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I bought my first MacBook Air in 2008, back in the halcyon days of the Steve Jobs era. You remember what those announcements were like: With the flair of a David Blaine special, Jobs cooly pulled a 13-inch MacBook Air out of a manila envelope. It was a mic-drop to the industry, signifying a new era of impossibly thin and lightweight computers.

Now, 16 years later, and the MacBook Air has never been thinner, lighter, or more powerful. Truthfully, the MacBook Air with M3 chip is just about identical to last year’s model, the big difference is a few changes under the hood. For anyone looking to jump into Apple’s ecosystem (can I interest you in a iPhone, Apple Watch, or AirPods?), it’s a supremely compelling option, offering everything you need to get shit done. You get a razor-thin design, pro-level performance, endless battery life, and a beautiful display—all at a decent price.

Apple MacBook Air with M3 Chip

MacBook Air with M3 Chip

Apple MacBook Air with M3 Chip

The new Air is available in the classic 13-inch and 15-inch choice. Our team tested both already, but here, I’ll speak specifically about my experience with the 15-inch model. (As they say, bigger is better.)

a person playing the game stray on the macbook air with m3 processor

Apple

Pro-Level Performance

Since introducing its M series of processors, Apple computers have ascended to a new level of performance. These processors represent a significant shift in the brand’s chip design, integrating the CPU, GPU, Neural Engine, and other processes for enhanced performance and efficiency. The M3 is the latest iteration of Apple’s in-house processors, and it was introduced into the MacBook Pro line in 2023. Apple has elbowed its way into best-in-class computing, and the M3 continues this trend, offering the best performance in a remarkably compact design. To put it into context, Apple says the M3 MacBook Air is up to 60 percent faster than the model with M1.

In practice, it means gaming, editing, and working with complex files is far more fluid. Apple sent me the configuration with 16GB of RAM (twice as much as the base model), and I didn’t notice a single hiccup. A typical day for me involves bouncing between apps like Arc, Raycast, and Notion, plus writing in Obsidian, editing images in Pixelmator Pro, and cutting bite-sized videos together in Final Cut Pro. Your usage will vary, of course, but if it involves any light multi-tasking, editing work, or watching movies, the M3 is an excellent companion.

I’ve been using a 14-inch MacBook Pro with an M1 Pro chip for the past year, and the new MacBook Air is just as nimble, capably handling everything I threw at it—even graphics-intensive games like Resident Evil: Village and Death Stranding. I’ve never gamed on my MacBook Pro—I assume very few people have, for that matter—but since Apple is touting the M3’s improved GPU performance, hardware-accelerated mesh shading and ray tracing, I decided to put it to the test. Honestly, it was flawless. I might even make gaming a regular part of my routine—because I need more distractions throughout the day.

Apple says the new MacBook Air supports the AV1 decode engine—a newer video codec that reduces bandwidth demands while streaming. It can also power two external monitors with the lid closed via a USB-C connection. It’s a welcome feature as Apple is well on its way to eating up space in the professional market.

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macbook air

Apple

Class-Leading Design

The MacBook Air carries over the design from last year’s model. That means the iconic wedge shape is still gone. Instead, it boasts flat edges, more closely matching the look of the MacBook Pro. The 15-inch model is a svelte 0.45 inches thick, and the 13-inch model is 0.44 inches. It weighs just three pounds, making it the most lightweight hardware addition to any laptop bag.

Despite an unchanged design, the new MacBook looks as elegant as ever. It comes in four colors—midnight, starlight, silver, and space gray—and two aforementioned sizes. There’s a spacious keyboard with a full-sized function key row and an enormous multi-touch trackpad. Meanwhile, it has a 1080p webcam in the display for video calls.

One of the most frustrating limitations of the Air lineup is the lack of ports, and it’s the same story here. The MacBook Air only has two Thunderbolt USB-C ports and a 3.5mm headphone jack, giving you few options when connecting additional peripherals. Unlike with the MacBook Pro, there’s no built-in SD card slot or HDMI port. But, that was to be expected, as creative professionals are still going prefer the MacBook Pro for its additional power. The good news is you can charge the Air via MagSafe, so a cable won’t occupy one of the Thunderbolt ports when you’re replenishing the battery.

One small change under the hood, aside from the M3 chip, is the addition of Wi-Fi 6E, promising faster speeds—twice as fast as the previous generation, according to Apple—and lower latency. In practice, this isn’t the most obvious upgrade. It’s the M3 chip’s power that you’ll actually be noticing as you work.

Finally, the most stereotypical Apple innovation: the midnight color, which I tested, features a “breakthrough anodization seal” to reduce fingerprints. While I’d love to report this process actually curtails fingerprints, there’s really no way of avoiding them. There may be truth to Apple’s claim that this anodization seal cuts down on the appearance of fingerprints. But if you’re as obsessive as I am about keeping your devices looking as new as possible, you’ll find yourself fighting a losing battle against fingerprint smudges.

graphical user interface, application

Apple

Endless Battery Life

As a remote worker who often writes in different locations, the last thing I want is for my laptop to run out of juice with a deadline looming. Apple claims the Air gets up to 18 hours of mixed-use battery life. I was able to get through a normal day of usage with the screen brightness set to around 60 percent and the keyboard backlight on. This took the battery from 100 percent in the morning to around 65 percent in the evening.

The endless battery life is one of the huge benefits of Apple’s Silicon. The M chips are incredibly power-efficient, allowing the MacBook Air to deliver exceptional battery life without compromising performance. This efficiency is a game-changer for remote workers like myself, and it frees you from constantly searching for an outlet. As long as you remember to charge overnight, you shouldn’t encounter any battery anxiety when an outlet isn’t nearby. Even if you forget a nightly charge, you should still get through a second day of light work.

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a black keyboard with a white background

Apple

What about the M2 MacBook Air?

You’ve probably read other reviews about the new MacBook Air as you weigh whether or not it’s worth it. That’s fine. It’s good to get a second opinion. In those reviews, you’ll probably see talk about last year’s M2 MacBook Air, how that jump was more substantial, and how you should keep the older model and save money.

It’s true that the new MacBook Air isn’t wildly different from its predecessor. Same design, colors, display, configuration options, etc. If you already own last year’s MacBook Air with an M2 chip, there’s no compelling reason to update. Nada. The thing is, though, the newest model isn’t for you or tech editors who have access to every iteration of the line. It’s for someone who owns an older Mac with an M1 or Intel chip, or someone who is getting their first laptop. In that context, the M3 MacBook Air is a phenomenal device.

I can see someone making the argument to buy the MacBook Air with M2 if you’re on a budget, since those start at $999 now. It offers a great balance of features and price. Still, the difference between this year’s and last year’s MacBook Airs is only $100 for the base configurations. I’d pay the extra money for the newer chip, because it’s faster, offers better graphics performance, and will be useful for longer. If you’re actually worried about budget, Walmart is selling the MacBook Air with M1 for around $699. That’s the best way you could save when it comes to the Air, but you’d be getting the lowest model.

Apple MacBook Air with M3 Chip

MacBook Air with M3 Chip

Apple MacBook Air with M3 Chip

The Best Gets Better

The MacBook Air has always held a special place in my heart because it was my first Mac way back when. Since then, I’ve moved on to the more powerful MacBook Pro because I just prefer that performance, extra ports, and more advanced display. But after using the latest MacBook Air, I’m questioning whether I need all that extra stuff.

In any case, the MacBook Air with the M3 processor is an excellent choice for the everyday consumer and hybrid worker. It’s the most refined we’ve ever seen Apple’s legendary laptop, and it’s closer to the brand’s Pro line than ever. It offers incredible speed, portability, and battery life, and will last for years thanks to the efficiency of the M3 chip. It’s a bummer the base model still has 8GB of RAM, but that’s only an issue if you really push the laptop with more intensive tasks, like high-resolution editing.

The new M3 chip is a remarkable addition to the MacBook Air lineup, and further solidifies the laptop as the one to beat. It will be interesting to see, though, how Apple keeps the Air and Pro lines distinct. Apple might be the best company in the world at keeping its fans happy, but in a few generations, could the Air and Pro occupy the same space? We’ll wait and see.


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