M3 MacBook Air has Faster SSD Speeds

A bit of good news from iFixit on the teardown of the new M3 MacBook Air: they have now switched to two 128 GB storage modules. You may know that in the first two iterations of the Apple silicon MacBook Air, the base storage models were significantly slower in read-write speeds than the other models in the line because they only used one socket for storage, significantly cutting down the bandwidth. With the M3 model, the device gets SSD write speeds approximately 33% faster and read speeds approximately 82% faster.

There was a lot of hand-wringing when the M2 model didn’t make any changes to the SSD problem. It could just be that the manufacturing timeline didn’t give them enough time to fix it. I would argue that they should have caught this problem before releasing the first one. Regardless, I’m happy that Apple did respond, and now customers of the lower-end MacBook Air will get better SSD read and write speeds.

The New M3 MacBook Air

Recently, Apple released new M3-based MacBook Air computers in 13- and 15-inch sizes. In addition to the faster processors, the new machines can run two monitors simultaneously. Specifically, they can run one 6k and one 5k monitor, provided the lid on the MacBook Air is closed. These new computers are very similar to the configurations on the M3 iMac released late last year, and this is a nice upgrade to the MacBook Air line.

Apple’s M3 MacBook Air is here.

If you’ve been waiting for a new MacBook Air, now is the time. I’ve frequently stated that the MacBook Air really is the laptop standard at this point. I don’t recommend getting a MacBook Pro unless you have good reason for one since the MacBook Air is such a capable computer, and now with the additional 15-inch size, it is even more so.

It’s interesting that these got released via a press release. Normally there is an event around this time of year where Apple releases several new products and it would seem like a new MacBook Air would fit within such an event. This makes me wonder if the other rumored devices like an M3 Mac mini and new iPads will also be released the same way, and Apple will skip a Spring event.

We’ll see.

The 15-inch MacBook Air Chip

As the rumors continue to swirl around the looming 15-inch MacBook Air, some leakers are now reporting it will ship with the M2 Apple silicon rather than the earlier-rumored M3. That earlier rumor never made much sense to me unless Apple was willing to use the M3 in all new hardware from now on. Wouldn’t it be confusing if the Mac Pro was based on M2 while the less expensive, less powerful MacBook Air was already on M3?
Regardless, I’ve heard from many readers and listeners that are waiting for this computer to release. I suspect many people will want a bigger screen laptop that isn’t at MacBook Pro specs (and price).

Using the M2 MacBook Air

After much waffling, I ended up buying an M2 MacBook Air. I purchased this as a second Mac. My main machine is a 16″ MacBook Pro with all the bells and whistles. I love it, but it’s vast and expensive. I’ve wanted something thin and light to go along with it. In addition to my 16″ MacBook Pro, I’ve had a loaner 14″ MBP (basic build) for a few months. Its owner wants it back, however, which further lit the candle for me to consider adding a MacBook Air to the toolbelt.

I realize having two Macs is a luxury, but I was curious, and the Apple Store had a nice build in stock (1TB Storage, 16 GB Ram, Space Gray). I bought it to kick the tires and determine if I wanted to spend that much money to have a second computer. (This MacBook Air costs the same amount as a new band saw.) After a week of use, I figured I’d pick between three options.

  1. I would not be in love with the MacBook Air, and I’d return it, going back to the one Mac lifestyle.
  2. I’d love this particular MacBook Air and keep it.
  3. I’d love the MacBook Air but return it to get a different custom build.

Having used the new M2 MacBook Air for four days, option one is off the table. I dig this Mac. A thin and light Mac to go along with the big one is an excellent fit for me. I haven’t decided between options two and three yet, but here are some initial observations:

  • Thin and light is not an understatement. This thing with the lid is about as thick as the 14″ MacBook Pro base (not including the lid). Putting this Mac in my bag will be no problem and almost no weight. The base is the minimum thickness you could have while still supporting a headphone jack.
  • The 14″ MacBook Pro screen is noticeably better than the MacBook Air screen when side by side. The MacBook Air screen is acceptable and does not feel inferior when not set next to a 14″ MacBook Pro.
  • When working in Final Cut and Screenflow (or rendering video from either of those apps), there is a considerable difference between my 16″ MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air. Render times are around 350% longer on the MacBook Air. That said, it does render the video, and I have something I can upload and share. It can do production work, but I wouldn’t want to do production work on it every day. In a pinch (or when on a trip), the MacBook Air is up to the task.
  • When doing any single-core operation, the MacBook Air excels. I’ve been writing, emailing, planning, and even photo editing (with Apple Photos), and I can’t tell any difference between the MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air.
  • The MacBook Air keyboard feels better than it does on my MacBook Pro. Maybe it’s just me, but it feels like there is just a little more resistance. It could just be that one is new and the other has some mileabe on it.
  • The sound through the MacBook Air is acceptable. The sound through the MacBook Pro is excellent.
  • I also like the design symmetry between the MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air. They are clearly of the same lineage, and I like that.

M2 MacBook Air Reviews

The initial reviews are in on the M2 MacBook Air. My two favorite are Jason Snell’s at Six Colors and Brian Heater at Tech Crunch. Overall, it seems that the M2 MacBook Air delivers on its promise. It’s a small, light Mac that can do most tasks, but isn’t built for heavy lifting. Having held one of these Macs, I really can’t understate how thin and light it feels. It reminds me of the first time I picked up an iPhone 5.

I’m reading a lot of hand-wringing about the thermal limits and throttling. I think this is getting blown out of proportion. IF you run a diagnostic at the MacBook Air designed to punish the processor, which is the lowest end Apple silicon chip combined with it’s substantial improvements over the M1 and the fact it doesn’t have a fan, it’s going to throttle. IF that is your normal workload, you should probably buy a MacBook Pro.

I’m much more interested in its performance for everyday Mac tasks – browsing, writing, email, and the likes. It seems the machine runs just fine for those tasks.

M2 MacBook Air Ship Dates

I expected the ship dates on the new M2 MacBook Air to get pushed back far and fast. I was wrong. As of today you can get a stock build M2 in the first week of August (the Midnight color sets you back a week) and a build-to-order machine also before the end of August.

You’ll also likely be able to get some builds right in the Apple Store starting this Friday. I expected things to be much bleaker at this point.

The Controversial 13″ MacBook Pro

A lot of us (myself included) have been piling on the recently updated 13″ MacBook Pro. You have to admit it really stands out in Apple’s current line as a relic of days gone by. That said, it now has the M2 chip and it is now for sale. Jason Snell wrote a piece for Macworld explaining why it may make sense. Still, it’s weird. The 14″ MacBook Pro is far superior and the new MacBook Air is also a better computer by several metrics for less money.

We’ve been speculating on Mac Power Users now for some time about the idea of a 15″ MacBook Air. There are plenty of people that would like a bigger screen without the MacBook Pro power (and price). In my head, the 13″ MacBook Pro exists as a placeholder for that mythical 15″ MacBook Air.

In the meantime, I stand by my advice, “Friends don’t let friends buy the 13″ MacBook Pro.”