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Apple claims new MacBook Air M3 is the 'world's best consumer laptop for AI'

Technology / news
Apple claims new MacBook Air M3 is the 'world's best consumer laptop for AI'
Apple MacBook Air M3
Apple MacBook Air M3 /supplied

Apple has refreshed its "MacBook for the rest of us", the popular Air model, with the most recent M3 chipset, but few other changes over its M2 predecessor.

The MacBook Air got the Apple Silicon M1 chipset in November 2020, and was equipped with the M2 in June 2022 along with a flat and thin chassis design replacing the wedge shape of the earlier model.

Now with the M3 chipset, made with 3 nanometre process technology, the MacBook Air uses the same fan-less case as the earlier M2 model, and is available with 13 and 15-inch displays weighing 1.24 kg and 1.51 kg respectively.

The biggest feature differences between the M2 and M3 chipsets is the latter supporting hardware accelerated ray tracing for hyper realistic games, and AV1 decoding along with an uprated Neural engine (see below).

Faster Wi-Fi 6E that runs in the uncongested 6 GHz frequency band is another feature upgrade for the MacBook Air M3 over the M2 model.

The M3 MacBook Air starts at $2049 including GST, for the 13-inch model with an eight-core CPU/eight-core GPU and 100 gigabytes per second memory bandwidth; the amount of RAM is 8 GB for that price, and can be upgraded to 16 and 24 GB.

The Apple MacBook Air M3 /supplied

Storage is 256 GB for the entry level Air, which comes with two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports that can support two displays in the M3 model: one external screen at up to 6K resolution/60 Hz refresh rate, and if the lid's closed, a second one at up to 5K resolution/60 Hz.

Battery life is specified as 15 hours of "wireless web" by Apple from the 52.6 Watt-hour battery, and Air comes with a 30 to 35 W charger depending on model.

The 15-inch model starts at $2499 including GST for an 8-core CPU/10-core GPU model with 8 GB memory and 256 GB storage. This has a bigger, 66.5 Wh battery that lasts the same 15 hours as the 13-inch model.

Case colours for both model include Silver, Starlight, Space Grey and Midnight black, with 50 % recycled material used to make the MacBook Air, without toxic substances such as arsenic, mercury, brominates and polyvinyl chloride.

Apple, which hasn't jumped aboard the artificial intelligence hype-wagon the way other hardware makers have, is nevertheless dropping some bold claims in that field for the MacBook Air.

The computer is "the world's best consumer laptop for AI" Apple stated, pointing to faster 16-core Neural Engine hardware, along with accelerators in the graphics and central processors that the company says boost on-device machine learning performance. That bumped-up AI prowess can be used to enhance photos, remove noise in videos, add new camera features, real time conversion of speech to text, translation, and software development.

It can also be used to run optimised AI large language and diffusion models for text and image generation. Apple didn't refer to its open source Ferret multi-modal LLM in the MacBook Air M3 announcement, but the company appears to be pushing AI to run directly on user devices like iPhones, iPads and laptops.

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An article I will be hiding from my devoted MacBook Air using teenage daughter. ;-)