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15-inch MacBook Air review roundup: Big screen, big value

15-inch MacBook Air

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The first reviews for the 15-inch MacBook Air have started to come in, with the general consensus being that offers a much-wanted larger display without breaking the bank.

Apple introduced its 15-inch MacBook Air during the WWDC keynote, to much acclaim from observers. As a notebook, it offers all of the utility of the 13-inch MacBook Air, complete with the M2 chip, but with a much larger display.

One week later, and one day before the June 13 street date, opinions on the bigger brother of the 13-inch MacBook Air are flooding in. Here are the initial thoughts and reviews for the value-oriented and super-sized MacBook Air.

The Verge: No surprises, no sticker shock

According to Monica Chin of The Verge, the new MacBook Air is "a good, functional product that people have been shouting, for years, that they want."

Pointing out that you would previously have to pay a "$1,000 premium and get a thicker, much heavier computer" if you wanted a larger screen Mac, the extra cost is down by an order of magnitude.

The general feel is the same as the 13-inch counterpart, with the exception of the larger display that will thrill devotees of the big screen. However, the half-pound weight gain is "noticeable," and while it is "a world lighter" than the 16-inch MacBook Pro, it is still "significantly chunkier" than the 13-inch Air.

The review concludes by insisting "We don't need to be convinced that we want the Air 15. We've been waiting for it."

CNET: The big-screen you should go for

For people who don't need a MacBook Pro, the Air's M2 processor "already exceeds the requirements of all but the most serious creative pros," starts CNET's Scott Stein.

While it doesn't "push the envelope further" from the 13-inch in terms of performance, the better speakers and larger screen are welcomed as a package that's "way, way less expensive than the MacBook Pro equivalents."

There are complaints about Apple declining to add an extra port to take advantage of the extra space on the enclosure, as well as a wish for the notch to be not quite as large, but its video and audio are still "more than good enough" to use.

"MacBook Air 15 or 13? Take your pick, either's fine. At this point in 2023, these MacBook Airs feel like the safest bet in Apple's laptop lineup," ends the review.

Engadget: Threads the needle

"Apple simply took the design and internals of the M2-powered Air it announced a year ago and stuck it in a bigger case with a bigger screen," observes Nathan Ingraham for Engadget. "Done and done."

Pointing out the lack of "niceties" from the mini LED displays of the MacBook Pros, the standard display is still deemed "very nice," "bright, sharp, and entirely pleasant to look at for extended periods of time."

The better six-speaker sound system with force-canceling woofers is another high point. "Apple has been making surprisingly excellent laptop speakers for a few years now, and these also sound very lively and full when playing back music or movies."

"If you travel a lot, or value portability above all else, by all means get the 13-inch model," reasons Ingraham. "But if I were in the market for a new laptop right now, I think the 15-inch Air would be at the top of my list."

TechCrunch: The right MacBook for most

Brian Heater for TechCrunch writes that the 15-inch MacBook Air "occupies a strange space" as it "looks to buck at least one major constraint of the line." However, he adds that "there's no question that smaller is objectively better" in cases where you absolutely need to travel, which is where the 13-inch fares better.

"If you anticipate your system spending more time at home than in your carry on, by all means, go big. If you travel a lot and use that travel laptop as your primary entertainment venue, flip a coin, I guess."

Heater concludes that "For a vast majority of users, the Air is a great device, and the 13-inch is plenty sufficient for most tasks - especially if you travel a lot. If you're shopping for a system that will mostly live on a desk at home or in the office, the 15-inch is a great choice."

PCMag: Keeping the original Air's strengths intact

Brian Westover for PCMag summarizes the 15-inch MacBook Air as "a desktop-replacement laptop with nearly the portability of a compact ultraportable." Though not the most powerful 15-inch notebook, it's "one of the lightest to deliver a winning blend of processing and graphics power, a high-quality design, and a battery that goes for the better part of a day."

Getting "everything we loved about the MacBook Air, but in a bigger package," and while there are challenges in increasing size, Apple manages to keep the typing experience the same. The larger palm rest and Force Touch trackpad will "feel different."

The minimal ports are picked up again as an issue, since they "oddly" stay the same as the 13-inch model. A docking station or USB-C adapter is suggested as a further investment.

Deeming the 15-inch as "something of an experiment" where Apple attempts to "branch out" to deliver "new takes on old favorites," it's still a "bigger and better MacBook Air."

"With a new size, the ultraportable form factor of the MacBook Air becomes a general-purpose machine like no other."

Pocket-Lint: Bigger is better

Writing for Pocket-Lint, Britta O'Boyle says the 15-inch MacBook Air is "is lovely and light for its size, which is the biggest story of this device really."

The extra space of the display is noticeable and makes extra use of the available footprint, the review says. "The bezels could be a little slimmer still, sure, and I'd love to see the notch disappear eventually in future models, but you're still getting a huge screen in a manageable and portable format, which will be the answer to many people's dreams - mine included."

There is a "solid difference in raw performance compared to the M1 MacBook Air for general day-to-day tasks," with the fanless operation compared to MacBook Pro deemed "refreshing and peaceful."

"The Apple MacBook Air 15-inch is pretty much the answer to my laptop prayers," O'Boyle concludes. "There's nothing not to love here. It's the everyday laptop dreams were made of."