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Apple's M3 MacBook Air models are in stores as of today, so we picked one up to test it out, see what's new, answer reader questions, and determine whether it's worth buying or upgrading to.


The MacBook Air is available in 13.6-inch and 15.3-inch sizes, just like the prior-generation versions. Apple did not introduce notable design changes this time around, so most of what's new is on the inside.

An M3 chip is the main upgrade, and this is the same chip that Apple already used in the 14-inch MacBook Pro. When we benchmarked our test unit with an 8-core GPU and 10-core GPU, we got a Geekbench single-core score of 3106 and a multi-core score of 11690. For comparison's sake, the M1 MacBook Air scored 2335/8314 and the M2 MacBook Air scored 2595/9745, so that's a decent boost in CPU performance.

Compared to the M1, single-core M3 performance is up 28 percent, and multi-core performance is up 34 percent. Compared to the M2, both the single-core and multi-core CPU tests came in at 18 percent higher. As for Metal GPU scores, the M1 earned a score of 32117, the M2 was at 45651, and the M3 was at 46920.

Overall, CPU and GPU performance have improved notably over the M1 and more modestly over the M2. It's worth noting that the M3 also has hardware-accelerated ray tracing and mesh shading that are of use for 3D rendering and will eventually make games on the Mac more realistic. AV1 decode should improve streaming from services that support the codec.

There are a couple of other improvements to note, including Wi-Fi 6E support for connecting to 6GHz networks. You might not see too many 6GHz networks just yet, but it's a good future proofing feature if you don't already have a 6E router. The M3 models support two external displays in clamshell mode rather than just one, call clarity is better than before, and there's a new finish on the midnight model to cut down on fingerprints.

Pricing on the 13-inch MacBook Air starts at $1099 and pricing on the 15-inch model starts at $1299. It's not worth upgrading to the new machine if you already have an M2 MacBook Air because those machines already have the 2022/2023 design, but if you have an M1 or any Intel model and are looking for a new solution, the M3 MacBook Air is worth considering.

In terms of upgrades, if you're just using the MacBook Air for day-to-day tasks like web browsing and email, you don't need to shell out extra money for more memory, a better GPU (13-inch model), or more storage, but if you plan to use it for more system intensive tasks, it's worth looking at some of those upgrades.

Did you pick up one of the new M3 MacBook Air models? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Article Link: Hands-On With the 2024 M3 MacBook Air
 

ApplesAreSweet&Sour

macrumors 68000
Sep 18, 2018
1,949
3,568
M1 Air is still by far the better deal of you consider performance/$.

Especially if going for a discounted model with the big savings you can get at retail (until stock is out).

Obviously also one of the reasons Apple opted to cut it from the lineup instead of letting it stay at a <$999

M1 is by not “discontinued”, outdated, or lagging behind.

I guess M4 is when M1 owners will finally get good reasons to upgrade.
 
Last edited:

Mac Fly (film)

macrumors 68020
Feb 12, 2006
2,414
7,362
Ireland
I hold out hope (and continue to submit feedback) that Apple will give a future version of this machine HDMI and SD Card. Then it would be the perfect thin and light laptop. As an amateur photographer, I dislike thick and heavy laptops, and I hate with a passion dongle accessories. I also think Apple need to kill the MBP without a Pro chip (M3 Pro and M3 Max only). Pro should mean pro in the power department, large RAM upgrade possibilities, ginormous SSDs, high-end displays, fans, etc., but not artificially differentiated by port-gimping the Air. The Air should be more everyday-practical in that department, and should be fully interoperable with MBP in terms of ports, for in a conference setting, an event, a school, the office, the field, or your home. They added MagSafe back because it was the right thing to do; they need to do the same now with SD Card, and add HDMI to go the extra mile. MBA is the better form factor for most people, now it just needs to be more useful.

Once again, MBP should mean thickness, weight, fans, high-end display, extreme power and physically bigger speakers and displays. Air should mean lower power, thinner and lighter, no fan... yet FULLY REAL-WORLD PRACTICAL. Apple messed up their keyboards for a few years and then begrudgingly fixed them. They need to do the same now for the MBA ports.
 
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Fuzzball84

macrumors 68020
Apr 19, 2015
2,146
4,885
Its a nice review but.. its an iterative refresh with some performance improvements on CPU and networking side.. and a few others.

It's just a normal iterative update... that won't change things for many people. The M2 MacBook Air becomes the best value proposition now that the M1 MacBook Air has gone from Apples linup.

The airs will always be the best choices for most people... iPad, Mac...best value by far.
 

needsomecoffee

macrumors 6502
May 6, 2008
455
1,015
Seattle
Did you test Display Link Manager (DLM) ?? If it works, then WTH Apple. Why force people to close the lid which restricts access to the camera and touch-Id. There must be a deeper reason for Apple to do this, something with "potential issues" that DLM is not worried about. If not... Might really need to start thinking about Linux for my daily driver because this would be another strong signal that Apple is getting just too anti-user these days.
 
  • Disagree
Reactions: blob.DK

anshuvorty

macrumors 68040
Sep 1, 2010
3,379
4,855
California, USA
So, please refresh me again:
  • Why would you purchase a 13-inch MacBook Air with the M3 compared to the 14-inch Macbook Pro with the M3?
  • Is there any significant reason you would choose the 14-inch MacBook Pro over the 13-inch Macbook Air? For all intents and purposes, they seem to be the same device!
 
  • Like
Reactions: u+ive and Amadeus71

TaxiZaphod

macrumors newbie
Apr 18, 2011
1
1
I think I'm to going go with the M3 to extend my obsolescence date, and also to get WiFi6e, which my router does support.
 
  • Like
Reactions: jazz1

SuperCachetes

macrumors 65816
Nov 28, 2010
1,236
1,115
Away from you
I hold out hope (and continue to submit feedback) that Apple will give a future version of this machine HDMI and SD Card. Then it would be the perfect thin and light laptop. As an amateur photographer, I dislike thick and heavy laptops, and I hate with a passion dongle accessories. I also think Apple need to kill the MBP without a Pro chip (M3 Pro and M3 Max only). Pro should mean pro in the power department, large RAM upgrade possibilities, ginormous SSDs, high-end displays, fans, etc., but not artificially differentiated by port-gimping the Air. The Air should be more everyday-practical in that department, and should be fully interoperable with MBP in terms of ports, for in a conference setting, an event, a school, the office, the field, or your home. They added MagSafe back because it was the right thing to do; they need to do the same now with SD Card, and add HDMI to go the extra mile. MBA is the better form factor for most people, now it just needs to be more useful.

Once again, MBP should mean thickness, weight, fans, high-end display, extreme power and physically bigger speakers and displays. Air should mean lower power, thinner and lighter, no fan... yet FULLY REAL-WORLD PRACTICAL. Apple messed up their keyboards for a few years and then begrudgingly fixed them. They need to do the same now for the MBA ports.
To each their own, but I’m okay with the way they’ve got the lineup arranged for now. My M2 MBA is the best computer I’ve ever owned, and I have not felt “port-gimped” at all. On the contrary, I’d probably like it less if it was a few mm thicker and/or had a bunch of lint-collecting holes in it that I never use. After owning a 2017 MBP, my dongle bag is already well-stocked anyway. I root through the bag about every 3 months, usually for some dumb USB-C to micro-USB cable.

So, good luck with your feedback, but if the worst case is that people who want a plethora of ports have to pay a few hundred more, that’s cool too. :)
 

seek3r

macrumors 68020
Aug 16, 2010
2,321
3,338
Did you test Display Link Manager (DLM) ?? If it works, then WTH Apple. Why force people to close the lid which restricts access to the camera and touch-Id. There must be a deeper reason for Apple to do this, something with "potential issues" that DLM is not worried about. If not... Might really need to start thinking about Linux for my daily driver because this would be another strong signal that Apple is getting just too anti-user these days.
Displaylink is a completely different and massively less performant way to drive a display than through the machine’s native gpu…. This is apples/oranges
 

Klagarde

macrumors member
Dec 30, 2022
49
127
Eindhoven, Nederland


Apple's M3 MacBook Air models are in stores as of today, so we picked one up to test it out, see what's new, answer reader questions, and determine whether it's worth buying or upgrading to.


The MacBook Air is available in 13.6-inch and 15.3-inch sizes, just like the prior-generation versions. Apple did not introduce notable design changes this time around, so most of what's new is on the inside.

An M3 chip is the main upgrade, and this is the same chip that Apple already used in the 14-inch MacBook Pro. When we benchmarked our test unit with an 8-core GPU and 10-core GPU, we got a Geekbench single-core score of 3106 and a multi-core score of 11690. For comparison's sake, the M1 MacBook Air scored 2335/8314 and the M2 MacBook Air scored 2595/9745, so that's a decent boost in CPU performance.

Compared to the M1, single-core M3 performance is up 28 percent, and multi-core performance is up 34 percent. Compared to the M2, both the single-core and multi-core CPU tests came in at 18 percent higher. As for Metal GPU scores, the M1 earned a score of 32117, the M2 was at 45651, and the M3 was at 46920.

Overall, CPU and GPU performance have improved notably over the M1 and more modestly over the M2. It's worth noting that the M3 also has hardware-accelerated ray tracing and mesh shading that are of use for 3D rendering and will eventually make games on the Mac more realistic. AV1 decode should improve streaming from services that support the codec.

There are a couple of other improvements to note, including Wi-Fi 6E support for connecting to 6GHz networks. You might not see too many 6GHz networks just yet, but it's a good future proofing feature if you don't already have a 6E router. The M3 models support two external displays in clamshell mode rather than just one, call clarity is better than before, and there's a new finish on the midnight model to cut down on fingerprints.

Pricing on the 13-inch MacBook Air starts at $1099 and pricing on the 15-inch model starts at $1299. It's not worth upgrading to the new machine if you already have an M2 MacBook Air because those machines already have the 2022/2023 design, but if you have an M1 or any Intel model and are looking for a new solution, the M3 MacBook Air is worth considering.

In terms of upgrades, if you're just using the MacBook Air for day-to-day tasks like web browsing and email, you don't need to shell out extra money for more memory, a better GPU (13-inch model), or more storage, but if you plan to use it for more system intensive tasks, it's worth looking at some of those upgrades.

Did you pick up one of the new M3 MacBook Air models? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Article Link: Hands-On With the 2024 M3 MacBook Air
Please don’t talk about games in this post because they are not a thing on macOS.
 

lk400

macrumors 65816
Aug 26, 2012
1,058
640
So, please refresh me again:
  • Why would you purchase a 13-inch MacBook Air with the M3 compared to the 14-inch Macbook Pro with the M3?
  • Is there any significant reason you would choose the 14-inch MacBook Pro over the 13-inch Macbook Air? For all intents and purposes, they seem to be the same device!
I
So, please refresh me again:
  • Why would you purchase a 13-inch MacBook Air with the M3 compared to the 14-inch Macbook Pro with the M3?
  • Is there any significant reason you would choose the 14-inch MacBook Pro over the 13-inch Macbook Air? For all intents and purposes, they seem to be the same device!
For my use case, I would personally choose the air for portability and fanless design alone.
 

DMG35

Contributor
May 27, 2021
2,291
7,188
I mean I don't really get what people expect. Apple isn't going to make massive changes year over year. You also don't need to upgrade year over year. Going from even an M1 to an M3 is a ridiculous upgrade. You aren't going to see any real world differences between those models. And the M2 vs M3 is bascially the same machine with the slightest performance improvements that most users would never even notice.

But I don't blame Apple for not making major changes each year. They are going to bring small updates over time which is what they should be doing.

The iPad Pro on the other hand needs a massive refresh....
 

PerfectChaos

macrumors member
Aug 26, 2010
68
95
M1 Air is still by far the better deal of you consider performance/$.

Especially if going for a discounted model with the big savings you can get at retail (until stock is out).

Obviously also one of the reasons Apple opted to cut it from the lineup instead of letting it stay at a <$999

M1 is by not “discontinued”, outdated, or lagging behind.

I guess M4 is when M1 owners will finally get good reasons to upgrade.
Performance is definitely still great, but it's roughly 3.5 years old at this point. The M2 seems like the best value right now.
 

DownUnderDan

macrumors 6502
Apr 19, 2018
373
516
Hobart Australia
Performance is definitely still great, but it's roughly 3.5 years old at this point. The M2 seems like the best value right now.
Depends on the deal you can get. I went with an M1 Air this week, because I was able to pickup a new one for 30 percent less than a base M2 Air. Thats a worthwhile saving for a computer that is just going to be used for browsing the web. It was in iPad Air price territory for a full computer. I will agree though, that once M1 stocks are exhausted the M2 is the best value going forward. Whatever the case, it still irks me that they don't have 16GB of RAM as the base spec. Their retail price says they should.
 

klasma

macrumors 603
Jun 8, 2017
6,049
16,941
So, please refresh me again:
  • Why would you purchase a 13-inch MacBook Air with the M3 compared to the 14-inch Macbook Pro with the M3?
  • Is there any significant reason you would choose the 14-inch MacBook Pro over the 13-inch Macbook Air? For all intents and purposes, they seem to be the same device!
People have bags of different sizes.
 

DrewHawk

macrumors newbie
Mar 4, 2024
20
33
I just got mine - Midnight Blue - 10 core GPU 16 / 512. The anodized steel does seem to make a big difference with fingerprints. Have to say it's beautiful. Super light, great feel. So much better feeling that the M1 style (the M1 Air always felt like it was going to slip out of my hand). Gotta say, this is nearly a perfect laptop if you want an ultralight!. (yes I'm aware the Dell XPS 13 is fantastic too and has a MUCH better screen).

Thanks
 

DrewHawk

macrumors newbie
Mar 4, 2024
20
33
I

For my use case, I would personally choose the air for portability and fanless design alone.
I live in NJ and commute into NYC 5 days a week. 2 NJT trains followed by the subway. When I'm in the city I move around a lot as we have more than one office location. I refuse to ever carry a laptop over 2.9LBS. The Pro is too big and heavy. And I have very powerful computers with massive screens in my office and home. So a laptop, for me is only to use on the go. I will never buy a pro unless it gets to the same size and weight as the Air. Portability is this single most import feature of laptops to me.
 
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