With the M2 MacBook Air models sharing so many features and components, it’s basically a case of what screen size you prefer. Need more space for video editing or similar activities? The 15-inch is for you. Prefer a more compact design? It’s the 13-inch model. If only all choices were this simple.
Price When Reviewed
Apple 13-inch MacBook Air (M2, 2022): $1,099 (WAS $1,199)
Apple 15-inch MacBook Air (M2, 2023): From $1,299
Best Prices Today: Apple 13-inch MacBook Air (M2, 2022)
The MacBook Air is one of Apple’s most enduring products. Ever since Steve Jobs pulled the first one out of an envelope during the Macworld keynote presentation in 2008, it’s been one of the most popular laptops in the world. So, what are the options for those looking to pick one up fifteen years after the first Air debuted?
There are currently three MacBook Air models. One is an older MacBook Air that launched in 2020 and features an M1 chip. There are also two M2-powered MacBook Air models, one of which has a 13-inch display and the other a 15-inch display. These are the models we are comparing here. Find out which one you should buy. Curious about the M3 MacBook Air? Read: M3 MacBook Air: Everything you need to know
13-inch vs 15-inch MacBook Air: Design and Dimensions
Apple gave its Air lineup a facelift in 2022, moving away from the wedge shape that had been the hallmark of the design for years. The modern Air remains slimline and light, but the chassis is more of a standard rectangular layout these days. Presumably, this gives more space inside for larger batteries and other components, but it still feels like a MacBook, if maybe more of a squashed Pro than your classic Air.
Both of the M2 MacBook Air models are available in a choice of four colors: Midnight (black), Starlight (gold), Space Gray and Silver. (The older M1 model is only available in Silver, Gold and Space Gray.
The weights of the 13-inch and 15-inch models respectively tip the scales at 2.7lbs/1.24 kg and 3.3lbs /1.51 kg.
You’ll find the same full-size backlit keyboards on each device. There’s also a dedicated Touch ID sensor built into a key of its own, allowing you to unlock the device or confirm payments online.
The Force Touch trackpads are also the same in terms of functionality, supporting the multi-touch gestures that are implemented so well in macOS. The 15-inch model does make use of its extra girth by squeezing in a larger pad, but both are equally accurate and responsive.
13-inch vs 15-inch MacBook Air: Displays
Dominic Preston / Foundry
Obviously, the main area of difference when it comes to the design is the size of the displays. One model has a display that measures 13.6 inches diagonally and the other has a display that measures 15.3 inches diagonally. (The older 13-inch MacBook Air has a smaller 13.3-inch display).
Both models are equipped with Liquid Retina panels that reach 500 nits of brightness and feature Wide Color (P3) and True Tone capabilities. So, it’s purely the size and relative resolutions that make them different. There’s a 13.6in panel running at 2560 x 1664 or 15.3in at 2880 x 1864.
Each also has the somewhat divisive notch that Apple seems to think is a good idea, which is home to the 1080p FaceTime camera and image signal processor for things like Center Stage.
13-inch vs 15-inch MacBook Air: Speakers, microphones, and cameras
One area of construction where the two models diverge is in the audio stakes. While the 13-inch MacBook Air with M2 boasts a quad-speaker system that supports wide stereo, spatial audio, and Dolby Atmos, the 15-inch Air bests this by having a six-speaker setup with force-canceling woofers for even more immersive sounds.
Parity is restored once more when you get to the microphones, as Apple equips both with a three-mic array with directional beamforming to pick up what you’re saying.
You’ll also find an identical 1080p FaceTime camera built into the notch at the top of the screen. Despite being hidden in the iPhone-like notch, this camera doesn’t include any Face ID capabilities, but it is significantly better than the 720p FaceTime camera found in the older MacBook Air.
13-inch vs 15-inch MacBook Air: Ports and connectivity
The MacBook Air has never been overburdened with ports, and the current offerings sport matching twin Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports, and a 3.5mm headphone jack alongside a MagSafe charging port. (This is one up on the older M1 MacBook Air that only offers two Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports, so you would only have one spare while charging). It’s still a sparse lineup, so if you want more you’ll need to look at the MacBook Pros instead or invest in a docking station for your Mac.
Again, Apple keeps things simple when it comes to how the MacBook Airs communicate wirelessly. Both come with Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) and Bluetooth 5.3 (the latter of which was a recent upgrade for both models). Only the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro, Mac Studio, and Mac mini offer the newer WiFi 6E.
Dominic Preston / Foundry
13-inch vs 15-inch MacBook Air: Specs, performance, and Price
Where the exteriors of the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Air have some easily identifiable differences, much of the internals remain consistent.
This is despite the fact that the 13-inch MacBook Air with M2 was introduced a year before the 15-inch model. The 15-inch MacBook Air is newer, but the chip is essentially the same.
There are two standard configurations for each model and identical build-to-order options if you want to increase either memory or storage.
13-inch MacBook Air
13-inch MacBook Air
13-inch MacBook Air BTO options
16GB & 24GB
1TB & 2TB
15-inch MacBook Air
15-inch MacBook Air
15-inch MacBook Air BTO options
16GB & 24GB
1TB & 2TB
At first glance, the chipsets on these models look the same, with both featuring Apple’s own M2 silicon. However, you will notice that only the 13-inch MacBook Air with M2 offers an option for an 8-core GPU. It’s not possible to reduce the price of the 15-inch MacBook AIr by switching to this less powerful chip.
To get the 10-core GPU you have two choices. Either buy the $1,399/£1,449 13-inch MacBook Pro with 512GB storage, or the $1,299/£1,399 15-inch MacBook Pro with 256GB storage. In this case, the 15-inch MacBook Air does look like the most cost-effective option, saving $100/£50, but do note that there is a bigger difference between those storage options than you might realize. In tests, the smaller 256GB SSD has been found to be slower than the 512GB SSD, so that might be a factor in your decision (although if the kind of applications you use don’t need to frequently access internal storage it shouldn’t matter).
If you use pay for iCloud storage the extra storage may be less important and the 15-inch MacBook Air is the more attractive option, although you could upgrade the chip in the entry-level 13-inch to the 10-core GPU for an additional $100/£100 bringing the price to $1,199/£1,249.
Given that every spec is available on each machine (aside from the 8-core GPU option, which is only on the 13-inch MacBook Air) the choice here is really about whether you want 512GB or if 256GB would be sufficient for your needs.
If you want the bigger screen on an equivalently specced machine it essentially costs you $100/£50 more, which is a really good deal.
13-inch vs 15-inch MacBook Air: Battery life
To keep the theme going, you won’t find any noticeable differences in the battery life of either device. Yes, the 15-inch Air does come with a larger cell (66.5 watt-hours as opposed to the 52.6 watt-hours in the 13-inch Air) but they each deliver up to 18 hours of playback or 15 hours of web surfing, according to Apple, before you’ll need to plug them in again. Apple includes a 30w charger in the baseline 13-inch Air box, while the 15-inch is lavished with a 35w charger instead. Both support up to 70w fast charging, but you’ll need to buy that charger separately.
We ran our own battery tests, which involve running iMovie with the display at 150 nits, and still found the battery life to be similar despite the bigger battery in the 15-inch.
13-inch vs 15-inch MacBook Air: Which one should you buy?
Apple has made the choice between the two current models quite easy. Aside from a slightly better GPU and two extra speakers in the 15-inch Air, both are pretty much the same. So, it really comes down to whether you want the bigger screen and extra girth of the 15-inch variant or the smaller, more compact frame and display of the 13-inch Air. You’ll be getting a great laptop either way, which should continue the excellent reputation of the MacBook Air for years to come.
Made your decision? You can find the best prices right now below, or consult our round-up of the best MacBook Air deals for prices on the other models.
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.