Apple pinned big hopes on the 15-inch MacBook Air when it was launched in the summer of 2023.
The 15-inch laptop category was, we were told, a bit of a mess. The devices were, according to Apple, “full of trade-offs”, with performance, display resolution, and battery life all taking a hit.
The design of laptops within that category was a problem, too (again, apparently). That is, presumably, why Apple always uses something resembling a portable 1980s computer mainframe as the image depicting a Windows laptop in its presentation slides.
The 15-inch MacBook Air is undeniably pretty. Thanks to Apple silicon, it has class-leading battery life. There are no fans. If you spec it up, you end up with a laptop that is capable of far more than its chassis suggests.
But has Apple really done it with the 15-inch MacBook Air? I’ve spent the last eight months trying to work that out.
What I love about the 15-inch MacBook Air
Let’s start with the good stuff.
The size is, undeniably, its crowning glory. Apple has ‘done it’, in that respect – they’ve successfully combined the benefits of a large display with the MacBook Air’s schtick: it is stupidly light. It’s also stupidly thin and stupidly lovely to carry around – you barely know it’s there.
Somehow, this super-sized MacBook Air is still the perfect lap companion. Whereas the 16-inch MacBook Pro always felt daft perched on your legs, the 15-inch MacBook Air feels right at home. Combine that with the aforementioned screen estate, and it’s a joy to use.
I’m a big fan of the potential power this laptop has, too. Chuck 24GB of unified memory and two terabytes of storage in there, and you’ve got one hell of a Mac. Sure, you’ve also got a considerably lighter wallet (that configuration would set you back £2,599) but having seen what that spec is capable of in the M3 iMac, I can confirm that it’d be a machine that would last you a very long time indeed.
Speaking of price, if the base model suits you, I think £1,399 is a very keen starting point. I have that base model, and while performance has been troubling at times (I’ll get to that later), I remain firm on my stance that there is a big market for these base model Apple silicon machines.
Lastly, this is a MacBook Air. It hasn’t lost any of the magic that must come with that name. And that matters – trust me.
What I don’t love about the 15-inch MacBook Air
If the base model M2 chip isn’t for you, but you ignore that fact and decide against speccing up your 15-inch MacBook Air, you’ll be in for a rough ride.
I wrote about this a few weeks back: the base M2 chip does have some issues. Although I’m not the sort of person to undertake benchmark tests to prove a point, I know that it isn’t as competent as the base M1 chip. This laptop just feels different in that regard, due in no small part, I’m sure, to that larger display. Under load, the base M2 starts to show signs of strain.
Thankfully, due to how I use my 15-inch MacBook Air (it is, ostensibly, a writing device), those episodes are few and far between, but it does mean that I have no inclination whatsoever to use it in a pinch for video editing. To be clear, the base model M1 MacBook Air had no issues occasionally fulfilling that role.
At the time of writing, there is also no M3 chip option for the 15-inch MacBook Air. If you’re reading this at a time when Apple has finally updated its MacBook Air line with the latest chip, please ignore this paragraph, but as I write, it’s a glaring omission from the lineup.
Lastly – a purely aesthetic grumble. I’d like funkier colours, please. The 24-inch iMac reveals what happens when Apple lets its hair down a bit in the colour department. I want a lairy orange MacBook Air, please, Tim.
The unlikely role for my 15-inch MacBook Air
One of the most interesting things about my time with the 15-inch MacBook Air is how its role has matured.
This is all thanks to the M3 Max MacBook Pro I’m now using as my main production machine. I’ve swapped from the 16-inch to the 14-inch version of the MacBook Pro, solely for travel reasons. It has already proved its worth in that regard, but I have missed the extra screen estate.
Thankfully, I’m lucky enough to have a job where owning multiple Macs is less ostentatious and more ‘I’m doing this for my audience’. This has led to me using the 15-inch MacBook Air more than ever at home. It has become a ‘home laptop’ – something I never thought I’d have.
I feel I need to clarify what I mean by this. The 15-inch MacBook Air barely ever leaves my house. It gets used every morning for my early writing routine and then again in the evening when I should, admittedly, be chilling out. If I decide to work from home and I’m not video editing, the 15-inch MacBook Air is my default steed. The MacBook Pro travels with me everywhere, thus justifying my choice to switch from ‘the big one’, but the 15-inch MacBook Air delivers that large display in the most convenient form at all other times.
And, you know what? I love it even more because of that. This is a brilliant addition to Apple’s most endearing version of the MacBook. If you’re thinking about buying one, there’s no need to sit on that fence any longer.
Before you go
Is there a new MacBook Air coming out in 2024?
While nothing has been confirmed, Apple is expected to refresh its MacBook Air lineup with new M3 chips in 2024. We are expecting them to be announced, alongside other product updates like the Mac Mini, at WWDC 24 in June.
Is the 15-inch MacBook Air worth it?
The 15-inch MacBook Air is one of the best laptops ever released. The M2 chip means it has enough power for the average user all at a much lower price than the M2 MacBook Pro. If you want the high-quality design and power that Apple offers, but not at extortionate prices, the 15-inch MacBook Air is a no-brainer.
Is the 15-inch MacBook Air touch screen?
The 15-inch MacBook Air is not touchscreen. In fact, Apple has never made a touchscreen laptop.
How many years will a MacBook Air last?
Barring any accidents or mechanical faults, an M2 MacBook Air will remain powerful enough for at least five years depending on how you use it. Over time, laptops slow down depending on how much memory and storage is used, but even then, there is no reason why a MacBook Air wouldn’t last beyond five years. That being said, the more unified memory you can buy the better in terms of future proofing.
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