Apple's MacBook Air 13 has for the last decade at least been the default MacBook to recommend for the widest range of users. The cheapest model in the MacBook family, it was the best laptop for students, work, casual browsing, entertainment, and even some light photo and video editing.
With the introduction of Apple Silicon starting with the M1 chip, Apple really kicked the MacBook Air up a notch and made it a serious contender as the best laptop for photo editors who wanted the most portable machine possible that also had the power to get things done.
For years, Apple users have been asking for a larger version of the MacBook Air, and finally, Apple has relented to pressure (or market forces) and given fans what they want with the introduction of the MacBook Air 15-inch model, which Apple's current M2 generation of Apple Silicon.
Processor: Apple M2 chip with 8-core CPU and up to 10-core GPU
Display: 15.3-inch LED-backlit IPS display, 2880x1864, 224 PPI, 500 nits brightness, Wide color (P3) True Tone technology
Memory: Up to 24GB unified memory
Storage: Up to 2TB SSD storage
Battery: 66.5 mAh ( approx 18 hrs Apple TV, 15 hours wireless web)
Ports: MagSafe 3 charging port; 2 Thunderbolt 4 ports
Camera: 720p FaceTime HD camera
The headline feature of the latest MacBook Air is of course its increase to a 15-inch screen. Otherwise, the 15-inch MacBook Air has a lot in common with its little 13-inch brother. The screen is Apple's tried and tested Liquid Retina LED-backlit IPS display with 1 billion colors and the full P3 color gamut, so is perfect for color-critical editing. The screen can also reach 500 nits of brightness for working outside.
Apple has also included the latest Apple M2 silicon, which according to Apple's own metrics (which will undoubtedly be on the more generous side) the M2 chip is up to 1.4x faster than MacBook Air with an M1 chip, and an incredible up to 12x faster than the fastest Intel‑based MacBook Air. Not only this but the efficiency improvements of the chip and MacOS mean you can score up to 18 hours of battery life. However, the caveat; this is measured by playing video from Apple TV, so don't expect that kind of figure for intensive programs like editing.
There is Apple's newly updated MagSafe charger for charging the laptop, as well as two Thunderbolt 4 compatible USB-C ports for high-speed transfers, and Apple is also keeping the headphone jack alive for now at least. The keyboard on the Air 15 is the latest scissor-switch keyboard, and there is still a fingerprint reader in the top corner for biometric login and approvals in apps. The MacBook 15 also has newer 1080p webcams, Apple's previous shoddy webcams being a sore point for quite a long time. The speakers have Spacial Audio and are Dolby Atmos compatible, so should offer rich and immersive sound.
Build & Handling
The MacBook Air 15 doesn't break any new ground when it comes to design or build. If you have ever touched a MacBook before, then the MacBook Air 15 will be instantly familiar to you. Essentially, this is the exact same laptop as the Air 13, but the corners have just been stretched out. The keyboard remains as Apple's absolutely heavenly to type-on scissor-switch keyboard from the Air 13, with (love it or hate it) no touch bar to be seen here, although the keyboard still inherits the fingerprint ID button in the top right-hand corner which is one of the best I have used, it is very fast and with almost no rejections.
The port selection is also the same as the MacBook Air 13, which is to say, it's quite disappointing. There is the new MagSafe power adapter port, which I still dislike over having a third USB-C that handles charging when needed. For a portable laptop with sensational battery life, having a dedicated charging port seems redundant as in my week with the laptop I barely used the MagSafe port and would have been much better served by a more versatile connection.
There are also only two other USB-C ports, thankfully these are the latest Thunderbolt spec so can handle offloading images to external SSDs with serious speed. However, with a 15-inch chassis, I would think there might be space to squeeze in just one or two more ports, or even better for creators – an SD card slot. It is pretty clear Apple wants creators to spend on its MacBook Pro lineup, but when the M2 chip in the Air series is this good, anyone except high-end creators would be more than catered for by either size of the MacBook Air.
Apple continues to knock it out of the park with its screens. The 15-inch screen on the Air 15 is simply stunning, full of deep rich color and showing off MacOS' blend of smooth yet sharp UI. The 15-inch screen is a dream to edit photos and videos on, with the additional space, it is easier to get Photoshop, Premiere, and Lightroom's ever-expanding selection of panels and windows all on screen at once, making it faster and more convenient to edit more directly from the laptop. I am still not completely into the notch at the top of the screen, but it looks like it is here to stay, so I should stop probably moaning about it.
Specific side note about the "Midnight" version of the MacBook Air 15, which is the one I am testing. Wow, this thing is a magnet for fingerprints. It took me about five minutes of polishing and a pair of white gloves to take the images for this review. Thankfully the silver-colored MacBooks don't share this problem.
If you have read any reviews of products powered by Apple's latest Silicon then you will know just how capable they are, and of course, the Air 15 is no different, as it shares the same acclaimed M2 chip found in the MacBook Air 13 and MacBook Pro 13 and Mac Mini.
The M2 chip in the Air 15 handles all the day-to-day stuff with ease, MacOS has always felt silky smooth to use, even on older Intel chips, but with M2, everything opens that bit faster, especially Microsoft Office and Adobe software, which feels like it takes an age to just load on my Intel i7 powered MacBook Pro.
When it comes to actually using creative software, the difference between the M2 and older Intel systems is dramatic. I spend most of my time in Adobe Lightroom Classic, which isn't really renowned for its speed at the best of times, but where my i7 MacBook Pro frequently gets hung up on the most simple of tasks like speeding through previews of images, the M2 Air just doesn't really get bogged down. The Air 15 is also fanless, which makes a huge difference to my working environment (and the environment of those around me) when currently creative software makes my laptop sound like a jet engine.
|Header Cell - Column 0||MacBook Pro 14 (M2 Pro)||MacBook Air (M2)||MacBook Pro 13 (Intel i7, Iris Plus)|
|GeekBench 5 Single-core CPU score||1,974||1,936||1,261|
|GeekBench 5 Multi-core CPU score||14,831||8,917||4,908|
|GeekBench 5 OpenCL score||45,922||27,558||9,190|
|Cinebench R23 Single-core CPU score||1,646||1,597||1,130|
|Cinebench R23 Multi-core CPU score||14,768||8,098||5,031|
If you are coming from an M1 chip then you probably won't notice a real terms difference between the two, and unless the 15-inch screen is appealing enough to change, I would recommend you stick with what you have as the chip alone is not worth the upgrade. But if you are coming from Intel models of the MacBook Air or Pro, welcome to editing paradise.
Apple is almost certainly creating a dilemma for itself here, the M2 chip in the Air 15 was so good for the level of photo and video editing that I perform as a solo portrait and event photographer/videographer, it is hard to recommend buying anything more powerful. I have tested the M2 Pro and M2 Max chips, and while their power is unreal, so is their cost. The MacBook Air 15 hits the sweet spot between power and price. Previously I wouldn't have hesitated to buy the latest MacBook Pro model, but now, I will have to second-guess my intentions.
The battery on the MacBook Air 15 just keeps going and going. As you'd suspect, high-intensity programs like Lightroom or Premiere make the battery drain significantly faster, but I am still getting hours more power than older systems. And when it comes to just productivity and internet browsing, things get even better. On a recent full day of traveling involving typing up work on Google Docs, some light photo editing, and a fair amount of YouTube streaming, I still came home with battery life to spare. My charger anxiety is almost alleviated with this laptop.
Lastly I am just going to mention the speakers, which are decent enough, there is plenty of power, and some good separation from the bass although you don't get near the rounded sound and incredible audio quality from the MacBook Pro models. It is a shame with the increased space afforded in the 15-inch Air that Apple couldn't have done just a little more.
The MacBook Air 15 is probably the best laptop currently on the market for most people, and a superb decision for any photographer, videographer, or creative who wants a larger gorgeous screen, combined with enough power to comfortably run the latest editing software, and all wrapped up in a lightweight package that can easily slip into a backpack.
There are more powerful Apple options for the most demanding editing situations, but for most people, the M2 chip inside the Air 15 will provide more than enough oomph to edit comfortably. The lack of abundant ports and an SD card slot holds this laptop back from being the ultimate laptop for content creators though, with the MacBook Pro holding a dongle-free existence hostage for now.
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If you want a little more power than the MacBook Air 15, but in a smaller (although slightly chunkier) package, then look no further than the MacBook Pro 14 M2 (2022). Offering all the things that make the Air 15 great but in a more travel-friendly size with no compromises.
If you are looking at the world of Windows computers, then the Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 is the perfect anti-Apple machine. Offering a stunning design that gives Apple a run for its money, the Surface Laptop can also handle editing comfortably, although with not quite so much gusto as the M2-equipped Air.