Why you can trust ZDNET : ZDNET independently tests and researches products to bring you our best recommendations and advice. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Our process

'ZDNET Recommends': What exactly does it mean?

ZDNET's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.

When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNET nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.

ZDNET's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.


I recommend this 15-inch MacBook Air to most people, and it's $250 off for Prime Day

While the latest M3 model is great, last year's 15-inch MacBook Air with an M2 chip remains an excellent laptop choice, especially with this Prime Day deal.
Written by Kerry Wan, Senior Reviews Editor
The side of the Apple MacBook Air 15-inch with a red background
Kerry Wan/ZDNET

What's the deal?

Right now, Amazon is selling the 15-inch MacBook Air (M2) for $200 off, whether you opt for the 256GB or 512GB variant.

ZDNET's key takeaways

  • Apple's 15-inch MacBook Air with M2 is no longer the latest ultraportable from the company, but it's still a formidable laptop one year later.
  • The larger screen and lighter form factor make it a compelling device for content creators, designers, and more.
  • Still, the absence of extra ports is felt, with just two USB-C and one 3.5mm headphone jack available on the laptop.

For the longest time, Apple's MacBook lineup was in a bit of disarray. Choosing the right model primarily boiled down to budget and display preference, but if you wanted a larger screen, you'd have to pay up for a Pro model, even if the extra power and ports were unnecessary. For most user applications, it's overkill.

Also: M3 MacBook Air (2024) review: Benchmark results of Apple's AI laptop may surprise you

That's why the 15-inch MacBook Air changes everything and has made my job so much easier. Apple's large-screen MacBook is ultraportable, will satisfy anyone's content-consuming heart, and somehow costs just $100 more than its smaller, older predecessor.

While the M2 model featured in this article is no longer the newest offering from Apple -- there's now an M3 variant in town -- it looks nearly identical to its successor, has the same 18-hour battery life rating, and is only missing two features (dual-monitor support and Wi-Fi 6E), chipsets aside. That said, for less money, the M2 MacBook Air may still be the best laptop for you. Here's why.

View at Amazon

To keep it simple, besides the larger chassis and some upgrades under the hood, the 15-inch MacBook Air is the same system as 2022's 13-inch model. We named the latter ZDNET's Product of the Year for its competency, portability, and price, and you're getting the same value propositions this time around.

Also: MacBook Air vs MacBook Pro: How to decide which model to buy

The design of the MacBook is sleek and modern, with elements like flat edges, the camera notch, and MagSafe charging that have trickled down from Apple's higher-end laptops. What wasn't carried over was the extra ports and slots for HDMI and SD cards. (You won't get those aspects on the new M3 model either.)

The MacBook Air stacked next to the MacBook Pro

Comparing the port selection between the 15-inch MacBook Air (left) and the 16-inch MacBook Pro (right).

Kerry Wan/ZDNET

I get it: This is a MacBook Air, not a MacBook Pro. But something just feels off about having more real estate yet the same amount of ports as the previous, smaller model. For reference, the count is two left-aligned USB-C ports and a 3.5mm headphone jack on the right. An additional USB-C on the right side is all I really ask for. That way, charging the MacBook doesn't always feel like a game of tug-of-war with my outlet. 

Plugging the charger into the MacBook Air 15-inch

The MagSafe charging port, along with the only two USB-C ports, is found on the left side of the laptop.

Kerry Wan/ZDNET

My review unit came in Starlight, which shimmers in gold and silver hues and doesn't retain fingerprints like the FBI agent that is the Midnight variant. Altogether, this is one of the better-looking 15-inch laptops I've used and is a testament to Apple's maturity when it comes to the MacBook's industrial design.

While the 15-inch MacBook Air is relatively lightweight (2.7 pounds) compared to other big-screen laptops, I wouldn't go as far as to say that it's unnoticeable when tucked in a backpack. That was the case with the 13-inch Air that I lugged around at CES, but not with this model. 

Still, it's a nice middle ground and induces less back pain than the 16-inch MacBook Pro typically found in my everyday carry. I have no problem recommending this to students, hybrid workers, and coffee shop dwellers, which I don't often say about 15-inch laptops.

MacBook Air 15-inch Keyboard

The 15-inch MacBook Air still has a backlit keyboard with function keys. And the trackpad is larger than ever.

Kerry Wan/ZDNET

To round out the design differences, the 15-inch MacBook Air features a six-speaker sound system compared to last year's four-speaker. Audio still fires up from the keyboard, not the sides, but the upgrade is definitely noticeable. Instead of having to crank up the MacBook's volume to the max, which I often found myself doing with the 13-inch when watching movies or playing music in the kitchen, the 15-inch at 75% volume is adequate.

Also: The best MacBook accessories of 2024: Expert tested and reviewed

If we want to get into the nitty-gritty, I still prefer the fuller, more bass-heavy audio produced by the MacBook Pro's speakers, but for a $600-$800 price gap, I can live with the MacBook Air's version.

As far as day-to-day performance goes, the MacBook Air, powered by an M2 chip, 8-core CPU, and now 10-core GPU by default, handled my usual spectrum of multi-window browsing, conference calls, photo and video editing, and constant media streaming gracefully. The lack of cooling fans means the Air is near-silent, even when it's cranking out graphics and uploading/downloading large video files.

MacBook Air 15-inch Display

The MacBook Air's display ramps up to 500 nits of brightness, which is just enough in most well-lit environments.

Kerry Wan/ZDNET

The laptop is capable of 4K exports on Adobe Premiere Pro and editing RAW files on Adobe Photoshop, but anything more intense, such as 3D modeling and animating, will likely push the Air to its limit. At that point, the MacBook Pro, Mac Studio, and Mac Pro has your name on it. Or, the M3-powered MacBook Air may be more suitable for your needs.

Also: How Apple's chip transition yielded such an oddly configured Mac Pro

What I found myself missing when testing the MacBook Air was the 120Hz ProMotion display from the Pro line. All it took was an hour or two before my eyes adapted to the slower, less smooth 60Hz panel, but the larger 15-inch display didn't make the transition easy. In fact, it made the difference more apparent.

ZDNET's buying advice

All that is to say, the 15-inch MacBook Air faces the same criticisms as the older 13-inch model, like the lack of utility ports and a slower refresh rate display. And for those reasons, it's not the laptop for me.

But everything else about it is as good as the current $1,099 price point gets. My parents, who favor the larger, more vivid viewing experience, will love it. My partner, a teacher who spends hours a day sifting through spreadsheets, will love it. And my younger cousin, an undergraduate who's always on his feet and writing research papers, will love it. This is the MacBook most people have been waiting for and is the one that most people should buy.

Editorial standards