Surprise! Apple has just announced new M3 MacBook Air models

Woman using the new MacBook Air
(Image credit: Apple)

Apple has announced two new models of the MacBook Air running the new M3 chips that launched last year.

When the powerful M3 chip was unveiled, new MacBook Pros were also announced - but the more affordable MacBook Air was noticeable by its absence.

That's now changed as Apple sprung a surprise launch Monday with the 13-inch MacBook Air and MacBook Air 15-inch, now available for pre-order with the M3 chip.

New M3 MacBook Air 2024 models

(Image credit: Apple)

The MacBook Air 13-inch (M3) starts at $1,099 / £1,099 / AU$1,799, and the MacBook Air 15-inch (M3) will start at $1,299 / £1,299 / AU$2,199. 

Pre-orders have gone live along with the announcement, and it will be in stores from Friday, March 8.

Hello and goodbye

While Apple's announcement was out of the blue, it wasn't completely unexpected, as there had been rumors swirling that the company was about to release some new MacBooks - and the two MacBook Air sizes seemed the most likely.

With the launch of the new M3 models, we're also saying goodbye to a couple of models. The original M1 MacBook Air, which for a long time was at the top of our best laptops list, is no longer being sold by Apple. This is a shame as it remained an excellent, and affordable, laptop.

In its place, Apple is continuing to sell the MacBook Air 13-inch with the M2 chip, which will now sell for $999 / £999 / AU$1,599. This makes it the cheapest MacBook model, and it's now even better value.

While the 13-inch M2 MacBook Air will continue to be sold by Apple, it looks like the 15-inch MacBook Air with M2 chip will no longer be sold. Seeing as it only went on sale in the middle of last year, that's a rather short shelf life for a laptop.

Also, even though Apple has not said anything officially, it's looking likely that the 13-inch MacBook Pro is no more. That version of the laptop has yet to have an M3 model, nor a redesign. It's the only model that still came with a Touch Bar, and it was increasingly looking like the odd-MacBook-out.

New M3 MacBook Air 2024 models

(Image credit: Apple)

M3 performance boost

According to Apple, the new M3 MacBook Air is up to 60% faster than the M1 MacBook Air - and 13x faster than the Intel-based MacBook Air. Considering that model came out four years ago, we're not too surprised that there's such a big performance gap, to be honest.

We've seen what the M3 chip can do in the MacBook Pro 14-inch launched last year, so getting that kind of performance in the more affordable (and lighter and thinner) MacBook Air is pretty exciting. Hopefully we'll get our hands on the new models soon to properly try them out, but until then, we'll have to go by Apple's claims.

According to Apple, games such as No Man's Sky will run up to 60% faster than on the M1. While the M1 MacBook Air was never a device you'd want to game on, we'd love to see a MacBook Air offer a decent gaming experience in 2024. Video editing in Final Cut Pro is up to 60% faster as well, apparently. Considering how the M1 MacBook Air really punched above its weight when video editing, this is very exciting as well.

Apple also said that the MacBook Air M3 is twice as fast compared to a Windows-based laptop with an Intel Core i7 processor, with up to 50% faster web browsing performance and up to 40% longer battery life. We'll certainly be putting those claims to the test when we review both models.

Apple Macbook Air 15

(Image credit: Future)

No new look

It seems like the only change the new MacBook Airs bring are on the inside. This means they are more powerful and can now support up to two external displays, but that also means there's no new design.

So, we expect both the new 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Air models to look identical to the M2 models. This isn't a bad thing, as the 13-inch M2 MacBook Air brought a modern design refresh that we loved - and the 15-inch model used the same design language in a bigger body.

Seeing as the last redesign was such a major overhaul, and it's only been a bit over a year since that came in, we're more than happy to have two new MacBook Airs that look the same - especially if Apple's claims of a major performance leap come to pass.

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Matt Hanson
Managing Editor, Core Tech

Matt is TechRadar's Managing Editor for Core Tech, looking after computing and mobile technology. Having written for a number of publications such as PC Plus, PC Format, T3 and Linux Format, there's no aspect of technology that Matt isn't passionate about, especially computing and PC gaming. Ever since he got an Amiga A500+ for Christmas in 1991, he's loved using (and playing on) computers, and will talk endlessly about how The Secret of Monkey Island is the best game ever made.