MacBook Air M3 vs MacBook Air M1 – worth the switch?

How has the MacBook Air lineup improved?

Comparison of two modern laptops highlighting their design differences with a 'MacBook Air M3 vs MacBook Air M1' symbol between them. Image shows the MacBook M1 and M3 on a blue background below the PC guide logo

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MacBook Air M1 users have been waiting for a worthy upgrade since 2020, and it looks like it’s finally arrived. The new MacBook Air M3, is equipped with a performance boost and a better display, but how else does it compare to its predecessor? This article will discuss the most important differences between the MacBook Air M3 vs MacBook Air M1, covering their specs, performance, and price.

The primary reason to consider upgrading from the MacBook Air M1 to the new M3 model is the significant performance leap afforded by the M3 chip. Apple’s latest iteration features an upgraded Neural Engine that promises to accelerate machine learning models by up to 60% compared to the M1. This enhancement not only boosts overall computational speed but also opens up new possibilities for professionals and creatives relying heavily on ML-driven tasks, marking a substantial step forward in the MacBook Air’s evolution.

If you’re keen to find out more about the MacBook Air series, check out some of our other coverage on its release. For example, our MacBook Pro M3 vs MacBook Air 2023 comparison guide, where we discuss the differences in specs and price between the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro line. Additionally, if you’d like to hear more about the launch of the MacBook Air M3, take a look at our MacBook Air M3 review round-up, where we see what reviewers think of the latest addition to the MacBook Air series.

MacBook Air M3 vs MacBook Air M1 – specs at a glance

Specifications M1 ChipM3 Chip
Process Node5 nm node3nm node
Transistors16 billion25 billion
CPU Clock Speed3.49 GHz4.05 GHz
RAMUp to 16 GBUp to 24GB
GPU cores7-Core GPU10-Core GPU
CPU cores8-CPU Cores8-Core CPU
Neural EngineYesYes
AV1 DecodeNoYes
Ray TracingNoYes
Dual DisplayNoYes
Brightness400 nits brightness500 nits brightness
1080p FaceTime HD cameraNoYes
WiFiWi-Fi 6Wi-Fi 6E
Battery49.9 WHr – 13-inchUp to 15 hours wireless web52.6 WHr – 13-inch66.5 WHr – 15-inchUp to 15 hours wireless web

Specs and performance comparison

The main change from the M1 to the M3 is power and performance. The former takes advantage of a smaller node and better architecture to provide way better results. Apple touts the M3 as offering a 60% speed increase over the M1, transforming it into a powerful laptop for machine learning tasks thanks to its enhanced Neural Engine. The Neural Engine operates up to 60% faster: a crucial upgrade for users whose work involves machine learning models.

Moreover, the M3’s introduction of hardware-accelerated mesh shading and ray tracing is a game-changer. It offers more realistic lighting, reflections, and shadows in games. But, if you’re not a gamer, that’s not all it can do; it also becomes a more capable device for creative professionals working with 3D graphics, animations, and video editing.

Design comparison

Design is another aspect that changed. Although not much, it still represents a shift towards a more modern aesthetic. The M3’s sleek, beautiful design and larger 13.6-inch display, made possible by thinner bezels, present a more contemporary look compared to the M1’s tapered design.

Although the inclusion of a notch for a webcam at the top of the M3’s screen has been a point of contention, its impact is somewhat mitigated by the laptop’s overall enhanced external displays, including increased nits of brightness and color gamut coverage compared to the M1.

Despite the impressive upgrades from the M1 to the M3 MacBook Air, the M1 remains among the best Macs laptops. It excels in design tasks, media browsing, and even light photo editing, standing strong against many Windows counterparts. If the M3’s boost in performance capabilities doesn’t match your needs, there’s little reason to switch. The M1 still offers considerable value, and holding out for a near future upgrade could yield even greater benefits.

Price comparison

Comparing prices is difficult since the MacBook Air M1 has been discontinued. What remains on the market are units from third-party vendors or possibly refurbished models. However, for newcomers to the MacBook scene, the MacBook Air M3 emerges as the clear choice, coming in at $1,299 for the 13-inch variant, and offering the latest in Apple’s technology and performance enhancements.

On the other hand, if you’re aiming to save some money and still want to experience the efficiency and design of Apple’s best laptops, seeking out a MacBook Air M2 could be a wise decision. The M2 still delivers excellent performance at potentially lower prices, making it a valuable option for budget-conscious buyers looking to step into the MacBook ecosystem.

MacBook Air M3 vs MacBook Air M1 – which is better?

In this comparison, the M3 arises as the best option for someone who is considering enhanced performance and technological advancements. The M3’s notable increase in processing speed and the introduction of hardware-accelerated ray tracing stand out as key reasons to make the jump.

The truth is these improvements not only promise a significant boost in efficiency for demanding tasks but also ensure that your MacBook remains at the cutting edge of technology. For users looking to maximize their productivity and enjoy the latest features, transitioning to the MacBook Air M3 offers tangible benefits and keeps you ahead in the ever-evolving tech landscape.

Macbook Air M3 vs Macbook Air M1 – conclusion

To conclude, the upcoming release of the MacBook Air M3 is an exciting development in the Apple Mackbook Air lineup. The M3 chip demonstrates a significant increase in power and performance, from previous iterations of the MacBook Air lineup and arises as the most worthy choice when compared to the M1. However, if you currently own the M1 and you’re someone who is not particularly fussed with the powerful benefits of the M3 then there’s no need for an upgrade, the M1 is a perfectly capable laptop.

Eve is a writer and copy editor at PC Guide, who focuses on a broad range of topics but main interest lies in the development of AI technology.