M3 MacBook Air – 1 Week Later: The Perfect Everyday Laptop?

7 min read

Hey friends, Andrew here – hope you’re well.

Apple quietly launched the new M3 MacBook Air: there was no big marketing campaign or fancy product video, it just sort of launched. The local Apple Store was pretty quiet when I picked mine up on launch day.

And now after a full week of using the M3 MacBook Air as my daily laptop in different situations and places, the M3 Air could well be the perfect everyday laptop for most people. 

If you’re considering a new everyday laptop or upgrading from a previous MacBook, here’s my honest review of the M3 Air – I’ll compare it to my M2 Air that I loved so much and I’ll share my everyday experience with this laptop – both the good and the bad.

M3 vs M2 Air Performance 

Firstly, the M3 Air’s performance has surprised me – especially in this configuration.

Apple now finally offers a 16GB RAM pre-configuration option and that’s exactly the one I have: it’s the 13” model with 8 Core CPU, 10 Core GPU, 512GB SSD, and 16GB RAM.

And the performance leap from the M2 to M3 chipset is bigger than I had thought! 

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The M2 Air with 8GB RAM managed a Geekbench 6 score of 1,487 Single Core and 5,222 Multi Core.

The M3 Air with 16GB RAM scored, 3,030 Single Core and 11,586 Multi Core! 

That’s essentially a 100% increase in performance! And these numbers have translated well into real-life usage over the last week.

Apps open instantaneously, I can multi-task without the RAM throttling the experience and I can even edit 4K video on Final Cut Pro relatively smoothly. 

Previously, the M2 Air was great to use but as soon as I had more than 3 apps open or 8 Chrome tabs open, my M2 Air with 8GB of RAM was sluggish.

The 16GB configuration unlocks a lot more from the M3 chip and it absolutely flies. 

The MacBook Air M3 is a great performer for video editors, gamers, creatives, designers. Especially if you use GPU-intensive apps like AutoCAD, Blender, or Premiere Pro. If you use your laptop for just email, web browsing, and social media – you’re not going to see too much of a difference. 

New RAM Configuration

A big part of the killer performance is the RAM and we need to talk about this – because if you’re considering the new MacBook Air a RAM upgrade is the first consideration you should probably think about.

It’s hard to understand why the M3 Air still has a base configuration with 8GB RAM and 256GB Storage in 2024. 

Apple needs to be shipping the Air with at least 16GB of RAM. I cannot begin to tell you how much the additional RAM has helped unlock the potential of the M3 chip as someone who has used the M2 Air with 8GB for 2 years. 

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My M2 Air with 8GB RAM was consistently throttled, because the memory was shared between the CPU and GPU so in reality, there’s almost always less than 8GB memory available to use because a lot of it was allocated to VRAM used by the GPU cores. 

I won’t dive too deep into memory, I made a whole video breaking down how RAM impacts your Mac but the point is the 16GB RAM paired with the M3 chip has been amazing and the 16GB pre-configuration option is a welcome change. I highly recommend seriously considering the RAM upgrade – it’ll help your day-to-day workflow and also help futureproof your MacBook Air. 

Neural Engine for AI

Speaking of the future, Apple called the new M3 Air the “World’s Best Consumer Laptop for AI” – not sure how they tested this claim because every Silicon Mac has had a 16-core Neural Engine ever since the M1 came out.

But it is interesting because the AI marketing push likely hints at major AI features and functionality in future Apple software. There’s a good chance we’ll see more AI-related announcements at WWDC this year and I’m really excited about that. 

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The M3 Air does work well with onboard AI tasks like Adobe’s Generative Fill and it works relatively fast on the M3 chipset. We’ll have to see how Apple chooses to implement AI into macOS, but there should be big things coming with Apple apparently disbanding their Apple Car team and funneling money into AI projects.

Battery Life

Now, battery life is incredible on the M3 Air, improving on an already great M2 Air. It’s one of those rare laptops.

I’m consistently getting 15 hours on a single charge with everyday use, which for me is web browsing, videos, lots of typing and emails, music, and creative apps like Figma, Lightroom, and stuff like that. 

On the M2 Air I was getting about 14 hours, give or take so I’ve seen an increase in battery performance with the M3 Air. 

I’ve been able to go out to work at a cafe and after a few hours, the M3 Air had 70% juice – then I came back to the office and worked with more intensive apps like Final Cut Pro till 6-7 PM and I still had a little under 25% battery left.

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All this to say: the battery life is just too good on the MacBook Air. There are not many laptops in this size category that can compete with the M3 Air. 

It gives me lots of confidence to be able to work wherever and whenever, even if I forget to bring a charger with me and that’s what the MacBook Air is really all about: maximum portability with terrific productivity and consumption use.

Anodization Process

A welcome change is the new anodization seal for the Midnight-colored M3 Air, which makes it less prone to fingerprints.

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If you have the M2 Air or you watched my previous reviews, you’ll know it’s the biggest fingerprint magnet – there’s almost no point trying to wipe it down.

I didn’t mind the fingerprints but it seem to bother many, so Apple has given it a “new anodization seal” that’s also used on the Space Black MacBook M3 Pro. So it has reduced fingerprints on the M3 Air over the week I’ve used it, but you’ll still see them. The keyboard also gets oily and grimey quickly. 

What’s interesting is I’ve found the new Midnight color to be a more “muted” hue of blue. M2 Air had a truly deep Midnight blue hue to it, whereas the new anodization process has slightly taken out that deep blue hue.

Either way, I still absolutely love this color – it’s probably my favorite color and other than the new anodization process, design-wise it’s identical.

New Microphone & Downgraded Speaker

There’s a trade-off that I haven’t seen covered much, and it’s found on Apple’s technical specification page. 

It looks like Apple has removed the wide stereo sound feature found on the M2 Air and after testing the speakers between the M2 Air and M3 Air, it does seem like the M3 Air lacks punch at higher volumes in comparison to the M2 Air…but it’s not all that noticeable, so it could be placebo.

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What has improved are the microphones with what Apple calls “enhanced voice clarity” and Wide Spectrum microphone modes. I think this makes perfect sense for the M3 Air, a better quality microphone is great for meetings on the move, and Apple’s likely preparing for improved voice recognition for AI. 

It’s also worth pointing out that the only difference between the 13” and 15” M3 Airs outside of their size, are the speakers – the 15” comes with six speakers whereas the 13” comes with four.

Two External Displays

If you like using your MacBook in a docked setup, the M3 chip now supports two external displays…but only in clamshell mode, so when the laptop lid is closed.

In this mode, it supports a primary display up to 6K resolution and a secondary display up to 5K, both at 60Hz. Or you could choose to prioritize a refresh rate of up to 144Hz at 4K resolution. So basically it can’t support dual Pro XDR displays, but I mean not many if anyone will need that sort of setup with a MacBook Air. 

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Interesting that the core M3 14-inch MacBook Pro doesn’t support two external displays yet but it’s likely Apple will change this with a future software update. 

On the connectivity front, The M3 Air now supports Wi-Fi 6E, which means it can connect to faster 6GHz networks but my gripe I mentioned in my previous M2 Air review is the fact that the Thunderbolt ports are both on the left side. It would be much more practical if they balanced the ports on either side because there have been situations where the cable reached the right side but not the left.

My Recommendation

So is the M3 Air worth buying? 

After spending a week using it every day, this is my favorite everyday laptop – there’s just no way around it for me, I love it.

As someone who travels and can’t stay put in one place, while trying to hold onto a pretty heavy workload, the 13” M3 Air is one of the most important devices in my day.

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Going from 8GB of RAM to 16GB and an M3 chipset has unlocked a lot more from my everyday workflow – being able to get more done since I’m less throttled by the hardware. 

But the base configuration with 8GB of RAM isn’t great value for money but what is great value for money is the M2 MacBook Airs.

Apple may have discontinued the M1 but the M2 Air is still available to purchase at a lower cost of only $1,200 for the base model with a 16GB RAM upgrade. Heck, you could even find it for significantly less second-hand. 

So that’s my recommendation, get the M2 Air with 16GB of RAM if you’re looking to save money – the M3 performance isn’t lightyears ahead. The M3 Air suits people who are on the go and need the slim form factor while maximizing power. 

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