13-inch vs. 15-inch MacBook Air: Which one should you buy?


13-inch vs. 15-inch MacBook Air comparison
Which M2 MacBook Air model is right for you?
Image: Rajesh Pandey/Cult of Mac

Apple’s redesigned 13-inch MacBook Air from 2022 remains among the best portable laptops you can buy. The 15-inch MacBook Air packs the same benefits in a slightly bigger form factor.

So, which MacBook Air model is right for you — 13-inch or 15-inch? Read our comparison to find out.

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15-inch vs. 13-inch MacBook Air comparison

Right from the start, the MacBook Air — dubbed the “world’s thinnest laptop” — appealed to Apple fans who put portability ahead of performance. Not to say that the modern MacBook Air is a slouch. Recent models powered by Apple silicon (either the original M1 chip or the more recent M2) deliver an incredible combo of solid performance and extreme battery life, all in a highly portable, fanless package.

So, which MacBook Air is best for your needs?

Design: Almost the same but better

There are almost no visual differences between the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Air aside from size. The latter is just slightly wider, thicker and heavier than its 13-inch sibling.

  • 13-inch MacBook Air: 0.44 inches high x 11.97 inches wide x 8.46 inches deep; 2.7 pounds
  • 15-inch MacBook Air: 0.45 inches high x 13.40 inches wide x 9.35 inches deep; 3.3 pounds

Compared to the 14-inch MacBook Pro, the 15-inch MacBook Air is a lot more compact and lighter, making it easier to carry around. In fact, Apple calls the new 15-inch MacBook Air the “world’s thinnest 15-inch laptop.”

Its bigger chassis means space for more speakers, which should translate into superior audio. The 15-inch MacBook Air ships with a six-speaker sound system with two force-canceling woofers. For comparison, the smaller MacBook Air comes with a four-speaker system, missing out on the woofers.

Other aspects remain the same, including support for Spatial Audio, a three-mic array and a 3.5mm headphone jack with support for high-impedance headphones.

As for colors, the 13-inch and 15-inch Airs are available in the same shades: starlight, midnight, space gray and silver.

Display: Same but bigger

15-inch MacBook Air
There’s never been a MacBook Air with a larger screen. Not even close.
Photo: Apple

The highlight of the 15-inch MacBook Air is its bigger display. But besides the bigger screen with a slightly higher resolution, the Liquid Retina displays on the two MacBook Air variants look identical.

  • 13-inch MacBook Air: 13.6-inch Liquid Retina display, 2560 x 1664 pixels, 500 nits brightness, Wide color, True tone
  • 15-inch MacBook Air: 15.3-inch Liquid Retina display, 2880 x 1864 pixels, 500 nits brightness, Wide color, True tone

They both offer a rated brightness of 500 nits with Wide color P3 support. The notch in the laptops’ display panels houses a 1080p FaceTime HD camera. Coupled with the M2 chip’s ISP, it promises to enhance your video calls.

With the 15-inch Air, Apple is simply fulfilling the requests of users who always wanted a laptop as thin and light as the MacBook Air but with a bigger display.

Processor: Apple’s M2 chip rules

Meet the chip powering Apple's new MacBook Air.
Meet the chip powering Apple’s MacBook Air lineup.
Photo: Apple

Both current MacBook Air models use Apple’s M2 chip for excellent performance. There’s only one difference: While the base 13-inch MacBook Air ships with an 8-core GPU, all configurations of the 15-inch Air come with a 10-core GPU.

  • 13-inch MacBook Air: M2 chip: 8-core CPU, up to 10-core GPU, 16-core Neural Engine
  • 15-inch MacBook Air: M2 chip: 8-core CPU, 10-core GPU, 16-core Neural Engine

Since the two Airs use the same SoC, they have the same limitations. Officially, you can only connect one external monitor to these laptops, which could be a bummer for some.

As for memory and storage, you can configure both Airs with up to 24GB of RAM and 2TB of storage.

Fabricated on the advanced 5nm node from TSMC, the same M2 chip is found inside the 2022 iPad Pro lineup and the 2022 13-inch MacBook Pro. For better video editing performance, you also get a dedicated ProRes encode/decode engine block. However, you can’t configure the bigger MacBook Air with Apple’s more powerful M2 Pro chip.

Since the MacBook Air features a fanless design, the M2 chip is cooled passively on both machines. But given the 15-inch Air’s larger chassis, its airflow should allow for slightly better sustained performance.

Ports and connectivity: No changes

2023 15-inch MacBook Air ports
That’s all the ports you get on both MacBook Air models.
Photo: Apple

Despite the bigger chassis, and the fact that it launched a year after its 13-inch sibling, the 15-inch MacBook Air comes with the same number and types of ports. It also continues to feature Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.3, despite the 2023 MacBook Pros already supporting the newer Wi-Fi 6E standard.

  • 13-inch MacBook Air: Two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.3, MagSafe 3
  • 15-inch MacBook Air: Two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.3, MagSafe 3

Unlike the Pro models, you do not get a dedicated HDMI or SD card slot on either of the MacBook Air models. The two Thunderbolt 4 ports also could be a limiting factor for some.

For charging, both Air models come with the MagSafe 3 port, which supports fast charging. Using a 70W brick, you can top up the battery of both MacBook Air models to 50% in 30 minutes.

Battery life: MacBook Airs last all day long

You’d expect with a bigger battery, the 15-inch MacBook Air will last longer than its smaller sibling. Surprisingly, that’s not the case. Apple says both MacBook Air models will offer the same battery life.

    • 13-inch MacBook Air: 52.6-watt-hour battery; up to 15 hours of wireless web browsing; up to 18 hours of Apple TV movie playback
    • 15-inch MacBook Air: 66.5-watt-hour battery; up to 15 hours of wireless web browsing; up to 18 hours of Apple TV movie playback

That said, you might be able to get a slightly longer runtime on the 15-inch Air in real life. But don’t expect any major differences.

Price: $1,099 vs. $1,299

Following the launch of the 15-inch MacBook Air, Apple dropped the price of the 13-inch model by $100. This makes the machine slightly more affordable and further bumps its price-to-performance ratio.

  • 13-inch MacBook Air: Starts at $1,099
  • 15-inch MacBook Air: Starts at $1,299

As for the 15-inch MacBook Air, it starts at $1,299, making it $200 more expensive than its smaller sibling. For that additional money, you get a larger display, better speakers and, theoretically, slightly better sustained performance with (potentially) slightly longer battery life.

Conclusion: Which MacBook Air is right for you?

MacBook Air price comparison
Starting prices of Apple’s MacBook Air lineup.
Photo: Apple

If you keep a lot of apps and windows open at once, the additional screen real estate offered by the 15-inch MacBook Air will come in handy. Yes, you pay $200 more for this, but in daily use, you will appreciate the bigger display. But if you are a student, or the MacBook Air will be your first laptop, the 13-inch model will serve you just fine. The smaller size also might appeal to frequent travelers who place a high value on portability.

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One final option: The M1 MacBook Air

Additionally, Apple continues to sell the 2020 MacBook Air, which comes with a somewhat dated design and a less powerful M1 chip. Apple only dropped this laptop’s price to $999, though, so it is not a very attractive option unless money is really tight or you find an exceptional sale. (Lately, we’ve seen the M1 MacBook Air drop to just $799.)

However, if you’re paying full retail and you can swing the price difference, you should opt for the M2 MacBook Air models. Paying just $100 will get you the 13-inch M2 MacBook Air with a newer design, faster chip and advanced features. And, of course, if you want a larger screen on an entry-level Apple laptop, the 15-inch MacBook Air with the M2 chip inside is your only option.


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