Apple MacBook Air (M3) 13″ vs 15″: Choosing the Right MacBook for Your Needs in 2024

Do you get something extra with the 200$ that you’ll spend for a 15-inch MacBook Air, or is it better to save your money and go for the 13-inch model instead? Today we’re answering that and more, as we give you a full comparison of the two competing MacBook Air products. We all know that the Air series is for those who need a reliable and snappy machine for either the office or for just personal use.

While not designated as Pro machines, you can do plenty of graphic design or anything that doesn’t cause prolonged stress on the M3 SoC that’s inside these laptops, as thanks to the passive cooling, they can be deadly silent, but can also run hot. It’s an ideal notebook for a university student, as it has the power for most types of work while being lightweight, silent, and with a long-lasting battery.

Apple MacBook Air (M3) 13″: Specs Sheet / In-depth Review

Apple MacBook Air (M3) 15″: Specs Sheet / In-depth Review

Apple MacBook Air (M3) 13″ configurations:

Apple MacBook Air (M3) 15″ configurations:

Specs table

SpecificationApple MacBook Air (M3, 13″)Apple MacBook Air (M3, 15″)
Operating SystemMac OS XMac OS X
ProcessorApple M3 (8-core CPU)Apple M3 (8-core CPU)
GPUApple M3 GPU (8-core)
Apple M3 GPU (10-core)
Apple M3 GPU (10-core)
Display13.6″, (2560 x 1664), IPS15.3”, (2880 x 1864), IPS
Memoryup to 24GB Unified Memoryup to 24GB Unified Memory
Storageup to 2000GB SSDup to 2000GB SSD
Battery52.6Wh66Wh
Weight2.7 lbs (1.24 kg)3.3 lbs (1.51 kg)
Dimensions11.97″ x 8.46″ x 0.44″ (304.1 x 215 x 11.3 mm)13.40″ x 9.35″ x 0.45″ (340.4 x 237.6 x 11.5 mm)
Ports
  • 2x USB Type-C 4.0 ports with Power Delivery, DisplayPort
  • 1x 3.5 mm audio jack
  • 2x USB Type-C 4.0 ports with Power Delivery, DisplayPort
  • 1x 3.5 mm audio jack

Unboxing

The two MacBooks arrive with pretty much the same stuff. The 13-inch model comes with either a 30W or a 35W charger, depending on if you pick the 8-core GPU or the 10-core GPU. Since we got the 10-core model, here’s the 35W charger with the MagSafe connector. The cable is braided for extra durability and the charger overall is high quality.

For the 15-inch MacBook Air, it’s only offered with the 10-core GPU, so it gets the same charger.

For both laptops, you can go out of your way and get a 70W fast-charging adapter.

Apple MacBook Air (M3) 13″
Apple MacBook Air (M3) 15″

Design and Construction

All MacBooks nowadays look the same, and the two Air models follow the same design language. The laptops are entirely made of metal, with a slab of glass on the screen. There are several colors to pick from: Silver, Starlight, Space Grey, and Midnight. Both units that we bought were their Midnight colorway. Apple’s laptops are some of the most durable that you can get, with sturdy construction that hardly ever flexes or twists.

In terms of dimensions, the two laptops are pretty identical. The 15-inch model is just a hair thicker, so in practice, there’s no difference at all. In terms of weight, there’s a 0.6 lbs (270 grams) difference between the 13-inch and the 15-inch model.

Apple MacBook Air (M3, 13″)Apple MacBook Air (M3, 15″)
Weight2.7 lbs (1.24 kg)3.3 lbs (1.51 kg)
Dimensions11.97″ x 8.46″ x 0.44″ (304.1 x 215 x 11.3 mm)13.40″ x 9.35″ x 0.45″ (340.4 x 237.6 x 11.5 mm)

Apple MacBook Air (M3, 13″)
Apple MacBook Air (M3, 13″)

Keyboard and touchpad

The two notebooks also have the exact same keyboards, as the 15-inch model doesn’t bring a NumPad. Instead, you just get more space on the sides, but there are no front-firing speakers to utilize this extra space.

Apple MacBook Air (M3) 13″
Apple MacBook Air (M3) 15″

Ports

Both laptops share the same port selection, with two USB Type-C 4.0 ports, which include Power Delivery (a unified standard for charging devices through USB) and DisplayPort support, so you can hook the laptop to an external monitor and have a more desktop-like setup at home.

Apple MacBook Air (M3, 13″)
Apple MacBook Air (M3, 15″)

Display and Sound Quality

Both laptops bring quality displays with a lot of pixels, so they look very detailed and sharp.

The 13-inch MacBook Air has a 13.6-inch (34.5 cm) 14:9 IPS panel with a resolution of 2560 х 1664. The pixel density is calculated at 224 PPI, with a pitch of 0.1 x 0.1 mm, and a Retina distance of 15.35 inches or 39 cm (above this distance, the average human eye can’t see the individual pixels).

The 15-inch MacBook Air has a 15.3-inch (38.9 cm) 14:9 IPS panel with a resolution of 2880 х 1864. The pixel density is the same at 224 PPI, with a pitch of 0.11 x 0.11 mm, and the same Retina distance of 15.35 inches or 39 cm.

Apple MacBook Air (M3) 13″
Apple MacBook Air (M3) 15″

Both laptops have excellent viewing angles. Here are images at different angles to evaluate quality.

Apple MacBook Air (M3) 13″
Apple MacBook Air (M3) 15″

The peak brightness of the 13-inch MacBook Air is measured at 506 nits in the middle of the screen, 481 nits as an average for the entire display area, and a maximum deviation of just 7% (this is the difference between the brightest point of the screen and the average, lower means better). The color temperature at full brightness sits at 6650K, which is slightly cooler, but still great for content creation. The contrast ratio is good at 1350:1.

As for the 15-inch MacBook Air, our tests give us 507 nits in the middle of the screen, 498 nits as an average for the entire display area, and a maximum deviation of 6%. The color temperature at peak brightness sits at 6680K, which is pretty much the same as the 13-inch model. The contrast ratio is also really similar, at 1360:1.

Overall the two screens are pretty much identical and you won’t be able to tell them apart if you take a look up close.

Apple MacBook Air (M3) 13″
Apple MacBook Air (M3) 15″

Color coverage

Here are some illustrations (Fig. 1) & (Fig. 2). The whole “sail-shaped” map below consists of all the colors we can see, while the black crooked line shows all the colors from real-world scenes and nature around us.

Then, we’ve drawn some of the most important and interesting color spaces, compared to the colors that the panels of the MacBooks can display:

Standard/For Web: sRGB – widely used color space for most consumer devices, ideal for Web design and development
For Print: AdobeRGB – used in professional photo editing, graphic design, and print
For Photographers/Video Editors: DCI-P3 – used in high-end film production, post-production, and digital cinema
Premium HDR: Rec.2020 – the widest consumer ITU color standard, covering a massive 75.8% of the visible spectrum, a benchmark for premium HDR content

The yellow dotted line shows the color coverage of both the Apple MacBook Air (M3, 15″) and the Apple MacBook Air (M3, 15″).

Apple MacBook Air (M3, 13″)Apple MacBook Air (M3, 15″)
sRGB coverage100%100%
DCI-P3 coverage100%100%

Apple MacBook Air (M3) 13″
Apple MacBook Air (M3) 15″

Color accuracy

Now let’s see how big is the difference between the real colors and the ones you’ll see on the two MacBooks. We measure that distance in DeltaE (dE) – the bigger the number, the more different they look.

We tested the accuracy of the display with 24 commonly used colors like light and dark human skin, blue sky, green grass, orange, etc.

The two MacBooks have pretty much identical accuracy, but the 15-inch laptop is slightly more accurate.

Apple MacBook Air (M3) 13″
Apple MacBook Air (M3) 15″

As you’ll probably be spending a lot of time on these two machines knowing that they’re PWM-free is good to know. PWM or Flickering is a known way for screens to adjust their brightness, however, it comes at the cost of tiring your eyes and causing headaches. You can learn more about PWM in our dedicated article.

Apple MacBook Air (M3) 13″
Apple MacBook Air (M3) 15″

Sound

The speakers on Apple products almost never disappoint and the two MacBook Air models deliver clear and loud audio. Furthermore, there are no deviations from clarity across the entire frequency range.

Apple MacBook Air (M3) 13″
Apple MacBook Air (M3) 15″

Performance – CPU, GPU, Storage

CPU tests

The two laptops use an identical Apple Silicon M3 SoC, with 8 CPU cores. This is reflected in the test results, as the Air 15 model is just 1% faster than the Air 13 model in the Cinebench R23 benchmark. As for Geekbench 6, the newest edition of the popular benchmark, here the 13-inch model is the quicker one, with a 2% more performance in the Single-core test, and 1% more performance in the Multi-core test.

Results are from the Cinebench R23 CPU test (the higher the score, the better)

Laptop ModelGeekbench 6: Single / Multi score
Apple MacBook Air (13″, M3)3135 / 12042
Apple MacBook Air (15″, M3)3069 / 11976

GPU tests

Throughout all the benchmarks that we ran (as you can see, there were a lot), you can see the two 10-core GPUs. While saying this, we should mention that the 13-inch MacBook Air is also available with an 8-core GPU, which will deliver less performance overall.

Results are from the 3DMark: Wild Life benchmark (higher the score, the better)

GPU BenchmarksGFXBench Manhattan 3.0 (1080p offscreen)GFXBench Manhattan 3.1 (1080p offscreen)GFXBench Aztec Ruins OpenGL (1080p offscreen)GeekBench 5 Compute OpenCLGeekBench 5 Compute MetalGeekBench 6 Compute OpenCLGeekBench 6 Compute Metal
Apple MacBook Air (13″, M3) – 10-core GPU530 fps367 fps331 fps3054647782
Apple MacBook Air (15″, M3) – 10-core GPU524 fps373 fps331 fps3056647354

Storage

The SSDs inside MacBooks increase in speed and price, the higher capacity that you go for. For example, our 13-inch laptop comes with a 512GB SSD, while the 15-inch laptop has a 256GB SSD. The 512GB drive is significantly faster (59% quicker in Write and 9% quicker in Read), as you can see from the benchmark below.

512GB SSD
256GB SSD

Temperatures, Comfort, Battery life

With no active cooling and only a heatsink, the MacBooks show high temperatures in prolonged intensive workloads. Comparing the two Air laptops, the 15-inch model gets significantly hotter (+8°C in short loads and +9°C in prolonged loads). The MacBook Air 15 runs its P-cores at higher speeds during the later stages of the test (+360MHz). In terms of comfort, even without the fan, the keyboard was only slightly warm and not scorching hot like we were expecting.

Average P-core frequency; Average E-core frequency; CPU temp.; Package Power

Apple M30:02 – 0:10 sec0:15 – 0:30 sec10:00 – 15:00 min
Apple MacBook Air (13″, M3)3.64 GHz @ 2.75 GHz @ 98°C @ 19.89W3.45 GHz @ 2.75 GHz @ 107°C @ 17.27W2.44 GHz @ 2.75 GHz @ 91°C @ 8.88W
Apple MacBook Air (15″, M3)3.56 GHz @ 2.75 GHz @ 106°C @ 20.53W3.47 GHz @ 2.75 GHz @ 107°C @ 18.43W2.80 GHz @ 2.75 GHz @ 100°C @ 11.42W

Stability (Cinebench R23 30-min test)

As the MacBook Air 15 has more space on the inside for the cooling solution, it does a better overall job in long-run performance, with a 7% higher average score.

Apple M3First runAverage Score
Apple MacBook Air (13″, M3)100577864
Apple MacBook Air (15″, M3)101218441

Battery life

The 15-inch MacBook has a 66.5Wh battery (26% bigger than the 13-inch MacBook). The two laptops last for the same time (20 hours or 1200 minutes) in our Web browsing test. In the Video playback test, the 13-inch machine is the longer-lasting of the two, with another 20 hours, which is 3 hours and 20 minutes more than the 15-inch MacBook.

Our testing conditions include setting the brightness to 120 nits and closing every other app except the one that we’re testing with.

In order to simulate real-life conditions, we used our own script for automatic web browsing through over 70 websites.

For every test like this, we use the same video in HD.


Disassembly and upgrades

The teardown procedure is identical for both laptops. Basically, there’s no upgradeability, so you better choose the correct configuration at the time of purchase.


Verdict

The most affordable laptops that Apple has to offer, the MacBook Air devices offer plenty of functionality and great specs. While Apple isn’t “giving them away for free”, with prices starting at $1099 for the 13-inch M3 model and $1299 for the 15-inch M3 model, you’re getting a premium design, a fantastic display that any designer would kill for, and plenty of power thanks to the M3 SoC, which can handle tasks both light and heavy.

However, let’s not keep talking about how similar the two laptops are, but rather how different they are. There’s not a lot of stuff, but still enough to make you want to pick one over the other. First of all, the 15-inch model is physically bigger and heavier, with a 0.6 lbs (270 grams) weight increase. You might also need a larger bag, as the 15-inch model does require more space for transportation. With the extra size, the cooling on the inside has a bit more breathing room, leading to more long-run performance.

The bigger screen does look very good, so if you’re a designer or just need more screen space, the 15-inch model will suit you perfectly. While it doesn’t last as long as the 13-inch MacBook, at least in the video playback test, it’s got long enough battery life so you’ll be fine even for a whole day’s worth of heavier use. Even if you have to bring a charger with you, the adapter is tiny and can fit anywhere in your bag.

If you just need a laptop for school and for typing documents, doing menial work, or just want your laptop to be as compact as possible, go for the 13-inch. However, if you have some creator aspirations and need a bigger display, as well as some added performance squeezed out of the M3, the extra $100 might be worth it for the 15-inch MacBook Air.


Why choose the Apple MacBook Air (M3, 13″)?

  • Lighter chassis
  • Runs a bit cooler
  • More affordable
  • Overall longer battery life


Why choose the Apple MacBook Air (M3, 15″)?

  • Bigger screen with the same level of detail
  • M3 chip runs at higher speeds in prolonged workloads

Apple MacBook Air (M3) 13″: Specs Sheet / In-depth Review

Apple MacBook Air (M3) 15″: Specs Sheet / In-depth Review

All Apple MacBook Air (M3) 13″ configurations:

All Apple MacBook Air (M3) 15″ configurations:

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