I’ve always loved the idea of a 15-inch MacBook Air. It never sat well with me that, in order to buy a big-screen MacBook, you needed to pay way more than the 13-inch options. The 15-inch was always locked away behind the “Pro” series, while many potential customers didn’t need that extra power: We just wanted a bigger screen.
The 15-inch MacBook Air is official
The 15-inch Air Apple announced this week seems to be the answer to our prayers. For the first time, you can buy the MacBook with the larger screen without needing to pay a tax for unnecessary power or features. The new 15-inch Air is, essentially, a bigger version of last year’s 13-inch refresh: It sports the same design language, an M2 chip with an eight-core CPU and 10-core GPU with up to 24GB of memory, two Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports (which does seem a bit low on a 15-inch machine), a MagSafe charging port, a 1080p webcam, and a display supporting a P3 colour gamut with up to 500 nits of brightness. It even has the same 18-hour battery life claim, thanks to a larger battery driving the larger display.
Truthfully, the only improvement Apple made to the 15-inch was giving it a six-speaker sound system with “force-cancelling woofers” as opposed to the 13-inch’s four-speaker system. This is, simply, a big MacBook Air, without the big price tag. Apple wants $US1,299 for this dream machine, which, while certainly not cheap, is a much more attractive price than large MacBooks have had in the past. Take a look at Apple’s MacBook Pro page, and you’ll see 14-inch Pros start at $US1,999, while 16-inch Pros ramp up to $US2,499 at least.
The 15-inch Air is an expensive compromise
But it isn’t all a $US1,300 picnic. That Air only comes with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, about as low of a memory and storage spec as you’ll find in a 2023 computer. Again, that might be just fine for your use: M2 is powerful, after all, and its design means you can do a lot with a small amount of RAM. But, someday, 8GB of RAM isn’t going to cut it, and you won’t be able to upgrade the memory yourself. The same goes for storage: If you live your entire life in the cloud, 256GB might be plenty. But if you save any photos, videos, or other large files on your Mac, you’re going to eventually need to spring for an external drive perpetually attached to your computer, or else deal with constant storage management until you sell the computer.
You can fix these issues, of course, by giving Apple more money. The Air upgrades in $US200 increments: You can bump up the RAM to 16GB for an extra $US200, and double your storage to 512GB for another couple hundred. You can keep going, if you want: The Air maxes out the RAM at 24GB, and storage at 2TB, but that ultimate combination lands at $US2,499.
Let’s say you want to slightly future-proof your Mac with 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. Apple will charge you $US1,699. Not ideal, but still less than Apple used to charge for a 15-inch machine. And yet, it might not actually be the best value for your money.
You can get more MacBook for your money
If you take a peek at Apple’s U.S refurbished store (which you should always do, by the way), they are currently selling a 14-inch M1 Pro MacBook Pro for $US1,539, and an 14-inch M2 Pro MacBook Pro for $US1,699. That M2 Pro MacBook Pro, in particular, sports an even more powerful chip than the new MacBook Air, with a 10-core CPU and 16-core GPU, but both include all the other perks that come with Apple’s new MacBook Pros: a significantly brighter mini-LED display with much deeper blacks, an upgraded internal mic, HDMI port, SD card reader, and an extra USB-C port.
All that, with the same 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage you’re looking to get on a $US1,699 MacBook Air. Of course, you sacrifice an inch of screen real estate to get there, so if you’re dead-set on 15 inches, this point might be moot. Apple’s refurbished 16-inch MacBook Pros are a little out of the price point, starting at $US1,929. However, Swappa sells 16-inch M1 Pro models starting as low as $US1,442. They start to ramp up in price rather quickly, but it is possible to find a 16-inch MacBook Pro with Apple silicon around the price of a souped up 15-inch MacBook Air. (And just because the M1 Pro is older than the M2, doesn’t mean it’s less impressive. It’s actually more powerful than Apple’s base M2, meaning you’ll be able to push the “older” chip further than you think.)
The 15-inch MacBook Air is still a great computer
That’s not to say there aren’t perks to going with the Air. For one, it’s super light, weighing in at 2 kg. It’s also brand-new, which is always nice when buying an expensive piece of tech. And, not for nothing, Apple’s Midnight colour is really nice, and not available outside of the MacBook Air line. For a sleek, powerful, efficient, and portable MacBook, the 15-inch Air is undoubtedly a great machine.
However, the truth is it isn’t the best value for the money. When you’re looking to spend around $US1,699 on a larger MacBook, that cash goes a long way, especially if you’re willing to buy something that was previously owned. If you do pull the trigger on the Air, though, make sure you buy it through Apple’s education store. You’ll save $US100, and it’s available for anyone to use. After all, aren’t we all students of life?
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