backpack over a pro, especially the comparatively-sized 16-inch MacBook Pro.

Side view of the new MacBook Air
Side view of the new MacBook Air



Interally, Apple expanded the audio system. Instead of a four-speaker array, there are now six speakers with force-cancelling woofers.

Steve Jobs Theather is a bit acoustically challenged for testing the Spatial Audio, but they did sound impressive for their size. Notably, Apple still didn't add the tiny perforations alongside the keyboard like they do with the 16-inch MacBook Pro.

Audio still escapes from behind the keyboard. It's effective and I'd say sounds better than what comes out of the 13-inch MacBook Air. I'll do more testing once I have them both in the studio.

The rest of the machines are the same. They each sport Bluetooth 5.3 and Wi-Fi 6 -- sorry, no Wi-Fi 6e here like Apple;s other recent products.

15-inch MacBook Air ports
15-inch MacBook Air ports



There are two Thunderbolt ports and a MagSafe 3 port on the left side and a 3.5mm headphone jack on the right. It has a 1080P FaceTime camera and is entirely fanless for silent operation.

Powering the new ultra-thin notebook is Apple's M2 chip. It comes with an 8-core CPU, 10-core GPU, 8GB of memory, and 256GB of storage.



Of note, the 13-inch only starts with an 8-core GPU. You have to pay for the 10-core version that the 15-inch comes with standard.

Editing in Final Cut Pro
Editing in Final Cut Pro



I edited some light video, moved around split-screen applications, and everything felt fluid and smooth with the M2. THis is no surprise as the chip has been a beast on the other machines we've tested it on.

I also didn't notice the laptop getting hot. It seems the larger design has helped Apple with the thermals to keep the temperatures low.

Finally, Apple keeps the same 18-hour battery life as the 13-inch.

Back of the new 15-inch MacBook Air in silver
Back of the new 15-inch MacBook Air in silver



Available in Midnight, Starlight, Space Gray, and silver, the new 15-inch MacBook Air is a great looking machine. It operates quick, feels incredibly portable, and has a screen that is perfectly-sized for being productive on the go.

AppleInsider will have a full review the week of June 12.

Where to buy Apple's MacBook Air



The M2 MacBook Air 15-inch can be ordered now at BHPhotoVideo.com, Adorama.com, and at Amazon, with the latest prices and deals at your fingertips 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.

Read on AppleInsider

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 28
    Alex1NAlex1N Posts: 144member
    Can’t wait to have a look at it in the flesh, and to read your upcoming review.
    williamlondonAlex_Vwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 28
    SkepticalSkeptical Posts: 183member
    Let me guess. It’s faster, with a bigger screen. 
    williamlondoncanukstorm
  • Reply 3 of 28
    thedbathedba Posts: 771member
    I definitely see the logic in releasing a larger Mac Book Air. 
    Having more screen real estate is a definite plus for many people albeit at slight portability penalty.
    A very good product for the masses, that is until we one day get a more affordable Vision Pro and then we could work on virtual 80" screens.  
    williamlondonAlex1NAlex_Vwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 28
    sflagelsflagel Posts: 830member
    Prior to the launch, the forums were full of people saying they'd buy one on Day One. And it is less expensive than many anticipated, including me. Still, it is widely available, clearly no production issues.

    I expect this to be the best MacBook for most buyers, unless you're a Pro graphics/audio/video editor.
    jas99JFC_PAwilliamlondonAlex1NanantksundaramAlex_Vwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 28
    ljbyrneljbyrne Posts: 17member
    In the AppleInsider app, the story has a headline picture of black PC notebook. In the story are pictures of the MacBook Air. I’m a little confused of why someone would use that picture. Hopefully they change it. 
    williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 28
    XedXed Posts: 2,704member
    ljbyrne said:
    In the AppleInsider app, the story has a headline picture of black PC notebook. In the story are pictures of the MacBook Air. I’m a little confused of why someone would use that picture. Hopefully they change it. 
    Can you post a screenshot? All I see are MacBook Air photos.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 28
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 3,429member
    I love the idea of getting a larger screen without having to pay 'Pro' prices. I would have bought this had it been available when I bought my 13" MBA M2. 

    Now I'd like them to release a 13" iPad Air. 
    ravnorodomjas99canukstormAlex1NAlex_Vhcrefugeewatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 28
    DarkMouzeDarkMouze Posts: 37member
    Any chance there’ll be a head-to-head against the 14” MacBook Pro?
    Alex1Ndewmehcrefugeewatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 28
    Nice review. However, “bretherin” isn’t a word. You meant “brethren.” Spellcheckers too often feed us something contextually wrong, so I’ve considered turning them all off, but clearly there are risks to doing that. 
    d_2williamlondonAlex1NAlex_Vwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 28
    charlesncharlesn Posts: 942member
    Skeptical said:
    Let me guess. It’s faster, with a bigger screen. 
    That would be an incorrect guess! Bigger screen yes, but speed should be on par with the MBA 13" from last year, UNLESS... if you recall, the new MBA 13" introduced us to SSD-gate. Instead of the base model SSD getting a 2x128 configuration as with the wedge M1 model, Apple switched to 1x256... which, if you pushed the machine to do what no base model of the MBA would be purchased to do, did not perform as well as the wedge M1. But if you ordered 512GB of storage or more, you still got the 2x configuration. In the latest MBPs however, Apple switched to a 1x512 configuration for those ordering that size SSD. Only 1TB and above gets the 2x configuration. So I wonder if that will be the story with the new MBA 15" -- the 256 and 512 storage tiers will get a single chip, in which case the MBA 13" 512GB might outperform the 15" model on certain tasks. 
    Alex1NAlex_Vwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 28
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 15,406moderator
    DarkMouze said:
    Any chance there’ll be a head-to-head against the 14” MacBook Pro?
    It would be much the same as this 13" M2 Air vs 14" M1 Pro:



    The 14" MBP is faster, has a better quality display, supports 2 external displays, has an extra USB port and HDMI.
    The 15" M2 Air will be roughly the same weight but price is significantly lower.

    If people need the pro features, they'd get the pro model, if they just need a very capable 15" laptop, the M2 Air will be ideal.

    The 15" Air is going to be the perfect laptop for so many people because it's not held back by Intel's terrible GPUs. 3TFLOPs GPU is great performance for most everyday tasks and will suffice for AI generated content. M3 will jump another 50% and will make the 15" Air match the M1 Pro performance next year (or maybe later this year).
    Alex1Nwatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 28
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 3,212member
    N.B. Apple has silently updated the 13" M2 MacBook Air to Bluetooth 5.3. When first introduced with the M2 processor, the Air supported Bluetooth 5.0.
    Alex1Ndewmewatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 28
    SkepticalSkeptical Posts: 183member
    charlesn said:
    Skeptical said:
    Let me guess. It’s faster, with a bigger screen. 
    That would be an incorrect guess! Bigger screen yes, but speed should be on par with the MBA 13" from last year, UNLESS... if you recall, the new MBA 13" introduced us to SSD-gate. Instead of the base model SSD getting a 2x128 configuration as with the wedge M1 model, Apple switched to 1x256... which, if you pushed the machine to do what no base model of the MBA would be purchased to do, did not perform as well as the wedge M1. But if you ordered 512GB of storage or more, you still got the 2x configuration. In the latest MBPs however, Apple switched to a 1x512 configuration for those ordering that size SSD. Only 1TB and above gets the 2x configuration. So I wonder if that will be the story with the new MBA 15" -- the 256 and 512 storage tiers will get a single chip, in which case the MBA 13" 512GB might outperform the 15" model on certain tasks. 
    I don’t care….
    williamlondon
  • Reply 14 of 28
    Alex1NAlex1N Posts: 144member
    charlesn said:
    Skeptical said:
    Let me guess. It’s faster, with a bigger screen. 
    That would be an incorrect guess! Bigger screen yes, but speed should be on par with the MBA 13" from last year, UNLESS... if you recall, the new MBA 13" introduced us to SSD-gate. Instead of the base model SSD getting a 2x128 configuration as with the wedge M1 model, Apple switched to 1x256... which, if you pushed the machine to do what no base model of the MBA would be purchased to do, did not perform as well as the wedge M1. But if you ordered 512GB of storage or more, you still got the 2x configuration. In the latest MBPs however, Apple switched to a 1x512 configuration for those ordering that size SSD. Only 1TB and above gets the 2x configuration. So I wonder if that will be the story with the new MBA 15" -- the 256 and 512 storage tiers will get a single chip, in which case the MBA 13" 512GB might outperform the 15" model on certain tasks. 
    The SSD bottleneck mentioned is one big reason that I’m keen to see the review. Although I’m also assuming that 1TB will be ok - if not, there’s going to be a Great Squawking and Clucking here at chez Alex.
    williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 28
    rezwitsrezwits Posts: 891member
    I get tired of seeing posts like this: "We tried Final Cut Pro and..."

    It's like to me this is a Student laptop, or laptop for people who need something for Starbucks.  I mean don't get me wrong that is such an A$$hºl3 thing to say, but Final Cut Pro? Why oh why...

    It's literally an iWorks laptop (Office), email/calendar, Safari (Chromebook)!  Lightweight work anybody?

    But every time it's like we've got this tiny small laptop and "Here's how FCP did on it". WHO CARES!?!

    Like someone before me posted, "If someone wants to do FCP, (especially REAL FCP), they're gonna get a Pro Line machine, yeesh...  I mean come on we all know it's gonna run FCP, but are you really wanting this thing to spectacularly perform?

    Laters...
    williamlondonAlex1N
  • Reply 16 of 28
    drhamaddrhamad Posts: 34member
    Skeptical said:
    Let me guess. It’s faster, with a bigger screen. 
    And still only supports one external monitor for no apparent reason.
    williamlondon
  • Reply 17 of 28
    riverkoriverko Posts: 234member
    charlesn said:
    Skeptical said:
    Let me guess. It’s faster, with a bigger screen. 
    That would be an incorrect guess! Bigger screen yes, but speed should be on par with the MBA 13" from last year, UNLESS... if you recall, the new MBA 13" introduced us to SSD-gate. Instead of the base model SSD getting a 2x128 configuration as with the wedge M1 model, Apple switched to 1x256... which, if you pushed the machine to do what no base model of the MBA would be purchased to do, did not perform as well as the wedge M1. But if you ordered 512GB of storage or more, you still got the 2x configuration. In the latest MBPs however, Apple switched to a 1x512 configuration for those ordering that size SSD. Only 1TB and above gets the 2x configuration. So I wonder if that will be the story with the new MBA 15" -- the 256 and 512 storage tiers will get a single chip, in which case the MBA 13" 512GB might outperform the 15" model on certain tasks. 
    It may be faster under heavier load - more space can help to keep it cooler… so less throttling…
  • Reply 18 of 28
    michelb76michelb76 Posts: 659member
    I have a 15" MBP 2018, and I think I'll buy this 15" Air. Don't really need an MBP anymore, given that the M2 is fast enough for most workloads.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 28
    thedbathedba Posts: 771member
    rezwits said:
    I get tired of seeing posts like this: "We tried Final Cut Pro and..."

    It's like to me this is a Student laptop, or laptop for people who need something for Starbucks.  I mean don't get me wrong that is such an A$$hºl3 thing to say, but Final Cut Pro? Why oh why...

    It's literally an iWorks laptop (Office), email/calendar, Safari (Chromebook)!  Lightweight work anybody?

    But every time it's like we've got this tiny small laptop and "Here's how FCP did on it". WHO CARES!?!

    Like someone before me posted, "If someone wants to do FCP, (especially REAL FCP), they're gonna get a Pro Line machine, yeesh...  I mean come on we all know it's gonna run FCP, but are you really wanting this thing to spectacularly perform?

    Laters...
    A few short years ago, running FCP on MacBook Air would be an unthinkable proposition. 
    Ever since the introduction of the M-Series chips, this is a possibility and reviewers now want to put these machines through the ringer to see what is possible, on battery power alone. 

    IMO the biggest feature of these machines is the one thing you don’t hear……FAN NOISE. 
    williamlondonAlex1Nrezwitswatto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 28
    eriamjheriamjh Posts: 1,686member
    I've noticed the odd 24GB ram maximum and the image on Apple's site for the M2 shows TWO RAM chips for the new Air and 100GB/s memory bandwidth.  
    Since it comes with 8, 16, or 24GB, then they must be mixing and 8 and a 16 to get 24GB.

    However, when I saw the new Mac Pro "only" supports 192GB, thats 48GBx4 or 12GBx8 (could not find a pic showing the number of RAM ICs for the M2 Ultra) and 800GB/s memory bandwidth.

    What's up with the odd sizes?  

    100GB/s vs. 800GB/s implies 8x the ICs as the M2, but I doubt the Ultra has sixteen ICs compared to two with the M2.  If the M2 is mixing RAM sizes, would they do that with the Ultra?  

    I won't even get into the non-power of 2 number of cores.
    williamlondonAlex1Nwatto_cobra
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