It’s easy to forget how big a leap Apple made when it moved away from Intel chips. The new Apple silicon has helped make the latest and best MacBooks, such as the 15-inch MacBook Air, beat the competition with ease, at least if you’re looking for simple speed, an all-rounder, or a creative workstation (Mac gaming still can’t beat the competition, of course).
But now we’re on the second generation of Apple silicon for Mac, Apple is finally extending its reach a bit. We have an M2 Pro and M2 Ultra chip to give the Mac Studio even more power and bring the Mac Pro into the silicon lineup once and for all.
Perhaps most excitingly, however, we also have a brand new product in the lineup: a 15-inch MacBook Air. It’s the 2022 Air, but bigger, and fills a gap among MacBooks that people have wanted for years – a large Mac that doesn’t break the bank. And it does it simply, with a well-rounded package that actually offers great value by Apple standards.
Here are the MacBook Air 15-inch specs:
|MacBook Air 15-inch specs|
|CPU||8-core (four performance cores, four efficiency cores)|
|RAM||8 GB (reviewed), configurable to 16 GB and 24 GB|
|Display||15.3-inch LED-backlit IPS, 500 nits (2880 x 1864)|
|Storage||512 GB (reviewed), from 256 GB to 2 TB|
|Battery||66.5-watt-hour lithium‑polymer battery (up to 18 hours)|
Bigger is better
It’s a bit obvious, but the primary benefit of the new MacBook Air is the fact that it’s bigger. The bigger display offers much higher ease of use while jumping around apps or splitting the screen between two documents.
While a 2-inch difference doesn’t sound like much, this is a diagonal measurement, and it makes all the difference with usability. Having multiple windows open on the desktop or flipping between different Stage Manager setups is slick and simple. I haven’t felt cramped once as of yet – and my usual setup is two 27-inch monitors.
The display is crisp and bright, with 224 pixels per inch. What this means when you’re using it is, well, it looks lovely. Reading is clear, videos look vibrant enough, and everything is just quite pleasant. Sure, it looks a tad washed out compared to the new MacBook Pros, but almost every laptop in this price range does. It’s very good versus the competition.
The thing that makes it different from the competition is its notch. The cutout at the top in the middle of the screen houses a passable 1080p camera, which does the job. You may think it’s intrusive, but it isn’t – particularly so on this bigger model. Instead of everything moving down below the notch, the menu bar lines up either side of it. It’s a pleasant solution that works excellently. Let your notch worries lie; it’s fine.
This bigger size doesn’t just mean a bigger screen, of course. There’s more space internally for the battery and speakers, and while the former doesn’t improve, it’s still excellent, while the latter is a clear improvement over the 13-inch model.
The battery life, then, is identical to the 13-inch model according to Apple. Sure, there’s a bigger battery in the 15-inch, but there’s also a bigger screen, so it balances out. Apple’s claimed 18 hours of video watching and 15 hours of web surfing feels about right from my testing, though there are some clear exceptions, as with any battery testing.
For example, I managed to drain the battery in about eight hours on my first time setting everything up. This is a specific use case; I had multiple downloads running, setting up Logic Pro’s sound library and downloading through Steam, all while using Safari and Slack for work and playing music through Apple Music.
Less variable are the speakers. Thanks to the extra space in the chassis, the 15-inch MacBook Air has seriously impressive speakers. Again, don’t compare them to the best-in-class Pro speakers, but compare it to any other laptop that is as thin as this and it’s hard to believe how good they are. They create a clear soundscape, have clear mids and highs, and while the bass is light, it’s far better than it has any right to be.
High price, high quality
That’s all the new stuff, but there’s one thing that’s quite easy to brush over when talking about Apple. And that’s the general quality of everything. While it may look like the 15-inch MacBook Air demands a high price, it really doesn’t when you get your hands on it.
The overall body is beautiful. It’s unbelievably thin, yet feels sturdy thanks to the aluminum enclosure. Compare it to the somewhat-copycat Surface 5, for example, and it’s far more luxurious. It’s also around $400 more expensive, but you get what you’re paying for.
This quality applies to the keyboard too, which doesn’t flex at all while typing. The keyboard isn’t expanded along with the new size to offer a number pad or anything like that, and I think that’s a good aesthetic choice. It would all be a bit too cluttered to offer more keys.
What is expanded, however, is the trackpad. Again, Apple’s trackpads are best in class, and that’s no different here. The haptic feedback always feels like you’re actually clicking the pad down (you’re not – it doesn’t move), and its responsiveness and accuracy is perfect.
This greater size doesn’t offer bonuses in every area, however. The input options are identical to the 13-inch model. There’s a MagSafe charging port, two Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C) ports which you can also charge the laptop through, and a headphone jack. This is the bare minimum in terms of I/O, and it is a bit limiting. The thing is far too thin to house a USB-A or HDMI port, but it would’ve been nice to have some extra options.
While the I/O isn’t ideal, however, it feels like Apple made certain compromises to create this clear package. It’s an incredibly thin and light laptop, and while it’s not as portable as the 13-inch, to have such a big screen and such a portable package is a nice combo. Especially when everything feels so sturdy and luxurious.
One aspect that is identical to the 13-inch model is the way the thing works. It has the same M2 chip, the same feature options and software tricks, and works speedily and slickly. Even with just 8 GB RAM, you can load this thing up with tabs and videos and all manner of other things and it doesn’t miss a beat.
There’s not much value in over exploring the way the thing works, as far as I can tell, particularly as it’s almost exactly as speedy as the 13-inch model. Just know, the way it integrates with other Apple products is a wonderful experience if you’re already in the ecosystem. If not, there’s a bit less on offer.
The M2 chip also does a lot more than its base-level status would suggest. High settings in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, maxed-out settings in Civilization VI, and medium settings in A Total War Saga: Troy all offer stable framerates. Very impressive for a Mac – but far less impressive when compared to the similarly-priced PCs available.
Anyway, all in all, the 15-inch MacBook Air offers a really good balance for the price. It’s more than capable enough for most people, is built excellently, has a big and beautiful display, and doesn’t really have any issues if you’re a generalist. Specific use cases may differ, but for the majority of folks, this is an ace choice. I’m a little bit in love.
MacBook Air 15-inch review
The MacBook Air 15-inch model is the best MacBook for most people. It’s beautiful and fast, light and sturdy, with a spacious screen and all the lovely Apple ecosystem benefits. Don’t turn up for high-end gaming and there’s barely any way it can disappoint.