The MacBook Air — better for business?

With Apple Silicon, we have to get used to Apple offering significant product upgrades for Macs; the M3 MacBook Air is just what most mobile employees need.

Apple, Mac, MacBook Air, M3, Apple Silicon

The best value notebook for most of us is the MacBook Air, and Apple has now updated both the 13- and 15-in. models with powerful M3 chips and the capacity to run two external displays when the lid is closed.

All in all, these Macs should be more than suitable for most mobile workers.

Apple in the fast lane

Think back less than a year to when the company introduced its superb M2-powered 15-in. MacBook Air. That model delivered more performance than the late 2019 2.7GHz Intel Mac Pro.

That surge in computational ability goes even further with the M3 update. Citing tests it conducted in January, Apple claims the new chip runs up to 60% faster than the model with the M1 chip and up to 13 times faster than the fastest Intel-based MacBook Air.

For mobile workers, that means using Excel spreadsheets is up to 35% faster than on  the M1 Mac, and three times as fast as an Intel-based Mac, Apple said. There's a similar performance bump when working with video.

Will your next PC be a Mac?

As we enter the computer purchasing season, Apple’s own data claims that the M3 chip inside these models will contribute twice the performance, 50% faster web browsing and up to 40% longer battery life than a PC laptop with an Intel Core i7 processor.

You need to dig to find it, but in a small note (5, 6) at the bottom of the product page, Apple tells us the tests took place in January on Intel Core i7-based PC systems with Intel Iris Xe Graphics, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, and the latest version of Windows 11 at the time of testing.

Speeds and feeds

The first Geekbench results for the new Air are beginning to emerge; they confirm performance similar to the current M3 MacBook Pro.

The M3 MacBook Air delivers single-core performance at 3,157, and multi-core at 12,020, which is about 20% better than the last M2 MacBook Air. We may see that data change slightly by the time more test results have been shared, however, as Geekbench 6 data for the 14-in. MacBook Pro generates 3,085 and 11,561 (single- multi-core).

What that dizzying range of statistics means is that if you pick up a 13-in. M3 MacBook Air today for $1,099 you are getting similar performance to what you got with the M3 MacBook Pro a few months ago. The latter offers a host of improvements for some professionals, but for most people, the Air will handle everything they need.

What else should we know?

To dig a little deeper into that comparison, the 14-in. MacBook Pro has a slightly larger display than the 13-in. Air. It offers 22 hours of battery life in contrast to 18 hours, an XDR display (which you need for color referencing), a brighter display, better quality audio, and additional HDMI and SDXC interconnects.

Since we’ve spent time on specifications, it makes sense to share some more. Along with the M3 processor, the newest MacBook Air provides:

  • 500 nits Liquid Retina display.
  • 1080p FaceTime HD camera.
  • Four-speaker sound system.
  • Three-mic array.
  • Wi-Fi 6E.
  • Bluetooth 5.3.
  • Touch ID support.
  • Headphone jack.
  • Up to 2TB of storage and 24GB of memory can be pre-installed.
  • Prices starting at $1,099 (13-in.), or $1,299 (15-in.).

Apple already builds AI computers

There is one more thing, in that in announcing the product Apple brazenly jumped right on board the emerging "AI Inside" hype that seems to be brewing in PC and smartphone sales.

Analysts are beginning to talk about the next-wave of AI-ready computers, but Apple has been preparing this ground for years. With billions of Apple devices already running AI-happy processors, this really will turn out to be Apple’s game to win.

After all, every M-series chip already includes the made-for-AI Neural Engine and powerful GPUs. That means Apple’s Macs are already playing the AI inside game, and we know the company is working furiously to unleash software to exploit that potential.

For now, Apple simply observes the new Mac can run optimized AI models, including large language models (LLMs) and diffusion models for image generation locally with great performance. That also means building apps in Swift and translating and transcribing conversations using software are also a cinch for the Macs.

Faster, keener, greener

In another sign of where we're going, the new MacBook Air is the first Apple product to be made with 50% recycled content. Aluminum, rare earth elements, and copper are all 100% recycled. The company remains committed to becoming carbon neutral across the entire manufacturing supply chain and the life cycle of every product by 2030.

All in all, based on what we know about these Macs, Apple has made significant improvements in its most popular notebooks — and with the company no doubt already working on M4 and M5 chips, the road map for future Mac upgrades is easier to see than it ever was in the decades before Apple Silicon.

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