Review: Apple's new M2 MacBook Air about as good as 15-inch laptops get

Newshub's Daniel Rutledge reviews the 2023 15-inch MacBook Air.
Photo credit: Newshub.

A few years ago the first M1-powered MacBook Air blew me away and converted me to the Mac way after decades of very much being a PC guy.

I still use a desktop PC at home, but these days can't do without also using a MacBook. The modern ones powered by Apple's own silicon are just too good and - despite the differences in how they operate to a PC - are nice and familiar due to my heavy use of iPhones over the years.

Now, Apple has finally released the long-rumoured 15-inch version of its MacBook Air. That means the most popular laptop size in New Zealand is available with what is arguably the best consumer laptop type of the moment.

The 15-inch M2 MacBook Air starts at around $2500, which is $450 more than the 13-inch version and $750 more than the M1 13-inch.

Its 15-inch screen means it can be considered a rival to the likes of Microsoft's 15-inch Surface Laptop 5 or Dell's XPS 15 - but it has a lot of advantages, which we've talked about a lot with recent laptops powered by Apple's M chips.

The new MacBook Air offers extremely long battery life, more computing power than many people will need, a really nice display and a top-tier keyboard and trackpad. There's even quite impressive sound from the onboard speakers.

There are some things I don't like about it like the usual small selection of ports, it being limited to a 60Hz refresh rate and how it's impossible to upgrade, ever; but this is a very easy laptop to recommend.

However, for many casual users, I'd still comfortably recommend the cheaper, 13-inch M1 MacBook Air. If the smaller size isn't an issue and you're not gaming or working on the laptop, that's still plenty enough power and capability.

With any of the M chip MacBooks you get the crazy long battery life and efficiency, as well as all of the convenient Apple ecosystem stuff like instant handover, which means using your iPhone as a scanner or webcam, as well as copying from one device and pasting on another.

15-inch MacBook Air.
Photo credit: Newshub.

Some people also still don't realise that you can run Microsoft Office on Macs. The keyboard shortcuts are different, but those apps run great on modern Apple computers. If you have an Office subscription, saving documents to the cloud means you can write in them from a PC or a MacBook at any time, using whichever device is most convenient.

The 15-inch Air has six speakers which give better sound than the four on the smaller models, with Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos support that is surprisingly good. I generally always use headphones or earbuds so the better onboard speakers aren't such a sell for me, but it will be for some users.

I do really like the bigger trackpad though. That's a noticable advantage over the smaller models, in addition of course to the bigger screen.

15-inch MacBook Air with Logitech mouse.
Photo credit: Newshub.

The battery life on this thing is pretty amazing. I used it for more than the 18 hours of runtime Apple promised before I needed to charge it.

Even with super heavy usage, I don't imagine this dropping from 100 percent to empty within a working day. Despite the lack of fans I never noticed it get hot, either, but I haven't really pushed it too much - that's what the Pro models are for.

You can choose either a 35W dual charger - which will juice up this Air as well as another device at the same time - or a 70W single charger that'll juice the Air up quicker. Either option doesn't change the price and for me, the faster option is always the preferable one.

Really though, this 15-inch model isn't functionally much different to the 13-inch model released last year. The jump in price is reasonable and will be worth it if you want a bigger screen - but keep in mind despite how light this may be compared to other 15-inch laptops (1.51kg and 11.5mm thick), it's still less convenient to carry about than the smaller model.

The ports on the 15-inch M2 MacBook Air.
Photo credit: Newshub.

The base model only has 8GB of RAM and as you can't upgrade that later you may want to fork out for more, but as it's Apple silicon it's still more efficient and powerful than many other laptops out there with the same amount of RAM, as benchmark tests have confirmed.

Overall, the more I used it, the more I liked the 15-inch screen. I can see why it's such a popular size. With the value, battery life, power and reliability of this unit - as well as how light it is for its size - it is a very easy laptop to recommend.

Newshub was supplied a 15-inch M2 MacBook Air with 8-core CPU and 10-core GPU, 16GB RAM and 512GB storage for this review.