Sun. May 19th, 2024

For a while now we’ve been hearing rumours about Apple working on a larger MacBook Air model, but there’s a lot that doesn’t make sense about it. So lets talk design, performance, price, and most importantly, when we can buy one.

Team Kinetix#iCaveAnswers if Apple release the rumoured 15” MacBook Air (just MacBook?) will Randomness R want a 17” version?

I’m a huge fan of the MacBook Air. My first ever Mac was the tiny 11” 2011 MacBook Air and that thing was amazing. So thin and even towards the end of its 8 years or so of useful life, it felt far snappier than any windows laptop I ever used in daily tasks.

Today, I use the M2 MacBook Air, the redesign was too much for me to resist and the midnight colour is absolutely awesome. I even did a whole video about why everyone was worried about the finish and you can check it up there – but suffice to say I’ve been using it since the release day and it looks 100% mint still.

Is the 15” Air really happening?

So first and foremost, how certain are we that a bigger MacBook Air is even coming? Well, there’s been confirmation that the 15.5” displays are going into production in the 1st quarter of next year from Ross Young, and his track record on Apple displays so far has been 100%. He’s literally never been wrong.

The only question mark could be the name of the machine, there’s a chance it could have a new name like simply “MacBook” or there have even been suggestions of MacBook Studio. I’m not convinced, I think it’s likely to be MacBook Air, and Apple has offered an 11.6” and 13.3” option in the past on previous models so it’s not impossible.

Now Ross only sees the panels as his speciality is the display aspect, so what makes it look like these are for a MacBook Air? Well Apple’s panels have the distinctive rounded corners and presumably the notch in there, so that’s a decent indicator. Also iPad displays have a different aspect ratio to MacBooks, basically ruling out the larger iPad we’ve hear about, but the panels aren’t miniLED or ProMotion, so unlikely destined for Pro machines.

Both Ming Chi Kuo and Mark Gurman have also mentioned this device too, so it seems very likely that it’s on the way. That said, they also both agreed with Jon Prosser that the Apple Watch Series 7 was going to be flat sided too, so no-one’s infallible. Except Ross Young.

I’d expect this to look very much like the 13.6” M2 model, just with a little more space either side of the keyboard and with deeper wrist rests and space for an even bigger trackpad, which is yet another win.

What Chips will be inside the 15” MacBook Air, and when?

There have been mixed reports about the chips that would power the larger MacBook Air, but I think it’s pretty clear that whatever goes in will match the smaller MacBook Air. That means the base M series chips, and my guess is that they’ll start with Apple’s 2023 M3 chip. Some have suggested that they could come with M2 and M2 Pro options, but here’s why that makes absolutely zero sense.

I’ve said from the start that I think Apple’s plan is that all the Apple Silicon Macs will end up getting annual updates on the chip side, just like iPad, iPhone and the rest. The cores are being updated every year for iPhone’s A chips, so it makes little sense not to keep the Macs up to date too, even if the updates are generally simple chip bumps.

If these display panels are likely to be produced in the first quarter, I’d guess they’re not going to ship in a device to consumers until at least Q2, and the end of that quarter would be June’s WWDC, with WWDC being the time that Apple introduced M2 in 2022. So I’d expect M3 MacBook Airs to be arriving around then, in both 13.6 and 15.5” sizes.

Now I know there have also been rumours that the 15.5 could be out in early 2023, as soon as March, but that would almost guarantee M2, which would then potentially be superseded by M3 very quickly, either upsetting M2 BigAir owners because it was only the latest version for a few months, or not releasing at the same time with M3 in the larger Air as the smaller one, which makes even less sense. Hold off till June, launch both together with M3 inside and call it a day.

What’s it going to cost, and where does it sit in the lineup?

It’s reasonably easy to work out pricing on the MacBook Air 15”, because we have MacBook Pros that are basically identical beyond display size and battery capacity already. And although the starting prices for those MacBook Pros in 14” and 16” are $500 apart, that’s because the entry level Pro gets a binned chip, with 8 cores instead of 10, so for the same spec, the gap is $200, which I’d expect to be the same with the MacBook Air.

So while we have a starting price of $1199 on the air with an 8 core GPU, I can see the 15” getting an unbinned chip for an extra 100 and the larger display for 200, giving a starting price of $1499 for the BigAir. That seems pretty reasonable too.

My guess is that will get you 256gb of storage, non-binned M3, 8gb of Unified Memory and the same IO as the 13.6” too, 2x USB-C, headphone jack and MagSafe charging. Of course, that bigger form factor will also offer better battery life too, which right now is the only party trick the long in the tooth looking 13” MacBook Pro has up it’s sleeve, so I do think this will likely replace that model in the range too. And that of course will also be the end of the marmite love it or hate it TouchBar too.

So an M3 powered 15.5” Retina LCD, thin, fanless MacBook Air with category beating battery life, TouchID, More performance than 90% or more of people will ever need and the best part of a decade of OS support on MacOS, for around $1500 starting price sounds pretty compelling. For anyone who needs more display space because they have visual impairments, or just needs a mobile capable computer that lasts probably at least a couple of work days, this will be a compelling option. I don’t think it makes sense to rush it out with an M2 and replace it quickly, but who knows. 

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