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Apple macbook air m3 feature 1

Apple MacBook Air M3 Review: Our Favourite Laptop Upgraded

The most popular laptop in the world (and our favourite laptop overall) has copped a powerful upgrade. The MacBook Air might look the same as before – it’s still incredibly thin at 1.13 cm and very lightweight at 1.24 kg – but Apple has kept all the things I loved about the M2 model and shoved a more powerful M3 chip inside.

I’ve been using the laptop since it was announced, and in this article, I’ll be sharing my first impressions and review of the new MacBook Air.

To address the elephant in the room first, it’s still too early to say if it’s worth upgrading from M2 to M3. However, those cross-shopping will be happy to hear that there’s no starting price increase over last year’s model. The entry-level 13-inch model with 256GB of storage is priced at AU$1,799, while the M2 13-inch model will hang around for a while at AU$1,599.

If you want to get your hands on a 15-inch MacBook Air like the one I’ll be testing, your only choice is to go with the M3 chip. The starting price for the 15-inch line-up is AU$2,199 with 256GB of storage and AU$2,799 for 16GB of unified memory (as tested). Now, let’s check out the laptop in detail!

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Apple macbook air m3 feature
Apple MacBook Air M3 | Image: Ben McKimm / Man of Many

Design Stays the Same, Which is Good

When Apple moved away from a wedge shape last year, it signalled the biggest physical update to the MacBook Air since it was introduced in January 2008. I love that they’ve kept the design the same this year and it remains lightweight (1.24 kg) and thin as ever (1.13 cm).

Build quality is top-notch and there’s no flex in the chassis or lid which can still be opened with one hand. The trackpad and keyboard carry over from last year and both remain comfortable to use. Keys have the right amount of spacing and do away with the butterfly arrangement on Intel-based models from a few years ago. It still features 12 full-height function keys and 4 arrow keys in an inverted-T arrangement.

Under the deck and keyboard lies a 4-speaker array in 13-inch models and a 6-speaker array in 15-inch models that also benefit from force-cancelling woofers. In my initial testing, the 6-speaker setup sounds great and the addition/ support for Spatial Audio in music or video with Dolby Atmos makes a big difference.

Many reviewers complained about the fingerprint marks on the Midnight colour last year and Apple responded with an anodisation seal that they say reduces fingerprints. However, if you can’t tell from my photo above, it doesn’t seem to work very well. It might ‘reduce’ fingerprints, but it certainly doesn’t hide them.

Finally, you can now connect dual external displays (1x up to 6K resolution at 60Hz, 1x up to 5K resolution at 60Hz) when the lid is closed to make full use of those 2x Thunderbolt 4 ports that sit just below the MagSafe charger on the left side of the device. Down the right side, you’ll find a single headphone jack.

Apple macbook air m3 display
Apple MacBook Air M3 | Image: Ben McKimm / Man of Many

Display is Still Great, Could Do With ProMotion

The Liquid Retina display carries across from last year and covers 100 per cent of the SRGB spectrum, 84 per cent of AdobeRGB, and 95 per cent of P3. Brightness is marked at 500 nits which isn’t as bright as the 1000 nits sustained full-screen (XDR) and 1,600 nits peak when streaming HDR content offered by the Liquid Retina XDR display on the MacBook Pro.

You’ll also find ProMotion technology in the MacBook Pro which results in a faster display with adaptive refresh rates of up to 120Hz. It would’ve been nice to see 120hz refresh rates make their way into the Air.

There’s also a controversial notch at the top of the screen on the MacBook Air which houses the 1080p FaceTime HD camera. It’s never been much of an issue for me as I spend most of the day plugged into a monitor, but I’ll report back if I find any annoyances during my time with the laptop.

Apple macbook air m3 charger
Apple MacBook Air M3 | Image: Ben McKimm / Man of Many

Charging and Battery Life a Stand Out

The MagSafe charging connector returns with the new model and you still get a choice in power adapters: 35W Dual USB-C Port or 70W Single USB-C (+$30 on the cheaper 13-inch models).

I’d highly recommend the 70W option, especially if you plan on power-intensive tasks like gaming or video editing. Alternatively, buy yourself a third-party option that offers multiple USB ports or charge the MacBook Air with USB-C using one of the Thunderbolt ports.

Battery life is marked at up to 15 hours while browsing the internet or up to 18 hours while watching videos on the Apple TV app. Once you’ve depleted that battery, my initial tests indicate it takes around 28-34 minutes to recharge to 50 per cent using the 70W power adapter.

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Apple MacBook Air M3 | Image: Ben McKimm / Man of Many

Performance and New M3 Chip

I’ve been using the laptop for less than a week, so I’ll update this section once we have concrete performance benchmarks. However, Apple has provided some tests of their own to help with your decision and I’ve added my own anecdotal experiences at the end.

Let’s start with Apple’s benchmarks. They’re stating the CPU makes use of 4 high-performance cores and 4 high-efficiency cores to deliver 20 per cent faster performance than the M2, and 35 per cent faster than the M1. Again, this isn’t another giant leap like the one from Intel-based to M1, but it’s significant nonetheless.

The GPU has up to 10 cores and next-generation GPU architecture with Dynamic Caching and hardware-accelerated mesh shading and ray tracing. This is particularly useful when gaming, but to put it in numbers, Apple says this provides up to 20 per cent faster graphics than M2, and up to 65 per cent faster graphics performance than M1.

Apple provides tangible software benchmarks:

  • Faster image filters and effects in Photoshop:
    • M3: 2.8x faster than 13-inch MacBook Air with Intel Core i7
    • M2: 2.0x faster than 13-inch MacBook Air with Intel Core i7
    • M1: 1.5x faster than 13-inch MacBook Air with Intel Core i7
  • Faster video editing performance in Final Cut Pro:
    • M3: 13.2x faster than 13-inch MacBook Air with Intel Core i7
    • M2: 12.7x faster than 13-inch MacBook Air with Intel Core i7
    • M1: 8.3x faster than 13-inch MacBook Air with Intel Core i7
  • Faster gaming performance in No Man’s Sky:
    • M3: 1.6x faster than 13-inch MacBook Air with M1
    • M2: 1.2x faster than 13-inch MacBook Air with M1

The chip also offers a faster and more efficient Neural Engine with 16 cores to enhance productivity in AI tasks. Real-time speech-to-text, language translation, text predictions, accessibility features, and other tasks like removing video backgrounds in CapCut for green-screen-style social media videos are all quicker, but I’m yet to test these myself so I’ll have to report back with my findings.

You’ll also be able to watch movies, download large files from the cloud, and simply browse the internet faster with WiFi 6E now thrown in (providing your router supports this feature, which most don’t).

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Apple MacBook Air M3 | Image: Ben McKimm / Man of Many

My experiences so far have included sequencing videos in CapCut, multitasking across dozens of tabs in Chrome, cold-loading large Photoshop files, and even a little Fortnite for good measure. I’ve yet to find a kink in the performance of the system and it’s remained quiet and cool, even with its fanless design.

It’s also worth noting that my test unit has 512GB of storage, 16GB of unified memory, and costs AU$2,799. You can equip up to 24GB of RAM and 2TB of storage, but this maxes the price out at AU$3,999 which is a staggering amount to pay for a MacBook Air.

Apple macbook air m3 lid
Apple MacBook Air M3 | Image: Ben McKimm / Man of Many

Should You Buy the M3 MacBook Air?

The new MacBook Air features the same outstanding build quality, weight, design, keyboard, trackpad, speakers, and screen as before, but it’s even more powerful and costs the same. The obvious answer is yes.

However, picking sizes and specifications will be the hardest choice you have to make. The MacBook Air range starts at AU$1,799 for the 13-inch model, but if you want the larger 15-inch model as we’ve shown here, the price starts to get expensive quickly at AU$2,199. My tester with 16GB of unified memory is priced at AU$2,799. Still, it looks cheap compared to the AU$3,949 16-inch M3 Pro powered MacBook Pro.

The only question is whether or not you’re better off saving $300 and getting your hands on a 15-inch M2 MacBook Air with 512GB of storage. Ultimately, it depends on how hard you’re going to push the device, but if you’re running video editing software, CAD, or plan on gaming often, I’d lean towards the latest M3 model.

Your FAQs Answered

Is the M3 MacBook Air worth it?

The M3 MacBook Air offers 20 per cent faster graphics performance than the M2 model and hasn’t seen a price increase for the older model, making it worth every cent of the AU$1,799 asking price. We’d highly recommend opting for the 512GB option that starts at AU$2,099 to avoid the slow storage that comes with the 256GB model. Our pick of the bunch for most consumers is the larger 15-inch model with 512GB of storage. It’s priced at AU$2,499.

What’s the difference between the 13-inch and 15-inch M3 Macbook Air?

The 15-inch MacBook Air has a bigger screen (15.2-inch vs. 13.6-inch) and offers a 6-speaker array vs. the 4-speaker array in the 13-inch model.

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