MacBook Air 2023 could be faster and sleeker with new M3 chip

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A MacBook Air with M3 chip will be unleashed on the world by Apple in the second half of 2023, if a new rumor is to be believed.

As MacRumors (opens in new tab) flagged up, this comes from DigiTimes (opens in new tab) (not our most favored reliable source, it has to be said – and we’ll come back to that later), which asserts that the MacBook Air arriving later this year will use a 3nm chip (meaning it’ll be an M3, dropping down from the 5nm process used with the M2 SoC).

DigiTimes tells us: “The supply chain is more focused on the more affordable MacBook Air, which is expected to be updated in the second half of 2023 and may be equipped with a 3nm processor.”

Note that there’s a certain amount of vagueness here in that the claim is the portable may have a 3nm (M3) chip. Of course, we heard similar rumors that the M2 Pro and Max could be built on 3nm last year, but they turned out to be false, with Apple saving the drop in process for the M3 (which will doubtless go this route).

Something else to note here, as MacRumors points out, is that earlier this week a more reliable Apple leaker, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, put forward the claim that the MacBook Pro 14-inch and 16-inch will get refreshed with 3nm M3 Pro and M3 Max chips come 2024 – but Kuo did not mention the MacBook Air getting the M3.

Analysis: MacBook Air 15-inch with M3 to cause a bit of buyer’s remorse?

There are a couple of questions with this rumor. Firstly, nothing is mentioned about what the MacBook Air spec might be, and if there’ll be a new MacBook Air 15-inch (much rumored for some time now) alongside a 13-inch model debuting in the second half of 2023. We’re left guessing on that point, although previously the rumor mill has theorized an earlier launch for a 15-inch incarnation of the Air (namely the first half of this year, so perhaps at WWDC).

Secondly, we do need to load up on the caution and skepticism here, as DigiTimes has been known to be, shall we say, less than accurate – particularly around Apple rumors in our experience. Indeed, the publication came forth with a story that the new MacBook Pros weren’t going to come out early in 2023 just a few days before these models were actually launched; so that’s a pretty sizeable faux pas in recent history right there.

If a MacBook Air 15-inch version does indeed pitch up further down the line this year, that could potentially cause some buyer’s remorse for those who decide to pull the trigger on a new MacBook Pro now, perhaps. There’s no shortage of folks wanting a larger-screened MacBook Air, to benefit from more display real-estate in an Apple notebook that’ll be far more affordable than a MacBook Pro, but should still be solidly powerful with new M3 silicon inside.

Indeed, that drop to 3nm should usher in some pretty impressive performance and efficiency boosts, perhaps meaning much better battery life – or a sleeker power pack inside, for a smaller and more portable Air (offsetting, perhaps, at least some of the weight gain from making the Air larger with a 15-inch spin). The 13-inch version could be very ‘airy’ indeed, then.

Still, we remain doubtful on this one, though, as it seems that an M3 launch later this year would be pretty fast-moving for Apple (what with the more powerful M2 flavors only just having turned up). And what’s more, other rumors haven’t pointed to a MacBook Air with M3; and as mentioned above, Kuo is currently only talking about the next Pro refreshes for the M3 SoC (to happen next year).

Still, that doesn’t mean DigiTimes can’t be right on this one, but we’ll reserve judgement for now, as we’ll surely hear more from the grapevine elsewhere soon enough if this is how things really will pan out.

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