The Best Features of the MacBook Air 13-inch M3

(Image: © Tom's Guide)

With its vibrant 13.6-inch display, sleek, contemporary design, and choice of four colors, the MacBook Air 13-inch M3 is mostly similar to what made its predecessor so exceptional. This notebook is a winner because of it as well as the potent M3 CPU, which offers great performance for work, gaming, and AI applications

Pros and Cons


  • Powerful M3 performance
  • Bright and colorful display
  • Ultraportable design
  • Exceptional battery life
  • Dual monitor support


  • Marginally better performance over M2

Although it isn't a revolutionary device, the new MacBook Air 13-inch M3 provides a number of useful improvements over the 13-inch MacBook Air M2. The addition of an Apple M3 chip, which aligns it with the latest generation of Pros, is the primary selling point. Along with great CPU performance, this chip also offers graphics and AI enhancements. Furthermore, compared to its predecessor, the already remarkable battery life has increased.

Similar to the Air M2, this upgraded notebook has a 13.6-inch Retina display that is vivid and brilliant, making it ideal for working, watching films, and playing games. Like the most recent MacBook Pros, it features a flat, functional form, a snappy touchpad, a comfortable keyboard, and MagSafe charging.Furthermore, this 2.7-pound notebook is portable, living up to its name "Air."

The 13-inch MacBook Air M3, which starts at $1,099, isn't exactly inexpensive, but it isn't as expensive as the more expensive $1,999 MacBook Pro 14-inch or $2,499 MacBook Pro 16-inch. Considering that the MacBook Air M2 now starts at $999, the new Air M3 still delivers great value for the money.

After using the MacBook Air 13-inch M3 for the first time, it appears to be a clear contender for our best MacBooks and laptops. Naturally, once I've had more opportunity to use Apple's newest notebook, we'll know if that's the case. Check back soon for my complete review.

Hands-on review of the MacBook Air 13-inch M3: Cheat sheet

For whom is it intended? For those who would prefer a MacBook with the newest M3 processor but own an older M1 or Intel MacBook.

How much does it cost? From $1,099, the 13-inch MacBook Air M3 is available on Apple's website.

What appeals to us? Its strikingly portable design, vibrant display, array of color options, and robust M3 performance.

What is it that we dislike? does not provide a significant increase in performance over the MacBook Air M2.

In summary? The MacBook Air M3 is a great laptop for daily work, gaming, and video editing, even though it's more of the same. For those looking to upgrade from the MacBook Air M1 or for those who are new to the MacBook brand, this is a fantastic notebook.


MacBook Air 13-inch M3 Specifications

Specification Details
Price $1,099
Colors Midnight, Starlight, Space Gray, Silver
CPU 8-core CPU
GPU 8-core GPU
Display 13.6 inches (2,560 x 1,664)
Memory 8GB
Storage 256GB
Ports 1x Thunderbolt / USB-4, 1x headphone jack
Webcam 1080p
Charging 30W USB-C
Size 11.97 x 8.46 x 0.44 inches
Weight 2.7 pounds


Starting at $1,099, the MacBook Air 13-inch M3 may be pre-ordered on Apple's website and will ship on March 8. This setup has 256GB of SSD storage, 8GB of unified memory (RAM), and an Apple M3 chip with eight cores for the CPU and GPU. There are four color options available for each configuration: Silver, Space Gray, Starlight, and Midnight.

A 10-core GPU ($100), 16GB ($200) or 24GB ($400) of RAM, and 512GB ($200), 1TB ($400), or 2TB ($800) of storage are available as upgrades. The 30W USB-C power converter that comes with the Air M3 may be upgraded to a 35W or 70W adapter for an additional $20.

Hands-on review of the 13-inch M3 MacBook Air: design and ports

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

I appreciate that the MacBook Air 13-inch design for the M3 is the same as it was in the past, especially because I like the simple, flat look. As before, the Air M3's thinness could easily fool you into thinking it's one of the greatest iPads at first glance. It is the ideal traveling companion due to its compact size and low weight. You can even become unaware that it's in your backpack!

The robust unibody aluminum chassis feels pleasant to handle in addition to having a great appearance. The laptop glides smoothly and effortlessly on that hinge, making it simple to open the lid and hold with one hand as before. The laptop lid will not sway when you are carrying it open.

Space Gray, Midnight, Silver, and Starlight are the four hues that are offered. Since it makes use of the same fingerprint-resistant technology that was first debuted in the Space Black hue of the MacBook Pros last year, the latter is the most intriguing. Though I think midnight is my favorite, I think every hue is gorgeous.

The laptop's port choices is extremely limited. On the left side are two Thunderbolt 4/USB-C ports, while the right side has a headphone jack. Although you may use the USB-C connectors to power the laptop if you'd want, there's also a MagSafe charging port.

The Air M3 can handle two displays simultaneously: one external monitor with up to 6K resolution at 60Hz and up to 5K resolution at 60Hz when the lid is closed, and the built-in display with full native resolution at 1 billion colors. We really desired dual monitor support with the previous model, so it's wonderful that the new laptop has it. You'll be let down, though, if you want to keep your laptop open when it's attached to an external monitor so you can use the keyboard and trackpad.

Hands-on review of the 13-inch MacBook Air M3: display and audio

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The 13.6-inch display of the MacBook Air 13-inch M3 is unchanged from the M2 model, which I like because it consistently produces vivid, colorful visuals regardless of what we're looking at.

On the Air M3's display, the pink energy that emanated from Godzilla's dorsal plates in the most recent Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire video appeared positively radiant. And even with a lot of action going on, I was still able to see a lot of fine detail on the 13.6-inch display. Lies of P, with its somber surroundings reminiscent of the Victorian era, also looked amazing on the MacBook Air's screen.

Display Benchmark Results

Benchmark MacBook Air M3 (13-inch) MacBook Air M2 (13-inch) Dell XPS 14 (2024)
Nits (Brightness) 476 473 380
sRGB 109.8% 110.9% 113.2%
DCI-P3 77.8% 78.6% 80.2%
Delta-E 0.2 0.2 0.3

The new laptop's sRGB, DCI-P3, and Delta-E values are similar to those of the previous model, as you can see from our preliminary test findings above. The brightness of SDR and HDR is likewise comparable, nearly reaching the stated 500 nits. Seeing all of this results in a satisfying experience.

The notch above the display could be a source of disagreement. Although it doesn't bother me, it seems more noticeable on a smaller screen than it does on the larger 15-inch Air and MacBook Pro 16-inch. You won't like the notch now if you didn't like it before—this is all subjective.

Hands-on review of the 13-inch MacBook Air M3: performance

With a similar M3 chip to the new MacBook Air laptops, I evaluated the 14-inch MacBook Pro M3 from last year. As a result, there was no discernible performance difference. Although I'm currently testing the Air M3, it hasn't had any problems with more than 30 open windows and a YouTube video streaming in the background. It can definitely manage workloads that are even more demanding.

Performance Results

MacBook Air 13-inch M3 MacBook Air 15-inch M2 Dell XPS 14 (2024)
Geekbench 6 (single-core) 3,082 2,613 2,398
Geekbench 6 (multi-core) 12,087 9,993 12,939
Handbrake 6:32 7:46 6:20
Photoshop 8,550 / 12.4 mins 7,465 / 13.9 mins 6,045 / 21.6 mins

When compared to its predecessor, the MacBook Air 13-inch M3 performs better overall. It outperformed in the CPU test on Geekbench, compressed a 4K movie more quickly in Handbrake, and ran more quickly in Photoshop and Premiere Pro.

In the final two tests, it decisively defeated the Dell XPS 14, while the Windows laptop performed slightly better in Geekbench and Handbrake.

Hands-on review of the 13-inch M3 MacBook Air: AI

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The 16-core Neural Engine in the 13- and 15-inch MacBook Air M3 notebooks is intended for AI-driven workloads. Though "AI laptops" are all the rage these days, it's crucial to keep in mind that machine learning has been a part of Apple silicon since 2020. The only thing that has changed is that Apple now uses the word "AI."

Similar to the AI-focused Intel Core Ultra processors, the M3 chip's Neural Engine can automatically improve photographs in Pixelmator Pro or reduce background noise from apps like CapCut. Instead of using the cloud, it completes these processes locally on the device.

We used the command, "a golden retriever jumping up to catch a tennis ball on the beach with crashing waves in the background," using DiffusionBee, an app that uses Stable Diffision, to see how long it would take the program to generate this image.

The prompt took 28.5 seconds to appear on the 15-inch MacBook Air M3. When you consider that the Air M2 took 37 seconds, it's not too bad. This popup took 14.9 seconds to create on the XPS 14 using the Easy Diffusion software. Although we had to use different programs in this last example because DiffusionBee isn't available for Windows, it's still a fascinating contrast.

We placed the following request into FreeChat for text-based responses: "Give me a 500-word explanation of why the sky is blue." Compared to the Air M2's 1 minute and 11 seconds, this took 1 minute and 2 seconds. It took over ten seconds for the latter to reply.

It’s still early days for on-device AI processing, so it’s tough to predict if any of these functions will be beneficial to customers. As with the Dell XPS 14 and Acer Swift Go 14 we’ve evaluated, we’ve yet to be completely impressed with “AI laptops.” However, in the future, we could be singing a different song. In any case, Apple at least has the hardware set up to benefit from AI computing should it become popular.

Hands-on review of the 13-inch M3 MacBook Air: gaming

The new MacBook Air has hardware-accelerated mesh shading and ray tracing, which provides more realistic lighting, reflections, and shadows in video games, because of the M3's enhanced GPU. With dynamic caching, hardware accesses local memory in real time, only using the precise amount required for a given activity. With all of this, games on MacBooks with M3 processors look and perform better.

Even while the M3 Max-powered 16-inch MacBook Pro I examined had superior gaming performance, the M3 still had amazing gaming performance when playing games designed for Apple hardware. The ability to enable or disable MetalFX, Apple's response to Nvidia and AMD's upscaling technology, is available in Lies of P. Lies of P ran at a constant 60 frames per second (fps) at 1200p resolution with MetalFX set to "Highest Performance." With MetalFX turned off, frame rates varied between 45 and 50 fps, which isn't very good but also not bad.

 want to evaluate the performance of additional Apple silicon-optimized games on the MacBook Air 13-inch M3, such as Resident Evil 4 Remake, Baldur's Gate 3, and Death Stranding. Although I don't anticipate performance to match that of the M3 Pro or M3 Max, I'm confident in getting good outcomes.

Hands-on review of the MacBook Air 13-inch M3: battery life

Apple made a big deal out of the MacBook Air M3 laptops' 18-hour battery life. Even if the Air M3's battery life falls short of that impressive figure, it is still extremely impressive.

The MacBook Air 13-inch M3 battery life was astounding, lasting an astounding 15 hours and 13 minutes on the Tom's Guide battery test, which entails continuous web browsing at 150 nits of screen brightness. Compared to the Air M2, which lasted for 14 hours and 33 minutes, that is forty minutes longer.

Windows laptops such as the Acer Swift Go 14 (9:50) and Dell XPS 14 (6:26) are not even close to matching Apple's notebooks in terms of endurance. M-series computers continue to lead the industry in battery life. At this point, it's hardly even a competition.


(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The big keycaps and good travel distance of the 13-inch MacBook Air M3's keyboard make typing on it a pleasure. My large hands don't have a lot of space on the piano deck, yet my fingers never became too tight. It is obviously necessary for me to type on this keyboard for a longer period of time to evaluate if it is pleasant to use all day.

The touchpad, which consistently registered my swipes and clicks, was another feature I enjoyed. It was snappy and silky. Despite the tiny keyboard deck, I have never inadvertently swiped the quite huge touchpad. Although the touchpad works well, I would still prefer to use one of the greatest wireless mice with this laptop or any other.

Hands-on review of the MacBook Air 13-inch M3: Outlook

Thanks to its elegant ultraportable design, striking display, amazing battery life, and potent M3 performance, the MacBook Pro 13-inch M3 is impressive.

Although there isn't much of a performance boost for MacBook Air M2 owners to update, owners of MacBook Air M1 laptops should give purchasing the new model careful thought. This also applies to those who are fresh to the Apple ecosystem and are looking for the newest Air model.

While $1,099 may not seem like a lot of money, the 13-inch MacBook Air is the most reasonably priced Apple notebook with an M3 processor. It's an amazing bargain for what it provides.

In just a few days, I'll be updating my hands-on preview to a complete review, so be sure to check back to get my final opinions on the MacBook Air 13-inch M3!

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