MacBook Air 15-inch: 3 reasons to buy and 2 reasons to skip

MacBook Air 15-inch
(Image credit: Apple)

The MacBook Air 15-inch provides a great combination of performance, display quality, portability and battery life. While it’s effectively just a larger version of the MacBook Air M2 released last year, it has found its way onto our best laptops and best MacBook lists because of what it offers.

As we said in our MacBook Air 15-inch M2 review, this is arguably the best 15-inch laptop for the money. However, despite the 15-inch MacBook Air’s virtues, it might not be the system you should buy. Below, I’ll detail reasons to buy and reasons to skip Apple's latest laptop based on our testing. Is this the right laptop for you? Read on to find out.

MacBook Air 15-inch: Reasons to buy

Larger display 

Naturally, the new MacBook Air’s 15-inch display is its main selling point. This laptop’s screen gives you additional space for work, movies and playing games. And like its 13-inch counterpart, the 15-inch MacBook Air’s overall display quality is top-notch.

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

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

The 15.3-inch Liquid Retina display delivers bright and colorful images at a sharp native 2,880 x 1,864 resolution. The videos I watched, such as the trailer for Jackie Chan’s Hidden Strike, were bright and colorful. The post-apocalyptic setting, with its ruined buildings, cracked roads and rusted vehicles, looked great — as did the fast-moving action. The larger screen allowed me to see all these elements better than on a 13-inch screen.

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

Our lab tests corroborate my experience. As you can see in the table above, the MacBook Air 15-inch’s display is not only bright, but it also delivers excellent color accuracy. Sure, its display quality isn’t much different than the 13-inch model, but that’s not bad considering that smaller laptop still has one of the best displays for the money out there.

More affordable than MacBook Pros

Previously, if you found the MacBook Air’s 13-inch display too small, your only alternative was the MacBook Pro 14-inch or MacBook Pro 16-inch. The main issue is that those laptops start at $1,999 and $2,499 (respectively). Spending hundreds of dollars for an extra inch or two of screen real estate might be hard to justify. That’s where the 15-inch MacBook Air comes in.

Starting at $1,299, the MacBook Air 15-inch is ideal for those who want a larger screen for work and play. You get a larger canvas for viewing videos and more room to keep extra tabs — but for far less money than the MacBook Pros.

Long battery life

Apple says the MacBook Air 15-inch can last up to 18 hours. While the laptop fell short of hitting that lofty number, it’s still one of the longest-lasting laptops we’ve tested.

Battery life results

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Time (hours:mins)
MacBook Air 15-inch14:59
MacBook Air 13-inch M2 14:06
MacBook Pro 13-inch M2 18:20

On the Tom's Guide battery test, which involves continuous web surfing at 150 nits of screen brightness, the MacBook Air 15-inch lasted for an excellent 14 hours and 59 minutes. That’s not as long as either the MacBook Pro 13-inch M2 (18:20) or MacBook Pro 16-inch 2023 (18:56), but I doubt few people will complain about the 15-inch MacBook Air’s 15-hour battery life. And considering this is a larger laptop, the fact it lasts longer than the 13-inch MacBook Air (14:06) is impressive.

MacBook Air 15-inch: Reasons to skip

Nominal performance gains over 13-inch 

Like the 13-inch version, the MacBook Air 15-inch features an M2 chip. Because of that, its performance is similar to its smaller sibling.

Geekbench 5

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

As you can see above, the laptops scored similarly on the Geekbench 5 CPU test. However, the 15-inch model did better in our pair of Photoshop tests as you'll see below.

Photoshop test

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Header Cell - Column 0 ScoreTime (min:sec)
MacBook Air 15-inch8665:04
MacBook Air 13-inch7065:36
MacBook Pro 13-inch M28174:54

Premire Pro results

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Header Cell - Column 0 Score
MacBook Air 15-inch326
MacBook Air 13-inch452
MacBook Pro 13-inch M2552

But if you’re not a photo or video editor, that might not be important to you. Overall, the MacBook Air 15-inch doesn’t offer substantial performance gains over the 13-inch model.

Only supports one external monitor

If you wanted to connect the MacBook Air 15-inch to more than one external monitor, we have some bad news. Like the 13-inch model, you can only connect to one external monitor with up to 6K resolution at 60Hz.

Considering how the MacBook Air 13-inch only supports one external monitor, I’m not surprised the 15-inch model didn’t add support for more. As we've said, they're basically the same laptop, just at different sizes. Still, it would have been nice if the larger laptop supported at least one more.

One more thing

Slower SSD on entry-level model

We tested a MacBook Air 15-inch with a 512GB SSD drive and found that it delivered excellent read/write speeds. Unfortunately, it seems we can't say the same for the 256GB model.

Read/write results

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Header Cell - Column 0 Write (MBps)Read (MBps)
Macbook Air 15-inch (512GB)3,1452,793
MacBook Air 15-inch (256GB)1,4661,463

As discovered by YouTuber MaxTech (thanks iMore), the entry-level MacBook Air 15-inch has  slower storage. The $1,299 15-inch Air's SSD has a single NAND chipset, while the more expensive models all get storage drives that use two NAND chips, which boosts read/write performance. You can see the difference in the chart above.

If you plan to get the entry-level MacBook Air 15, be aware that the SSD isn't as fast as on the more expensive models.

Should you buy it the MacBook Air 15-inch?

The MacBook Air 15-inch M2 isn’t breaking new ground but it’s arguably the best Apple laptop for most people. It features solid performance for everyday computing and a vivid 15-inch display that’s ideal for browsing the web, working and watching videos — all in a thin and light chassis. Starting at $1,299, it’s a great value for what you get.

Though great, the new Air isn’t all that different from the 13-inch MacBook Air; containing most of its strengths and weakness. If you already own that notebook and don’t need a larger display, then you don’t have to upgrade. With that said the MacBook Air’s negatives aren’t detrimental. If you’re in the market for a new 15-inch laptop and aren’t married to the Windows 11 platform, the MacBook Air 15-inch comes is a laptop worth considering.

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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.

  • winnebagocountynews
    I have a 15" MacBook Air, 16GB RAM, 512 SSD. I have used, sold, supported and serviced Macs since 1992. 1) Sometimes it feels faster than other Macs and PCs I use, sometimes done speed tests. 2) I'm not a fan of the screen, despite Its brightness and resolution, there's something about it seems less sharp than my 2015 MBPro and work Lenovo. 3) The keypad and trackpad are better than any PC equivalent, but I prefer the response and feel of 2012 and 2015 MBPros (which are different from each other.) 4) I also use a 2017 MB Air, this new larger Air is an improvement over that. 5) I appreciate the metal case, and that it is supposed to be an "air", light that is, but it is too light and fragile for me. I need a beefier feel, something stronger. I'm always on the move and I feel I have to baby this computer. 6) FABULOUS battery life. I mean rock solid. Wow, long, all day battery life. 7) As far as the reviewer's claim that this is probably the best Mac laptop for most Mac users, that is probably true, especially for someone coming from a PC. I do not like where Apple is going with the MacOS though. I don't need a clock greeting me on my login screen. We all have smartphones, a digital or analog watch, and heck some buildings still have clocks. I do need clear sign in options for my users, now the login is buried at the bottom of the screen. And the left hand Control Panel/System Settings choices are a real pain, scroll, scroll, scroll until you find what you need. Apple has made Apps easier to find with LaunchPad and widgets too now, why not make a Control/System Settings Pad with access to controls like LaunchPad (similar to old school Control Panel/System Settings, but modeled after Launch Pad.