The 15-inch MacBook Air is the perfect laptop for those who want a large display, compact build, and enough power for general day-to-day computing. If you want more power for things like video editing and high-end gaming, however, then it’s the Pro all the way.
Price When Reviewed
Apple 15-inch MacBook Air (M2, 2023): From $1,299
Apple 14-inch MacBook Pro (M2 Pro, 2023): From $1,999 | Model reviewed $2,499
Best Prices Today: Apple 15-inch MacBook Air (M2, 2023)
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The MacBook Air has always been a svelte and compact device that is lightweight and easy to carry around. And now it’s got a big screen too: Apple has introduced a MacBook Air with a 15-inch screen that’s just as thin and light as the 13-inch model and actually larger than the more-powerful 14-inch MacBook Pro. So which should you buy?
One of the most important parts of any buying decision is how much you want to spend. That’s why the 16-inch MacBook Pro has been left out of this comparison, as you could almost get two 15-inch MacBook Airs for the same money, which puts Apple’s largest laptop in a different league.
But with a $1,999 starting price, the 14-inch MacBook Pro is a little closer in price to the 15-inch Air, so let’s look at how the current models line up:
15-inch MacBook Air (M2, 8GB/256GB) – $1,299/£1,399/€1,599
15-inch MacBook Air (M2, 8GB/512GB) – $1,499/£1,599/€1,829
14-inch MacBook Pro (M2 Pro, 16GB/512GB) – $1,999/£2,149/€2,399
14-inch MacBook Pro (M2 Pro, 16GB/1TB) – $2,499/£2,699/€2,999
14-inch MacBook Pro (M2 Max, 32GB/1TB) – $3,099/£3,349/€3,699
Apple 14-inch MacBook Pro (M2 Pro, 2023)
Price When Reviewed:
From $1,999 | Model reviewed $2,499
As you can see, there’s still quite a disparity in the prices, but the Pro models do come with at least double the memory and storage as the respective Air (which increases the price of the AIr to $1,699/£1,799), plus a faster M2 Pro chip.
Apple also sells a 13-inch MacBook Pro, which has the same M2 chip as the 15-inch MacBook Air for $1,299, but with an older design (that includes the Touch Bar), we recommend the Air or 14-inch Pro.
15-inch MacBook Air vs 14-inch MacBook Pro: Design and specs
Apple updated the design of the MacBook Air when it launched the 13-inch MacBook Air (M2) in July 2022, retiring the tapered chassis it used since Steve Jobs introduced the Air to the world by pulling it out of an inter-office envelope. The design is very similar to the Pro model
15-inch MacBook Air: 0.45in x 13.40in x 9.35in, 3.3lbs; 1.15cm x 34.04cm x 23.76cm, 1.51kg
14-inch MacBook Pro: 0.61in x 12.31in x 8.71in, 3.5lbs; 1.55cm x 31.26cm x 22.12cm, 1.60kg
Even with a smaller screen, the Pro is a bit chunkier and heavier due to the fans needed for heat dissipation, while the Air is, unsurprisingly, wider and taller, thanks to the bigger display.
The thicker MacBook Pro features more ports. Apple fits the MacBook Air with two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports, a MagSafe charging port, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. On the Pro, you get an additional Thunderbolt 4/USB-C (bringing the total to three), plus MagSafe, HDMI, SDXC ports, and a headphone jack.
Both models have a Touch ID sensor built into the keyboard, 1080p FaceTime HD cameras, and six-speaker arrays (the 13-inch Air only has a four-speaker sound system). The sound on the MacBook Pro is described by Apple as “High Fidelity”, by which we assume Apple is indicating it is superior to the Air. Connectivity is via Bluetooth 5.3 and while the Air supports Wi-Fi 6, the Pro tips the balance with Wi-Fi 6E.
15-inch MacBook Air vs 14-inch MacBook Pro: Display
The 15-inch MacBook Air has a 15.3-inch Liquid Retina display, while the Pro comes with a 14.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR panel. The screen on the Air is a bit bigger, but it’s not as good as the screen on the MacBook Pro.
The Air’s display runs at a resolution of 2,880 x 1,864 with a top refresh rate of 60Hz. Its maximum brightness is 500 nits, which is half of the Pro’s 1,000 nits in normal use or a third if you’re running HDR content at a max of 1,600 nits. This is achieved by the Pro display incorporating mini-LEDs rather than the Air’s standard LCD screen.
Perhaps the biggest difference though is that the Pro features ProMotion, meaning that the refresh rate tops out at 120Hz, again double that of the Air. This helps keep scrolling and animations smooth and crisp. Either display will be great for everyday use and long hours of work, but the Pro definitely has the edge when it comes to features.
15-inch MacBook Air vs 14-inch MacBook Pro: Performance and battery
The new 15-inch MacBook Air features the same M2 chip in the 13-inch MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro, while the 14-inch MacBook Pro comes with either the M2 Pro or the M2 Max. However, while the base model of the 13-inch Air has an 8-core GPU, the 15-inch MacBook Air has a full 10-core GPU as well as an 8-core CPU.
As the name suggests, the baseline M2 Pro brings more power, with a 10-core CPU and a 16-core or 19-core GPU. You can also upgrade to the M2 Max chip with a 12-core CPU and 30-core or 38-core GPU.
The standard M2 is a very capable chip, which can handle most things you’ll throw at it, including light photo and video editing. But if those are your main intended uses for your MacBook then we think the extra power in the Pro or Max chip would be the better solution. Otherwise, the M2 will be more than sufficient for a few years to come.
You don’t have to consider battery life in this race, as Apple states that both are capable of 18 hours of use from a single charge, which should get you through even the busiest of working days.
15-inch MacBook Air vs 14-inch MacBook Pro: Verdict
The fact that both devices have similar looks and sizes makes it easier to decide which one to get, as it all comes down to price, screen size, and power. If you’re in the market for an everyday laptop for writing documents, creating presentations, working on spreadsheets, some light gaming, and plenty of streaming video, the 15-inch MacBook Air is a fantastic choice. Compared to the MacBook Pro, you get a slightly lighter laptop with a larger display at a much lower price.
Those who require the brightest, smoothest display, extra ports, and even more power will inevitably find the siren song of the 14-inch MacBook Pro too hard to resist. It’s a production powerhouse built for video editing, code creation, and gaming, that’s able to handle all the extreme demands of those activities. It’s called a Pro for a reason.
Most people who need a MacBook Pro probably aren’t reading this article—they know who they are. But for the rest of us, the 15-inch MacBook AIr is Apple’s best value in a laptop and the only one to buy.
Best Prices Today: Apple 15-inch MacBook Air (M2, 2023)
Martyn has been involved with tech ever since the arrival of his ZX Spectrum back in the early 80s. He covers iOS, Android, Windows and macOS, writing tutorials, buying guides and reviews for Macworld and its sister site Tech Advisor.