Apple's M3 Chip might get a huge upgrade, and it's just what Apple needs right now

The Apple MacBook Air 2022 laptop on a stand
(Image credit: Future)

There's no question that Apple is hard at work on its latest next-gen silicon, the Apple M3 chip, but if a new report is correct, then it'll be a lot more advanced than we realized.

It has long been speculated that Apple would be going with TSMC's 3nm process for its M3-series chips, but it looks like Apple will skip this iteration entirely and go for TSMC's N3E, which is a more advanced 3nm process at the Taiwanese chip foundry.

The report from the China Times, via Wccftech, indicates that Apple will be the first customer to use this process node and that it will use it for both the M3 chip expected to power the next MacBook Air and iPad Pro. 

It might also be using the advanced 3nm node for its A17 Bionic chip, which is what will power a future iPhone and non-pro iPad, but as with all things Apple, take everything with a grain of salt. This company in particular is about as tight-lipped as a Skull & Bones member during pledge week.

What an advanced 3nm process might mean for the MacBook Air

It was initially thought that the Apple M2 chip announced in 2022 would be fabbed on a 3nm process, but that turned out to not be the case. Whether that's because of lingering issues around Covid and supply chains isn't known, but Apple went with 5nm for both M1 and M2 chips, and it undoubtedly didn't get the performance gains from M2 it was hoping for.

The M2 chip is impressive, sure, but its performance improvement over the M1 chip was a fairly standard gen-on-gen refresh. A jump to 3nm though would be much more substantial, actually offering a compelling reason to make the jump from an M1 MacBook Air to an M3 MacBook Air.

Personally, I think the MacBook Air (M1) is still the best laptop for most users thanks to its phenomenal performance, excellent battery life, and even better pricing. The price increase for the MacBook Air (M2) is hard to justify, in my opinion, given the modest increase in performance over its predecessor.

That could very well change with the jump to TSMC's N3E, which should bring a substantial improvement to performance on the order of 30% or more, as well as even better battery life. Given how poor sales of the M2 Mac lineup have been in the past year, Apple really needs to give people a better reason to switch than a bland redesign and some fancy marketing.

John Loeffler
Components Editor

John (He/Him) is the Components Editor here at TechRadar and he is also a programmer, gamer, activist, and Brooklyn College alum currently living in Brooklyn, NY. 

Named by the CTA as a CES 2020 Media Trailblazer for his science and technology reporting, John specializes in all areas of computer science, including industry news, hardware reviews, PC gaming, as well as general science writing and the social impact of the tech industry.

You can find him online on Threads @johnloeffler.

Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 (just like everyone else).