MacBook Air 15″ M2 vs MacBook Pro 16″ M1 Max – Honest Review

Apple MacBook Air 15" M2 vs MacBook Pro 16" M1 Max Review

Can MacBook Air 15″ M2 replace my MacBook Pro 16″ M1 Max? You’ll be surprised but in my case the 15″ MacBook Air can do everything what my MacBook Pro 16″ M1 Max was able to deliver while being lighter and nicer in the Starlight finish. Has the MacBook Air 15 inch better or worse battery life than the MacBook Pro M1 Max 16 inch?

Can MacBook Air 15″ M2 replace my MacBook Pro 16″ M1 Max? Don’t laugh, I asked myself this very question recently. You may be wondering why on earth someone would want to upgrade to a lesser weaker MacBook Air when they already have an almost top model MacBook Pro at home. Well, these days it’s not so black and white anymore. 

Weight Difference between MacBook Air 15″ M2 and MacBook pro 16″ M1 Max

One of the main reasons why I was considering this upgrade or downgrade if you want was the weight. The 16″ MacBook Pro M1 weighs 4.7 pounds or 2.1 kg but the 15″ MacBook Air M2 only 3.3 pounds or 1.51 kg. And for someone like me who is really not a prototype of bodybuilder it’s huge difference. The 15″ MacBook Air M2 is so comfortable to use and light, that I can easily carry it using only single hand, even my left hand 😉 something completely unthinkable with the 16″ MacBook Pro. Or if you’re a student or you carry your MacBook everywhere with you in a back pack believe me those 1.4 pounds or 600 grams difference is very noticeable.

MacBook Air 15" M2 Weight
MacBook Air 15″ M2 Weight

Weight Difference between MacBook Air 15″ M2 and MacBook pro 16″ M1 Max

Price was not the reason for me, but for the record let’s compare it too. I chose the MacBook Air 15″ M2 with 24GB of memory and 512GB SSD for $1,899 versus my M1 Max MacBook Pro 16″ which I bought in 2021 for $3,899, that’s $2,000 difference. In another words for a price of a single MacBook Pro 16″ M2 Max these days you can have two 15″ M2 MacBook Airs.

MacBook Air 15" M2 Price
MacBook Air 15″ M2 Price

Main reason to Switch to MacBook Air 15″

In the past I also had the MacBook Air 13″ with the M1 SoC, it was really adorable companion and I loved it. But because I’m already old pumpkin as you can see and whole day I’m looking into displays, my eyes are not so good anymore, so the 13 inches of the Air became unusable size for me – people in my age know very well what I’m talking about. That was the main reason why I pulled the trigger and bought the 16″ MacBook Pro, not because of the M1 Max performance, not because of the 64GB of memory, it was only because of the display size. If Apple would offer 16″ MacBook Air few years ago, you can bet I would buy it. So thanks God Apple finally released the MacBook Air 15″ which I’m sure many people have been waiting for. And I’m also sure the 15″ Air will become an absolute blockbuster. How can I be so sure? Watch this whole video, because I will give you many arguments why.

If you are switching from 13″ to 15″ you will see massive gain in screen real estate. Two apps side by side? No problem, it’s perfectly usable. On the 13″ it’s more like two iPhones side by side. But how I feel when I switched from 16.2″ on the MacBook Pro to 15.3″ on the MacBook Air? Honestly? yes, sure it’s noticeable, but after a day or so I did get used to it and now it feels natural and comfortable to me.

MacBook Air 15" M2 2 Apps side-by-side
MacBook Air 15″ M2 2 Apps side-by-side

Do I miss the ProMotion display with 120Hz refresh rate? Again, I was surprised, but not at all. Many times to increase battery life on my 16″ MacBook Pro I had to enable to Low Power Mode which also disables the 120 Hz refresh rate 🙂

HDR on the 15″ MacBook Air

And what about the loss of HDR? The 16″ MacBook Pro has the Pro XDR display capable of sustained 1000 nits fullscreen brightness and peak one of 1600 nits. The MacBook Air 15″ tops out only at 500 nits. But in real life of all day use working with documents, writing emails, chatting on Discord, watching YouTube videos etc. there’s absolutely no difference at all, because almost all of such content is in SDR only and not in HDR. Well 🙂 all my videos in past few years are in fact in HDR but the Apple displays are so amazing that even watching HDR videos on the MacBook Air 15″ looks great. Yes, sure, the peak brightness difference is there when I focus on it and compare it side by side to my XDR display, but is it $2,000 better? For me not at all and I’m really a demanding user. BTW in consuming SDR content the MacBook Pro 16″ has the same peak brightness of 500 nits as the MacBook Air 15″ so no difference here. BTW I noticed when both displays set to 50% brightness the 15″ Air was brighter to my eyes.

MacBook Air 15" M2 HDR
MacBook Air 15″ M2 HDR

MacBook Air 15″ M2 Achilles Heal?

And now we come to the Achilles heel of the MacBook Air 15″ with M2 and that’s performance. Obviously fanless design in much smaller body can’t produce same performance especially in sustained heavy workloads, but the MacBook Air was never meant to be a workstation, it’s a lightweight portable device now with the added benefit of bigger screen. I always teach my clients they should use the right tool for the job done. No one certainly can assume that the MacBook Air would be good for 3D graphics or daily editing and rendering youtube videos right? But wait. I was surprised the MacBook Air 15″ with M2 handled even that with dignity.

Apple Media Engine

Unlike the previous M1 Air generation the M2 MacBook Air has the Apple Media engine with Hardware-accelerated H.264, HEVC, ProRes, and ProRes RAW decode and encode which makes it suitable for lighter video editing.

MacBook Air 15" M2 Media Engine
MacBook Air 15″ M2 Media Engine

MacBook Air 15″ M2 CPU Temperature

Look, I set myself a little challenge – to learn not to worry about the CPU temperature anymore. In such heavy tasks the Air can easily get over 100 degrees of Celsius, so let’s see if the decision to believe Apple developers that such high long term temperatures will not shorten lifespan was right or not. I will test it for you and let you know in future.

MacBook Air 15" M2 CPU overheating
MacBook Air 15″ M2 CPU overheating
MacBook Air 15" M2 Temperature
MacBook Air 15″ M2 Temperature

Memory

And that gets me to another topic and that’s memory. What I loved on the MacBook Pro 16″ M1 Max was the option to get 64GB of memory. For my workloads I barely hit a situation where it would need to swap to disk. Also because I never used it to maximum and any super heavy editing. For that I had my Mac Pro 2019, Mac Studio M1 Ultra and now the M2 Ultra one. I was very pleasantly surprised that even though I have on the Air many gigs of swap space on my disk thanks to only 24GB of memory, the 15″ MacBook Air still feels snappy, no beachballs all the time, it’s perfectly usable. The 15″ M2 Air finally helped me to heal my “swapofobia” disease 🙂 Around 3GB per second read and write speed on the 512GB SSD is good enough to not have a bitter experience while working on heavier tasks.

MacBook Air 15" M2 Memory Swap
MacBook Air 15″ M2 Memory Swap

We all know the MacBook Pro 16″ has much better speakers, fine, the 15″ Air can’t compete here, but did I get used to lower quality? Sure I did, because despite little weaker it’s still freaking good for such ultra thin laptop.

Dirt on MacBook Pro 16″ M1 Max vs MacBook Air 15″ M2

But again the MacBook Air 15″ helped me to heal another fobia 🙂 I absolutely hated that the MacBook Pro was constantly dirty, everywhere on the keyboard there was dog hair, fine grains of dust, etc. There is nothing like that on the MacBook Air.

Dust particles in the speaker grill of MacBook Pro 16" M1 Max
Dust particles in the speaker grill of MacBook Pro 16″ M1 Max

And most of all I had a problem with these dust grains in the speaker grille. I was constantly afraid they would fall through inside and I would never get them out. It got to the point where I bought a mini vacuum cleaner just to treat that 🙂 I will leave you link in video description if you are dealing with same “fobia” 🙂

Mini Vacuum Cleaner to clean MacBook keyboard I showcased in this video:
👉 https://geni.us/BJWEXGm

Vacuum Cleaner to clean MacBook Keyboard
Vacuum Cleaner to clean MacBook Keyboard

Battery Life

But biggest surprise to me was the battery life. The 16″ MacBook Pro has massive 100-watt-hour battery so you may think it will last longer than the 66.5-watt-hour one on the Air. Wrong. I simulated my normal daily routine like answering emails, chatting, writing scripts, watching videos, Zoom video calls etc. When the 16″ ran out of juice the MacBook Air 15″ had still 64% battery left showing 7 hours and 44 minutes of runtime left. Whaaat? Are you kidding me? You may admit my M1 Max MacBook is not new so the battery is already weakened, but with 223 cycles only it’s still in good shape.

MacBook Air 15" M2 Battery Life
MacBook Air 15″ M2 Battery Life

And what about the chargers? With the 16″ I used the 140W which is really huge compared to the 70W I chose for the 15″ Air. And the claimed 50% fast-charge in just 30 minutes is real.

MacBook Chargers
MacBook Chargers

Keyboard

And there’s one more difference that nobody talks about – the keyboard. I noticed when I replaced my 13″ MacBook Air M1 with 16″ MacBook Pro I can’t no longer type as fast and accurate. The M1 Air keyboard was by my opinion much better than the MacBook Pro one. And same applies here again. Typing on the 15″ MacBook Air simply feels to me more pleasant. Maybe it’s because of the lower height or because of the silvero-dorado-goldish accents around the keycaps of the Starlight finish. But I don’t care why, I simply really enjoy typing on the Air much more.

MacBook Air 15" M2 Keyboard
MacBook Air 15″ M2 Keyboard

And last but not least I must love the look and feel of everything I use, so also computers which I work with all day long. I don’t care if my car has 500 horse power of just 50. If it’s purple, I take it 🙂 And let’s face it, the MacBook Air M2 15″ especially in the Starlight color is simply irresistible 🙂 Since I’m using the 15″ Air I much more enjoy time spent with it. It has the horsepower to do everything most people need, powerful but still lightweight, eye catching, adorable… 

MacBook Air 15" M2
MacBook Air 15″ M2

It’s companion, my new companion who kicked the 16″ MacBook Pro out for sale. Get one and you will love it as I do. I firmly believe that you definitely won’t make a mistake when you buy this MacBook Air 15″ for yourself, your wife, your lover or whoever 🙂

This time Apple really nailed it!