2023 MacBook Air 15" M2 - Review Roundup

Amazing these days that a laptop like the new Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) M2 Air is priced about the same as a well-optioned iPhone. Kind of crazy really — and suggests that buyers still place a premium on mobile computing and are willing to pay for it.

Laptop shoppers can revel in those market dynamics. Starting at just $1,299 USD the new Apple MacBook Air 15″ M2 is definitely priced right. Keep in mind that’s the 256GB SSD base configuration. Many will likely want to jump to 512GB (+ $200) or opt for more memory such as 16GB (+ $200) or 24GB (+ $400) depending on workload.

Still, with cloud storage and high speed internet many might be perfectly fine with only 256GB SSD on board as Dropbox, Apple iCloud and Box, among others, can take care of storing docs, photos and work projects. Make these choices carefully, however, as, once again, users will not be able to upgrade the SSD or RAM post-purchase. Those days seem to be long gone — at least for MacBooks.

In any case, how are the reviews for the new 15″ MacBook Air looking?

With the embargo lifted I read some from major tech outlets and the consensus seems to be: outstanding. With a caveat or two.

Here’s a few summaries:

Stark Insider - Arts, Film, Tech & LifestyleIn Review: Apple 15-inch MacBook Air (M2 / 2023)

  • The Verge review (9 out of 10) says the new MacBook Air comes with “zero surprises and no sticker shock.” Though it “doesn’t change the world; it just does its job very, very well”
  • MacRumors summarizes the Air as “The Sweet Spot for Performance, Size and Value” and includes a myriad of video reviews in its round-up
  • Ars Technica gives the new 15-inch Air its seal of approval, but does note that the cost of RAM and storage upgrade prices as a negative as well as featuring only two Thunderbolt ports
  • If gaming is really important TechCrunch suggests buyers still consider a Pro model and calls the Air a “great entry level laptop,” though some may have a “hint of processor envy” (for the M2 Pro, Max or upcoming M3)
  • “Finally, Big for Less” is the CNET headline for its MacBook Air review, wrapping up with “these MacBook Airs feel like the safest bet in Apple’s laptop lineup”

From an old MacBook Pro to a new MacBook Air?

2016 MacBook Pro
2016 MacBook Pro. All of a sudden the 2023 MacBook Air looks like a screaming upgrade bargain.

If you’re like me you’re running an older MacBook Pro (2016 in my case, and still going strong, despite no more macOS software updates) and wondering if it makes sense to instead opt for for an Air next.

I typically run a bunch of Google Chrome tabs and occasionally do light photo editing in Adobe Lightroom and the odd time here and there do some Stark Insider graphics work in Illustrator. For video editing, I use a multi-screen Windows desktop with a bunch of AMD and NVIDIA chips doing the heavy lifting. So in this case the Air’s lightweight (3.3 pounds vs. 4 pounds for my Pro) is appealing, especially for travel.

The M2 processor seems more than capable enough for browsing, email work, light duty creative workflow and the like.

Then there’s the price.

I paid north of $3,000 USD in 2016 for a well kitted 15″ MacBook Pro — the most, by far, I had ever paid for a laptop. Seven years later I’d have to say that, yes, it was relatively good value as the thing just keeps chugging away, though the screen resolution isn’t so great by today’s standards. So along comes the new Air with the same size screen, higher resolution and a much faster CPU/GPU for only $1,299. Seems kind of too good to be true, inflation these days and all. Add to the fact that Apple priced it upcoming Vision Pro spatial computing platform at $3,499 (!) and you get the feeling that the value plays these days are with these Air laptops.

An easy decision then: upgrade to a 2023 MacBook Air 15″. Possibly opt for the 16GB RAM option, that should help with a few open apps and lots of Chrome tabs. Other than that this new Air seems to really hit the sweet spot.