M2 vs. M3 MacBook Air: Which laptop is right for you?


M2 vs. M3 MacBook Air comparison
Aside from a faster M3 processor, what upgrades did Apple add to the 2024 MacBook Air lineup?
Photo/Graphics: Apple/Rajesh

The 2024 MacBook Air lineup looks a lot like the previous models. However, the M3 chip inside gives the laptops a performance boost, and the new laptops come with several additional upgrades. But in an M2 vs. M3 MacBook Air showdown, what are the differences? And is the new model worth paying more?

Find out in our M2 vs. M3 MacBook Air comparison.

M2 vs. M3 MacBook Air comparison

Apple claims the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Airs are the world’s bestselling 13-inch and 15-inch laptops. And for good reason. They deliver excellent performance and all-day battery life in a slim package.

Apple did not change much when it upgraded the M2-powered MacBook Air to the M3 processor. That’s the right decision, as these laptops are excellent at what they do. Thanks to the M3 chip, the new MacBook Airs should be faster in some tasks while sipping less power. Apple did incorporate a few minor upgrades, though, which should deliver a better user experience.

Find out how the two laptops compare in our M2 vs. M3 MacBook Air comparison.

Table of contents: M2 vs. M3 MacBook Air

Design and display: Same

The new MacBook Air with M3
The M3 MacBook Air looks familiar, but there are a lot of new specs inside.
Photo: Apple

There are no design or display changes on the 2024 M3 MacBook Air models versus the 2023 M2 models. Both 13-inch and 15-inch variants measure the same as their predecessors: 0.44 inches by 11.97 inches by 8.46 inches. Their weight also remains unchanged at 2.7 pounds (1.24 kilograms). Like the previous models, the new M3 MacBook Airs feature a fanless design, so they won’t make any noise even under heavy load.

The M3 MacBook Air display panels also retain the same specs as the M2 models, so you get a wide-color Liquid Retina display with a peak brightness of 500 nits. You can get the M3 MacBook Air in four finishes: midnight, starlight, space gray and silver. (The same color options were available for the M2 MacBook Air.)

Due to the size difference between the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Air models, you get a four-speaker system on the former and a six-speaker system on the latter. (You can go through our 13-inch versus 15-inch MacBook Air comparison to learn more about the differences between the two models.)

Interestingly, while both M2 and M3 MacBook Airs ship with a three-mic array with directional beamforming, you get Voice Isolation and Wide Spectrum modes on the new laptops for enhanced voice clarity.

System-on-a-chip: M2 vs. M3 MacBook Air

In early benchmark testing, Apple's new M3 chip lives up to expectations for speed.
Apple’s M3 chip is all about performance and efficiency.
Photo: Apple
  • M2 MacBook Air: 8-core CPU, Up to 10-core GPU, 8GB unified memory, 256GB SSD
  • M3 MacBook Air: 8-core CPU, Up to 10-core GPU, 8GB unified memory, 256GB SSD

The biggest highlight of Apple’s 2024 MacBook Air lineup is the new M3 chip. Based on the 3nm fab, it brings improved performance and efficiency. Early benchmark scores suggest the M3 MacBook Air is up to 25% faster than the M2 MacBook Air in Geekbench benchmarks. (Compared to the now-discontinued M1 MacBook Air, the new chip is a staggering 45% faster.)

When unveiling the M3 chip in late October 2023, Apple boasted about the system-on-a-chip’s new GPU. It features dynamic caching, hardware-accelerated ray tracing, and mesh shading for better performance and higher-quality graphics. Apple says the M3’s 10-core GPU delivers up to 65% more performance while consuming nearly half the power of the M1’s GPU.

Another key improvement in the M3 chip is the addition of an AV1 decoder to the media engine. Netflix, YouTube and other streaming platforms use this codec for streaming content. So, the new M3 MacBook Airs should prove more power-efficient during such tasks.

The entry-level RAM and storage options remain unchanged at 8GB and 256GB, respectively. You can configure the M3-powered machines with up to 24GB of memory and 2TB of storage, again the same as the M2 MacBook Airs.

Note that the base model 13-inch MacBook Air with M3 chip ships with an 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU, while all other configurations pack a 10-core GPU. This was also the case with the 13-inch Air with M2 chip.

Despite the M3 chip bringing notable performance gains, the new MacBook Airs deliver the same 18-hour battery life as their predecessors.

Ports and connectivity: M3 MacBook Air adds support for second external display, faster Wi-Fi

  • M3 MacBook Air: Two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports, headphone jack, MagSafe 3 port, Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3
  • M2 MacBook Air: Two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports, headphone jack, MagSafe 3 port, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.3

If you were bummed about the lack of ports on the M2 MacBook Air, the new M3 models won’t change that. They ship with two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports, with a MagSafe port available for charging. All three ports sit on the laptop’s left edge, with the headphone jack on the right.

Since the new laptops come with the same pair of USB 4 ports, you must use a Thunderbolt dock or USB hub to connect multiple accessories to the M3 MacBook Air. If you already own one of the best USB-C hubs for iPhone 15, you can use that with your MacBook.

Like the late-2023 M3 MacBook Pros, the M3 MacBook Airs come with faster Wi-Fi 6E support. With a compatible router, you can enjoy faster Wi-Fi throughput speeds on the newer models.

All MacBooks with an M1 or M2 chip could only power one external monitor. With the M3 MacBook Air refresh, Apple enabled support for dual external displays. But there’s a catch. You must close the MacBook Air’s lid to use the second external display. On the bright side, the laptop can power a second external display with up to 5K 60Hz resolution.

Price: Same starting MSRP

13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Air M3
You can’t go wrong with the MacBook Air.
Photo: Apple
  • 13-inch MacBook Air with M2 chip: Starts from $999
  • 13-inch MacBook Air with M3 chip: Starts from $1,099
  • 15-inch MacBook Air with M3 chip: Starts at $1,299

Despite all the upgrades, the M3 MacBook Airs arrived with the same starting price as their predecessors: $1,099 for the 13-inch model and $1,299 for the 15-incher. (Education customers can save an additional $100 off the retail price for an even better deal.)

Apple did not discontinue the 13-inch M2 MacBook Air (although the 15-inch model disappeared from Apple’s online store). Instead, the 13-inch M2 MacBook Air gets a price cut to $999, making it the cheapest laptop in Apple’s lineup now. That’s a great price for a MacBook with a modern, sleek design and powerful internals.

M2 vs. M3: There’s still no better laptop than the MacBook Air

Based on your needs, you should select between the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Air. If you want the lightest possible laptop, the 13-inch MacBook Air should be your go-to choice. And if budget permits, you should opt for the M3 model, because it delivers better performance and efficiency at a slightly higher price.

The 15-inch M3 MacBook Air can be your portable workhorse, with its bigger screen providing extra screen real estate to simultaneously run more apps.


Daily round-ups or a weekly refresher, straight from Cult of Mac to your inbox.

  • The Weekender

    The week's best Apple news, reviews and how-tos from Cult of Mac, every Saturday morning. Our readers say: "Thank you guys for always posting cool stuff" -- Vaughn Nevins. "Very informative" -- Kenly Xavier.