There are rumors that Apple will soon release a larger MacBook Air with a 15-inch class display, perhaps as soon as this June at Apple’s annual WWDC event. Could it be your next Mac?
We’ll go over all the major features and hidden changes of the new 15-inch MacBook Air compared to the existing M2 MacBook Air, and also calculate what the possible size and weight will be to determine if it could be a BIG DEAL, or just BIG. Finally, we’ll examine what the possible price will be as well.
Let’s get started!
What the Rumors Say
The latest rumors say that Apple is preparing to launch a 15-inch MacBook Air within weeks, with Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference event in June 2023 as the most likely timeframe.
While the new M3 generation chip should be coming up soon, it might be a bit too early for the 15-inch Air if it launches in June, meaning the big Air would likely just be a larger form factor version of the M2 MacBook Air.
Some think the new Air could offer both the M2 and an option for the M2 Pro chip currently in the 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros, as well as the Mac mini. However, I feel that to be somewhat unlikely, unless the 15-inch MacBook is designed with active cooling built-in, in which case it won’t be a MacBook Air anymore. Passive cooling won’t be enough for the M2 Pro chip, and it wouldn’t make sense to have the MacBook Air have a passive and an actively cooled option.
Instead, it may be more likely that this report on multiple MacBooks launching at WWDC could mean something completely different is launching. Perhaps the 13-inch M2 MacBook Pro could see an update of some sort that would make it more worth of the “Pro” label.
Similarities and Differences
With the same M2 chip, we can also expect memory and storage options to be the same, and features such as ports and display support to be identical to the M2 MacBook Air as well. The overall design should be similar, along with other peripheral features like the keyboard and trackpad. While Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0 are no longer the latest, they may or may not be upgraded depending on if they are tied to the chip as well.
For differences, we can observe the 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros to figure out how the 15-inch Air will differ from its smaller sibling. Namely, we should expect differences in display size, physical dimensions and weight, battery life, speakers, and even performance, despite them both using the M2 chip. And of course, price.
Let’s talk about these one at a time.
The most obvious difference will be the larger display size. Rumors for the 15-inch Air range from 15.2 inches to 15.5 inches for the display size, which would make it just under 2 inches larger diagonally than the 13.6-inch M2 MacBook Air.
The M2 Air resolution is 2560-by-1664, which is actually a ratio of 16:10 + 64 vertical pixels for the notch. If we assume something similar for the 15-inch Air, then you would get between 25% to 30% larger screen area, which a LOT more space to work with. This is comparable to the 16-inch MacBook Pro having 30% more pixels and screen area than the 14-inch as well.
Physical Dimensions and Weight
Since the screen size increase is similar, we can also use the dimension and weight differences found in the Pro laptops to infer what they might be for the Airs. In terms of size, the 16-inch Pro is 8.4% taller than the 14-inch, 13.8% wider, and 12.2% deeper. Following those proportions, the 15-inch Air could still be substantially less tall than the MacBook Pros, while the width and depth are closer to the 16-inch Pro than the 14-inch.
At the same time, the weight difference between the 14- and 16-inch Pros is 34%. If we use that to calculate the new Air’s potential weight, it comes in at 3.63 lbs, which is actually just slightly more than the 14-inch Pro. However, this weight is distributed over dimensions that are wider and deeper, it may actually feel less heavy in the hand.
If this weight prediction is accurate, then the 15-inch Air having essentially the same weight as the 14-inch Pro while having a 19% larger screen area could result in a big advantage, as long as you don’t need to extra processing power of the Pro computer.
Another improvement the 16-inch Pro has over the 14 is battery life, since the bigger body means room for more battery. The battery is 43% larger at 100-watt-hours compared to 70, and Apple translates this to an increase of 22-25% of additional operation time. The M2 Air has a 52.6-watt-hour battery that is said to give 15 hours of wireless web and 18 hours of video playback, which is slightly different in proportion from the Pros; the wireless web usage matches the 16-inch Pro’s, while the video playback only matches the 14’s.
Going by these proportions, the 15-inch Air could have a 75.1-watt-hour battery that gives close to 19 hours of wireless web and 22 hours of video playback, making it the longest battery life ever in a Mac by a significant amount.
While watching those videos, you may also notice slightly better sounding speakers. One of the hidden advantages of the 16-inch MacBook Pro over the 14 is the better speaker sound quality due to the larger body. Likewise, the same could also hold true for the 15-inch MacBook Air over the 13.
Performance and Thermal Throttling
Another hidden benefit of the larger body in the 16-inch MacBook Pro is better cooling, which means you can get higher sustained performance with more powerful chips like the M2 Max that run into thermal throttling issues and louder fan noise on the 14-inch Pro.
Although the M2 chip in the MacBook Air is less powerful and consumes less power than the M2 Pro or M2 Max, the Air also doesn’t have any fans for active cooling, so it relies mainly on passive heat dissipation through the metal body. The M2 MacBook Air does have thermal throttling as well, as many tests have indicated.
That means the 15-inch Air should also have an advantage in better cooling, much like the larger MacBook Pro does, resulting in better sustained performance for longer periods of time. Of course, if you’re just doing basic tasks and aren’t putting the CPU and GPU under load constantly for long periods, then you shouldn’t see any difference.
Finally, the last major difference to talk about with the 15-inch MacBook Air is the price. With the same configuration, the 16-inch MacBook Pro costs $200 more than the 14-inch. If the 15-inch Air offers the same configuration specs as the 13-inch Air, then we could see it start at $1399, which is $200 more than the $1199 starting price of the 13-inch.
However, I think that Apple may do the same thing they did with the MacBook Pro, which is to price the larger machine’s base model with a spec upgrade included as well. Then they could start the 15-inch Air at a higher and more round $1499, which would be $300 more.
Why not $500 more, like the difference between the 14- and 16-inch Pro’s? Well, the 16-inch Pro’s included spec bump is an upgrade to the M2 Pro chip with 2 CPU and 3 GPU cores for $300. However, the M2 MacBook Air’s chip upgrade is only 2 GPU cores for $100. Therefore, that combined with the $200 form factor price difference makes for a nice round starting price of $1499.
Should You Get the 15-inch MacBook Air?
So should you get the 15-inch MacBook Air? We’ll, the computer isn’t out yet, so it’s too early to determine if it will be a BIG DEAL. However, based on this analysis, I would say that if you’re satisfied with the power of the 13-inch MacBook Air, but want a bigger screen, even if it’s slightly less portable, then the 15-inch Air seems like it could be a great buy.
On the other hand, if the base model specs of 8GB of memory and 256GB of storage aren’t enough, then upgrading those will bring the price much closer to the 14-inch MacBook Pro. At that point, it becomes a trade-off between 19% more screen real estate versus a more powerful CPU and GPU, along with other upgrades like a better quality screen, ports, and more, so it may feel harder to justify the value.
I’m looking forward to seeing what the final specs and pricing will be for the 15-inch MacBook Air, and perhaps trying it out for myself to see if the size is just right.