Apple MacBook Air M3 review
Image: Alice Clarke.

Apple MacBook Air M3 review: still the best ultra-portable laptop

Apple’s MacBook Air has been one of the most popular ultra-portable laptops for years now for good reason: it’s a solid daily driver that punches way above its weight in terms of power, but is shockingly light in terms of weight. This year’s MacBook Air refresh brings the more powerful M3 chip to both the 13 and 15-inch laptops, offering power bumps over last year’s M2.

As always, the M3 MacBook Air is a solid, powerful laptop, though most people won’t really notice the difference over last year’s M2 MacBook Air (which is still available for a lower price).

Apple MacBook Air M3 review

MacBook Air M3 first impressions

When I got the MacBook Air M3, I thought it looked basically the same as the 13-inch MacBook Air that I’ve been relying on for ages. Which is mostly good: I’ve been taking MacBook Airs all over the world with me for years. But it’s also a little disappointing, because my only complaint about the MacBook Air is that it doesn’t have enough ports. There are still no USB-A ports, which is just frustrating when you need to use a USB-A storage drive.

The setup process when moving from a Mac to a new Mac is still very easy, though I was surprised that this time it took five hours, when it’s normally much faster than that. However, there are far too many variables to say whether this was a new computer problem, an old computer problem or just Wi-Fi issues.

Overall, the unboxing and setup processes were as sleek and streamlined as you’d expect from Apple.

MacBook Air M3 specifications

My review unit consisted of the 13-inch model equipped with a 10-core GPU, 16GB of memory and a 1TB SSD.

DisplayLiquid retina display
2560 x 1664 native resolution at 224 pixels per inch
1 billion colours
PortsTwo thunderbolt/USB 4 ports
One 3.5 mm headphone jack
One Magsafe 3 port
WirelessWi-Fi 6E (802.11ax)
Bluetooth 5.3
Camera1080p FaceTime HD camera
AudioFour-speaker sound system
DimensionsHeight: 1.13cm
Width: 30.41cm
Depth: 21.5cm
Weight: 1.24kg
Price (RRP)From $1,799
WarrantyOne year
Official websiteApple Australia

As you can see, it’s pretty much last year’s MacBook Air, but with a more powerful M3 chip.


DeviceCPU (multi-core)CPU (single-core)GPU (OpenCL)
MacBook Pro M2 Max14,916270172,833
Macbook Air M312,0153,07530,479                           
Macbook Air M210,0612,60628,636
 Geekbench 6
CPU (multi-core)CPU (single-core)GPU
MacBook Pro M2 Max1,0311226,026
Macbook Air M35501412,999
Macbook Air M25111211,760
Cinebench 2024

These numbers show respectable bumps from the M2. However, the M2 was already so much faster than the Intel i7 processor, that there’s only so much faster the M3 could be. But comparing to the M2 is only helpful if you’re tossing up between the M2 and M3 versions (which are both available).

Most people will be upgrading from either an Intel-based Mac, or perhaps an M1. The M3 is almost twice as powerful as the already ridiculously good M1, and almost thrice as fast as the old Intel-based MacBook Airs. That goes up to 13x as fast as Intel-based Macs on video editing performance, and a bit less than double the speed of M1. Apple silicon continues to be the best there is at this price point.

Synthetic benchmarks are just one unit of measurement, so let’s dive into it a bit further.


The design of the MacBook Air has been pretty much unchanged for years, because why mess with a mostly good thing? The rounded corners are comfortable when curled up in a ball on a plane trying to type out a thousand words like a sleep-deprived goblin, and the sharp edges look sleek and give it a contemporary feel.

The lack of ports is because Apple wants to encourage you to use the cloud. Physical media is so yesterday, ports look ugly, and so on. I strongly disagree with that, and I resent having to carry dongles everywhere I go.

But this laptop is still extremely popular, and the complaints of a tech enthusiast might not be the complaints of someone who just wants a laptop they can do their uni papers on and then sneakily play games in their downtime. So, your mileage may vary.

I will advocate for bringing back the USB-A port until I turn blue. Although considering I still think desktop computers should have Blu-Ray drives, I think I might be outvoted on this one.


“Ultra-portable Mac laptop” and “gaming” used not to be words you’d include in the same sentence, and yet here we are. This M3 chip is the same one you’d find in the more pro-level Macs (before you start getting too fancy and expensive), and it plays like that.

However, the difference between the performance on those computers and the MacBook Air is ventilation – you can play longer and better on those laptops because the chip stays cooler for longer. But it still took me hours of The Sims 4 with all the expansions I have (most of the expansions and Stuff Packs ever released) before the laptop started to feel uncomfortably warm. And even then, the eventual graphical struggles were so subtle that I wouldn’t have noticed them if I hadn’t been deliberately looking for them.

Apple has really been going after the gaming market in recent years, and once more AAA games start getting released for Mac (which is inevitable, given the strides Apple has made in making it easier to port games), there will be far more people who game on Mac.


One of the really interesting things about this MacBook Air release is that Apple is now promoting it as an AI computer, which marks a huge departure from how they’ve talked about AI in the past.

Apple silicon-based computers have always had a Neural Engine, but Apple has always talked about it as ‘Machine Learning’ and not AI. This is semantics in 2024, given most tech companies are positioning machine learning and language learning models as AI, despite not being ‘true AI’.

But, in 2024, every computer is getting promoted as an AI computer, so I suppose Apple doesn’t want to be left out. Unfortunately, it’s tricky to test a device’s AI capabilities in a short amount of time, and many current uses are cloud-based. GadgetGuy will have ongoing coverage of AI computing performance, so stay tuned.

Who is the Apple MacBook Air M3 for?

The M3 MacBook Air is for anyone who wants a Mac laptop but doesn’t need a desktop, or all the bells and whistles of the MacBook Pro. Whether you get a 13 or a 15-inch MacBook Air, you really can’t go wrong.

It is the best ultra-portable laptop on the market, particularly if you like the Mac ecosystem. I can’t recommend it enough. It can handle just about anything you throw at it, from advanced video editing (though not quite as proficiently as a MacBook Pro), to recording your next album or playing Death Stranding.

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Apple MacBook Air M3
The M3 MacBook Air is the best ultra-portable laptop on the market, particularly if you like the Apple ecosystem.
Value for money
Ease of use
Long battery life
No USB-A ports
Not enough ports in general