MacBook Air M3 15” review: a month with Apple’s most popular Mac

MacBook Air M3 15” review: a month with Apple’s most popular Mac

We weren’t really expecting them. We didn’t really ask for them either. However, at the beginning of 2024, Apple launched two new MacBook Airs (13 and 15 inches) equipped with the M3 chip. An upgrade that occurred just one year after the M2 versions.

Thanks to the new chip, Apple promises improved performance (especially graphics) as well as more impressive battery life than ever. For the rest, the technical sheet changes very little. SO Should we be tempted by this MacBook Air M3?

To find out, I replaced my MacBook Air M2 13” with the MacBook Air M3 15”. Discover my full test.

Price and availability of the MacBook Air M3 15”

The MacBook Air M3 15” is available from 1,599 euros in four colors: Midnight (our test model), Starlight, Space Gray And Money. For this price, it includes 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of SSD storage. As always, Apple offers to increase the characteristics at a cost: to upgrade to 16 GB of RAM you will have to pay 230 euros and 460 euros for 32 GB.

Same price for storage: add 230 euros for a 512 GB SSD, 460 euros for a 1 TB disk and 920 euros for 2 TB. The most muscular version costs 2,979 euros.

What I liked about the MacBook Air M3 15”

Its impeccable design

Macbook Air M3 15 Design Review

Since the major change in the MacBook Air M3 15” is under the chassis, its design is identical in every way. We therefore find the same lines, the same colors and the same connectivity (a MagSafe for charging, two Thunderbolt 4 in USB-C and a 3.5 mm jack). Some will say that Apple doesn’t worry too much. I would tell them that you don’t change a winning team.

Because This MacBook Air M3 15” remains a sublime machine with impeccable design. All clad in aluminum (100% recycled please), its finishes are exemplary. I will only blame it for this notch (camouflaging the webcam), which is still unsightly. For the rest, the MacBook Air M3 15” is a gem.

As I explain in my review of the MacBook Air M2 13”, this format is intended to be more transportable than portable. It thus emancipates itself from the very essence of the Air range, whose success is based on its ultra-compact design.

Despite the designers’ efforts to compress the machine (1.51 kg or only 300 grams more compared to the 13 inch), the dimensions of the MBA M3 15” prove less practical on a daily basis. User of the M2 13” model, I carry it everywhere: on the train, in cafes, to meetings, to trade shows, etc.

I don’t find this versatility in the 15” model which only accompanies me on the journey from home to the editorial office without being able to take it out on the train as it takes up so much space. I then have to take out an iPad Air to accomplish my tasks and therefore weigh down my backpack. Besides, the MBA 15” does not fit in every bagI had to take one out of the cupboard that could accommodate this beautiful beast.

These sacrifices remain acceptable to the extent that The 15” panel provides significant viewing comfort. On paper, 2 inches may seem like a small amount, but in reality it makes a big difference.

Same observation for the keyboard and trackpad, more comfortable although on the 13-inch model. I did not shy away from my pleasure in writing thousands of words, including those in this test.

In summary, what we lose in mobility, we gain in space and comfort. It is therefore important to carefully identify your needs and usage habits to avoid making mistakes.

Its high level performances

Macbook Air M3 15 Performance Review

I will not return here to the pure performance of the M3 chip, a subject already studied at length in my test of the MacBook Pro M3 Max. On the other hand, it seems interesting to me to analyze what this chip brings to a machine such as the MacBook Air, which has no fans.

In a few numbers, M3 chip improves CPU performance by 10-20% according to usage in relation to the M2. A gain in power always welcome even if the essential is not there.

Above all, the M3 takes graphics performance to another level. By optimizing Dynamic Caching (dynamic cache management), Apple is capable adapt resource requirements based on the applications used. The result is smooth use in all circumstances, including demanding programs such as video editing or photo editing software.

Above all, the power of the GPU finally gives access to an experience gaming very correct for MacBook Air users. If you still have to choose between high graphics quality and fluidity with the most demanding licenses, playing on MacBook Air is finally enjoyable. This feat is all the more remarkable as the machine never heats up.

THE hardcore gamers will always turn to a PC built for this use, but occasional gamers will find what they are looking for, on one condition: go through gaming services. cloud gaming to expand the game catalog that is still starving on Apple machines. Some big AAA games are gradually arriving, but as I write this, there’s not much to get your teeth into.

Its gargantuan autonomy

Macbook Air M3 15 Battery life test

The integration of the M3 chip not only brings a performance gain. Energy consumption is also greatly improvedenough to raise the MacBook Air M3 15” among the references in the field.

With 14h14 of versatile autonomy (according to 01Lab figures), the MBA Air M3 15” stands out as the most durable laptop on the market alongside the… MacBook Pro M3 14”.

Concretely, the battery level has completely disappeared from my concerns. I regularly exceeded two days of use before going through the recharge box. Remarkable performance which has had such an impact on my daily life that I risk being surprised when switching back to my MacBook Air M2 13”.

What I liked least about the MacBook Air M3 15”

Charging too slow

Macbook Air M3 15 Test Connections

Faced with criticism, Apple turns a deaf ear and continues to play it safe when it comes to charging. The MacBook Air M3 15” inherits the same hardware as its predecessors, namely a 35 W dual-input charger (or a 70 W charger with a single USB-C port) which is undersized for such a machine.

A full recharge takes just over 2.5 hoursan eternity for a computer of this caliber: most competitors regain all their energy in barely 1h30.

On a daily basis, this defect is not prohibitive since the gargantuan autonomy allows charging sessions to be spaced out. So I opted for nightly recharges every other day so as not to suffer from slow charging.

Its screen still not OLED

Macbook Air M3 Review 15 Reviews

It would be unfair to criticize the screen of the MacBook Air M3 15”. Apple uses the same panel Liquid Retina (2,880 x 1,864 pixels) than that of its predecessor. I had already expressed all the good things I think about this magnificent screen. Very bright (509 cd/m2 according to 01Lab data) it also stands out for its excellent factory calibration as well as its good contrasts. Enough to satisfy any user, including creatives.

So why position the screen in the disappointing points of the MBA M3 15”? Because Apple continues to pull on the rope of moving upmarket. The company thus reserves its miniLED panel for the MacBook Pro. An understandable choice but one that annoys me: if you want to benefit from a more mobile machine, you must necessarily do without the best screen technology. A miniLED panel offered as an option (after all, Apple loves it) would not have been refused.

The absence of state-of-the-art screen technology is all the more problematic as Apple has inaugurated (during the writing of this review) a new OLED screen, integrated into its latest iPad Pro. Another blow against Liquid Retina.

Other small disappointments

Macbook Air M3 15 review
  • The standard model comes with only 8 GB of RAM. A bit tight if we want to exploit the full potential of the M3 chip.
  • Connections remain limited and concentrated on the left side of the machine.
  • Apple has promised the management of two external screens. Unfortunately, this is only possible if you close the MacBook Air. You must therefore add a keyboard and a mouse to all the paraphernalia. Damage.

My opinion on the MacBook Air M3 15”

As I could have guessed when discovering the characteristics of the latest MacBook Air M3, Apple is not shaking up its most popular Mac. However, the M3 chip brings its share of improvements making the machine even more interesting.

Starting with the performance gain, particularly in the graphics area, making it possible to satisfy the productivity needs of creative people but also to appeal to casual gamers. All this is accompanied by gargantuan autonomy which makes this MacBook Air M3 15” a benchmark in the field.

For the rest, it’s a MacBook Air with its good points (slick design in recycled aluminum) and its bad points (weak connectivity, unsightly notch and only 8 GB of RAM on the basic version). The screen, although successful, is starting to struggle against the miniLED and OLED.

This update is therefore interesting for users who have not yet taken advantage of all the advantages of Apple Silicon chips. For others, you can wait a little longer before renewing your equipment.

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