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Hands-On With the 2024 M3 MacBook Air

Apple's M3 MacBook Air models are in stores as of today, so we picked one up to test it out, see what's new, answer reader questions, and determine whether it's worth buying or upgrading to.

The ‌MacBook Air‌ is available in 13.6-inch and 15.3-inch sizes, just like the prior-generation versions. Apple did not introduce notable design changes this time around, so most of what's new is on the inside.

An M3 chip is the main upgrade, and this is the same chip that Apple already used in the 14-inch MacBook Pro. When we benchmarked our test unit with an 8-core GPU and 10-core GPU, we got a Geekbench single-core score of 3106 and a multi-core score of 11690. For comparison's sake, the M1 ‌MacBook Air‌ scored 2335/8314 and the M2 ‌MacBook Air‌ scored 2595/9745, so that's a decent boost in CPU performance.

Compared to the ‌M1‌, single-core M3 performance is up 28 percent, and multi-core performance is up 34 percent. Compared to the ‌M2‌, both the single-core and multi-core CPU tests came in at 18 percent higher. As for Metal GPU scores, the ‌M1‌ earned a score of 32117, the ‌M2‌ was at 45651, and the M3 was at 46920.

Overall, CPU and GPU performance have improved notably over the ‌M1‌ and more modestly over the ‌M2‌. It's worth noting that the M3 also has hardware-accelerated ray tracing and mesh shading that are of use for 3D rendering and will eventually make games on the Mac more realistic. AV1 decode should improve streaming from services that support the codec.

There are a couple of other improvements to note, including Wi-Fi 6E support for connecting to 6GHz networks. You might not see too many 6GHz networks just yet, but it's a good future proofing feature if you don't already have a 6E router. The M3 models support two external displays in clamshell mode rather than just one, call clarity is better than before, and there's a new finish on the midnight model to cut down on fingerprints.

Pricing on the 13-inch ‌MacBook Air‌ starts at $1099 and pricing on the 15-inch model starts at $1299. It's not worth upgrading to the new machine if you already have an ‌M2‌ ‌MacBook Air‌ because those machines already have the 2022/2023 design, but if you have an ‌M1‌ or any Intel model and are looking for a new solution, the M3 ‌MacBook Air‌ is worth considering.

In terms of upgrades, if you're just using the ‌MacBook Air‌ for day-to-day tasks like web browsing and email, you don't need to shell out extra money for more memory, a better GPU (13-inch model), or more storage, but if you plan to use it for more system intensive tasks, it's worth looking at some of those upgrades.

Did you pick up one of the new M3 ‌MacBook Air‌ models? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
Related Roundup: MacBook Air
Related Forum: MacBook Air

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Source: TechRadar

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