M3 MacBook Air: Is It Really Worth the Hype?

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After a week of speculation, Apple has officially unveiled a new generation of its most popular laptop. The M3 MacBook Air aims to set a new standard in the consumer laptop market with its advanced 16-core Neural Engine and integrated CPU and GPU accelerators.

Apple has also made an incredibly bold claim that the new MacBook Air is the world’s best consumer laptop for AI. But does it live up to the hype?

MacBook Air M3. Source: Apple

Let’s dive right into the new M3 MacBook Air models and the upgrades, price, and specs and get under its hood to compare it against other Macs.

Key Takeaways

  • The new MacBook Air featuring the M3 chip will be available for order starting March 4 on apple.com/store and the Apple Store app across 28 countries. 
  • The 13-inch MacBook Air with M3 is priced at $1,099, and the 15-inch version starts at $1,299.
  • The M3 MacBook Air will be available in midnight, starlight, silver, and space gray.

When Will the M3 MacBook Air Come Out?

Release Date: Available for Order on March 4

Starting March 4, the new M3 MacBook Air will be up for grabs online at apple.com/store and through the Apple Store app in 28 countries, including the U.S. Deliveries to customers and availability at Apple Store locations and Authorized Resellers will kick off on March 8.

However, online speculation suggests much bigger announcements around iOS 18. Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, recently indicated that the company will unveil its advancements in AI later this year.

At a recent shareholder meeting, Cook hinted at groundbreaking developments in generative AI expected to emerge from Apple within the year.

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How Many Models Does the M3 MacBook Have?

Predictably, you can choose between 13-inch and 15-inch models of the MacBook Air.

Apple MacBook Air M3
MacBook Air is available in two sizes: 13-inch and 15-inch. Source: Apple

Both models promise eighteen hours of battery life, a vibrant Liquid Retina display, and enhanced features such as compatibility with two external displays and Wi-Fi speeds up to twice as fast as their predecessors.

MacBook Air M3 Specs: Under the Hood

The biggest change that the M3 MacBook Air will introduce, as the name suggests, is the M3 chip. The current generation of MacBook Air models runs on the highly-praised M2 chip, released in January 2023.

M3 Chip

The M3 chip in the MacBook Air represents a significant leap forward in Apple’s processor technology, offering up to 60% faster performance compared to the M1 model and outpacing the fastest Intel-based MacBook Air by up to 13 times.

The M3 features an 8-core CPU and can be configured with up to a 10-core GPU, supported by up to 24GB of unified memory. Apple goes to great lengths to highlight that this combination not only accelerates everyday tasks and demanding applications such as photo and video editing but also extends battery life to 18 hours, significantly longer than its Intel-based predecessors.

M3 notable features include:

  • Dynamic Caching: The chip allocates the use of local memory in hardware in real-time, unlike traditional GPUs. With Dynamic Caching, only the exact amount of memory needed is used for each task, driving GPU utilization and performance.
  • Ray-Tracing: M3 chips come with hardware-accelerated ray tracing, a tech that can model the properties of light as it interacts with a scene, enabling realistic and physically accurate images and graphics at 2.5x times faster than an M1 chip.
  • Mesh Shading: This technology improves the capabilities and accuracy levels during geometry processing, allowing more sophisticated visuals for enhanced user experiences.

Apple says the M3’s Neural Engine is 60% faster than the M1 chip, more agile, and has better performance and energy efficiency.

Specifications for the M3 MacBook Air

The big news is that Apple has expanded its MacBook Air lineup by introducing a new 13-inch M3 model equipped with 16GB of RAM, resulting in a minor price increase for the highest-tier 13-inch version. In contrast, the mid-range model has become a better deal due to an effective $100 reduction in price.

    When measured against a PC laptop powered by an Intel Core i7 processor, the MacBook Air stands out by delivering performance up to twice as fast, web browsing speeds up to 50 percent quicker, and a battery life that extends up to 40 percent longer.

    Before getting too distracted by the shiny M3 processor, never underestimate the RAM that determines how seamless your multi-tasking capabilities will be on your new laptop. In 2024, choosing a Mac with 8GB of unified memory will provide sufficient performance for daily activities but at a premium price. It’s also worth highlighting that anyone regularly performing heavier tasks like video editing could quickly become frustrated with their new purchase.

    It’s crucial to tailor your purchase to your specific needs instead of settling for the default options available on the Apple store. For instance, while my M2 is equipped with an 8 CPU, 10 GPU, and options for 16GB or even 24GB of unified memory, along with a 2TB SSD—far exceeding the base model’s 512GB—highlighting the importance of building a system that aligns with your unique requirements.

    Same Display — Only Much Better

    The screen specifications remain unchanged from the previous generation, with the 13-inch model featuring a 13.6-inch Liquid Retina display at 2560×1664 resolution, 500 nits brightness, P3 color gamut, and True Tone technology; the 15-inch version maintains its 2880×1864 resolution along with similar display features.

    A notable upgrade with the M3 models is their ability to connect to two external monitors—a significant improvement over the M1 and M2 MacBook Airs, which were limited to a single external display.

    This change aligns the new Air models with the M3 MacBook Pro, which is also set to receive a software update enabling dual external display support when the laptop lid is open, automatically deactivating one monitor.

    Battery Life of the M3 MacBook Air

    The M3 chip predominantly drives the changes in battery life for the new M3 MacBook Air.

    The M3 MacBook Air models maintain impressive battery endurance, with the 13-inch version featuring a 52.6-watt-hour battery and the 15-inch retaining a 66.5-watt-hour battery, mirroring their predecessors.

    Apple states that users can expect up to 15 hours of web browsing and 18 hours of movie playback.

    Colors

    The M3 MacBook Air lineup offers four colors — Midnight, Starlight, Space Grey, and Silver — which is more choice than other MacBook products offer.

    MacBook Air M3 Price

    Starting Price: $1,099

    • 13-inch, M3 chip (8-core CPU/8-core GPU, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD): $1,099
    • 13-inch, M3 chip (8-core CPU/10-core GPU, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD): $1,299/ (was $1,399)
    • 13-inch, M3 chip (8-core CPU/10-core GPU, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD): $1,499

    Apple has similarly updated the 15-inch MacBook Air lineup, incorporating a 16GB RAM option into its highest-end model.

    • 15-inch, M3 chip (8-core CPU/10-core GPU, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD): $1,299 (was $1,299)
    • 15-inch, M3 chip (8-core CPU/10-core GPU, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD): $1,499 (was $1,499/)
    • 15-inch, M3 chip (8-core CPU/10-core GPU, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD): $1,699

    Apple intends to keep offering the 13-inch MacBook Air with the M2 chip at a reduced price. Below are the prices and specifications for the standard configurations of the M2 13-inch MacBook Air:

    • 13-inch, M2 chip (8-core CPU/8-core GPU, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD): $999 (was $1,099)
    • 13-inch, M2 chip (8-core CPU/10-core GPU, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD): $1,199/ (was $1,399)

    Inevitably, this means that Apple will be retiring the M1 MacBook Air, which will now only be available in Apple’s refurbished stores.

    MacBook Air M3 vs. Pro M3

    There are several differences between a MacBook Air and a Pro. Comparing a MacBook Air 15-inch M3 against what we expect a MacBook Pro 14-inch powered by an M3, we developed this quick chart.

    MacBook Air M3 (13″) MacBook Pro M3 
    Colors Starlight, Midnight, Space Grey, Silver Space Grey, Silver
    Price Starts at $1099 Starts at $1599
    Resolution 2560 × 1664 Pixels 3024 by 1964 pixels
    Display Liquid Retina display Liquid Retina XDR display
    Chip  M3 M3
    GB-Memory Up to 24GB, up to 2TB storage. Up to 24GB, up to 2TB storage.
    Battery 18 hours 22 hours
    Height  0.44 inch (1.13 cm) 0.61 inch (1.55 cm)
    Width  11.97 inches (30.41 cm) 12.31 inches (31.26 cm)
    Depth 8.46 inches (21.5 cm) 8.71 inches (22.12 cm)
    Weight 2.7 pounds (1.24kg) 3.4 pounds (1.55 kg)

    Is the New M3 MacBook Air Worth It?

    We believe it’s a worthy update for most users, but the best configuration will depend on your unique requirements.

    The M3 MacBook Air represents a significant leap forward for students or professionals searching for a highly portable yet powerful computing solution. With its substantial improvements, this model is an ideal choice for academic work, web browsing, and even light gaming. It offers a blend of performance and convenience that meets the modern demands of mobility and efficiency.

    However, for those whose work or passion delves into the realm of video editing, the limitations in RAM will quickly become apparent. The base model, while impressive, may need to catch up in handling the rigorous demands of editing software, suggesting that an upgrade to a 16 GB model or considering the more robust Pro models could be a wise investment for those seeking seamless video editing capabilities.

    However, compared to the M2, the M3 chip will go a long distance, improving battery life and offering enhanced media and gaming. The 60% performance boot that Apple claims the M3 offers will be noticeably better at managing processing tasks and high-quality visuals.

    When announcing the chip, Johny Srouji, Apple’s senior vice president of Hardware Technologies, said:

    “With 3-nanometer technology, a next-generation GPU architecture, a higher-performance CPU, faster Neural Engine, and support for even more unified memory, M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max are the most advanced chips ever built for a personal computer.”

    The Bottom Line

    If you are debating whether to buy the M3 MacBook Air or Pro, your decision might be made much easier by what you want to connect to the laptop.

    The MacBook Pro 14-inch M3 is considered the superior choice for connectivity, thanks to its additional HDMI port and SDXC card slot—features notably absent in the MacBook Air lineup.

    However, if budget is a primary concern, the MacBook Air M3 presents a more wallet-friendly option, offering a range of configurations that meet diverse needs and preferences without compromising quality and performance.

    FAQs

    Will there be a new Apple Macbook Air M3?

    What is the difference between MacBook Air and MacBook Pro M3?

    What is the difference between MacBook M1 and M3?

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    Ray Fernandez
    Senior Technology Journalist
    Ray Fernandez
    Senior Technology Journalist

    Ray is an independent journalist with 15 years of experience, focusing on the intersection of technology with various aspects of life and society. He joined Techopedia in 2023 after publishing in numerous media, including Microsoft, TechRepublic, Moonlock, Hackermoon, VentureBeat, Entrepreneur, and ServerWatch. He holds a degree in Journalism from Oxford Distance Learning, and two specializations from FUNIBER in Environmental Science and Oceanography. When Ray is not working, you can find him making music, playing sports, and traveling with his wife and three kids.