Apple's MacBook Air gains M3 upgrade and support for two external displays — both 13-inch and 15-inch get improvements

MacBook Air (M3)
(Image credit: Apple)

When Apple updated the MacBook Pro family with M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max processors in late 2023, we knew that hardware upgrades would soon be on the way for the company’s more mainstream products. And right on cue, Apple today performed a soft launch of its 2024 MacBook Air family with standard M3 processors on the 15-inch model (13-inch models continue with the M2 as standard, with an upgrade to the M3 available).

According to Apple, the M3 chip is 60 percent faster than the M1 MacBook Air, which was the first to adopt Apple Silicon. The company is still flogging its Intel-powered past, claiming that the new systems are up to 13 times faster than most potent MacBook Airs that used Core processors. It appears Apple is hoping customers using these systems will be tempted to take the plunge and upgrade to M3 power.

If you opt for an M3, you’ll get an 8-core CPU and 10-core GPU configuration with up to 24GB of unified memory. However, in typical Apple fashion, base systems still have just 8GB of unified memory. We shouldn’t be surprised, as even Apple’s base M3 MacBook Pro comes with 8GB.

We should also note that Apple is touting its 16-core Neural Engine to help drive artificial intelligence performance on the laptops. This hardware can enhance AI operations natively in macOS and with third-party apps. 

MacBook Air (M3)

(Image credit: Apple)

In addition to the processor upgrade, another big update comes with display support. Previously, Apple’s base M1 and M2 processors supported only a single external display, which is very limiting. (The Pro and Max chips allowed for more). However, the new M3 chip in the MacBook Air supports up to two external displays only if the lid on the laptop is closed. When the lid is open, the M3 MacBook Airs support a single external display with a 60Hz refresh rate at up to 6K resolution. With the lid closed you can attach two 60Hz external displays with up to a 5K resolution.

The new MacBook Airs, which feature up to an 18-hour runtime, are now available for preorder. Deliveries commence on March 8. As before, you can choose from silver, starlight, space gray, or midnight colors, with the base 13-inch MacBook Air (M2, 8GB, 256B) starting at $999. The 13-inch MacBook Air with a M3 processor, 8GB of unified memory and a 256GB SSD ups the price to $1,099. The 15-inch MacBook Air has a base price of $1,299 (M3, 8GB, 256GB). If you want to load up all the options, a 15-inch MacBook Air with M3 processor, 24GB of unified memory, a 2TB SSD, and a 70W USB-C power adapter will cost you $2,499.

Brandon Hill

Brandon Hill is a senior editor at Tom's Hardware. He has written about PC and Mac tech since the late 1990s with bylines at AnandTech, DailyTech, and Hot Hardware. When he is not consuming copious amounts of tech news, he can be found enjoying the NC mountains or the beach with his wife and two sons.

  • brandonjclark
    I'm looking forward to the benchies!
  • Notton
    My question is... did Apple add any active cooling to M3 MBA?
    because the M2 MBA was infamous for overheating.