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Apple’s 15-inch MacBook Air vs. 16-inch MacBook Pro

There are some subtle, but important, difference between the 15-inch MacBook Air and the 16-inch MacBook Pro.

A creative workspace with art and various office supplies arranged in an aesthetically pleasing design.
Image: KnowTechie

One of the more interesting announcements to come out of Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) is a new MacBook Air that sports a 15-inch screen for the first time.

The MacBook Air has typically existed in the space between Apple’s budget laptop MacBook and its portable powerhouse MacBook Pro, offering the best of both worlds with relatively few tradeoffs.

Historically, one of the trade-offs has been limiting users to smaller visual space compared to the 15-inch — and, later, 16-inch — screens found on the higher-end and more-expensive MacBook Pro models.

Now, with the introduction of the MacBook Air, that trade-off is mostly-eliminated — which raises the question: Is there any advantage to buying a MacBook Pro over a MacBook Air?

The answer is yes — for some of the reasons you might think, and others you might not. Before we get into that, here’s a look at the new 15-inch MacBook Air announced on Monday:

The image shows a person typing on a keyboard. Full text: k
Image: KnowTechie

The Specs

Display15.3-inch Liquid Retina, up to 500 nits brightness
Battery LifeUp to 18 hours
Sound SystemSix-speaker with Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos support
DesignThin, light, fanless
Weight3.3 pounds
PortsMagSafe charging, 2 Thunderbolt, 3.5mm headphone jack
FinishesMidnight, Starlight, Space Gray, Silver
Performance (compared to Intel)Up to 12x faster
Camera1080p FaceTime HD

The new 15-inch MacBook Air offers a 15.3-inch LCD display, which Apple calls “Liquid Retina.”

It is comparable to Liquid Retina displays found on comparable laptops and tablets across Apple’s product line, saves for the 12-inch flavor of the iPad Pro, which uses mini-LED technology.

Like the 13-inch MacBook Air and both sizes of the newer-model MacBook Pro, the LCD display has a “notch” for the 1080p webcam, and either side of the notch is utilized by the top menu bar.

Do you know Apple is calling it the 15-inch MacBook Air and not the 15.3-inch MacBook Air? Because the usable space is slightly less than the diagonal measurement of the screen.

A 15-inch screen means there’s both a bigger lid to accommodate it and a larger lower half to account for symmetry.

A bigger bottom enclosure means there’s more room for Apple to cram additional hardware into the 15-inch laptop compared to the 13-inch MacBook Air.

And they did not waste that opportunity, offering the same six-speaker setup in the 15-inch MacBook Air that is available in the 16-inch MacBook Pro.

Apple says the speaker array includes “two tweeters and two sets of force-cancelling woofers” and will support Dolby Atmos and Spatial Audio on supported streaming services like Apple Music and Apple TV Plus.

Macbooks in purple background
Image: KnowTechie

It remains to be seen how “good” the 15-inch MacBook Air sounds in comparison to the 16-inch MacBook Pro, given that the profile of the MacBook Air is thinner (and, thus, the speaker components are probably smaller, too).

But a six-speaker array in a MacBook Air is unprecedented, and it will almost certainly sound better than the four-speaker set-up in its 13-inch sibling laptop.

The 15-inch MacBook Air also sports a 3.5-millimeter headphone jack, MagSafe connectivity, and support for a single 6K monitor via one of its two Thunderbolt ports.

It comes in the same four stunning color options as the 13-inch MacBook Air: Midnight (bluish-black), Starlight (goldish-white), Space Grey, and Silver. 

Should you buy a 15-inch MacBook Air or a 15-inch MacBook Pro? 

The answer is: It depends on what you want out of a laptop.

For most people who want a portable Mac with a decent screen, great sound, and enough power to get through the day, the 15-inch MacBook Air is probably the one to get.

The 15-inch MacBook Air is powered by the newer-generation Apple Silicon processor called M2, which can easily handle non-complex video editing, photo editing, and everyday tasks like word processing, spreadsheets, browsing the web, checking email, and streaming YouTube videos.

In fact, it might be a bit too powerful for ordinary, everyday tasks — but it’s always nice to know the power is there for when you need it, and even nicer to know that the 15-inch MacBook Air will almost certainly be able to keep up with the times for several years down the road.

Macbook air laptop
Image: KnowTechie

The 15-inch MacBook Air may handle some processor-intensive tasks but is not ideal for long-term use compared to the 14 or 16-inch MacBook Pro with M2 Pro or M2 Max processors, which offer smoother performance for demanding tasks.

Ports are also a consideration: While the 15-inch MacBook Pro has two Thunderbolt ports, one might be occupied by an external monitor, which leaves just one other Thunderbolt port for other peripherals.

Adapters will be needed since the 15-inch MacBook Air doesn’t have a slot for external HDMI, SD cards, or anything else.

Power users who rely on these ports daily should strongly consider springing for the 14-inch or 16-inch MacBook Pro, which bumps the number of Thunderbolt connections to three and includes dedicated ports for external HDMI and SD cards.

Last, there’s price to take into account

In the past, users who wanted to work on a big screen had to spring for the 16-inch MacBook Pro (which presently starts at $2,500 for the base model powered by the M2 Pro chip) or trade portability for affordability by getting a Mac Mini (starts at $600) with an external monitor. 

Ordinary users who want a big-screen Mac that doesn’t break the bank any longer need to compromise. The 15-inch MacBook Air offers a compelling laptop computer with great screen size, a powerful processor that will carry the computer for several years, and an attractive price to boot.

15 inch MacBook Air

It remains to be seen how "good" the 15-inch MacBook Air sounds in comparison to the 16-inch MacBook Pro, given that the profile of the MacBook Air is thinner (and, thus, the speaker components are probably smaller, too). 

Check Availability
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It starts at just $1,300 with 8 GB of RAM, 256 of onboard, solid-state storage (SSD), and a 35-watt dual USB-C power adapter.

It can be configured up to 24 GB of RAM with a 2 TB SSD and a 70-watt USB-C power adapter; that top-of-the-line 15-inch MacBook Air will set you back $2,500.

The new 15-inch MacBook Air is available for pre-order today and ships on June 13.

Have any thoughts on this? Drop us a line below in the comments, or carry the discussion to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Matthew Keys is an award-winning freelance journalist who covers the intersection of media, technology and journalism. He is the publisher of and a contributor to KnowTechie, StreamTV Insider (formerly Fierce Video) and Digital Content Next. Matthew is based in Northern California.

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