Apple Quietly Releases New M3 MacBook Air Lineup

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We’ve barely begun the month of March, and we’re already seeing the arrival of the first of several Apple products predicted to debut this month — albeit in a more subtle way than we expected.

To relatively little fanfare — especially compared to last fall’s Scary Fast event — Apple has unveiled its new M3-powered MacBook Air lineup, encompassing upgrades to both the 13-inch M2 MacBook Air released in mid-2022 and the 15-inch version that debuted at last year’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June.

Apple has quietly announced the two new MacBooks via press release rather than at an on-stage event as some had suspected. That doesn’t mean an event may not still be in the cards — Apple is expected to debut a whole new series of iPads by the end of this month — but the newsroom-only announcement of the M3 MacBook Air is perhaps understandable.

For one, if Apple does have an event planned for later this month, getting the MacBook Air out now clears the stage for the company to focus on the new iPads, which will likely include a new 12.9-inch iPad Air and a pair of new iPad Pro models that will herald the arrival of the first OLED screens on an Apple tablet, with an impossibly thin design to match.

By comparison, the M3 MacBook Air is a much more pedestrian affair. Like last fall’s first wave of M3-powered Macs, it’s a spec bump, first and foremost, rather than a significant move forward for the family.

That’s not surprising, considering that the MacBook Air underwent the most significant redesign in its 15-year history with the M2 MacBook Air that arrived in 2022. In addition to ditching the wedge-shaped design that had distinguished it from other MacBooks, it also gained new speakers, a much better FaceTime camera, and the edge-to-edge notched display that had debuted a few months earlier in Apple’s redesigned MacBook Pro lineup.

In every way, it suddenly fit properly into Apple’s MacBook family, leaving only the oddball 13-inch MacBook Pro as the outlier of the last generation — a more affordable “Pro” model that carried the torch of the base M2 chip since the 14-inch and 16-inch models were exclusively M2 Pro/Max configurations.

That’s something Apple fixed last fall when it retired that red-headed stepchild in favor of a 14-inch MacBook Pro with the base M3 chip that featured the same design and similar hardware specs as its more expensive M3 Pro and M3 Max counterparts.

What’s New in the M3 MacBook Air

Apple M3 MacBook Air

While that earlier decision brought the MacBook family into design harmony, it’s today’s announcement that puts them all on the same playing field. Available in both 13-inch and 15-inch variants, the new M3 MacBook Air is all about the M3 chip, and Apple knows it, as that’s precisely what it’s focusing on.

Design-wise, you won’t be able to tell the difference between the new models and their M2 predecessors, but it’s what’s inside that counts, and the M3 chip offers a few new capabilities that add up to more than just a performance boost.

Chief among these is that you’ll now be able to drive two external displays with the lid closed. That alone is a nice boost for those who prefer to dock their MacBook in a stand and work from an external display, keyboard, and trackpad at their desk. Prior M1 and M2 models could handle an external display in addition to the built-in screen, but that was the only two-screen configuration possible.

Apple M3 MacBook Air dual external display lifestyle

Of course, you’re also getting all the benefits of the M3 chip. It’s the same chip that Apple unveiled at Scary Fast last October, so there aren’t any huge surprises here, but to recap, it’s an 8-core CPU, 10-core GPU, and can handle up to 24GB of unified memory.

As with last fall, Apple is drawing its comparisons against the original M1 chip, perhaps realizing that this is an upgrade for those who opted to skip the M2 versions of the past two years. That’s probably a fair assessment since many folks of the M2 generation will probably be better off waiting for the M4 MacBook Air, which will undoubtedly arrive by the end of 2025.

To recap what Apple told us in October in the context of its newest laptops, the M3 chip makes the new MacBook Air 60% faster than the original M1 model and gains support for hardware-accelerated mesh shading and ray tracing for “extremely realistic gaming experiences.”

Apple M3 MacBook Air gaming lifestyle

That translates to a healthy boost in gaming performance and similar increases in image enhancements and video editing in Final Cut Pro. Apple also notes that while you get a 40–60 percent boost in apps from the M1 MacBook Air, you’ll see a 3x speed increase in Excel and a 13x increase in Final Cut Pro compared to Apple’s previous Intel models — and up to 18 hours of battery life too.

The rest of the specs aren’t much different from the M2 MacBook Air, although the new models get a boost to Wi-Fi 6E for those who hang out around compatible routers. Beyond that, it’s the same 500-nit Liquid Retina display, 1080p FaceTime HD camera, three-mic array, and immersive sound system, plus two Thunderbolt ports and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

The new M3 MacBook Air is available for order from Apple today and should arrive in stores and customers’ hands by this Friday, March 8. The 13-inch MacBook Air starts at $1,099, while the 15-inch model has a base price of $1,299.

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