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Apple launches 13- and 15-inch MacBook Air with M3 chip. Here's what's new

Revamped models of the company's ultraportable laptops put more focus on AI computing, multitasking, and battery life.
Written by Kerry Wan, Senior Reviews Editor
Apple MacBook Air Models with M3 Chip
Kerry Wan/ZDNET

Apple today has unveiled two new MacBook models: the 13- and 15-inch Air with M3 processors. Both laptops look about the same as their predecessors, with notched displays encased in aluminum unibody enclosures, the same quartet of colors (Midnight, Starlight, Space Gray, and Silver), and the latest M3 chipsets for improved performance and efficiency.

Both models will cost the same as their previous versions, too, with the 13-inch MacBook Air starting at $1,099 and the 15-inch MacBook Air starting at $1,299. They'll be available for preorder starting today and officially arrive in stores on March 8, this Friday.

Also: I went hands-on with Apple's M3 MacBook Air and 3 features stood out the most

"MacBook Air is our most popular and loved Mac, with more customers choosing it over any other laptop. And today it gets even better with the M3 chip and new capabilities," said Greg Joswiak, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing, in a Monday press release.

With the latest models, the big headline revolves around the M3 chip powering the units. Apple's 3-nanometer processor features an 8-core CPU and up to a 10-core GPU, and works with up to 24GB of unified memory, allowing the updated MacBook Airs to be up to 60% faster than their M1 counterparts and up to 13 times faster than the highest-configured Intel-based Air models, according to the company.

The M3 chip also gives the new MacBooks support for hardware-accelerated mesh shading and ray tracing, two invaluable features for 3D graphics and game design. On the AI front, the M3 includes a 16-core Neural Engine that should improve the on-device machine learning of the MacBook Air. The efficiency gains can best be leveraged in services within video calls, real-time speech and text, translation, accessibility features, and more.

As for the rest of the specs, the new MacBook Airs both sport Liquid Retina displays with up to 500 nits of brightness, and can now extend onto two external monitors when the laptop is closed, an ideal upgrade for business users, content creators, and others who rely on multiple workflows and displays. The M3 MacBook also gets a bump up to Wi-Fi 6E (from Wi-Fi 6) for faster, more reliable download speeds.

Also: What is Wi-Fi 7 and just how fast is it?

It's worth noting that Apple will still be selling the 13-inch MacBook Air (M2) but for $100 less than its original price. ZDNET named that model the Best Product of 2022 and the new low price makes it an even better value.

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