I tried the new MacBook Air M3 – it totally crushes my M1 Air as a great upgrade

The 2024 MacBook Air, complete with M3 silicon, is a fanless powerhouse

MacBook Air (M3, 2024) review
(Image credit: Future / Mike Lowe)

I've been reviewing the best MacBooks for many years now – and there's certainly no let up in pace from Apple's production line. Since ditching Intel entirely for its own silicon, beginning with M1, it's taken just three years for the evolution to M3 – which is now available in the MacBook Air (both 13-inch and 15-inch models). 

I received a brand new 2024 MacBook Air with the M3 chip just yesterday, which I keenly unboxed and setup as my new daily driver. It's a very welcome (although sadly temporary) replacement to my three-year-old MacBook Air M1 model, which much as I love using that, is totally crushed by Apple's latest hardware. 

After setup one of the first things I did with the new MacBook Air M3 – aside from snapping lots of pictures, as you can see in the gallery above – was put that latest silicon to the trusty benchmark test, comparing it like-for-like (hence using Geekbench 5) against the M1. 

That's a pretty good indicator of compute and graphical power using simulations, which I'll see in the coming days ahead of a full review just how that pans out in the real world. Here's a quick-glance table to present the raw figures from the 13-inch model though – showing a clear jump in performance.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Apple MacBook Air M1 vs M3 (Geekbench 5 CPU test)
Row 0 - Cell 0 Single-core resultMulti-core result
Apple MacBook Air M1 (2020)17327556
Apple MacBook Air M3 (2024)237010,810

Indeed, by my calculations the MacBook Air M3 shows a 37% improvement in single-core power, but an even higher 43% improvement in multi-core performance. The Apple Store still sells both M1 and M3 13-inch MacBook Air models, the former being £/$100 less, but if you want the extra power then my figures above give a clear reason to spend the extra. 

If graphical prowess is more your area of interest then the 13-inch MacBook Air M3 delivered consistent scores of 34,000 (Apple Metal) and around 32,000 (OpenCL). That's a little higher than the 2022 MacBook Air M2 model, but not significantly. But if you want big GPU performance, the Pro series is the route to go (whether laptop or desktop).

MacBook Air (M3, 2024) review

(Image credit: Future / Mike Lowe)

Unlike the 2023 MacBook Pro, which I tested in higher-specced M3 Max, the MacBook Air is fanless. That means no whirring sound, whatever you ask the Air to perform, which is a further aid to battery life. No fan will mean some throttling, however, to avoid overheating – which is why the Pro model still very much earns its (much more expensive!) place in the MacBook line-up.

With M3 on board the new Air can perform other great functions too, including powering up to two 5K monitors. That's a feature not even the MacBook Pro line has yet (but it is coming!) and for creatives and office workers with multiple desktops that's a clear win. All from a silent laptop. I'm so far impressed at how the M3 leaves my current MacBook Air in the dust, so it's going to be fun to review this new model – and the 15-inch version, too, which updates the 2023 M2 model.  

Mike Lowe
Tech Editor

Mike is the Tech Editor and AV Editor at T3.com. He's been writing about consumer technology for 15 and, as a phones expert, has seen hundreds of handsets over the years – swathes of Android devices, a smattering of iPhones, and a batch of Windows Phone products (remember those?). But that's not all, as a tech aficionado his beat for T3 also covers tablets, laptops, gaming, home cinema, TVs, speakers and more – there's barely a stone unturned that he's not had a hand on. Previously the Reviews Editor at Pocket-lint for a 10 years, he's also provided work for publications such as Wired, The Guardian, Metro, and more. In addition to his tech knowledge, Mike is also a flights and travel expert, having travelled the globe extensively. You'll likely find him setting up a new mobile phone, critiquing the next MacBook, all while planning his next getaway... or cycling somewhere.