Is the M3 MacBook Air Worth It? Analysis and Buyer’s Guide

Isn’t it crazy that the most interesting things about this new laptop are actually reasons not to buy it? Yeah, so the MacBook Air just got a refresh. It’s pretty much a simple update, if you ask me, maybe even a bit boring. There are only two noticeable changes, really. They’ve given it a new anodized finish on the outside, which supposedly makes it a tad more resistant to fingerprints.

Apple 2024 MacBook Air 13-inch Laptop with M3 chip: 13.6-inch Liquid Retina Display, 8GB Unified Memory, 256GB SSD Storage, Backlit Keyboard, 1080p FaceTime HD Camera, Touch ID; Starlight

Get it Here

Apple 2024 MacBook Air 13
Apple 2024 MacBook Air 13
Apple 2024 MacBook Air 13
Apple 2024 MacBook Air 13
Apple 2024 MacBook Air 13
Apple 2024 MacBook Air 13
Apple 2024 MacBook Air 13
Apple 2024 MacBook Air 13



And there’s the new M3 chip inside. As for the coating, well, to be honest, it hardly seems to make a difference. Even with it, you’ll still end up with fingerprints if you handle it regularly without a skin or a case. Personally, I’d prefer to rely on something like a skin from our channel sponsor, Dbrand. It allows you to move away from just three basic colors and does a much better job at hiding fingerprints compared to any metal treatment out there.

Also, these are made of genuine leather, so they have a lovely plush texture and they’ll develop a nice patina over time. I’ll include a link to this one below. Another new feature is the M3 chip inside. Now, we’ve seen this M3 chip before; it’s typical of Apple to use the same chip across different devices. It was released in October last year, and they promptly included it in the new iMac.

And then we also got a new MacBook Pro that launched with this and the M3 PRO and the M3 Max. So okay, new M3 Apple silicon, third generation, great. So now we’re finally getting this new base M3 chip in the new MacBook Air, side note, why does it take so long? I don’t know, it feels like Apple kind of staggers it probably on purpose, but like it’s the same chip everywhere.

They’ve updated the iMac, the MacBook Pro, and the MacBook Air, but it’s kind of strange that the Mac Mini is still sticking with the M2. Also, the new iPad Pro is still using the M2 chip. When do you think they’ll upgrade that? Anyway, you’re probably aware that the MacBook Air is the most popular Mac for a reason. It’s the go-to entry-level Mac that most people see as their gateway into the Mac ecosystem.

The base MacBook Air has historically been one of the easiest laptops in the world to recommend, simply because of its design. However, interestingly, this one isn’t as straightforward to recommend, for two reasons. And no, it’s not because of the performance of the M3 chip or anything like that. In terms of performance, it’s pretty much what you’d expect. According to benchmarks, it offers about a 10 to 20% improvement over the M2, depending on your tasks.

This generation definitely focuses more on graphics improvements. And now, there’s ray tracing, which is a significant addition. Any applications or rendering that make use of it will see a noticeable improvement with the M3 chip. It’s clearly a more capable chip overall. Plus, MacBook Airs, especially the 15-inch models, consistently deliver great battery life across the board.

Now, you also have dual external display support with the lid closed, although only one external display when the laptop is open. Additionally, it seems that the base storage on the M3 has seen significant improvement. This addresses one of the concerns from the previous generation, where if you look back at the M2, it’s evident that Apple provided reviewers with higher-end MacBooks, so most of us didn’t get to experience that.

If you take a look back at the M2, the base 256GB model utilized a single SSD module instead of two. To put it simply, that storage module was considerably slower than the M1, about 50% slower on paper. Would you have noticed if nobody mentioned it and you had never benchmarked it? Maybe, maybe not, but it’s disappointing to have significantly slower storage on a new M2. That extra time spent transferring large files really adds up over time.

I’m pleased to share that I’ve come across some impressive benchmarks for the base storage of the M3 Air. It seems they’ve addressed the issues, which is great news. So, what’s the story with this M3 Air then? Why am I not necessarily saying it’s the top recommendation? Well, historically, recommending the MacBook Air has been a breeze, but with the introduction of the M3, they’ve also reduced the price of the M2 by a hundred bucks and discontinued the M1.

So now, the lineup consists of the M3 MacBook Air starting at $1099, followed by the M2 MacBook Air starting at $999. The M1 model has been phased out by Apple, but you may still find remaining stock at places like Walmart or Best Buy. The reason the MacBook Air has been easy to recommend is because we’re talking about everyday users who engage in light, regular activities such as web browsing, listening to music, multitasking with several tabs open, handling work-related tasks, occasional compiling or rendering of small projects, as well as photo editing and occasionally editing a video or two.

But we’re talking really light usage here. So for these individuals—think of the type who might purchase a laptop at Walmart—the cheaper MacBook Air with the identical appearance, featuring the slightly slower M2 chip and slower storage, would likely suffice just fine. I believe they would be perfectly content with it. However, there’s another aspect I need to address, and that’s the whole base spec situation.

This isn’t exactly a new phenomenon in the industry, but the concept of base price and base specifications has almost become this strange fallacy. I believe it was Linus who made a video discussing how “starting at” is one of the biggest deceptions in tech. And he’s absolutely correct—it’s not just in the tech industry; the automotive industry employs similar tactics all the time as well.

When you see “starting at” with this super low price, in reality, hardly anyone actually ends up paying that amount. You’re not going to get a completely bare-bones base model car. The starting price is more of a reference point to show you approximately how much you’ll end up spending when you customize it to your preferences. The problem with these situations is that Apple’s markup prices for configurations above the base specification are extremely high.

Apple tends to overcharge for even the simplest upgrades. Since Apple Silicon computers are all-in-one systems, they can’t be upgraded after purchase, correct? So once you make the purchase, you’re somewhat encouraged, especially if you plan to keep it for a while, to spend a bit more to give yourself some additional flexibility, future-proofing it by boosting its specs.

But Apple charges so exorbitantly for upgrading those specs that the base price seems even more deceptive than usual. The MacBook Air, starting in 2024, comes with eight gigs of shared RAM and 256 gigs of storage. Now, disregarding the fact that my phone already has more than eight gigs of RAM and 256 gigs of storage, if you opt for the first available RAM upgrade to 16 gigs of memory, that’ll set you back $200.

And if you want to upgrade to just half a terabyte of storage, that’s another $200 on top. Considering how much it actually costs Apple, especially at their scale of operations, that pricing is simply outrageous and excessive. So, even if you just opt for those upgrades, suddenly the MacBook Air M3 costs $1,500.

So, you’re either okay with knowing you’re purchasing a MacBook Air that’s over $1500, or the real question is: Is the base specification in 2024 actually usable? In my opinion, sometimes it is, sometimes it is. If you’re one of the individuals I mentioned earlier, purchasing a laptop from the display at Walmart or Best Buy, and you just need it for basic tasks like web browsing, listening to music, and so on, you can actually manage that with eight gigs of shared memory, no problem.

This might sound like a controversial opinion, but I’ve dedicated a lot of time to this. The truth is, you rarely come close to hitting the maximum memory capacity and triggering memory swapping. And even if you do, it’s usually still manageable. It’s when you start delving into heavier tasks like media encoding, exporting, or gaming that you encounter a whole different scenario.

If you’re reading this article, chances are you already know which category you fall into. For the vast majority of people who use their laptops for everyday tasks like web browsing, document editing, and watching videos, it’s not necessary to splurge on the latest M3 MacBook Air. An M2 MacBook Air would serve just fine and save you some cash. In fact, if you don’t need features like a brighter display, MagSafe charging, or support for external monitors—which, let’s be honest, most people don’t—consider checking out discounted M1 MacBook Air models available at retailers like Best Buy or Walmart, priced around $600 to $700.

The current offerings at Walmart and Best Buy are quite enticing. Initially priced at $699 by Walmart, Best Buy later undercut them by offering it for $649, which is a significant saving. Clearly, the M3 chip offers enhanced capabilities and raises the standard for laptop performance. From my perspective, Apple’s transition to its own silicon has redefined the minimum specifications required for efficient workflow on their devices.

Does that concept resonate? Let me explain further. As someone who frequently edits videos, I require a robust machine that can handle software like Final Cut Pro. Until recently, my options were limited to Apple’s high-end desktops such as the iMac Pro or the Mac Pro. While I still use these machines, I’ve now gained the ability to utilize the Mac Studio for editing purposes, providing me with greater flexibility and efficiency in my workflow.

I’ve had an M1 Max MacBook Pro for a while and I’ve been editing on the go with a laptop, which is a huge like enabler for me. And the same sort of thing applies if you’re doing like gaming stuff or if you have a whole bunch of coding and heavy, maybe even just encoding photos or whatever you’re doing at that level, you’d typically rely on a MacBook Pro.

But with these new chips and with Apple silicon, you can do that on a high-end MacBook Air, which is again, a pretty sweet enabler. So that’s what the new M3 MacBook Air is. If you do that sort of stuff, it’s an amazing computer. It should be on your shortlist. Great all around, easy to recommend. But again, if you’re doing the lightweight, normal stuff and you need a MacBook Air, don’t get this one.

Get the cheaper one. Okay, that’s it. Thanks for reading. Catch you guys the next one, peace.

Leave a Comment