The M2 MacBook Air further enhances the formula with a sleeker new design.
Ever since that fated day in 2008, when Steve Jobs whipped out the first MacBook Air from a letter sleeve, it has been easily the most talked about laptop on the planet. The MacBook Air has played such a big role in the Apple myth. The MacBook Air can be spotted everywhere — from Starbucks to a corporate board room to even in the hands of the most inventive of creative professionals. There is a good reason for it — when Sir Jonathan Ive’s team originally crafted it — it was designed to bewitch; it was so slim that it would give the anorexic competition the shakes while doing so and also had the legs to last for aeons while delivering a very acceptable standard of performance.
For the longest time, Apple improved upon the formula, but in 2018, when it was redesigned, Apple’s new mantra of design, especially with the butterfly keyboard and Intel’s flailing ascendance in semiconductors, hobbled it. But then, in 2020, with the M1 processors, Apple reinvigorated it. Let’s not kid ourselves; the M1 MacBook Air is one of the greatest pieces of consumer electronics of all time. It isn’t just the greatest laptop to have been launched in this very decade. The M2 MacBook Air further enhanced the formula with a sleeker new design, making the third change in design for Apple’s most loved laptop.
Now it is available in a 15-inch model. It is a screen size that many have craved for a while, thanks to the dexterity the M2 chip allows for. Apple’s M series silicon has proven to be so capable that for even the most tech-savvy, the MacBook Pro often is overkill. Most just needed some extra RAM and a bigger screen. Apple has delivered exactly that — but after using this notebook for three weeks, I can also report it is much more. Let’s dive in.
15.6-inch LED Retina Display
6 speakers with spatial audio
Yes, it is bigger. The 15-inch screen makes it also wider. The 15-inch Air feels larger than a 14-inch MacBook Pro despite being thinner due to its wider radius. In fact, it actually feels like the 2012 MacBook Pro retina display. The 2012 Retina display Pro had a sense of geometrical symmetry combined with a savvy svelte that this latest MacBook Air harkens back to. It is a pragmatic design that also looks good. And despite the overall radius, you are indeed talking about the world’s slimmest 15-inch laptop. It is slim enough to still easily cut through warm butter. It also is very light, so portability, above all, is still nailed. It feels lighter than a 12.9-inch iPad Pro with a Magic Keyboard.
And that display is wondrous and on the same level as the MacBook Pro. Sure, it doesn’t use the fancy miniLED tech, and it doesn’t have a gazillion million pixels, but to the naked eye, everything looks super. Watching shows like Foundation and See on Apple TV+ is a delightful experience. It also helps the 6-speaker system, which is a bump from even the 13-inch model. The speakers are exceptional. To my ears, they sounded louder than the 14-inch MacBook Pro, if not at a minimum, on the same level.
Watching movies is a delight. Even listening to music is a highly enjoyable experience because there is a punchy bass combined with a smooth mid-range. This sonic cocktail means the sonic experience is fabulous. It is right up there with the MacBook Pro, and no other laptop in the world is comparable in terms of audio quality. Apple’s audio witchcraft has reached a new level of wow.
With the M2 variant of the MacBook Pro, Apple brought the MagSafe connector back from the dead. This is truly nice as the MacBook Air just gets 2 type C ports which also can be used for charging, but when you have MagSafe, then you don’t need to be worrying about losing one port. On top of this, Apple ships it with a 30-W connector that can accommodate twin type C cables which means you can charge another device at the same time.
The keyboard is a massive upgrade from what Apple was offering just a couple of years ago. The keys are actually the same size as the 13-inch model, so it feels like typing on the old 15-inch MacBook Pro with a Retina display. At the same time, Apple’s world-beating trackpad is bigger and smoother than ever. Writers will be perfectly at home with this setup — I managed to write the first draft of this review in less than 90 minutes.
I tested the 16GB RAM, 512GB storage variant with the M2 processor, built on the second generation TSMC 5nm manufacturing process. Even today, more than 3 years on, the M1 processor spec of the MacBook Air is a competent machine. In fact, the only thing that I’ve ever found to be limiting is the base 8GB RAM and 256GB storage spec which also often is good enough for many because of Apple’s unified memory architecture. So more than the bump in performance on the processor, I appreciate the extra RAM and storage. Additionally, on the M2 models, Apple also started using 256GB memory slots while on the M1, it was using 128GB slots — so on the 256GB model with the M1 processor, you had twin slots which meant memory faster as it could run in parallel. So on the M2, this only happens with the 512GB variant with twin 256GB slots, which makes it faster.
But technical jargon aside, the MacBook Air 15-inch packs the power of a Corvette in a chassis of a Lotus Elise. It is ridiculously fast, with apps opening at light speed, seamless app switching and 30-plus tabs open in Safari, not causing any issues. While doing so, you could be editing a 4K video on iMovie or FCP or editing a large dump of high-resolution photos in Photoshop; it will not break a sweat. At the same time, it will also be totally apt for someone like me who writes a 1500-word review inside a text edit app at a Starbucks. I have also seen many people in audio production, and DJing opts for the MacBook Air over the Pro because it has enough power for their work. The 15-inch Air will further that narrative in my books, considering all this horsepower is in a machine that doesn’t come with a fan to keep the thermals in check.
With macOS Sonoma, there are performance improvements incoming, something I have already experienced by running the developer preview on the Air. You get the ability to turn any website into a progressive web app with its own toolbar. Widgets are back, front, and centre in macOS, and with the new GameMode, the limited triple-A titles will work better. I tested Resident Evil Village, and it looked quite sublime — close to the level I can experience high-fidelity games on my PlayStation 5. It also supported the PS5 dual-sense controller. If this is not enough, there are plenty of games on Apple Arcade though these are sure not to appease hardcore gamers.
The truth is that macOS as a platform is still not meant for triple-A gaming as everything has been tailored for the Intel-based x86 architecture and direct X 12 by Microsoft, which runs on Windows. But Apple is starting to make strides with its new Game Porting tool, which is based on Proton. This tool basically translates Windows games tuned for Intel or AMD silicon and DirectX for the M series processors that work with Apple’s Metal framework. It works on top of Rosetta 2, which is already an x86 to ARM translation layer. But games need more optimisation and generally take years to develop. But early experiments with the translation tool have been very positive. In fact, this tool is meant to help game developers optimise their translated code swiftly, but not meant for end users like myself to play Windows games on the Mac.
There is a long road ahead, considering the low market share of the Mac compared to the PC market combined with Apple’s big brother attitude with the App Store and the fact that Microsoft, in particular, is now building a formidable moat around its gaming business with xCloud, GamePass, Xbox and studios like Bethesda and Activision.
Apple claims an audacious 18 hours of battery life for a device of this svelte nature. Incredibly, I managed to clock 19-20 hours consistently. This is spectacular battery life. Even better than what I’m managing on the MacBook Pro 14-inch. If you care about battery life, the 15-inch MacBook Air is the best laptop in the world. This becomes truer even more so if you are looking for a laptop that blends performance, portability and battery life. No other notebook does it better. Apple has yet again hit it out of the ballpark.
Starting at Rs 1,34,900, I cannot say the MacBook Air is either cheap or great value, especially for something with just 8GB RAM and 256GB storage. But the variant I tested, which gets 512GB storage and 16GB RAM, which costs an additional Rs 20,000, this one is fairly priced for the astounding all-around ability it possesses. Let me put it this way: if you don’t care about playing games and want a great laptop, this is the one to get. It is the best laptop in the world.
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