MacBook Air Buyer's Guide: Comparing the Generations

Apple's MacBook Air has undergone some major changes in recent years, including the switch to Apple silicon, a complete redesign, and the introduction of a 15-inch model, making it all the more important to consider if now is a good time to upgrade or if an older model will suffice for your needs.

MacBook Air 15 Inch Feature Yellow
Following its latest refresh, Apple discontinued the M1 13-inch ‌MacBook Air‌ from 2020 and the M2 15-inch ‌MacBook Air‌ from 2023. Now, customers can choose between the ‌M2‌ 13-inch ‌MacBook Air‌ from 2022 for $999, and the M3 13- and 15-inch MacBook Airs that were just introduced for $1,099 and $1,299, respectively.

See the breakdown below for each new feature, change, and improvement that was added with each ‌MacBook Air‌ model since 2018 compared to its direct predecessor:

MacBook Air (M3, 2024)

  • M3 Chip
  • 15% faster Neural Engine
  • Support for AV1 decode
  • New GPU architecture
  • Dynamic Caching
  • Hardware-accelerated ray tracing
  • Hardware-accelerated mesh shading
  • Support for up to two external displays when the lid is closed
  • Voice Isolation and Wide Spectrum microphone modes
  • Enhanced voice clarity in audio and video calls
  • Wi-Fi 6E
  • Anodization seal to reduce fingerprints with Midnight finish

MacBook Air (M2, 2022/2023)

  • Thinner design with flat lid, rounded bottom edges, and uniform thickness
  • 13.6- or 15.3-inch Liquid Retina display
  • Apple ‌M2‌ chip
  • Up to 10-core GPU
  • Hardware-accelerated H.264, HEVC, ProRes and ProRes RAW
  • ProRes encode and decode engine
  • Up to 24GB unified memory
  • 100GB/s memory bandwidth
  • 500 nits brightness
  • 1080p FaceTime HD camera
  • Four-speaker sound system or six-speaker sound system with force-cancelling woofers
  • 3.5mm headphone jack with support for high-impedance headphones
  • Bluetooth 5.3
  • MagSafe 3
  • Fast-charge capable with available 70W USB‑C Power Adapter
  • Available in Silver, Space Gray, Starlight, and Midnight
  • 1.24 kg (2.7 pounds) or 1.51 kg (3.3 pounds)

MacBook Air (M1, 2020)

  • Apple ‌M1‌ chip
  • 8-core CPU
  • Up to 8-core GPU
  • Media engine
  • Hardware-accelerated H.264 and HEVC
  • Video decode engine
  • Video encode engine
  • 16-core Neural Engine
  • Up to 16GB unified memory
  • 62.5GB/s memory bandwidth
  • Wide colour (P3)
  • Image signal processor with computational video
  • Up to 18-hour battery life

MacBook Air (Intel, 2020)

  • Up to Intel Core i7 processor
  • Intel Iris Plus Graphics GPU
  • Up to 2TB storage
  • Magic Keyboard
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • 1.29 kg (2.8 pounds)

MacBook Air (Intel, 2018)

  • Tapered "wedge" design
  • 13.3-inch Retina display
  • Up to Intel Core i5 processor
  • Up to 4-core CPU
  • Intel UHD Graphics 617
  • Up to 16GB memory
  • Up to 1.5TB storage
  • Butterfly Keyboard
  • 400 nits brightness
  • Full standard colour (sRGB)
  • 720p ‌FaceTime‌ HD camera
  • Stereo speakers
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Wi‑Fi 6
  • Bluetooth 4.2
  • Up to 12-hour battery life
  • Available in Silver, Space Gray, and Gold
  • 1.25 kg (2.75 pounds)

‌M2‌ ‌MacBook Air‌ users have very little reason to upgrade to an M3 model unless they need absolute peak performance and don't want to buy a MacBook Pro, or perhaps if they purchased the 13-inch machine in 2022 and are now interested in the 15-inch M3 model.

Most ‌M1‌ ‌MacBook Air‌ users will stand to benefit from upgrading to the M3 model, especially if they are looking for a bigger screen and opt for the 15-inch model. These users would gain a much more modern design, a larger and brighter display, better performance, faster memory, a 1080p camera, improved speakers, ‌MagSafe‌ 3, fast-charging, and more. Nevertheless, some ‌M1‌ ‌MacBook Air‌ users may be better off waiting for the next major refresh if they are still happy with the machine, and upgrading is not essential.

For those who have an Intel-based ‌MacBook Air‌, either of the generations currently on sale represent a highly worthwhile upgrade spearheaded by Apple silicon for a major performance improvement and upgrading is recommended, with many of the above upgrades quickly stacking up.

Related Roundup: MacBook Air
Related Forum: MacBook Air

Top Rated Comments

Mr. Dee Avatar
11 months ago
Apple really should be selling the M1 Air for 799. It’s almost a 4 year product using an old design, albeit still a great one. 1,000 is just asking for too much.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Unggoy Murderer Avatar
11 months ago
The M1 Air really isn't a hard sell at all. Really great spec, excellent hardware and build quality, best battery by a mile, no Windows. Unless someone actually really needs a MacBook Pro, this'll cover pretty much what most people will need.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
masotime Avatar
11 months ago
I told ChatGPT to summarize the bullet points into a table ('') and it came up with this. Y'all really need to do better or AI will literally take over your jobs.

Attachment Image
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
PBG4 Dude Avatar
11 months ago
Got my wife the M1 8GB/512Gb version when it came out. Still lasts her multiple evenings on a single charge for her uses (email, Facebook, video streaming). It was an upgrade from a 2012 11” MBA so it totally blew the doors off that machine.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Kevrani Avatar
11 months ago
I got the base model M2 MBA to replace my 2013 MBP. It truly is wonderful and I'm so glad I made the jump
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ixxx69 Avatar
6 weeks ago

I love the way he starts by pointing out that the 2012 MBA base RAM and storage specs are the same as the latest Macs. How long will Apple manage to keep that up, I wonder?
2012 13" MBA base came with 4GB.

People were whining about 4GB then just like you're whining about 8GB now.

I'm so unbelievably sick of people whining about base configurations. If you don't want a base configuration, don't buy a base configuration. What is it to you if I'm perfectly happy with my base config 8GB MBA?
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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