Hands-On With the MacBook Air 15-Inch – CNET

After getting some hands-on time with the new 15-inch MacBook Air, introduced at WWDC 2023, I can safely say that it feels like… a slightly bigger 13-inch MacBook Air. And to me, that’s a good thing.

I always thought a 15-inch Air was a good idea, even back when I first wrote about the concept about a decade ago. A MacBook Pro is an expensive investment, at least $2,000 today, but sometimes you just want a bigger screen, not necessarily the faster processors, extra ports or other MacBook Pro features.

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Watch this: Apple Introduces 15-Inch MacBook Air for $1,300

For me, the main reason is that I work primarily with text, and frankly a 13-inch screen is just too small for all-day, every day use. I regularly bump my Google Docs up to 125% or even 150%. Hey, when you get to my age, you’ll probably find the same thing.

It might surprise you to learn that Apple, until today, has not had a 15-inch laptop for a few years. It’s still the default laptop screen size for many Windows users, especially in office environments. But Apple killed the 15-inch MacBook Pro, leaving it without any skin in the 15-inch laptop game.

Read more: 15-Inch MacBook Air M2 Preorder: Where to Buy Apple’s Latest Laptop

The MacBook Pro currently comes in 14- and 16-inch sizes, and the current Air was previously 13-inch-only. (There was also an 11-inch Air once upon a time, as well as a 12-inch system just called “MacBook.”) But now, the MacBook lineup has 13-, 14-, 15- and 16-inch models.

The design looks and feels just like the 13-inch M2 Air I currently use almost daily. Apple calls it the world’s thinnest 15-inch laptop, although I think some LG Gram models must come close, and might weigh less. Side by side, the 15-inch Air is 0.45 inches thick and weighs 3.3 pounds. The 13-inch Air is 0.44 inches thick and weighs 2.7 pounds. 

MacBook Air 15-inch M2

<!----> <span class="c-shortcodeImage_credit g-inner-spacing-right-small g-outer-spacing-top-xsmall g-color-text-meta g-text-xxxsmall">Dan Ackerman/CNET</span>

Apple promises 18 hours of battery life and, again, based on what I know of current MacBook specs and performance, that doesn’t sound unreasonable. With the same overall design and same chip, what you gain with the larger 15-inch body is… a larger battery. If you opened up the chassis of your current MacBook Air, you’d find it’s basically a huge battery inside, with some computer components crammed in alongside it. Bigger body, bigger battery, more battery life.

The 15-inch Air is fanless, because it’s using the same M2 chip as the fanless 13-inch model, and the bigger chassis gives it even more room for passive airflow and cooling, so that doesn’t surprise me.

More from WWDC 2023

The screen is already high-res enough that moving up to 15 inches doesn’t affect sharpness. There’s a very tiny bump to the screen resolution over the 13-inch, going from 2,560×1,664 to 2,880×1,864 pixels. And carrying the system in my hand, it felt light enough that I could cart it around in my shoulder bag, although for an everyday commute I’d still probably stick with the 13-inch Air. Both come in the same starlight, midnight, space gray and silver color options. 

One of the things I liked most about the 15-inch Air is something I predicted in my WWDC preview from a few weeks ago. Since it’s the same basic design, same chip, and mostly the same features and capabilities as the 13-inch Air, there was no reason to give it a big price bump. And indeed, the 15-inch Air starts at $1,299 (£1,399, AU$2,199), which strikes me as reasonable. Especially when the 13-inch M2 Air was, until today, $1,199 — it just got a price chop on its one-year anniversary to $1,099. So the bigger screen is now a $200 add-on, which isn’t nothing, but also isn’t as bad as it could be.

This is based on my very brief hands-on time with the device at WWDC, and I look forward to getting a deeper look at the 15-inch MacBook Air in the near future.

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