Apple has a diverse and rather powerful range of Mac computers, but the star of the lineup has arguably been the MacBook Air range. Introduced rather iconically when Steve Jobs pulled it out of a manila envelope in 2008, the MacBook Air has gone on to become one of Apple’s most popular Mac products — not just for its size and slimness, but also because it’s usually been the entry-level laptop in the brand’s laptop range over the years. It has also become the ideal ‘small laptop’ for most users who aren’t necessarily looking for a very powerful or expensive work machine.
In 2020, Apple introduced the first MacBook Air with its own M1 SoC, and followed up in 2022 with the redesigned version featuring the M2 processor. In both of these cases, the MacBook Air remained around the 13-inch mark for screen size, although the 2022 version did implement design changes that made it more closely resemble the more expensive MacBook Pro devices.
Skip forward to 2023, and we have the new Apple MacBook Air 15, which was launched at WWDC 2023. As the number suggests, it’s the biggest MacBook Air yet with a 15.3-inch screen, although it maintains the slim and lightweight form factor, and same battery life that the Air range has been known for. Powered by the Apple M2 SoC and with a starting price of Rs. 1,34,900 in India, this laptop may not strictly feel like a MacBook Air, but promises a big screen experience and capable performance nonetheless. Here’s my review of the new Apple MacBook Air 15 (M2, 2023).
Apple MacBook Air 15 (M2, 2023) price in India and variants
The Apple MacBook Air 15 starts at Rs. 1,34,900 in India which comes with the M2 processor (8-core CPU and 10-core GPU), 8GB of unified memory, and 256GB of SSD storage. Buyers can choose between a 35W dual USB Type-C power adapter or a 70W power adapter with a single USB Type-C port, at no extra cost. Colour options include Midnight, Starlight, Space Grey, and Silver.
The review unit sent by Apple came in the Midnight colour with 16GB of unified memory, 512GB of SSD storage, and the 35W dual USB Type-C power adapter, priced at Rs. 1,74,900 in India. You can choose to have up to 24GB of unified memory and 2TB of SSD storage — this top-end configuration is priced at Rs. 2,54,900. Keep in mind that memory and storage are not upgradeable, so choose the variant that you expect will suit your requirements even going forward.
Apple MacBook Air 15 (M2, 2023) design
With the launch of the 13-inch M2-powered MacBook Air in 2022, the range went in a different design direction, more closely resembling the current-generation MacBook Pro laptops. This involves a flatter, more slab-like form, rather than the sharp edges and gentle curves of older MacBook Air laptops. The larger size of the 15-inch MacBook Air ensures that it looks even more like the MacBook Pro than before, sitting perfectly in between the 14-inch and 16-inch variants of the Pro range.
That said, the slimness that has always been a defining cue of the Air range has been retained on the 15-inch MacBook Air; the laptop is visibly slimmer and lighter than the Pro range, and has a claimed thickness of 11.5mm. The MacBook Air 15 is about 90g lighter than the 14-inch MacBook Pro (2023), despite being a bit larger.
Apple touts this as the world’s thinnest 15-inch laptop. However, despite the undeniable slimness and lower weight, the large screen makes the laptop a bit unwieldy for a one-handed grip. While I often carried my old MacBook Air (2017) around with just one hand holding the corner with the lid open, that isn’t an easy thing to do with the MacBook Air 15.
The borders around the screen are slim like on the rest of the current-generation MacBook range, and the display notch is present, making room for the 1080p camera. Although the notch has been around for a while and isn’t new, it does take a bit of getting used to if you’re upgrading from an older MacBook or any other laptop with a regular ‘notchless’ screen. MacOS is fortunately optimised to ensure the notch doesn’t really get in the way of anything, with apps working entirely below the notch.
The Midnight colour variant is the darkest of the four colour options, and its worth noting that this is a coat of paint on top of the natural colour of the aluminium, so even regular use could eventually cause some discolouration, especially around the edges. The finish also prominently shows any dust or fingerprint smudges anywhere on its surface, and I usually kept a small cloth handy at my work desk to wipe it clean (sometimes twice a day).
Interestingly, the pixel density of the MacBook Air 15 is identical to that of the smaller 13.6-inch M2 version, with both featuring a pixel density of around 224ppi. The 15-inch laptop has a screen resolution of 2880×1864 pixels and a peak brightness rating of 500 nits, so you’re getting a legitimately larger screen with no actual drawbacks in terms of detail and sharpness.
In every other way, the 15-inch Air is visually very similar to its more affordable 13-inch variant, including the lack of ‘MacBook Air’ branding and the ‘tall’ aspect ratio of the screen which ensures plenty of room for the keyboard and trackpad. There is a six-speaker system (up from four in the 13-inch MacBook Air), positioned just ahead of the hinge. It also sports the minimalist base with just four exposed screws, and a fanless design for silent operation even under heavy load.
As with the 13-inch MacBook Air, the 15-inch version has a MagSafe charging port and two Thunderbolt/ USB 4 ports on the left side, and the 3.5mm socket for headphone connectivity on the right side. These have a maximum bandwidth of 40Gbps, and usefully also support DisplayPort and charging, so you can use a USB Type-C charger as well. This might be useful for occasional fast charging, but you can stick to the MagSafe charging cable if you prefer, which also keeps both Thunderbolt/ USB ports free for other connectivity requirements.
The power button doubles up as a Touch ID sensor, which can be used to quickly authenticate your identity and give you access to the device instead of having to punch in your password. That said, you’ll have to use the password when you boot up after shutting down or restarting the laptop. Also worth noting is that the MacBook Air 15 boots up without having to press the power button when you open the lid, so you may not have to press the button too often.
Apple MacBook Air 15 (M2, 2023) specifications and software
Although Apple introduced the M2 SoC in 2022, it remains relevant and fairly capable even now, particularly for the company’s first tier of products. Apple has often stated that its M2 SoC is a significant step ahead of the company’s older Intel-based laptops, and its claimed to be more than enough for the daily requirements of most users, including offering capabilities that occasionally even process-heavy tasks such as video editing might require.
Like the 2022 MacBook Air, the 15-inch version features the Apple M2 with the same specifications, as well as the same hardware and software-level support. This includes an 8-core CPU, 10-core GPU, 100GB/s memory bandwidth, and support for up to 24GB of unified memory and up to 2TB of storage. Other useful specifications include support for Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.3. The battery is slightly larger than on the 13-inch M2 MacBook Air, but is said to be just enough to ensure similar battery life while powering the larger screen.
On the software front, the MacBook Air 15 ships with macOS Ventura, with the device running on version 13.4.1 for much of this review. Key features of Ventura include improvements for messaging, Stage Manager, Continuity Camera to use your iPhone as a camera for your MacBook, and a generally nicer look and feel than previous macOS versions. The device will receive the update to macOS Sonoma in due course.
Apple MacBook Air 15 (M2, 2023) performance and battery life
I have been using a MacBook Air (2017) as my daily driver for a few years now. While it’s still in usable shape, it’s definitely a whole lot less capable than it was when it was new, let alone being able to match up to modern requirements. For this reason, I quite looked forward to switching to the MacBook Air 15 as my primary work machine for a few weeks for this review.
My job doesn’t necessarily require a very powerful computer; much of my workflow involves browsing the Internet (albeit with multiple browsers and tabs running at any given time), reading and writing thousands of words a day, and running a few additional apps (such as Slack and Telegram) as needed.
On occasion, I need to edit images, record voice overs, or jump onto VoIP calls — all of which the MacBook Air 15 is stated to be more than capable enough to handle. Even if your workflow is a bit more intense involving occasional video editing or data crunching, the laptop should be able to handle the load. While 8GB of unified memory might be enough for most things, you might just want to invest in 16GB or 24GB to keep yourself future-ready.
Connectivity options are fairly limited, with just the two Thunderbolt/ USB Type-C ports available. You’ll therefore need either the right adapters for different use cases (such as connecting to a projector or display), or a decent multi-port adapter to even allow for connecting older USB Type-A devices such as thumb drives and hard drives.
I’ve largely moved to a cloud-based workflow, so the connectivity limitations of the MacBook Air 15 didn’t really slow me down. The laptop fortunately managed to maintain a strong Wi-Fi connection where most of my other devices struggled, letting me work smoothly even when far away from the Wi-Fi router — a big improvement over my older MacBook Air functioning in the same conditions.
The keyboard, which is naturally a bit larger and better spread out than on 13-inch laptops, was a pleasure to type on, as was the larger trackpad to navigate and scroll with. The display was bright and good with the adaptive brightness, although there were a few occasions where it set the brightness too low and I had to manually increase it.
The six-speaker system worked well for watching videos and was quite loud when it needed to be, and also sounded quite sharp and clean for VoIP calls. The camera was good enough for most typical laptop needs such as video calls, but the ‘continuity camera’ feature on macOS Ventura can be used to improve your experience, if you have a compatible iPhone to use it with.
Although both the MacBook Air 15 and the 13-inch variant running the M2 chip are meant to be identical in terms of performance, there were slight differences in the benchmark scores. The 15-inch laptop scored slightly better on most tests, likely because my review unit had 16GB of unified memory, as compared to 8GB of memory on the 13-inch variant which we reviewed in 2022.
On more intensive tests such as encoding a five-minute ProRes 4K (422 HQ) clip shot on an iPhone 13 Pro (Review) to 4K (H.264) and full-HD (H.264), there was practically no difference between the two machines.
Casual games from Apple Arcade ran without any trouble on the MacBook Air 15. The Steam version of city-building survival game Frostpunk ran smoothly enough as well. The MacBook Air is far from the ideal laptop for gaming, but it won’t let you down if you just need to blow off steam once in a while and play some games.
|MacBook Air 15 (M2)
(10-core GPU, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD)
|MacBook Air 13 (M2)
(10-core GPU, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD)
|Blackmagic Disk Speed Test
(higher is better)
|Cinebench R23 (higher is better)|
|Multi-core||7,993 pts||8,242 pts|
|Geekbench 6 (higher is better)|
|CPU (Apple silicon)||Single-core||2,577 pts||2,422 pts|
|Multi-core||9,973 pts||8,871 pts|
|Compute||Metal||45,825 pts||45,184 pts|
|OpenCL||27,941 pts||27,822 pts|
|Browser benchmarks (higher is better)|
|WebXprt 4||242 pts||201 pts|
|Basemark Web 3.0||1,626.8 pts||1,179.2 pts|
|Jetstream 2||235.4 pts||222.8 pts|
|Final Cut Pro (lower is better)|
|ProRes 4K (422 HQ) (28.3GB file)||to 1080p (H.264)||56 sec||54 sec|
|to 4K (H.264)||3 min 1 sec||3 min 1 sec|
The battery on the MacBook Air 15 is only slightly higher in capacity than the 13-inch variant, with the difference essentially only ensuring the larger screen is powered and the overall battery life is similar to that of the smaller variant. I was sometimes able to get through an entire work day of nine hours on a single charge with a bit left, but I found that this depends on ambient temperature to a fair extent.
In an air-conditioned office, my typical workflow usually got me through the day, while this figure dropped by a fair fraction in a non-air-conditioned home environment. Once the onset of the monsoon dropped citywide temperatures in Mumbai, battery life improved a bit. In general, I could count on the MacBook Air 15 to run for at least seven hours on a single charge. Gaming and frequent use of the speakers might affect these figures a fair bit, though.
Standby battery drain is negligible, and largely unnoticeable when going from the end of the work day to the beginning of the next work day. Charging with the 35W adapter is reasonably quick, going from 10 percent to around 35 percent in half an hour and 64 percent in one hour using the included MagSafe cable. This might slow down if you have a second cable attached to the adapter and another device charging. Alternatively, you can opt for the single-port 70W charging adapter for faster charging of the MacBook Air 15.
When I first had a chance to try out the MacBook Air 15 at WWDC 2023, I was a bit confused with where exactly this laptop fit in. The Air range has always been compact, easy to handle, and convenient to slip into even a small handbag or backpack — so a device with a 15.3-inch screen doesn’t really fit these requirements.
That said, Apple’s MacBook range was missing a reasonably priced big-screen option; your only choice thus far was the 16-inch MacBook Pro, which is priced at Rs. 2,49,900 onwards and is probably too powerful for typical use cases and workflows. The MacBook Air 15 manages to fill that gap quite well, striking the right balance between size, capabilities, and price. The positioning of this laptop starts to make a lot more sense if you don’t think of it too much as an ‘Air’, but rather as the much-needed big-screen MacBook for the regular user.
Although it did feel unwieldy to carry with the lid open, the slimness and light weight will definitely be helpful in most portability scenarios. My typical workflow doesn’t require a large screen, but I did appreciate having it, particularly for the better visibility it offered with web browsers. Users who need to do work such as photo sorting and editing, working with presentations and spreadsheets, or sifting through lots of text or data will definitely like having the large screen, and the M2 SoC is enough to handle most everyday tasks.
Of course, if you don’t think you need the big screen, the MacBook Air (M2, 2022) (Review) is practically just as good in every way, much more compact, and considerably more affordable at Rs. 20,000 less than the 15-inch variant for the same specifications.