You can currently buy two different flavours of the MacBook Air, with both 13-inch and 15-inch models available. But what are the key differences between these laptops, and which is best for you?
We’ve reviewed both laptops, so we’re well placed to answer those questions. Below, we’ll be breaking down the differentiating specs, as well as what we’ve learned during our extensive testing process.
Table of Contents
Price and availability
We’re going to be focussing on the 2022 edition of the 13-inch MacBook Air, for this guide, which is available from £1149/$1099. However, it’s also possible to purchase the 2020 model of the MacBook Air (with a slightly outdated processor) with a starting price of just £999/$999.
As for the 15-inch MacBook Air, only the 2023 edition is available, and you’ll need to spend at least £1399/$1299 for the pleasure of a bigger screen.
Design and screen
The most obvious difference between the 13-inch MacBook Air and 15-inch MacBook Air is that the latter has a noticeably larger screen. In his review, Max Parker said the 15-inch MacBook Air is “roomier than the 14-inch MacBook Pro without feeling too cumbersome and far easier to work on than the 13-inch Air.”
A larger screen also predictably results in a larger design, although the difference isn’t as big as you’d expect. The 15-inch MacBook Air is 11.5mm thick, while the 13-inch MacBook Air is just 11.3mm thick. That means both laptops share the same port selection, including 2x Thunderbolt, which is a little stingy if you ask us. You do at least get MagSafe charging.
The larger chassis of the 15-inch MacBook Air does result in a noticeable extra heft though, hitting the scales at 1.51kg, whereas the 13-inch Air only weighs 1.24kg. But while the latter is undoubtedly lighter, the 15-inch model is still light enough to carry around on the go without issue.
Beyond the differences in size, there really isn’t much separating the laptop designs. Both feature the notch at the top of the screen, feature full-size keyboards and sport that excellent metal build. The 15-inch Air does flaunt a greater six-speaker sound system though – the 13-inch is limited to a four-speaker arrangement.
As for the screen, neither have the luxury of the vibrant Mini LED display technology found on the more expensive Pro range. Still, both are capable of a peak brightness of 500 nits which is way beyond what most Windows laptops can achieve. There is a difference in screen resolution, but only to account for the larger screen size – both laptops are capable of wickedly sharp images and video.
Apple has fitted the M2 chip inside both the MacBook Air models, so you won’t be getting a more powerful performance when opting for the 15-inch edition.
That said, the 13-inch laptop provides users the choice of two flavours of the M2 chip: one with an 8-core GPU, and another with a 10-core GPU. The 15-inch Air is only available with the latter processor.
As our benchmark results show in the graph below, there really isn’t much separating the two laptops when it comes to processing power.
Our reviewer Max Parker was very impressed with the performance of the 15-inch Air, as he said: “4K video editing, in both Adobe’s Premiere Pro and Apple’s Final Cut Pro, is achievable with smooth scrolling through timelines and quick export times. As with the 13-inch version, the only way I truly managed to slow the machine down while editing 4K footage was by having it plugged into Apple’s 5K Studio Display.”
Apple is offering up the same RAM (up to 24GB) and SSD (up to 2TB) configuration options for both laptops too. As a result, you really don’t need to factor the performance into your buying decision here.
Apple claims that the 15-inch MacBook Air shares the exact same 18-hour battery life as the 13-inch model, despite the former being fitted with a larger battery. Max notes in his review that the larger battery is simply accounting for the larger screen.
Max also agreed that the two laptops saw similar levels of stamina: “During the week of using the MacBook Air 15-inch as my primary work machine daily, it has pretty much matched the 13-inch version in every aspect. I didn’t need to reach for the charger at all during a typical 9-to-5:30 workday.”
So just like with performance, you don’t need to worry about battery life when choosing between the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Air.
There really isn’t much difference between the 13-inch MacBook Air and 15-inch MacBook Air beyond size and speakers. Our tests have confirmed that the difference in performance and battery life is negligible.
So if you’re happy to spend more and get a larger screen, then the 15-inch MacBook Air is a fantastic buy. Or if you’d rather save some money or are happy with the more portable design, then the 13-inch MacBook Air is the way to go.