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M3 MacBook Air has a familiar look

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M3 MacBook Air has a familiar look


The midnight color still smudges, but the M3 processor gives it a speed boost.

Presenting the Apple MacBook Air M3 models in both 13-inch and 15-inch sizes. I own one of each, one in starlight and the other in midnight. The midnight model is already marked with fingerprints, whereas the starlight model remains clean and shiny. Despite the smudges, at least I can dif​ferentiate between the two laptops.

The outer shell of the 13-inch and 15-inch Air M3s closely resembles that of their M2 predecessors, with identical design, size, weight, color options, and overall appearance. It would be difficult to distinguish between the two if they were placed next to each other.

To distinguish the Air M3 models from the M2 models, you would need to test them with benchmarks. In my experience with the MacBook Pro 14 M3, I predict that the Air M3s will have a performance boost of around 10 to 15 percent compared to the M2 Airs and similar performance to the MacBook Pro 14 M3. The Air M3 review units I tested, both the 13-inch and 15-inch models, featured an eight-core CPU, 10-core GPU, and 16GB of RAM, with a 512GB SSD instead of a 1TB SSD.

Taking a closer look at the 13-inch MacBook Air, the main distinctions between the M2 and M3 versions include the M3’s support for hardware-accelerated ray tracing, the AV1 decode engine for streaming with reduced bandwidth demands, and Wi-Fi 6E. The overall configuration options and battery life remain mostly unchanged, but the M3 models now have the capability to power two external displays with the laptop closed, a feature not available on the M1 and M2 Airs. Additionally, a software update will allow the base-model 14-inch MacBook Pro M3 to also run two external displays, with no confirmation yet for the M1 and M2 Air models.

The 15-inch MacBook Air has a superior sound system compared to the 13-inch model, with six speakers instead of four. When playing bass-heavy songs, the 15-inch produced deeper and more booming bass compared to the 13-inch, which had a bass level resembling that of a vintage record player.

The sound quality of the speakers on the MacBook Pro 14 is just as impressive as, if not indistinguishable from, the 15-inch MacBook Air M3! If you are thinking about getting the 14-inch MacBook Pro M3, the new MacBook Air models further complicate Apple’s product offerings, providing fewer incentives to choose the Pro model unless you specifically desire a more advanced display or additional ports.

The Pro and Air models are similar in weight and size, making it unclear what sets the MacBook Air apart when every laptop company offers thin and lightweight options. The standard for thinness and weight has decreased since Apple first introduced the MacBook Air in 2008. In fact, the MacBook Pro 14 M3 is even thinner than the original Air.

Now that the distinctive wedge design of the MacBook Air is no longer present, what distinguishes it as an Air when it appears similar to the MacBook Pro? As someone who typically uses Windows, I have used various MacBooks for work in the past. The current one I have is the MacBook Air M1, and I can at least differentiate it from a MacBook Pro by pointing to it and saying, “That’s a MacBook Air,” due to the iconic wedge design that was and continues to be a defining feature.

I have not finished testing the new MacBook Air M3s and still have more to think about regarding the Air’s identity crisis. I am also continuing to explore performance and other capabilities of these laptops. Keep watching for updates.

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