Apple should ditch its plans for a MacBook Air and give us what we want instead

Fashionable Girl with Gucci Handbag Working on Apple Laptop Macbook Air
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

With Apple WWDC 2023 just around the corner, there's been a lot of rumors circulating that we're going to get a major new product launch at the developer event, and it wouldn't be out of character for Apple to mix it up and introduce a consumer product rather than one geared more towards the industry professional set.

It was Apple WWDC 2022, after all that saw the introduction of the Apple M2 chip, along with the new MacBook Pro 13-inch and a newly-redesigned MacBook Air. Now, the speculation is that Apple is set to roll out an even bigger 15-inch MacBook Air in two months, and if that's the case, I'm sure there are going to be some people who will be excited by the new, larger Mac ultraportable (or at least ultraportable-ish).

I, however, wouldn't be one of them, and I think it would be a huge mistake for Apple to try and mess with what is arguably the best laptop on the market for most people — especially if it comes with a bump up in price to go along with its ever so slightly bigger display.

The 13-inch MacBook Air is pretty much perfect

Several MacBook Air 2022 models on display

(Image credit: Future)

The problem with a 15-inch MacBook Air is that Apple already has pretty much the most perfectly sized laptop for the ultraportable class. Many of the best Windows laptops are 15-inch laptops, and generally speaking, 15 inches is about the ideal size for a higher-performance laptop.

Those laptops are rarely all that portable, however, since the whole reason for a 15-inch laptop is the better hardware that requires more power, hence a bigger (and heavier) battery.

Meanwhile, with the MacBook Air, you get a gorgeous 13-inch display, which is more than enough for 98% of the tasks nearly every MacBook Air user is going to put it through. You also get a considerably smaller chassis that fits equally well in a backpack or your tote bag.

What's more, the keyboard, trackpad, and speakers are very well-engineered, so you barely notice that you're typing on a 13-inch laptop and not something much larger. While you won't get the kind of performance you would from a 15-inch laptop, that's not the purpose of the best 13-inch laptops, which is not to be high-performance machines but to be general computing devices that you can use for work, school, or just for fun.

For this, there really is no laptop quite like the MacBook Air. It's the sweet spot of MacBook size and utility. Trying to somehow be a 15-inch laptop just sets this device up for failure. No matter what Apple has cooking with the M3 chip, it wouldn't be ready for this MacBook Air if it's released in June, and an M2 chip just isn't going to hold its own against an Intel i7 or i9 processor in a competing 15-inch Windows laptop — especially not if its paired with a hefty Nvidia 4000-series GPU.

The 13-inch MacBook Air is perfect the way it is (other than the color choices, but that's a whole other story), and adding a 15-inch model is just going to prompt people to buy it over the 13-inch because "bigger is better!" when, in this case, it really is not.

A more expensive, more powerful MacBook Air defeats its purpose

Steve Jobs holding MacBook Air in January 2008

(Image credit: Apple)

Another incoming problem with a 15-inch MacBook Air is that we know this laptop is going to get a price increase over the 13-inch. It might only be a $100 increase, but with the M2 MacBook Air already increasing the price over the M1 MacBook Air, you're starting to get up to the price of a MacBook Pro if the 15-inch comes in more expensive than the new MacBook Air 13-inch.

The MacBook Air isn't meant to be expensive, it's meant to be accessible to a wide consumer base. Making a 15-inch MacBook Air will almost certainly make it too expensive for most people to buy, while its performance won't be good enough to satisfy more professional users.

The types of users who are likely to go for a 15-inch laptop which promises more performance are just going to get themselves a new 14-inch MacBook Pro or a 16-inch MacBook Pro, and no amount of price advantage on a 15-inch MacBook Air is going to sway those buyers to go for the Air.

And for those who feel like they'd like a bit more than the MacBook Air 13-inch can offer, a 15-inch MacBook Air won't give it to them. If it comes loaded with the M2 chip, its performance versus the 13-inch will be virtually identical, and while you will get a bigger display, it won't be so much bigger as to justify the price increase. 

If it ends up coming with an M2 Pro chip as an option, it will lose some of the MacBook Air's best features, like fanless cooling, and it's likely that Apple would need to disable some GPU cores to square the power requirements. This would mean a less-than-M2-Pro experience when you could just spend a bit more at that point and get the MacBook Pro 14-inch with M2 Pro.

There are far more interesting products Apple could launch instead

iMac (24-inch, 2021)

(Image credit: Future)

If Apple really wanted to make a splash at WWDC, there are a couple of products it could announce instead that would absolutely make a world of sense.

First, of course, would be a new Mac Pro. Apple's last professional workstation, the Mac Pro (2019), is going on four years old, and it's the last Apple product still being produced that doesn't feature Apple's in-house silicon. WWDC 2023 would be a perfect time to unveil a new Mac Pro with an M2 Ultra chip to power it.

Alternatively, there is one product that's been languishing without much love for nearly two years that can stand to get an M2 Pro update: the iMac. The iMac is easily the best all-in-one computer on the market and while the M1 chip powering the 2021 iMac is great, we've already seen that an M2 Pro chip can power a Mac Mini, so slapping it into the iMac is a no-brainer.

Either one of these — or both, even — getting announced at WWDC 2023 would make for a much more exciting event and it would actually give us something refreshing rather than a slightly larger rehash of the MacBook Air that is bound to please nobody in particular.

John Loeffler
Components Editor

John (He/Him) is the Components Editor here at TechRadar and he is also a programmer, gamer, activist, and Brooklyn College alum currently living in Brooklyn, NY. 

Named by the CTA as a CES 2020 Media Trailblazer for his science and technology reporting, John specializes in all areas of computer science, including industry news, hardware reviews, PC gaming, as well as general science writing and the social impact of the tech industry.

You can find him online on Twitter at @thisdotjohn

Currently playing: Deep Rock Galactic, Destiny 2