MacBook Air M3 vs. MacBook Air M2: What are the biggest upgrades with the new chipset

MacBook Air 15 M2 in silver open on a white desk facing you with a pink wall behind it
(Image credit: Future)

With Apple's next-gen MacBook Air M3 models now available for preorder, people interested in buying a new MacBook or upgrading their current one have a tough decision to make: the brand-new MacBook Air M3 vs. the cheaper MacBook Air M2. 

Apple has just unveiled the new Air M3s, with both models available for preorder starting today with the first units shipping on March 8, 2024. We haven't been able to get the Air M3s in our benchmark lab just yet, but we did test the M3 base chip in our MacBook Pro 14 (M3, 2023) review. While Apple's Air and Pro lines differ in many ways, its chips have historically performed very similarly. With that said, here's what we know about how the MacBook Air M3 should improve on the MacBook Air M2, as well as the ways it'll remain the same.

MacBook Air M3 vs. MacBook Air M2: Pricing and availability

Apple's official pricing for the M3 MacBook Air mirrors that of the M2 MacBook Air. The base 13-inch MacBook Air M3 with an 8-core CPU, 8-core GPU, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of SSD storage starts at $1,099. The 15-inch MacBook Air M2 is being discontinued, now replaced by the 15-inch MacBook Air M3 whose price now starts at $1,299.

With the M3 Airs now being available, Apple has reduced the 13-inch MacBook Air M2’s price by $100, so the base 13-inch MacBook Air M2 now starts at $999.

MacBook Air M3 vs. MacBook Air M2: Specs and performance

On paper, the specs of Apple’s MacBook Air M2 and MacBook Air M3 laptops look the same. Both laptops feature an option of an 8-core or 10-core CPU, an 8-core or 10-core GPU, and up to 24GB of RAM. The big difference between the M2 chip and the M3 chip is that the M3 chip utilizes 3-nanometer process technology rather than the M2’s 5-nanometer tech, which allows greater efficiency and performance.

MacBook Air 15 M2 open at an angle on table in front of a window

(Image credit: Laptop Mag/Sean Riley)

We got to test out the M3 chip in our MacBook Pro 14 M3 review, and it certainly delivered on claims of improved efficiency and performance. It earned 4.5 stars in our review, largely due to its better overall (and gaming-specific) performance alongside a longer battery life compared to its M2 predecessor.

The MacBook Pro 14 M3 starts at 512GB of SSD storage and allows for upgrades up to 1TB. The 13-inch and 15-inch Macbook Air M3 starts at 256GB, with upgrades up to 2TB of SSD storage.

For the display, Apple has stuck with the Liquid Retina display on its M3 MacBook Airs, with a similar resolution and max brightness to the M2 models.

MacBook Air M3 vs. MacBook Air M2: Design

Based on the initial images of the Macbook Air M3, the design is identical to the Air M2, from its chassis dimensions to its available ports and color options.

So if you were hoping to use design as a deciding factor in the decision to snag Apple’s MacBook Air M3 or buy the Air M2, you’re out of luck.

Apple MacBook Air M3 (2024)

(Image credit: Apple)

The MacBook Air 13 M3 and Macbook Air 13 M2 both measure 11.97 x 8.46 x 0.44 inches and weighs 2.7 pounds. Meanwhile, the Air 15 M3 (like the M2) has slightly larger dimensions of 13.4 x 9.53 x 0.45 inches and a heavier weight of 3.3 pounds. The thin, light design of Apple’s MacBook Air M2 models was a hit, and the M3 Airs will only continue to benefit from the same design.

Apple’s 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Air M3 laptops are equipped with two Thunderbolt 4 ports, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a MagSafe 3 charging port. This is the exact same port array as the M2 models.

Unfortunately, both the M2 and M3 Airs also share the same color options as well. The MacBook Air M2 and M3 models are available in Midnight, Starlight, Space Gray, and Silver. The M3 Macbook Pro 16's Space Black remains an exclusive colorway for the 16-inch chassis. So, we still have to rely on the best MacBook Air cases to liven up the laptop’s appearance. 


The biggest difference between Apple’s MacBook Air M3 models and its MacBook Air M2 models is performance power. While both base models feature an 8-core CPU, 8-core GPU, and 8GB of unified memory, the 3nm process used in the M3 chips (compared to the 5nm process used in M2 chips) results in a better-performing laptop with a longer-lasting battery.

If you’re in the market for a new laptop and you’ve got your eye on a MacBook Air, it’ll be worth shelling out a bit more for the MacBook Air M3 models rather than sticking with the 13-inch MacBook Air M2. Or, if you don’t have many performance-intensive tasks to perform regularly, the $100 price cut on the MacBook Air M2 does make it a better deal.

Of course, if you want the 15-inch form factor with that bit of extra screen space, you only have the M3 option as Apple has discontinued the 15-inch MacBook Air M2.

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