Apple 15-inch MacBook Air with M2 chip review

With its latest MacBook Air release, Apple has finally released what the public has been asking for: a 15-inch version of its ultraportable laptop. And, as you’d expect, it doesn’t disappoint.

Boasting the M2 chip with its market-leading performance capabilities, fantastic all-day battery life and a classy design, the best ultraportable on the market just keeps getting better.

The extra screen space lends itself well to multitasking and Apple has done a good job of maintaining a light and compact build so it can be used as an ultraportable. 

While it probably isn’t worth upgrading to (if you already have a recent M-something Apple laptop), it’s a compelling device for anyone looking for a lightweight laptop with a large screen… that can easily handle anything you throw at it. 

It’s brilliant.

Pros

  • Great performance
  • Sleek, compact design
  • 15-inch for more screen space
  • All day battery life

Cons

  • 60Hz refresh rate

Price

The 15-inch M2 MacBook Air comes in a number of configurations, allowing you to select between 8GB, 16GB (+ $350), or 24GB (+ $700) of Unified Memory.

You can also choose between a 256GB SSD, a 512GB SSD (+$350), a 1TB SSD (+$700) or a 2TB SSD (+$1,400). This means a full spec 15-inch MacBook Air with M2 chip will cost $4,599.

To put this into perspective, a Dell XPS 13 Plus with a 13.4-inch UHD+ OLED Touch screen, an Intel i7-1360P processor, 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD costs $4,111. And an MSI Stealth 16 Mercedes AMG A13VG-252NZ with a 16-inch UHD+ OLED screen, an Intel i9-13900H processor,  32GB RAM, a 2TB SSD and an RTX 4070 Graphics card costs $6,299.

An entry level 2023 MacBook Pro with M2 Pro chip costs $4,599 while a full spec 2023 MacBook Pro with an M2 Max chip costs $11,599.00. That’s obviously an extreme comparison though.

Apple 15-inch MacBook Air with M2 chip review

Design

Anyone who’s previously used a MacBook Air, will be right at home with the 15-inch M2 version. It’s sleek and stylish with the only noticeable difference being the size.

Apple hasn’t introduced any dramatic changes in regard to the design. It didn’t need to. The keyboard comes with Touch ID located in the top right, there’s a MagSafe port, two ThunderBolt 4 ports, a headphone jack and a 1080p HD FaceTime camera in the middle of the display. 

Impressively, even though it’s a larger model, it’s still very light and compact. Measuring 1.15 cm (H) x 34.04 cm (W) x 23.76 cm (D) and weighing just 1.5kg, it’s easy to carry around and slot into a bag or case. It’s also thin, measuring under 1.15cm, it’s the thinnest 15-inch laptop on the market. If you were worried the larger screen would take away from the device’s portability, don’t be. It’s just as easy to manage as any other MacBook Air.

It comes in four colours, Midnight, Starlight, Space Grey and Silver. All of these look fine.

The keyboard is also, er, fine. It feels just the same as any other Apple laptop. It’s comfortable to type on, it’s responsive and is well-spaced. The 15-inch version also has a larger trackpad which works well. The extra size allows for easier navigation, especially when doing actions like pinching to zoom in or out.

Apple 15-inch MacBook Air with M2 chip review

Display

The Liquid Retina display in use here is very good, but overall the screen isn’t as good as the mini-LED screen you’ll find on the latest MacBook Pro. 

Boasting a 2,880 x 1,864 resolution display that can get just under 500 nits of maximum brightness and supports HDR, watching videos and looking at photos on the 15-inch MacBook Air is great.

It’s vibrant, boasting over 1 billion colours, the darks are dark, and images look sharp. But the brightness and contrast isn’t as good as a mini-LED display and frustratingly the screen is locked to a refresh rate of 60Hz. Which is behind the competition. For around $4,000 I would expect a laptop with at least a 90Hz display, or preferably 120Hz. 

Apple is frustratingly slow at equipping its products with high-specced refresh rates. But it’s not a gaming device (yet), so it doesn’t really matter. 60Hz is fine for regular laptop-based tasks.

Apple 15-inch MacBook Air with M2 chip review

Performance

Our review device boasted an 8-core CPU, 10-core GPU. 16GB of Unified Memory and a 1TB SSD. With the M2 chip, the device performs incredibly well.

To test the performance of the MacBook Air, we put it through three tests. To test how fast and efficient the CPU is, we ran GeekBench 6 benchmarks, we performed a video encoding speed test using HandBrake, where we transcoded a 12.14 minute 4K video and timed how long it took (the faster, the better), and we ran disk speed tests which measure how fast the laptops drives are. You can see the results below:

  • Geekbench 5 scores: 2037 Single core score, 15173 multi-core score
  • HandBrake transcoding time of a 12.14 minute 4K video: 1.20 minutes
  • Disk Speed results: 3036.5 MB/s write, 2833.4 MB/s read

These are very good results. As a comparison the M1 MacBook Air from 2020, achieved a single core score of 1707 and a multi-core score of 7390, while the 2023 MacBook Pro with the M2 Max achieved a single core score of 2037 and a multi-core score of 15,173.

These results show the MacBook Air with an M2 chip isn’t too far off the performance capabilities of the MacBook Pro with an M2 Max chip. It’s very impressive.

This means you’ll be able to perform resource heavy tasks like video-editing in 4K or even 8K with ease. 

For an ultraportable, these capabilities are far and above the competition. As a side note, these tests were all performed when the laptop was running on battery power. Most Windows based laptops require the device to be plugged in in order to achieve their full potential. Not the case here.

Another standout is it’s a very quiet laptop. Apple uses a fanless design, and even when performing intense tasks like gaming or video editing, you can’t hear the constant whirring of a fan. This isn’t a new feature, previous MacBook Air’s have fanless designs, however combining that with the performance capabilities of the M2 chip is nothing short of impressive.

Apple 15-inch MacBook Air with M2 chip review

Battery

Apple claims the M2 MacBook Air can get up to 18 hours of battery life off a single charge. We found these claims to be true. Achieving 18 hours and 30 minutes in our tests. It’s massive and easily enough to last all day.

To charge the device you can use the MagSafe port or one of the Thunderbolt 4 ports. You can fast charge the device using a 140W, 96W, 70W, or a 67W charging brick as well. 

The box comes with a 35W charging brick.

Verdict

The 15-inch MacBook Air with an M2 chip is an impressive machine. The bigger size lends itself well to multitasking and simply having more screen to work with makes it more comfortable to use. 

Impressively, Apple has managed to keep the MacBook Air an ultraportable. Although it’s bigger than its predecessors, it’s still light and easily portable. 

Combine that with brilliant performance capabilities and an all day battery life and you have one of the best laptops on the market.

The only question you have to ask yourself is are you a MacBook Air, or a MacBook Pro user? With the Pro, you get a better mini-LED screen, a bit better battery life and better performance capabilities. However, the gap between a “Pro” user and an “Air” user is consistently getting smaller and smaller. The 2023 MacBook Air with M2 chip can easily handle anything you throw at it, so much so that you don’t realistically need a MacBook Pro. All the while being easy to take everywhere with you.

If you’re looking for an ultraportable laptop, this is the best on the market and is worth every dollar. 

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Price
Design
Performance
Battery
Display
Patch Bowen
Patch Bowen is an accomplished technology journalist with a solid academic foundation, holding a degree from Auckland University. His expertise spans across a range of tech topics, with a notable focus on product reviews, industry trends, and the impact of technology on society. With his work featured on major New Zealand websites like Stuff.co.nz, thebit.nz, and The Press, Patch has established himself as a credible voice in technology media. His articles are known for their detailed analysis and practical insights, particularly in making complex technological concepts understandable for a broad audience. At ReviewsFire, Patch is renowned for his thorough evaluations and clear, informative writing style. He has a knack for identifying and explaining the nuances of the latest gadgets and digital trends, earning him a reputation as a trusted source for tech advice and information.
apple-15-inch-macbook-air-with-m2-chip-review With its latest MacBook Air release, Apple has finally released what the public has been asking for: a 15-inch version of its ultraportable laptop. And, as you’d expect, it doesn’t disappoint. Boasting the M2 chip with its market-leading performance capabilities, fantastic all-day battery life and...

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