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MacBook Air 15-inch – save your money – bigger is not always better!

Apple’s latest MacBook Air will sell by the truckload, but there is a story worth telling here

15-inch MacBook Air from Apple

Latest & greatest

Apple’s 15-inch MacBook Air was released at WWDC two weeks ago and was available immediately to buy.

I’m sure you can understand that when new Apple gear is released it piques my interest and I automatically think I need it to review – and this release was no different.

This year’s WWDC was odd though. Although it will be forever remembered as the event where Apple Vision Pro was finally put in front of the world, that to one side, it was a pretty quiet event, oddly, because of Apple Vision Pro.

Not only did the mixed reality headset rightly take up a lot of stage time, but in the run-up to WWDC all available manpower was being dedicated to getting Vision Pro ready for its big day. That meant that hardly any other revolutionary and exciting new products, or for that matter software were on show at the developer’s event.

The latest OS were tame – particularly macOS and even watchOS that we’d heard would be revolutionary was not quite all we’d expected. And then we come to hardware.

Although this event is primarily a developer’s conference, some hardware is often trotted out, I guess to keep the tills turning over. And this year there were three new Macs shown off – an updated M2 Max and M2 Ultra Mac Studio, the long-anticipated Apple silicon Mac Pro and a ’new’ MacBook Air.

Pulling back the covers

The Mac Studio has proved popular and successful since its launch last spring, so dropping in the latest M2 chip made total sense.

So successful has it been that the Mac Studio has almost done away with the need for a Mac Pro at all – the only difference between the two now is the PCIE option of the Mac Pro. But with the Mac Studio Ultra starting at £4200 and the Mac Pro at £7200 they are both high-end Macs. They have their niche for demanding creatives but they both come with a price tag to match. And, good as both doubtless are, neither is hardly setting the world alight with anything stunningly new. The Mac Pro looks exactly the same as the outgoing Intel model.

That means the focus falls squarely on the third Mac that was showcased at WWDC – the new 15-inch MacBook Air. And this is what I want to look closer at.

The need for content

I do this as a job – I sit and write about Apple gear and make videos about them and so crave content. I need new products to cover and I am always looking ahead to what we are likely to be getting.

For a few months before the recent event it was fairly clear that we were going to get a new, upgraded and supposedly updated MacBook Air. When they did announce it I immediately popped it into my basket, but there was something niggling me at the back of my mind before checking out.

The content creator in me needed to have it, but the consumer in me was hesitant and I couldn’t work out why I was holding back. I’m not saying it’s cheap, but it is at least affordable – and I’m pretty certain it will prove popular too.

I know it will be a great Mac. I can hear you saying how can you say that when I don’t even own one…but that’s the point – I kind of do own one. I have the 13-inch model and I can tell you it is a brilliant machine.

Small, lightweight, portable, powerful with day-long battery life – what’s not to like? If I didn’t make video and audio content all the time, then the MacBook Air would almost certainly be my go-to Mac.

But that still hasn’t addressed the point about what was holding me back from splurging out on the new 15-inch model.

Disingenuous

With the 15-inch MacBook Air still sitting in my basket after a couple of days without having checked out I now knew what was holding me back.

It all came down to one thing – an oddly simple thing too actually – honesty.

As I said, I need new products to write about and make content on, but equally, there has to be a degree of honesty in what I make content about. And shouting from the rooftops about how good this new MacBook Air did not tick that box.

With the larger screen to one side, everything about this ‘new’ MacBook Air is the same, exactly the same as the model I have and I do mean exactly.

The chip, the core counts, storage options, memory options, media engines…I could go on, but I think you get my drift. Even the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth modules are identical to my model. The display itself is bigger by two inches but the specs of it are unchanged.

The only difference to my MBA is the slightly revamped speaker set-up now being a six rather than a four-speaker array with some added woofers.

But, whenever I play content on my MacBook Air I always use either my AirPods Pro or Max – and I’m sure I’m not alone in that either. It’s important to not lose sight of what this notebook’s USP is.

Where this MacBook Air wins out is in its portability which brings me to the point of bigger not necessarily being better. It doesn’t need to be bigger or heavier – it’s fine just as it is.

Behind the scenes

Global sales of laptops post-COVID are down. Apple has admittedly ridden the wave better than most, but even they are not invincible to the pinch.

Also going against them is the success of M1 Apple silicon Macs. They revolutionised the world of computing, either laptop or desktop. That kind of quantum leap comes along rarely and certainly is not going to be replicated within just a few years. If you bought a new Mac a few years back, there is no need to change and Apple knows it. They are almost being damned by their own achievements.

Apple needs a way to convince us to buy new hardware so turning to their most popular model was an obvious shout. It will sell, but almost certainly you don’t need it!

The timing of the release is no mistake either. Coming out and being readily available this summer means that it will be packed in many students’ backpacks later this summer as they return to school or college. If you are still using an Intel MacBook Air, then sure, this 15-inch model would be the one I’d choose too.

Having seen the new model for myself, side-by-side with the 13-inch version at Apple Battersea yeah, the larger display does make a difference. If I was going to buy a MacBook Air today that would be the model I’d choose and advise friends and family to buy too. The extra £200 it costs over the 13-inch model throughout its lifetime I reckon would prove to be good value.

But if you have last year’s slightly smaller model you seriously don’t need this MacBook Air. Save you money.

Doing the right thing

I could of course have played the content creator’s trump card and returned the unit within 14 days having made some content on it and got all my money back.

Equally, I could have bought it, kept it and then sell on my 13-inch model which would have covered most of the cost of the 2023 model. But doing that stilldidn’t feel right.

As small as my voice is, it’s important to me that I can stand by the content I make. I surely have to believe in it if I want others to and that was the stumbling block that not only could I not work around but didn’t want to either.

This 15-inch MacBook Air, good as it is, isn’t new.

Had Apple put the M3 in it I would have bitten their arm off for it, but as it stands there was nothing I could hand on heart I could tell you about it that I hadn’t already said.

I’ve only watched two videos about it – from MKBHD and Peter McKinnon. Marquess used Geekbench stats as a filler to pad out the almost required 8-minute duration. McKinnon covered both the Mac Studio and MacBook Air in his brief 6-minute video but barely spoke about either machine.

There is just nothing new to talk about – end of. I am sure if I was to watch other videos there would be shots of the ports and keyboard or a lingering shot of the marginally larger trackpad. But how can you hand-on-heart suggest that anyone with an M2 13-inch MacBook Air buy this Mac?

It just left a bad taste in my mouth which is why I walked away from it.

Wrapping up

The M3 chip does interest me and I reckon there must be a good chance that we’ll get it in the iMac maybe as early as this fall. It will cost about the same as the MBA but will give me something new & honest to talk about and give opinions on.

Just because it’s new doesn’t mean it’s the best. My MacBook Air fits perfectly into the slot I need – it’s powerful enough for me to do basic Lightroom & Photoshop work on it and even make basic video edits.

I can write on it too, publish my blogs and take care of YouTube Studio work. Outside of the heavy audio and video work I do, the 13-inch MacBook Air can handle anything I need or can ask of it. I would have gained nothing from the larger screen and if anything would have lost out as it is bigger and fractionally heavier.

The MacBook Air range of Macs is superb. It was almost as if the MacBook Air had been waiting for the Apple silicon chip for all its life. This Mac more than any other is designed for portability – to be able to work on the go. Size and weight are pretty important factors when making that choice.

Be smart – don’t be fooled by the clickbait titled videos and blogs employing you to change. Look past the hype.

The 15-inch MacBook Air is a great Mac – I know it is…I have the 13-inch MacBook Air!

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