I think we will see M4 MacBook Air this summer — here’s why Apple's getting rushed by Copilot+ PCs

MacBook Air 15-inch M3 on a bench
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

In case you’ve been living under a rock, Microsoft’s new family of Copilot+ PCs is taking the laptop world by storm — putting the likes of the M3 MacBook Air under serious pressure with systems like the Surface Pro 11 and Asus Vivobook S 15.

With Qualcomm Snapdragon X Elite power under the hood, this transition from the aging x86 chipsets that hammer the battery to a far more power efficient Arm architecture (the same as Apple silicon MacBooks) has catapulted them to the point they can really fight against the best MacBooks.

So with the battle heating up, how does Apple respond? Well, with rumors pointing towards an October launch of M4 MacBook Pros, there is a whole lot of free time in August for the team to drop the MacBook Air with the new chipset found in the iPad Pro.

The Apple precedent 

Microsoft Surface Pro 11 on a desk.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

So let’s answer the obvious question on the lips of everyone — why on Earth should Apple even bother launching the M4 MacBook Air early? We’ve always viewed the company as one that takes its time. But right under our noses, there are multiple examples of the Cupertino crew being hurried into catching up.

With the M4 iPad Pro taking on the Surface Pro 11, there is now a laptop-sized hole to tackle the rest of the Copilot+ PC lineup, and that would be an M4 Air launched sooner rather than later.

For example, Apple Intelligence has been in the works for a while, but I think it’s fair to assume it’s been shipped speedily out the door to not miss out on AI. One could argue that the Vision Pro is of a similar ilk when it comes to the mixed reality race with Meta, and ProMotion on a phone is the response to 120Hz being on practically every Android phone. And let’s not forget the litany of other features announced for iOS 18 that have been on Android for years.

Now take this low-key trend of Apple tech, and take another look at that M4 iPad Pro launch… It’s great to see a mainline chipset sequel launched in an iPad, but why now? Why, literally just weeks after M3 made the jump to MacBook Air, did the iPad Pro take a step even further?

Because let’s be real — the reviews would have probably been just as positive whether it was an M3 or M4 in that super thin tablet body. When I saw Apple talk about its leapfrog, my mind didn’t go to the performance possibilities, but rather thinking about what the team is trying to get out ahead of. 

Asus Vivobook S 15

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Once I started to witness the performance potential and power efficiency of Snapdragon X Elite-armed Windows laptops, the answer became clear to me. You see, Apple silicon has enjoyed its dominant status for a long time now, with Intel and AMD chipsets in Windows PCs not really being able to hold a candle to what MacBooks were truly capable of in terms of horsepower and longevity.

With Copilot+ PCs, this status is now truly being questioned and fought over, especially since there are several new features that make Windows 11 fun again.

When could we see the M4 Air?

Conan the Barbarian comic book on an iPad Pro 2024

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

So what about the MacBook Air? Well, with the M4 iPad Pro taking on the Surface Pro 11, there is now a laptop-sized hole to tackle the rest of the Copilot+ PC lineup, and that would be an M4 Air launched sooner rather than later.

I’m guessing maybe an M4 update in August, while keeping the 13-inch M3 around to give people that $999 price for a MacBook. That way, those looking for a cheaper way into Apple’s world of macOS are happy, and there aren’t any jaded customers looking befuddled at this discrepancy in performance across the board. M4 shouldn’t be locked behind a tablet OS, and the ultra thin and light is the first good laptop to get it.

Given past trends and how the M3 MacBook Air has been rendered pretty much redundant by the company’s own iPad Pro moves, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the obligatory Mark Gurman weekend story followed by a blog announcing the M4 MacBook Air update this summer — ahead of the new M4 MacBook Pros in October!

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Jason England
Managing Editor — Computing

Jason brings a decade of tech and gaming journalism experience to his role as a Managing Editor of Computing at Tom's Guide. He has previously written for Laptop Mag, Tom's Hardware, Kotaku, Stuff and BBC Science Focus. In his spare time, you'll find Jason looking for good dogs to pet or thinking about eating pizza if he isn't already.

  • nawnps
    The thing with the MacBook Airs is they clearly planned on releasing the M3 MacBook Airs last summer when they came out with the 15 inch. Instead they had the better 14 inch MacBook Pro released before the M3 Airs that Fall and didn't see them released until March this year, only 2 months later the M4 iPad Pros were released. If Apple released the M4 MacBook Airs anytime soon, Id buy one immediately, but it seems they now plan on keeping them one chip generation behind to upsell to the iPad Pros (which now cost as much as a MacBook Air) or the Macbook Pros.
    Reply