Rumors resurfaced this week that the new 15-inch MacBook Air would be Apple’s next big Mac release. But whether it comes before, during, or after WWDC, or at the fall Mac event, this much is true: It will instantly become Apple’s perfect laptop.
This may sound like a stretch, but hear me out. Assuming the rumors and our own assumptions are true, the 15-inch MacBook Air will be the perfect laptop for almost every user with its combination of size, processing power, and value. The MacBook Air is already Apple’s most popular laptop, and the 15-inch model will be the crown jewel of the lineup. Here’s why.
15-inch MacBook Air: The perfect size
Apple offers MacBooks in four different sizes: 13.3 inches (13-inch MacBook Pro), 13.6 inches (M2 MacBook Air), 14.2 inches (MacBook Pro), and 16.2 inches (MacBook Pro). With those options you’d think it would be easy to find the right size. But those sizes come with limitations and sacrifices that make the buying decision difficult.
If you want a bigger screen, the obvious choice is the 16-inch MacBook Pro, which has the largest screen on a MacBook. But the big screen means it’s heavy—it weighs almost 5 pounds (over 2 kilograms). It may not seem like much, but if you carry your laptop around for a full workday, the strain on your back and shoulders is noticeable over time.
If you want a lighter MacBook, your choice is the 13.6-inch M2 MacBook Air, which weighs just 2.7 pounds (1.24 kilograms). That makes it a featherweight compared to the 16-inch MacBook Pro, but the tradeoff is a much smaller screen. If you use Pro apps, or if you’re like me and have a gajillion different app windows open at the same time, those three inches make a big difference.
Apple also offers two 13-inch laptops that are often overlooked: the 13.3-inch M1 MacBook Air and the M2 MacBook Pro. Both are based on older designs that have relatively massive black bezels that add to the overall size. The M1 MacBook Air has a smaller screen than the M2 MacBook Air and is actually a smidge heavier. Similarly, the 13-inch MacBook Pro actually has a larger footprint than the 14-inch MacBook Pro, despite being an inch smaller and half a pound lighter.
The 15-inch MacBook Air instantly becomes a new sweet spot. The screen will be larger than 13-inch laptops, and while it won’t be as light as the current MacBook Air, it won’t be as heavy as the 16-inch MacBook Pro. When you put a 15-inch MacBook Air in your bag, it should fit literally and figuratively.
15-inch MacBook Air: Perfect performance
Bloomberg reported this week that the MacBook Air under test has the same processor as the 13-inch MacBook Air M2. It’s a great chip with amazing performance, but there are rumors that there might be an M2 Pro option like the Mac Mini.
Compared to the M2 chip in the 13-inch MacBook Air, Apple’s M2 Pro chip is 20 percent faster in CPU and 30 percent faster in GPU performance. Early reports about the 15-inch MacBook Air suggested that Apple might offer an M2 Pro option alongside the M2 standard configuration. If so, that’s a bigger boost than the current wind.
The performance gains won’t be huge, and most people won’t notice the difference in day-to-day use. But data-intensive users need every bit of processing power they can get, and the M2 Pro’s boost can save a lot of time.
However, could Apple replace the M2 Pro with its new M3 chip? A recent report from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman suggests that Apple wants to put its Mac-grade processors on an annual upgrade cycle like the A-series chips in the iPhone, but it may be a little too early for the M3 to arrive. Still, it’s an interesting concept.
The M3 is Apple’s first chip manufactured with the 3nm die process, which allows for more transistors and better performance and power efficiency than the 5nm process used with the M1 and M2 chips. With 3nm, the performance improvement could be greater than the 20 percent we saw from M1 to M2.
Whether it’s the M2 Pro now or the M3 Pro later, the 15-inch AIR is a very attractive alternative to the 14-inch MacBook Pro. Despite having the same cores, the chip isn’t as fast as the 14-inch MacBook Pro because of its fanless design, which hampers performance at high temperatures, and it doesn’t have as many ports or max. One is memory. But it absolutely hits the sweet spot when it comes to power and performance and will be more attractive to many than the 14-inch Pro.
15-inch MacBook Air: The right price
Apple’s current MacBook lineup has an obvious price gap. There’s the $999 M1 Air and $1,199 M2 model, and the $1,299 13-inch M2 MacBook Pro. You can go up to $1,999 for a 14-inch MacBook Pro. Assuming the M2 15-inch MacBook Air starts at $1,399 or $1,449, it will slide into the gap between Apple’s pro laptops.
Consider BTO options. You can get the M2 Air with 16GB of memory and a 512GB SSD for $1,699, $300 less than the base model 14-inch MacBook Pro with the M2 Pro, which has the same memory and storage. A few hundred dollars gets you a heavier laptop with a slightly bigger screen and slightly faster performance. Whether it’s price or performance – there are clear sacrifices to be made no matter which engine you choose.
But the 15-inch MacBook Air with the M2 Pro costs $1,849–$150 more than the Air and $150 less than the Pro in that space. Sure, the Pro still has a better Liquid Retina XTR display and more ports, but the decision is easy. If you want a bigger screen but don’t need ProMotion or HDMI, the 15-inch Air is the clear choice and the clear winner.