Do you need a monitor for MacBook Air? 15-inch and 13-inch setups compared

philips 27B1U7903 monitor
(Image credit: Future / iMore)

The 13-inch MacBook Air is one of Apple’s best MacBooks thanks to its Apple silicon power and great portability. However, the smaller screen real estate means that for many, a monitor is vital for getting the most out of your device. 

A MacBook Air can benefit from an external display in a number of ways. For starters, you can run more windows and apps side-by-side, view images, text, and videos in more detail, and be more productive. What’s more, the best monitors for MacBook Air can also bring some immense connectivity upgrades, acting as a de-facto hub for your MacBook with connections for USB, power, and even ethernet. 

On the subject of real estate, there’s never really been a debate about the MacBook Air, because 13 inches was the only size on offer. However, with a new 15-inch option available, it begs the question as to whether Apple’s new larger-sized MacBook Air reframes the choice, do you need a monitor for MacBook Air?

Does the 13-inch MacBook Air need a monitor? 

MacBook Air 2022

(Image credit: Gerald Lynch / iMore)

The simple answer to this question is yes, when you’re out and about the 13-inch MacBook Air form factor is perfect for lightweight portability, but I’ll be damned if anyone can get anything done on a screen that small at home and in the office. Any monitor, even a paltry 1080p 21.5-inch monitor for $100 will vastly increase how much you can get done on a MacBook Air when you’re in the office. There are very few people who will be able to use a 13-inch MacBook Air without a monitor to complement it. 

Does the 15-inch MacBook Air need a monitor? 

BenQ PD3220U

(Image credit: Future / iMore / Stephen Warwick)

The 15-inch MacBook Air begs a closer look, given the larger display reduces the need for more screen real estate somewhat. I use the 15-inch MacBook Pro from 2017 and find it perfectly adequate even in an office setting for getting work done. The key thing about the 15-inch display is that you can effectively run macOS’ built-in Split View function effectively, letting you position two windows side-by-side while keeping both of them usable. 

In my eyes, this means that the 15-inch MacBook Air is a much more viable option if you want a MacBook you can use on-the-go and in situ without splashing out on a monitor. However, there are still good reasons to get one.

You don’t need a monitor, but you want one

apple vision pro with tim cook on stage

(Image credit: Future)

As noted, a monitor will vastly improve how much work you can get done on a MacBook Air by multiplying the amount of space you have for windows, files, and more. This means you’ll save time switching between applications, and you’ll spend less time fumbling around macOS’ clunky window management systems and more time getting work done. 

The MacBook Air only comes with two ports, but the right monitor could triple this, giving you options to plug in peripherals like a mouse, keyboard, hard drive, printer, fan, wireless router, and more. Of course, a good USB-C monitor will also deliver power to your MacBook, further reducing clutter and cabling on your desk. Connectivity is just one of the things you should consider when buying a monitor for your Mac

The answers to these questions then are fairly straightforward. Does the 13-inch MacBook Air need a monitor? I’d say absolutely. Does the 15-inch MacBook Air need a monitor? In all honestly probably not, but the right monitor could drastically improve how useful your device is and how productive you are. 

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design. Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9