Hands-On: Apple's 15-inch MacBook Air Sure Feels Familiar

WWDC MacBook Air 15
(Image credit: Apple)

The MacBook Air is getting bigger. At its 2023 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple announced a 15-inch model, which is the largest screen ever on one of the most popular laptop lines. It will start at $1,299 for consumers, or $1,199 for education customers. It will be available next week.

Apple is powering the new model with its M2 chip (8-core CPU, 10-core GPU), the same one found in the 13-inch MacBook Air released last year.

But the new model's 15.3-inch screen, besides being larger than the 13.6-inch screen on the existing laptop, still uses LCD technology (it's rated at 500 nits). It has a lower resolution than the 14-inch MacBook Pro, at 2880 x 1864. Much of the design is similar to the 13-inch Air, including its two Thunderbolt 4 ports over USB Type-C, MagSafe 3 magnetic charging, and flat edges. If you want more ports, you'll have to consider the MacBook Pro.

The 15-inch Air also gets the same 1080p webcam in a notch at the top of the display. It's 3.3 pounds, 11.5 mm thick and will come in midnight, starlight, silver and space gray, just like the 13-incher. It also has six speakers, and Apple is promising 18 hours of battery life from the 11.5mm-thick laptop.

In my brief hands-on time with the new MacBook Air, it felt very similar to the 13-inch one. It was too loud to test the speakers, but indeed, the screen is bigger. The port placement is the same, the keyboard is the same, but the chassis is bigger. If you like a big screen but want something thinner. The screen appeared of similar quality to the 13-inch model, but we'll have to see in longer-term testing how that plays out.

Apple claims the new Air twice as fast as Windows 15-inchers, though that's not a very specific comparison.

The new 15-inch MacBook Air will ship with macOS Ventura, but it will be compatible with macOS Sonoma, coming this fall.

At one point, Apple had a smaller MacBook Air, with an 11.6-inch version that was introduced in 2010 and sold through 2016. With the 15-inch Air, Apple now has MacBooks in 13, 14, 15, and 16-inch sizes (13 and 15-inch Airs, and 13, 14 and 16-inch Pros).

The 13-inch MacBook Air is taking a price cut to $1,099, while the M1 option is staying at $999.

Updated: June 5, 4:13 PT with hands-on thoughts.

Andrew E. Freedman is a senior editor at Tom's Hardware focusing on laptops, desktops and gaming. He also keeps up with the latest news. A lover of all things gaming and tech, his previous work has shown up in Tom's Guide, Laptop Mag, Kotaku, PCMag and Complex, among others. Follow him on Threads @FreedmanAE and Mastodon @FreedmanAE.mastodon.social.

  • oofdragon
    No OLED, no tnks
    The thing about this computer that I find most interesting is the absence of fans. PC fan noise is unbearable. If you try to do anything that is intensive on a PC laptop .. you get fan noise .. and lots of it. There is no such thing as quiet PC laptop under a heavy load. It simply doesn't exist.

    The MacBook Air will never .. ever .. under any circumstance .. annoy you with a fan. There are no fans to make any noise. I ordered one just to have that singular feature. To have a computer that I can use anywhere .. at any time .. and never have fan noise.

    Well ... that and 18 hours of battery life.. Something else that no PC laptop can do. PC Laptop manufacturers lie .. yes they f***ing lie .. about their battery life. They all suck at that too.