Apple MacBook Air 15 (M3) Unboxing & Hands-on: Truly a Lean, M3an Machine
April 6, 2024 Andrew Cheng

The new MacBook Air powered by Apple’s latest M3 chip is now available in Malaysia. Compared to its predecessors, the M3-powered MacBook Air does bring some notable upgrades. According to Apple, it is up to 60% faster than the M1 model, or up to a whopping 13x faster than the fastest Intel-based MacBook Air.

But aside from the faster performance and some other improvements, the M3 MacBook Air still has the same design as the M2 model. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, of course, as this is still a lean, mean machine, as Apple puts it. Nonetheless, if you’re considering to upgrade from an Intel-based MacBook Air – or even the M1 model – this new Air should be in your shortlist.

Unboxing the new MacBook Air – in this case, the larger 15-inch model – feels very much like opening up a brand new iPhone because of the pull tabs on the back of the box. With the box opened up, the first thing you’ll see is the MacBook Air wrapped in a paper packaging.

The power adapter and USB-C to MagSafe 3 charging cable is found underneath the MacBook Air. As is the case with other MacBooks, the cable matches the colour of the MacBook Air. As I have the Midnight colourway of the laptop, the braided charging cable has a deep blue colour to it, which I find quite nice.

If you’re curious to see how the Midnight MacBook Air compares to the Space Black MacBook Pro – yes, I’m aware this is a very specific scenario – here are some comparison shots. It’s worth noting that the “anodisation seal” of the Space Black colour option has made its way to the Midnight model as well, which looks to be able to reduce fingerprints quite well. Given that a number of users reported that the previous Midnight colour attracts fingerprints quite easily, this is definitely a good change.

Beyond that, I’m pleasantly surprised that the 15-inch MacBook Air is noticeably lighter than the 14-inch MacBook Pro despite the latter having a smaller footprint. Not only is it thinner with an 11.5mm side profile – against the Pro model’s 15.5mm chassis – the 15-inch Air is also 110g lighter, tipping the scales at 1.51kg against the M3 Max MacBook Pro (1.62kg) that I use as my daily driver.

Now let’s talk about the 15-inch MacBook Air itself. The variant I have here is the most affordable RM6,199 base model with the M3 chip, 8GB unified memory, and 256GB of SSD storage. From what I can tell so far, the 8GB memory – along with the M3 chip – seems to be sufficient for my everyday use, which involves a ton of word processing, web browsing, and light photo editing.

That being said, I highly recommend picking up the RM6,999 configuration of the M3 MacBook Air instead of this base model, which upgrades the SSD to 512GB. In my opinion, RM800 to get a much more practical amount of storage is definitely worth the money.

It’s worth noting that compared to the previous M2 model – the 13-inch model is actually more affordable now – the new M3 MacBook Air can now output to two external displays. This is possible even with the lid closed, and the new laptop features twice as fast WiFi as well, thanks to support for WiFi 6E. Of course, to take advantage of the faster speeds, your WiFi connection has to meet that standard first.

Beyond that, other specifications of the new MacBook Air remain the same. The Liquid Retina display remains as bright as ever, there’s support for MagSafe 3 charging with two Thunderbolt ports, and of course, it can still provide up to 18 hours of battery life on a single charge despite packing a more powerful chip.

This being (mainly) a productivity laptop, the input devices of the 15-inch MacBook Air have to be excellent, and I’m happy to report that this is indeed the case. The keyboard has just enough travel to not feel shallow, and the keys have a pronounced tactile feedback as well, improving my overall typing accuracy. All in all, I can see myself typing comfortably on this keyboard for long periods of time.

And then we have the exceptional trackpad of the 15-inch MacBook Air. As much as the trackpads on Windows laptops have improved over the years, I still think the MacBook has one of the best – if not the best – trackpad in the business. Not only does it feel very accurate with a large surface to work on, it can also mimic clicks very well. After all, this is a fixed trackpad with no moving parts at all.

Even though the new M3 15-inch MacBook Pro isn’t remarkably different from the M2 model, it is still an excellent premium laptop with a thin, lightweight design that is now even faster with the M3 chip. The best part is, you can still get it at the same RM6,199 starting price as its predecessor.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been using the 14-inch MacBook Pro with the incredibly fast M3 Max chip as my daily driver since it was introduced late last year. With that in mind, I’m excited to transition to the 15-inch MacBook Air with the more modest M3 chip to see just how different the user experience would be, though I have a feeling it will be just as pleasant to use as the Pro model.