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This One Change Makes the New MacBook Air a Must-Have

by Elizabeth Harper on March 04, 2024

The newest MacBook Air looks a lot like the previous generation model, with one big difference: it's upgraded to Apple's top-of-the-line M3 chip. If you're still running on an older Intel-based MacBook Air (like I am), the M3 chip is 13x faster, and if you're on a more recent M1 chip, the M3 chip is 60% faster. In either of those cases, the MacBook Air M3 is a sizable performance upgrade that you'll certainly notice – particularly if you use your Mac for high-end tasks like photo or video editing.

The MacBook Air M3 15 shown in 13-inch and 15-inch sizes

The M3 chip itself isn't new: it was rolled out with the latest MacBook Pro models last year. But at prices that start at $500 higher than the Air, the MacBook Pro is a hard sell for the average buyer. The new MacBook Air M3 13" starts at $1,099, and the MacBook Air M3 15" starts at $1,299. (Comparably, the MacBook Pro M3 14" starts at $1,599.) The Pro models still have a brighter, higher resolution screen and a few other bells and whistles. However, now that they've been upgraded to M3 processors, the performance difference between the two machines is minor – and the average user certainly won't feel they're lacking by buying the slimmer MacBook Air models over the MacBook Pro.

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However, the latest MacBook Airs aren't a quantum leap ahead of the last generation MacBook Air M2. The appearance of the machine hasn't changed, and other than the chip upgrade, changes are minor. The systems are the same size and weight (2.7 pounds), with the same battery life (up to 18 hours), the same memory options (from 8GB to 24GB), and the same storage options (from 256GB to 2TB). And while Apple is lauding the laptop's AI-friendly features, the MacBook Air M3 isn't particularly different from other Apple silicon chips, which have had a Neural Engine for machine learning since the first M1 models.

Still, the M3 models have a couple of nice upgrades. The MacBook Air M3 will offer dual monitor support, which hasn't been available in laptops with the baseline M1, M2, and M3 chips to date. This has an odd lack, and anyone who wants their MacBook to fill in for a desktop, powering two monitors, will appreciate this feature. (Which is reportedly coming to the MacBook Pro M3 in a future update.) The latest model also supports WiFi 6e, which will improve WiFi speed if you have a recent-generation router or will futureproof your Mac if you don't.

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So, is the MacBook Air M3 worth buying? We give it a resounding "maybe." If you have a relatively recent MacBook, like the M2 Air, the M3 offers more speed but very little else. But if you have an older MacBook and are looking to upgrade, the MacBook Air M3 offers solid performance that's more than enough for everyday tasks — and, for most people, just as good as the more expensive MacBook Pro.

But if you're in the market for a new laptop, you might still consider the MacBook Air M2. Apple cut the price of the last-gen Air by $100, pricing the system at $999. While this isn't a big price difference, we're already seeing third-party retailers offering deeper discounts on the M2 – Best Buy is already offering the 15" MacBook Air M2 for $1,099, or $200 off. The MacBook Air M2 is still a very solid laptop that will last most users for years, and cutting a few hundred off its price makes it an appealing offer.

If you're ready to upgrade to the MacBook Air M3, it's available for pre-order now from Apple and will start shipping on March 8.

[Image credit: Apple]

Elizabeth Harper is a writer and editor with more than a decade of experience covering consumer technology and entertainment. In addition to writing for Techlicious, she's Editorial Director of Blizzard Watch and is published on sites all over the web, including Time, CBS, Engadget, The Daily Dot and DealNews.


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