MacBook Air 15-inch vs MacBook Air 13-inch: Which laptop should you buy?

MacBook Air 15-inch vs MacBook Air 13-inch
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The MacBook Air family now has a new size to choose from: MacBook Air 15-inch. Announced during WWDC 2023, this laptop takes the excellent MacBook Air M2 and adds a larger display. So now you have to consider the MacBook Air 15-inch vs MacBook Air 13-inch before making a buying decision.

Both Macs sport a similar design and the powerful yet efficient Apple M2 chip. As stated in our MacBook Air 15-inch M2 review, this is the thinnest 15-inch laptop — and the best. It has certainly earned a spot in our best laptops and best MacBooks lists.

For that reason, deciding which MacBook Air to purchase has become a bit more challenging. Is this new laptop worth getting over its smaller counterpart? What should you get when faced with a MacBook Air 15-inch vs. MacBook Air 13-inch? Read on to find out.

MacBook Air 15-inch vs. MacBook Air 13-inch: Specs 

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Row 0 - Cell 0 MacBook Air 15-inchMacBook Air 13-inch
ColorsMidnight, Starlight, Space Gray, SilverMidnight, Starlight, Space Gray, Silver
CPU8-core CPU8-core CPU
GPU10-core GPU8-core GPU
Display15.3-inches (resolution TBA)13.6 inches (2560 x 1664)
Ports2x Thunderbolt / USB-4, 1x headphone jack, 1x MagSage port2x Thunderbolt / USB-4, 1x headphone jack, 1x MagSage port
Charging35W USB-C30W USB-C
Size13.4 x 9.35 x 0.45 inches11.97 x 8.46 x 0.44 inches
Weight3.3 pounds2.7 pounds

MacBook Air 15-inch vs. MacBook Air 13-inch: Price 

You can pre-order the MacBook Air 15-inch right now for $1,299 from the Apple store. That's $200 more than the entry-level 13-inch in MacBook Air M2, which costs $1,099 — a price that’s now lower than the original $1,199.

That makes the MacBook Air 13-inch the more affordable option. But in all fairness, the 15-inch Air’s $1,299 is a fairly good deal. Some analysts predicted it might have cost more. Still, if you’re on a budget and don’t need a 15-inch laptop, the 13-inch MacBook Air is your best bet.

MacBook Air 15-inch vs. MacBook Air 13-inch: Design 

2023 MacBook Air 15-inch M2 shown open on a surface

The new MacBook Air 15-inch (on the left) is a bigger version of the 13-inch (on the right). (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The MacBook Air 15-inch has the same basic design as the 13-inch MacBook Air — which itself shares a similar design introduced with the 2021 MacBook Pro 14-inch and MacBook Pro 16-inch.

The new MacBook Air 15-inch is 0.45 inches thin, which makes it the world's thinnest 15-inch laptop. The notebook is only 3.3 pounds, which is heavier than the 2.7-inch MacBook Air M2 but still very light. Apple also says the new MacBook Air is nearly 40% thinner and half a pound lighter than a comparable PC laptop.

2023 MacBook Air 15-inch M2 shown open on a surface

The 15-inch MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Air side by side. (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Like the 13-inch MacBook Air M2, the 15-inch MacBook Air features MagSafe charging, two Thunderbolt 4 ports and a 3.5mm headphone jack. The Thunderbolt ports allow you to connect up to a 6K external display.

The 15-inch MacBook Air comes in four finishes — Midnight, Starlight, Space Gray, and Silver. These are the same color options offered for the 13-inch model.

Since both MacBook Air models offer the same design, it all comes down to size. The 15-inch MacBook Air is ideal for those who want a larger display and a roomier keyboard. Conversely, if you require a smaller laptop that weighs less, then the 13-inch Air is the better option.

MacBook Air 15-inch vs. MacBook Air 13-inch: Display and audio

2023 MacBook Air 15-inch M2 shown open on a surface

The 15-inch MacBook Air features a 15.3-inch Liquid Retina display. (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

When we pointed our colorimeter at the MacBook Air 15-inch M2's screen during our lab tests, we found it produces 111.4% of the sRGB color spectrum and 78.9% of the more demanding DCI-P3 color gamut (100% is most accurate for both). That’s close to the 13-inch MacBook Air M2 (110.9% / 78.6%, respectively).

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Header Cell - Column 0 MacBook Air 15-inchMacBook 13-inchDell XPS 15 OLED (2023)
Nits (brightness)473489371

The 15-inch MacBook Air’s panel gets fairly bright. When viewing HDR content, the laptop got as high as 479 nits of brightness when displaying HDR content on 10% of the display and 480 nits for 100% of the screen. With regard to non-HDR brightness, the panel averaged 473 nits of brightness. These values are a smidge lower than the 13-inch model, which was just one point shy of reaching 500 nits of HDR brightness

MacBook Air 2022 display

The MacBook Air M2 (pictured above) features a stunning 13.3-inch Liquid Retina display. (Image credit: Future)

One of the most notable upgrades the new 15-inch laptop has over its 13-inch counterpart is its 6-speaker sound system. The latter’s 4-speaker sound system was pretty good, but the new laptop’s speakers blow it away. Sound-wise, this laptop is almost on par with the latest MacBook Pros — which also feature a 6-speaker sound system.

MacBook Air 15-inch vs. MacBook Air 13-inch: Performance 

Thanks to its powerful Apple M2 processor, the MacBook Air 15-inch can handle almost anything you throw at it.

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Geekbench results
Single-core scoreMulti-core score
MacBook Air 15-inch1,9088,932
MacBook Air 13-inch1,9118,965

On Geekbench 5, which measures overall CPU performance, the MacBook Air 15-inch notched a single-core score of 1,908 and 8,932 on the multi-core test. These results are almost identical to the 13-inch MacBook Air (1,911 / 8,965) we tested with an M2 chip featuring the same core count.

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Handbrake (Video transcoding)
Row 0 - Cell 0 Time (min:sec)
MacBook Air 15-inch7:36
MacBook Air 13-inch7:52

When we timed how long it took to transcode video using the Handbrake app, the M2-powered MacBook Air 15-inch transcoded a 6.5GB 4K video to 1080p in 7 minutes and 36 seconds. That’s a bit faster than the MacBook Air 13-inch (7:52).

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Photoshop test
Header Cell - Column 0 ScoreTime (min:sec)
MacBook Air 15-inch8665:04
MacBook Air 13-inch7065:36

Over on the PugetBench PhotoShop test, which assigns a score based on how effectively a system uses scripts to apply a series of filters and other adjustments to a number of high-res photographs, the MacBook Air 15-inch scored 866. This test also times how long each system takes, and the new laptop took 5:04. In comparison, the 13-inch MacBook Air scored 706 and took 5:36.

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Premiere Pro results
Header Cell - Column 0 Score
MacBook Air 15-inch326
MacBook Air 13-inch452

On the PugetBench Premiere Pro test, which involves taking a 4K clip and applying a Lumetri Color effect and adding 12 clips across four tracks in a multi-camera sequence, the MacBook Air 15-inch achieved a score of 326. Interestingly enough, both the 13-inch MacBook Air (452) and MacBook Pro 13-inch M2 (552) scored better in this test.

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BlackMagic SSD test (in MBps)
Row 0 - Cell 0 Score
MacBook Air 15-inch2,793 / 3,145
MacBook Air 13-inch2,800 / 2,210

Lastly, we ran the Blackmagic disk speed test to measure the 15-inch MacBook Air’s SSD performance. It achieved a 2,793 MBps read speed and 3,145 MBps write speed. Those speeds put it above the MacBook Air 13-inch (2,800 / 2,210).

MacBook Air 15-inch vs. MacBook Air 13-inch: Battery life

Apple boasted that the 15-inch MacBook Air has up to 18 hours of battery life. While the laptop didn’t last that long in our testing, it’s still one of the longest-lasting laptops you’ll come across.

On the Tom’s Guide battery rest, which involves continuous web surfing at 150 nits of screen brightness, the new 15-inch Air averaged 14 hours and 59 minutes. That's excellent for a laptop this size and better than the 13-inch Air, which averaged 14 hours and 6 minutes.

MacBook Air 15-inch vs. MacBook Air 13-inch: Bottom line 

Both MacBook Airs offer excellent performance for most people. They're also some of the thinnest and lightest laptops on the market. Choosing between them is tough, but there are some factors to consider.

If you're on a tight budget or don't want/need a 15-inch display, the MacBook Air 13-inch is the way to go. Conversely, if you desire a larger display and better speakers, then the 15-inch MacBook Air could be right for you.

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Tony Polanco
Computing Writer

Tony is a computing writer at Tom’s Guide covering laptops, tablets, Windows, and iOS. During his off-hours, Tony enjoys reading comic books, playing video games, reading speculative fiction novels, and spending too much time on X/Twitter. His non-nerdy pursuits involve attending Hard Rock/Heavy Metal concerts and going to NYC bars with friends and colleagues. His work has appeared in publications such as Laptop Mag, PC Mag, and various independent gaming sites.