Apple MacBook Air 15-inch review: The best 15-inch laptop you can buy

Bigger is better

MacBook Air 15-inch M2
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Tom's Guide)

Tom's Guide Verdict

The new MacBook Air 15-inch M2 is a super-sized version of the 13-inch model, featuring stellar performance, epic battery life and a gorgeous display in a sleek, elegant chassis. It's arguably the best 15-inch laptop for the money.

Pros

  • +

    Bright and vivid 15-inch display

  • +

    Sleek, elegant design

  • +

    Extremely portable

  • +

    Blazing-fast performance

  • +

    Better speakers than 13-inch

Cons

  • -

    Skimpy port selection

  • -

    Supports just one external monitor

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The MacBook Air 15-inch M2 (starting at $1,299) might be a bigger version of the 13-inch MacBook Air M2 released last year but it’s arguably the best 15-inch laptop for the money.

Like its smaller sibling, the MacBook Air 15-inch packs the powerful Apple M2 chip, a gorgeous Liquid Retina display and the sleek design introduced with the MacBook Pro line in 2021. Though it’s not as powerful as those Pro laptops, the 15-inch MacBook Air packs enough punch for most people. Despite its larger size, this is still one of the lightest and thinnest laptops out there. It also has excellent battery life, a hallmark of Apple silicon.

The MacBook Air 15-inch M2 offers a near perfect mix of performance, display quality, portability and battery life. It earns its spot on our best MacBooks and best laptops lists. In this review, I’ll detail why this is one of the best Apple laptops yet.

MacBook Air 15-inch M2 review: Specs

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Row 0 - Cell 0 MacBook Air 15-inch (starting)
Price$1,299
ColorsMidnight, Starlight, Space Gray, Silver
CPU8-core CPU
GPU10-core GPU
Display15.3 inches (2880 x 1864)
Memory8GB
Storage256GB
Ports2x Thunderbolt / USB-4, 1x MagSafe, 1x headphone jack
Webcam1080p
Charging35W MagSafe; 70W USB-C
Size13.40 x 9.53 x 0.45 inches
Weight3.3 pounds

MacBook Air 15-inch M2 review: Price & availability

  • Starts at $1,299
  • Upgradeable RAM and storage

The MacBook Air 15-inch M2 has a starting price of $1,299 at Apple’s online store. This is $100 more than last year’s 13-inch MacBook Air M2 cost when it launched. That smaller model now goes for an even cheaper $1,099. Like that version, the new 15-inch Air comes in four colors: Midnight, Starlight, Silver, and Space Gray.

This entry-level configuration comes with an Apple M2 chip featuring an 8-core CPU and 10-core GPU, 8GB of Unified Memory (RAM) and 256GB of SSD storage. If you need more memory and space, you can upgrade up to 24GB of RAM and up to 2TB of SSD of storage — though that’ll bump the price up to $2,499. All configurations feature the same M2 chip with an 8-core CPU and 10-Core GPU.

The review unit Apple sent us has 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage, which is priced at $1,699.

MacBook Air 15-inch M2 review: Design

  • Same design as 13-inch model
  • Thin and lightweight

Not to belabor the point, but the MacBook Air 15-inch really is a bigger version of the 13-inch MacBook Air. Like its smaller sibling, this super-sized notebook features a flat, uniform chassis with flat edges. Considering I’m a fan of that design language, I'm glad Apple didn’t try to reinvent it with this larger laptop.

MacBook Air 15-inch M2

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Despite its larger size and additional weight, this is still one of the thinnest and lightest laptops — measuring 13.4 x 9.3 x 0.45 inches and weighing 3.3 pounds. Apple says this is the thinnest 15-inch laptop out there, and we’re inclined to believe that claim. For example, the Samsung Galaxy Book 3 Pro 360 and Dell XPS 15 OLED (2023) are 0.5 and 0.7 inches thick, respectively.

At 3.3 pounds, the new Air is heavier than the 2.7-pound 13-inch model. That said, I had no problems carrying the laptop with one hand. I chalk that up to the excellent weight distribution. And unlike the bulky MacBook Pro 16-inch 2023, I could almost forget I had the new Air in my backpack when I traveled with it. The lightweight 15-inch MacBook Air still earns its “Air” moniker.

MacBook Air 15-inch M2

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The machined aluminum chassis makes the laptop feel sturdy and durable. The smooth finish also makes the 15-inch MacBook Air a joy to hold. Our review unit’s Midnight color gives the laptop a slightly aggressive tone, which I quite liked.

Opening the lid with a single hand is easy, and the strong hinge glides smoothly when opening and closing the Air. The lid doesn’t wobble when you move the laptop and I never heard the hinge creak. This is a well-built machine that looks great to boot.

MacBook Air 15-inch M2 review: Ports

  • Two USB-C ports
  • MagSafe charging

Like the 13-inch MacBook Air, the new 15-inch laptop has a minimal number of ports. This includes two Thunderbolt 4/USB 4 ports and a MagSafe power adapter on the left side.

MacBook Air 15-inch M2

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Over on the right side, you’ll find a headphone jack, which is nice if you prefer wired headphones or if your wireless headphones run out of juice.

I’m ambivalent about the port selection. Though I like that this laptop retains MagSafe charging, it’s a bit disappointing that we couldn’t at least get another USB-C port on the right side. After all, this notebook is large enough to accommodate another port or two. But I’m also not too surprised given how this is effectively a bigger version of the 13-inch model.

MacBook Air 15-inch M2 review: Keyboard and touchpad

  • Roomy keyboard and touchpad

The 15-inch MacBook Air’s roomy and responsive keyboard is one of my favorite features. The keys are snappy and I liked the travel distance, which wasn’t too short or long. I was able to type almost as fast on this laptop as I would on one of the best mechanical keyboards.

MacBook Air 15-inch M2

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The accurate and responsive touchpad gets a size increase from the 13-inch Air and is all the better for it. Swiping, pinch to zoom and other gestures are easy to perform thanks to the additional space. Despite its size, I never once accidentally grazed the touchpad when typing.

MacBook Air 15-inch M2 review: Display

  • Colorful and vivid display
  • Ideal for watching videos

This laptop’s main selling point is its large 15.3-inch Liquid Retina display. It delivers bright and colorful images at a sharp native 2,880 x 1,864 resolution. In my experience it's great for watching videos, web browsing, photo editing and more.

MacBook Air 15-inch M2

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

While watching the trailer for Hidden Strike, I was impressed by how well the display rendered the devastated post-apocalyptic environments. I could see every detail in the dilapidated buildings, rusty vehicles and dusty roads. Explosions and fast-moving action scenes of Jackie Chan wailing on bad guys also looked great.

Our lab tests corroborate my experience with the panel. When we pointed our colorimeter at the screen, 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) but lower than the XPS 15 OLED’s saturated colors (194.7% / 137.9 %).

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Header Cell - Column 0 MacBook Air 15-inchMacBook 13-inchDell XPS 15 OLED (2023)
Nits (brightness)473489371
sRGB111.4%110.9%194.7%
DCI-P378.9%78.6%137.9%
Delta-E0.170.220.24

Regarding color accuracy, the 15-inch MacBook Air turned in a Delta-E score of 0.17 (where 0 is best), compared to the 0.22 its 13-inch counterpart delivered. Both laptops did better in the Delta-E test compared to the XPS 15 OLED (0.24).

The MacBook Air’s panel can get 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. These values are a smidge lower than the 13-inch model, which was just one point shy of reaching 500 nits of HDR brightness. With regard to non-HDR brightness, the panel averaged 473 nits of brightness — making it brighter than the XPS 15 OLED (371 nits).

MacBook Air 15-inch M2 review: Audio

  • Clear, loud audio
  • Impressive bass

One of the most notable upgrades this 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.

I played Dream Theater’s “Alien” at full volume and was impressed by the overall clarity of the song — which has numerous time signature changes and a flurry of guitar and keyboard solos. All of those disparate elements came through perfectly. Bass sounded punchy but not as powerful as on the MacBook Pro 16-inch 2021. Still, the overall sound quality is improved from the 13-inch Air.

MacBook Air 15-inch M2 review: Performance

  • Powerful M2 performance
  • Can handle heavy workloads

Thanks to its powerful Apple M2 processor, the MacBook Air 15-inch can handle almost anything you throw at it. During my testing, I had upwards of 20 open tabs  open while running a YouTube video. The laptop not only kept on chugging without missing a beat, but it remained cool to the touch the entire time.

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Geekbench results
Single-core scoreMulti-core score
MacBook Air 15-inch1,9088,932
MacBook Air 13-inch1,9118,965
MacBook Pro 13-inch M21,8988,911
Samsung Galaxy Book Pro 3601,7828,250

How did Apple’s latest notebook fare in our performance tests? 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) and the MacBook Pro 13-inch M2 (1,898 / 8,911), which both have an M2 chip with 8 CPU cores and 10 GPU cores.

Looking at a Windows laptop with a similar-sized screen and thin profile, the Galaxy Book 3 Pro 360 we tested (with its 13th Gen Intel Core i7-13700P CPU and 16GB of RAM) came close to the 15-inch MacBook Air’s Geekbench results (1,782 / 8,250). However, this configuration has a value of $1,899 compared to the $1,699 MacBook Air Apple sent us.

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Handbrake (Video transcoding)
Row 0 - Cell 0 Time (min:sec)
MacBook Air 15-inch7:36
MacBook Air 13-inch7:52
MacBook Pro 13-inch M26:51
Samsung Galaxy Book Pro 3607:59

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) but not as fast as the MacBook Pro 13-inch M2 (6:51). Samsung's Galaxy Book 3 Pro 360 took a bit slower at 7:59. 

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

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. The MacBook Pro 13-inch M2 scored 817 and 4:54 in the same test. The latter has active cooling thanks to its fans, so that might account for its better performance in this test.

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

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-inch (512GB)2,793 / 3,145
MacBook Air 15-inch (256GB)1,463 / 1,466
MacBook Air 13-inch2,800 / 2,210
MacBook Pro 13-inch M22,794 / 2,953

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) and 13-inch MacBook Pro M2 (2,794 / 2,953).

Since we first published our review, testing data from MaxTech has shown the base 256GB version of the 15-inch MacBook Air has considerably slower drive performance than the 512GB model. What's causing the discrepancy you can see in the numbers above? The 256GB Air performs worse than the 512GB, 1TB and TB versions because its SSD only has a single NAND chipset. By contrast, the drives in the more expensive 15-inch Air configurations benefit from two NAND chips.  

MacBook Air 15-inch M2 review: Graphics and gaming

The MacBook Air 15-inch is ideal for everyday computing and some light photo and video editing. However, it currently comes up short in the gaming department due to the lack of support from many third-party developers. That said, games optimized for Apple silicon run great on this machine, as was the case when I fired up Resident Evil Village.

MacBook Air 15-inch M2

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

I previously played Resident Evil Village on a 16-inch MacBook Pro with an M1 Max chip and 64GB of RAM — and was floored by the results. I didn’t experience such sky-high framerates on the 15-inch Air's comparatively weaker M2 chip. Frame rates hovered in the high 50s with MetalFX disabled and remained at a locked 60fps with the option turned on. Sure, that’s well below the FPS seen on the aforementioned MacBook Pro, but it's the most responsive framerate you can hope for given the MacBook Air’s display tops out at 60Hz.

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Gaming results
Header Cell - Column 0 Shadows of the Tomb RaiderCivilization VI
MacBook Air 15-inch (1,200p)26 fps40 fps
Dell XPS 15 OLED (1080p)67 fps114 fps

Our in-house testing showed subpar results for games that don’t make use MetalFX. Shadow of the Tomb Raider reached 26 fps at 1,920 x 1,200 resolution and an even worse 12 fps at 2,880 x 1,864 fps. Sid Meier’s Civilization VI fared better, clocking in at 43 and 29 fps at those respective resolutions.

How does that compare to a 15-inch Windows laptop? The XPS 15 OLED isn't a dedicated gaming laptop but the 13th gen Intel Core i7-13700H CPU, Nvidia RTX 4070 laptop GPU and 32GB of RAM our review unit packed gave it more than enough power to run Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Civilization VI at high frame rates. However, keep in mind this configuration is valued at $2,499.

MacBook Air 15-inch M2 review: Battery life and heat

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. However, neither can match the MacBook Pro 13-inch with its epic 18 hours and 20 minutes of battery life.

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

The MacBook Air 15-inch Apple sent us came with a 35W Dual USB-C Port Compact Power Adapter. What’s great about this particular adapter is that you can plug in another device at the same time. You can choose a 70W charger at no additional cost, though this adapter only has a single port for charging.

The MacBook Air 15-inch is fanless, which might raise concerns about overheating. Thankfully, the laptop doesn’t get too warm. In our standard heat test, which involves running a heat gun over a device after streaming 15 minutes of full HD video on it, we found the hottest point to be on the underside opposite the W key, which peaked at 83 degrees Fahrenheit.

Generally, we consider temperatures over 95 degrees as being uncomfortable. Since the 15-inch MacBook Air’s hottest point doesn’t come close to reaching that temperature, you shouldn’t worry about keeping it on your lap for extended periods of time.

MacBook Air 15-inch M2 review: Webcam

The 15-inch MacBook Air’s 1080p webcam might not be as good as the best webcams, but I think it’s perfect for video calls and even selfies.

MacBook Air 15-inch M2

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

I took the photo above in my apartment at night. Though the image is somewhat soft, you can still clearly see the wrinkles on my shirt and my facial hair. My Gundam model kits in the background appear blurry but you can still tell what they are.

MacBook Air 15-inch M2 review: Verdict

The MacBook Air 15-inch might not be revolutionary but for what it offers, it's one of the best 15-inch laptops you can buy. Its M2 chip delivers solid performance for everyday computing while its 15-inch display is ideally suited for watching videos and browsing the web. Toss in exceptional 15-hour battery life and an overall elegant design, and the MacBook Air 15 is a winner — especially for $1,299.

If you'd prefer a smaller MacBook, the $1,099 MacBook Air offers performance similar to its 15-inch counterpart. Those who don't mind paying more for better performance can opt for the $1,999 entry-level MacBook Pro 14-inch 2023. Not into Apple? The Dell XPS 15 OLED (starting at $1,299) is another great alternative.

Overall, the MacBook Air 15-inch is well worth considering. Right now, it's the Apple laptop to beat in terms of overall price and performance.

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.


  • dstrauss
    Is the article title correct? Did you mean best Apple laptop, because it sure didn't compare much, if any other, Windows laptops.
    Reply