Apple updates the MacBook Air 13 and 15 exactly as expected

The company’s laptops get an M3 chip, a couple of notable upgrades, not much else


These new M3-based MacBook Air models are the first of their kind capable of driving two external monitors, provided that the built-in screen is not used at the same time. Not too shabby for mainstream laptops, no? (Image: Apple)


Well, it seems that Mark Gurman was right yet again. The Bloomberg reporter claimed over the weekend that Apple might not actually host a March event for its newest MacBook and iPad models, opting for the simple press release approach instead – and, as far as the MacBook Air is concerned, that is exactly what we got: a rather low-key announcement of both its 13-inch and 15-inch models being updated to the company’s latest components while retaining every other feature these successful products are known for.

As expected, these new MacBook Air models are built around the M3 chip – the “vanilla” version, obviously, not the Pro or Max versions powering several MacBook Pro models – and Apple claims that they are “up to 60 percent faster” than the… M1 MacBook Air (but only around 20% faster than their predecessors based on the M2). They do feature an upgraded 16-core Neural Engine as part of the M3 – Apple claims it can “run optimized AI models”, so apps specifically developed to take advantage of it – as well as an improved GPU supporting mesh shading and ray tracing.

To be fair, even the “vanilla” M3, even passively cooled, is still a very capable chip by any standards – especially when it comes to the usual, not particularly demanding tasks most mainstream consumers are interested in carrying out every day. Apple has also repeatedly mentioned AI it its press release – going as far as to call its latest MacBook Air models “the world’s best consumer laptops for AI” – and, given the fact that many expect some kind of AI-based new functionality in the upcoming macOS 15, these M3-based machines could prove even more useful than they first appear. Most importantly, though, both models offer up to 18 hours of battery life while being less than half an inch thick, in line with everyone’s expectations regarding Apple’s most popular laptops to date.

Even the “vanilla” variant of the M3 chip is more capable than its predecessors when it comes to gaming and Apple made sure to drive that point home. To watch MacBook Air models being promoted as good enough for modern games is fascinating. (Image: Apple)


The new MacBook Air models start at $1099 and $1299 for the 13-inch and the 15-inch variants respectively (the 13-inch M2-based version is sticking around for $999). As is often the case with MacBooks, these prices will only buy people the most basic of configurations in 2024 terms (8GB of RAM/256GB of storage). Memory and storage upgrades are available – up to 24GB and 2TB respectively – but, in typical Apple fashion, these are unbelievably costly: by the time one upgrades the 13-inch M3-based MacBook Air to 16GB of memory and 512GB of storage its price has skyrocketed to $1500, entering MacBook Pro territory and making little sense. Yet here we are.

Both of these new MacBook Air models come with a Liquid Retina display of up to 500 nits of brightness, MagSafe charging, a 1080p FaceTime camera, three microphones, support for spatial audio/Dolby Atmos and two Thunderbolt ports. They can drive two external displays at once for the first time (their lid must be closed for that feature to work) and they support Wi-Fi 6E for smarter operation and faster download speeds. Consumers can preorder both devices starting today in Starlight, Space Gray, Silver or Midnight colors and they can expect them to ship on Friday, March 8th.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Kostas Farkonas

Veteran reporter with over 30 years of industry experience in various media, focusing on consumer tech, entertainment and digital culture. No, he will not fix your PC (again).

Veteran reporter with over 30 years of industry experience in various media, focusing on consumer tech, entertainment and digital culture. No, he will not fix your PC (again).

LATEST STORIES

OTHERS ARE READING

THE POINT NEWSLETTER

Let us keep you up to date with the latest in tech and entertainment