Which MacBook M3 should you buy? Here's your options

MacBook Air 15-inch M3 next to MacBook Air 13-inch
(Image credit: Future)

With the release of the MacBook Air 13-inch M3 and MacBook Air 15-inch M3, Apple’s latest MacBooks all pack the company’s M3 processor. This has simplified buying one of the best MacBooks — sort of. All current MacBooks now look great and offer exceptional performance and battery life. They're some of the best laptops we've tested.

With five models, there’s a MacBook for just about anyone. Now you only need to ask yourself one thing — which MacBook best suits your specific needs? We’ve tested all the M3 MacBooks to help you answer this question. Below, we’ll detail every available M3 MacBook so you can pick the right one.

MacBook M3: Specs

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Header Cell - Column 0 MacBook Air 13-inch M3MacBook Air 15-inch M3MacBook Pro 14-inch M3MacBook Pro 14-inch (M3 Pro)MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3 Max)
Display13.6 inches (2,560 x 1,664)15.3-inch (2,880 x 1,864)14.2 inch Liquid Retina XDR (120Hz, 3,024 x 1,964)14.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR (3,024 x 1,964)16.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR (3,456 x 2,234)
CPU8-core CPU8-core CPU8 core CPU11-core CPU14-core CPU
GPU8-core GPU10-core10-core14-core GPU30-core GPU
Ports2x Thunderbolt 4/USB-C, 1x MagSafe, 1x headphone jack2x Thunderbolt 4/USB-C, 1x MagSafe, 1x headphone jack2x Thunderbolt/USB 4, 1x headphone, 1x HDMI, 1x SDXC3x Thunderbolt 4/USB-C, 1x SDXC, 1x HDMI, 1x MagSafe, 1x headphone3x Thunderbolt 4/USB-C, 1x SDXC, 1x HDMI, 1x MagSafe, 1x headphone
Battery life15:13 (hours:mins)15:0317:2517:2217:11
ColorsMidnight, Starlight, Space Gray, SilverMidnight, Starlight, Space Gray, SilverSpace Silver, Space GraySpace Silver, Space GraySpace Silver, Space Gray
ConnectivityWi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3
Dimensions11.97 x 8.46 x 0.44 inches13.40 x 9.53 x 0.45 inches12.31 x 8.71 x 0.61 inches12.3 x 8.7 x 0.6 inches14.0 x 9.7 x 0.6 inches
Weight2.7 pounds3.5 pounds3.4 pounds3.5 pounds4.8 pounds

MacBook Air

MacBook Air 13-inch M3

MacBook Air 13-inch M3

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

If you’re looking for the most affordable M3 laptop, look no further than the latest 13-inch MacBook Air. The new laptop isn’t all that different from its predecessor, the MacBook Air 13-inch M2. It has the same ultraportable design, MagSafe charging, sharp 13.6-inch Retina display and incredible battery life. The M3 chip just improves on what was already one of our favorite laptops.

As you'll see in our MacBook Air 13-inch M3 review, you also get faster Wi-Fi 6E connectivity and the ability to run two external displays at once (with the lid closed), plus over 15 hours of battery life in our testing. At $1,099, the MacBook Air 13-inch is the best overall laptop for most people interested in an M3 Apple notebook. There are more powerful MacBooks, but if you just want a reliable machine for getting work done, watching videos and even light editing, it’s a fantastic machine for the money.

MacBook Air 13 (M3/256GB):

MacBook Air 13 (M3/256GB): from $1,099 @ Amazon
The 13-inch MacBook Air now sports an M3 chipset with an 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU. It also features a 13.6-inch Liquid Retina display (2560 x 1664), 8GB of RAM, 256GB SSD, and support for up to two external displays (when the laptop lid is closed). Apple claims its 60% faster than the M1-based MacBook Air and you get over 15 hours of endurance.

MacBook Air 15-inch M3

MacBook Air 15-inch M3 on desk

(Image credit: Future)

If the 13-inch Air seems interesting but you want a bigger screen, check out the also excellent MacBook Air 15-inch M3. As we said in our MacBook Air 15-inch M3 review, this laptop hits the sweet spot between the 13-inch MacBook Air and MacBook Pro 14-inch M3 since it has a bigger display than both models and offers nearly the power of the entry-level MacBook Pro for less money.

Besides size, the main thing the 15-inch MacBook Air M3 has over its smaller counterpart is stronger speakers. The speakers on the MacBook Pros are better, but your ears won’t be offended when listening to music or podcasts on the 15-inch Air M3. For $1,299 this is another great choice for people new to the Apple ecosystem. It's a worthy successor to the MacBook Air 15-inch M2.

MacBook Air 15 (M3/512GB):

MacBook Air 15 (M3/512GB): was $1,299 now $1,234 @ Amazon
The 15-inch MacBook Air now sports an M3 chipset with an 8-core CPU and 10-core GPU. It also features a 15.6-inch Liquid Retina display (2880 x 1864), 8GB of RAM, 256GB SSD, and support for up to two external displays (when the laptop lid is closed). Apple claims its 60% faster than the M1-based MacBook Air and we saw over 15 hours of battery life in our testing.

MacBook Pro

MacBook Pro 14-inch M3 

MacBook Pro 14-inch M3 on marble bench

(Image credit: Future)

Now we’re stepping into premium MacBook territory with the MacBook Pro line. The MacBook Pro 14-inch with the entry-level M3 chip is a great sweet spot between the MacBook Air and more powerful MacBook Pros — offering the relative affordability of the former and some of the power of the latter.

Why might you prefer this laptop over either of the Air M3 notebooks which have the same processor? First, you get a more vivid 120Hz mini-LED display, additional ports like HDMI and an SD Card slot, and longer battery life. Plus, because there's a fan this M3-powered MacBook Pro offers stronger sustained performance than the new MacBook Airs. Sure, it’s not cheap at $1,599, but that’s still $400 less than the MacBook Pro 14-inch M3 Pro. Speaking of which…

14-inch M3 MacBook Pro:

14-inch M3 MacBook Pro: was $1,599 now $1,449 @ Amazon
We're big fans of the new entry-level M3 MacBook Pro, which replaces the 13-inch Pro and brings everything we love from the prosumer model at a lower price point. The faster M3 chip, brighter display and over 17 hours of tested battery life make this machine hard to resist, which is why it was so easy to award it an Editor's Choice award.

MacBook Pro 14-inch M3 Pro 

M3 Pro MacBook Pro (14-inch)

(Image credit: Future)

This used to be the entry-level MacBook Pro but is now the middle child of the Pro line. That places it in an awkward position since it’s more expensive than the base M3 MacBook Pro but not as powerful as the entry-level 16-inch MacBook Pro featuring a beefier M3 Pro chip. These factors could almost make you want to ignore this model entirely.

That said, this is still an objectively solid laptop even at its $1,999 starting price. It features a gorgeous mini-LED display, impressive M3 Pro power (with optional M3 Max) and epic battery life. However, the only real reason to get this over its more powerful counterpart is its starting price and more portable size.

MacBook Pro 14-inch (M3 Pro/18GB/512GB):

MacBook Pro 14-inch (M3 Pro/18GB/512GB): was $1,999 now $1,799 @ B&H Photo
The M3 Pro MacBook Pro is a great laptop thanks to its blazingly fast performance, astounding battery life and stellar display, alongside stellar speakers in a rock-solid aluminum design. While the awkward middle child of the MacBook Pro line, it's a decent option if you don't want to spend an extra $400 for its 16-inch equivalent.

MacBook Pro 16-inch M3 Max

Lastly, we have the monstrous MacBook Pro 16-inch. Starting at $2,499 with an M3 Pro chip or $3,499 with an M3 Max processor, this is undoubtedly the most powerful MacBook you can buy. It’s virtually identical to its M2 Pro/Max predecessor in terms of design, but the Space Black finish that diminishes fingerprints is nice (the Air M3’s Midnight finish has the same feature).

In fairness, this 16-inch MacBook Pro isn’t for most people. Creative professionals working with 8K videos will no doubt make great use of this machine’s M3 Max chip. That same processor also makes this beastly notebook a powerful gaming rig, even if gaming support isn’t yet as robust as on the best gaming laptops. Still, if you’re not a video editor, don’t play video games or just use laptops for writing, you’re better off with one of the more affordable MacBooks listed above.

MacBook Pro 16” (M3 Max/36GB/1TB): was $3,499 now $3,249 @ B&H Photo

MacBook Pro 16” (M3 Max/36GB/1TB): was $3,499 now $3,249 @ B&H Photo
The ultimate MacBook is on sale for $250 off. In our M3 Max review, we said this laptop “delivers astounding performance.” This is a serious monster of a laptop for creative professionals on the go — sporting an M3 Max chip with 14-core CPU and 30-core GPU, 36GB of RAM and a spacious 1TB SSD. It also has a stunning 16-inch Liquid Retina XDR display, and it comes in the sleek Space Black color option.

One more...

MacBook Air M2

MacBook Air M2 2022

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

I know this article is about M3 MacBooks, but I couldn’t leave you without briefly discussing the MacBook I now recommend to most people — the MacBook Air 13-inch M2.

At $999, it’s now the cheapest MacBook available since Apple has discontinued the MacBook Air M1. Even if its M2 chip is no longer the most powerful, it’s still more than capable of handling everyday computing tasks. Not only that, but this humble notebook also features the same svelte design as its M3 siblings and exceptional battery life that puts most Windows laptops to shame.

MacBook Air 13 (M2/256GB):

MacBook Air 13 (M2/256GB): was $1,099 now $899 @ B&H Photo
The MacBook Air M2 boasts a load of great features. It includes a larger 13.6-inch Liquid Retina display (2,560 x 1,664), Apple's M2 CPU w/ 8-core GPU, 8GB of RAM, 256GB SSD, 1080p FaceTime camera, four-speaker system with Spatial Audio, and MagSafe charging. In our review, we called the Editor's Choice laptop an unbeatable combo of performance, design, and battery life.

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Tony Polanco
Computing Writer

Tony is a computing writer at Tom’s Guide covering laptops, tablets, Windows, and iOS. During his off-hours, Tony enjoys reading comic books, playing video games, reading speculative fiction novels, and spending too much time on X/Twitter. His non-nerdy pursuits involve attending Hard Rock/Heavy Metal concerts and going to NYC bars with friends and colleagues. His work has appeared in publications such as Laptop Mag, PC Mag, and various independent gaming sites.