KUALA LUMPUR, May 8 — I thought when I swapped my long-term review MacBook Pro for the latest MacBook Air M3 that I would miss it.

Strangely that didn’t happen over the last few weeks. I’ve been using the Air at work and for personal projects (learning Blender among them).

Finally, it can keep up

In the past I put the MacBook Airs away besides checking on them every few weeks or so to make sure they were where I put them.


This was because eventually I would find the machine slowing down slightly when I was doing a task and I would reach for the speedier Pro model.

I would find the MacBook Airs would sometimes even stall while doing browser-based work or surfing.

Loading higher-end apps such as coding tools for the Unity gaming platform? Cue heating up and a slowdown.


Now my work shifts proceeded as smoothly as on the MacBook Pro, handling my daily driver apps that were mostly Apple’s own Preview, Freeform and Notes as well as Microsoft Word and the Pixelmator image editor.

I have recently started learning the 3D programme Blender seriously and was surprised that the MacBook Air didn’t bog me down with slow loading times and playing Baldur’s Gate III didn’t feel much different from playing it on the Pro.

Bear in mind though that my test unit was the highest specced of the base models available with the 8-core M3 chip with the 10-core GPU variant, 16GB of RAM and 512GB of SSD storage.

I am also not a fan of playing games at ultra settings as I value performance over visuals; better my game run smoothly than have it stutter at higher resolutions so I stick to medium settings.

Battery longevity was only an issue when using heavier programmers/gaming but if it was just my browser and Microsoft Word, I would still have enough battery power at the end of the day and even go out to cafés without needing a charger.

One time I was working past midnight writing, and though I had just three browser tabs open on Microsoft Edge, I was suddenly given a notification that the CPU usage of the browser was high and suggested I close a tab.

Granted, one of the tabs was YouTube but I had never encountered a high CPU usage warning on any MacBook Pro in the last few years.

I was surprised that ‘Baldur’s Gate III’ ran so well on the MacBook Air. — Screenshot by Erna Mahyuni
I was surprised that ‘Baldur’s Gate III’ ran so well on the MacBook Air. — Screenshot by Erna Mahyuni

A bit too much of the same

Whatever faults I find with the MacBook Air could perhaps be seen as nitpicky. It would be nice to see more of a laptop design refresh besides the camera notch that truthfully I don’t notice most of the time.

In practical use, the darker Midnight shade is a bit of a fingerprint magnet but is less so than last year’s. I disliked using the Midnight shade models I got previously as they got so embarrassingly marked up by my fingerprints, as though all I did all day was eat KFC at my desk.

On paper I also am not a fan of the low base specs (8GB starting RAM? Really? Is this the year 2000?) and how much it costs to upgrade because no matter how powerful the M-series chips are, I think 16GB should be the bare starting minimum and at the very least laptops should have 512GB.

For what MacBooks cost, 256GB is far too little to start off on the models.

That’s the reality that might be hard to face for a lot of people, that for many, the MacBook Air might just be enough for pretty much anything except for editing a feature film, scoring tracks for large projects or massive coding projects.

Still, I’ll probably have to switch back to the Pro when I want to either indulge in longer gaming sessions or using PS Remote Play, both activities that usually generate more CPU heat and the Pro has fans to keep temperatures inside the laptop manageable.

I’m also only a beginner at Blender so there will probably come a time when I would need more horsepower to render more intricate scenes. Which is why I think a MacBook Air would probably be a good student machine as it’s light enough to bring around while still powerful enough to handle class assignments, except perhaps for courses relying on proprietary software that only runs on Windows but that is becoming more of a rarity.

Would I disagree with the consensus that you could just buy last year’s MacBook Air for a discount instead? Yes, actually. The M3 chip line is after all the first in the M-series to include raytracing support.

While games available on the Mac don’t take advantage of raytracing as yet, programmes such as yes, Blender, do.

If raytracing or more powerful application usage isn’t on your “need” list then perhaps you could save yourself quite a lot on the M2, especially if you’re mostly a media consumer and not creator, or just mostly use a browser and Word.

In the market for a new laptop after being on an Intel-based Mac or a similarly aged machine? The M3 MacBook Air is a decent upgrade but if you do have an M1 or M2, you really won’t need an M3 unless, like I said, you need the performance boost and features of an M3 chip device.

While I will probably go back to the Pro now the testing period is over, I admit it was nice to work on a lighter machine instead of the heft of a MacBook Pro.

Should you also like the notion of a more powerful, while light Macbook, they’re already on sale online and at retailers in 13-inch and 15-inch display variations, starting from RM5,199 for the 13-inch and RM6,199 for the 15-inch.

Free advice: Rather than spend an extra thousand for the bigger model, consider upgrading the RAM instead. You could always just plug in an external display or even two now the new MacBook Airs support two extra displays but only with the lid closed.