New MacBook Air M3 bridges gap between Pro laptops

Apple MacBook Air M3 launch
Image: supplied.

Fresh from Apple, new MacBook Air laptops with the M3 chip have been officially announced, with faster performance, and a more sustainable design.

The announcement confirms earlier reports that upgraded Air laptops would arrive before the end of March. It also means that Apple’s most popular laptop will benefit from the faster chip announced in October last year, which has so far been used in the iMac desktop computer and MacBook Pro range.

Superseding the MacBook Air M2 laptops, including the newer 15-inch model suited to students, the M3 model also comes in 13 and 15-inch variants. Other than faster overall performance, Apple’s upgraded thin laptops now have better external monitor support and faster Wi-Fi technology.

MacBook Air M3 adds welcome features

Despite its otherwise impressive performance and versatility, the MacBook Air’s external monitor support has previously been limited. Now, with the M3 model, there’s support for up to two external displays – albeit when the laptop lid is closed. In this instance, one monitor can be up to 6K resolution, and the second can be up to 5K resolution.

Apple MacBook Air M3 displays
The new MacBook Air now supports two external displays, but only when the lid is closed. Image: supplied.

In a boost to connectivity, the MacBook Air M3 range also houses Wi-Fi 6E technology. Although it’s not as blazingly quick as the latest Wi-Fi 7 technology, 6E can produce double the speeds of the prior generation, Wi-Fi 6. Older Wi-Fi tech uses the 2.4GHz and 5GHz network bands, while Wi-Fi 6E and above adds a third 6GHz band, which is capable of faster speeds and handling more traffic.

So while there’s still a clear gap in raw power between the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro laptops, there are now more connectivity options without needing to pay for more power than you might need.

Wading into AI

Apple’s latest announcement also marks one of its most public acknowledgements of the AI computing trend. The company labelled the MacBook Air M3 the “world’s best consumer laptop for AI” thanks to its 16-core Neural Engine designed to tackle local image and text generation tasks.

While the Intel Core Ultra and the AMD Ryzen 8040 chips have recently introduced neural processing units (NPUs) to Windows laptops, Apple’s computers have used NPUs for years now. With the industry currently fixated on AI, Apple has embraced the messaging to market its existing technology.

Also on the inside of the MacBook Air M3 laptops is up to an eight-core CPU and a 10-core GPU, supported by up to 24GB of unified memory and 2TB of SSD storage. On the outside, the laptops include a MagSafe 3 charging port, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and two Thunderbolt 3 / USB4 ports that provide both power and external display connectivity.

Apple MacBook Air M3 gaming
Improved graphical technology should also mean better gaming performance. Image: supplied.

Gaming is said to be one of the major beneficiaries of the M3 chip because of the enhanced GPU architecture. Along with the performance-boosting Game Mode, M3 computers also support hardware-accelerated mesh shading and ray tracing, technologies used for high-fidelity graphics.

MacBook Air M3 release date and price

Available to order now, the new MacBook Air M3 range arrives in Australia starting on 8 March. For pricing, the 13-inch model begins at $1,799, while the larger 15-inch size starts at $2,199. Or, if you want to save a bit more money, the older 13-inch M2 model now starts at $1,599.

Apple also claims that the new laptops are better for the environment, due to a more sustainable manufacturing process. The laptops are the first device from Apple to use 50% recycled materials, including aluminium, copper, and rare earth minerals.

As one would expect, increased power is nice, but it’s good to see the new MacBook Air laptops include commonly requested features like further external display support.

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