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MacBook Air M3 vs MacBook Air M2 – What’s the difference?

Will you be upgrading to the MacBook Air M3?
Last Updated on March 11, 2024
MacBook Air M2 vs MacBook Air M3
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Opinions are varied regarding Apple’s release of the M3 chip laptops. While the chip itself may not introduce groundbreaking innovations, it does offer significant enhancements over its predecessor. If you’re curious about the differences between the MacBook Air M3 vs MacBook Air M2, we have you covered.

Interested in more MacBook Air M3 content? We have a comprehensive review round-up and a similar comparison piece on MacBook Air M3 vs MacBook Pro 14-inch M3 available now. Be sure to check them out.

MacBook Air M3 vs MacBook Air M2 – Specs and performance

The main difference between the MacBook Air M3 and the MacBook Air M2 can be found in Apple’s Max M3 chip’s ability to support dual external displays and its enhanced performance, particularly in GPU-intensive applications. This new capability in the M3 model offers users the flexibility to extend their workspace across multiple monitors, a feature previously unavailable in the M2 version. Let’s dive into the specs.

SpecsApple MacBook Air M2Apple MacBook Air M3
Process NodeEnhanced 5nm node (N5P)3nm node (N3B)
Dimensions11.97 inches x 8.46 inches x 0.44 inches11.97 inches x 8.46 inches x 0.44 inches
Weight2.7 pounds2.7 pounds
Processor / ChipApple M2Apple M3
Transistors20 billion transistors25 billion transistors
Graphics performance8-core GPU
10-core GPU
8-core GPU
10-core GPU
WirelessWi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.3Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3
Ports2 x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4
1 x 3.5mm audio jack
2 x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4
1 x 3.5mm audio jack
CPU Clock Speed3.49 GHz4.05 GHz
Neural EngineYesYes
AV1 DecodeNoYes
Ray TracingNoYes
Size13-inch / 15-inch13-inch / 15-inch
Dual DisplayNoYes
Brightness500 nits brightness500 nits brightness
1080p FaceTime HD camera / WebcamYesYes
WiFiWi-Fi 6Wi-Fi 6E
Battery life52.6 WHr – 13-inch
66.5 WHr – 15-inch
Up to 15 hours of wireless web
52.6 WHr – 13-inch
66.5 WHr – 15-inch
Up to 15 hours of wireless web
$999 – 8GB / 256GB SSD
$1,199 – 8GB / 512GB SSD
$1,099 – 8GB / 256GB SSD
$1,299 – 8GB / 512GB SSD
$1,499 – 16GB / 512GB SSD
Specs comparison table for the MacBook Air M2 and MacBook Air M3

Chipset and AI capabilities

Additionally, the upgraded chipset in the M3, moving to a 3nm process node with 25 billion transistors, not only boosts the overall speed but also introduces support for AV1 decode and hardware-accelerated ray tracing, further enhancing its appeal for both professional and leisure activities that demand high graphical performance. The M3 boasts a swifter 16-core Neural Engine, enhancing AI capabilities. This specification is becoming increasingly critical, positioning the MacBook Air M3 as a stronger competitor against laptops equipped with Intel and AMD Neural Processing Units (NPUs).

Yet, another groundbreaking difference is the MacBook Air M3’s transition to the Apple Silicon M3 chipset, utilizing an advanced 3nm process. This isn’t just a step forward; it’s a giant leap in Apple’s chipset evolution, significantly enhancing both efficiency and power within the MacBook Air lineup.

The biggest improvement comes from the M3’s graphics processing unit (GPU). Apple included hardware support for mesh shading and ray tracing. When these features are combined with the new Dynamic Caching memory system, it should make gaming and creative apps that rely on the GPU run faster.


Another significant leap comes with the MacBook Air M3’s switch to Wi-Fi 6E from the M2’s Wi-Fi 6. This upgrade might seem subtle at first glance, but it’s like laying the groundwork for future speed boosts in your online life. Imagine the day you decide to upgrade your router – with Wi-Fi 6E, your MacBook is ready to leap into action, delivering faster internet speeds that keep up with the latest advancements.


In practical terms, let’s delve into what this means for users. Early benchmarking paints a vivid picture: the M3 MacBook Air, with 16GB of unified memory, boasted scores of 3,157 in single-core and 12,020 in multi-core tests. In comparison, the M2 model, equipped identically, scored 2,610 and 10,120 respectively.

That’s a robust 20% boost in single-core and an 18% enhancement in multi-core performance with the M3. But beyond numbers, think about the real-life impact: quicker video rendering, smoother multitasking, and an overall snappier experience. Although it’s important to remember that these lab results might vary in everyday scenarios, they hint at the tangible benefits the M3 brings to the table for daily computing tasks.

Wired connections

The wired connections are identical, featuring dual USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 4 support and a 3.5mm audio jack. Power is supplied through a MagSafe 3 connection, which not only guards against spills but also keeps the USB-C ports accessible during charging. The webcam remains the same, offering a 1080p resolution and the same software features.

Color and design

Both the M2 and M3 models come in a range of colors; including midnight, starlight, space gray, and silver.

MacBook Air M3 vs MacBook Air M2 – Price

The MacBook Air M3 keeps the same price tag as the M2 model, meaning no extra cost for the upgrade. For those looking to buy a new MacBook, the recommendation here is the 16GB version. This is because it runs smoother and faster. The M3 with 16GB RAM is priced at $1,299, while the M2 version costs slightly less at $1,199, meaning there is only a mere $100 difference.

However, if you’re new to MacBook, or are coming from an M1, we would recommend going for the M3 since you’ll get up-to-date tech, ensuring you get more bang for your buck and a longer-lasting product. In terms of finding the best deals, we recommend Amazon and BestBuy for all new MacBook Air products.

Is the MacBook Air M3 better than the MacBook Air M2?

In short, yes. The MacBook Air M3s are a superior model range which increases the performance noticeably over the MacBook Air M2. This can be found in the chipset, AI capabilities, and benchmark results. If you are looking for a 13-inch MacBook Air, a new Mac, or simply looking for a new laptop, then the MacBook Air M3 is a solid choice.

MacBook Air M3 vs MacBook Air M2 – Final thoughts

In wrapping up this comparison, it’s evident that the MacBook Air M3 emerges as the superior choice over the MacBook Air M2, particularly for those seeking the latest in performance and technology. The M3’s leap in processing power, thanks to its enhanced CPU and GPU capabilities, not to mention its groundbreaking support for dual external displays, marks a significant upgrade from the M2 model.

For individuals upgrading from a MacBook Air M1 or venturing into the MacBook ecosystem for the first time, the M3 version stands out as a compelling choice. It’s especially appealing to power users, creative professionals, and tech enthusiasts who prioritize cutting-edge performance and efficiency in their workflow.

Tom is a tech writer with a detailed view on ensuring the best buying advice, most useful information, and latest news makes its way into PC Guide's articles.