Monday, April 22, 2024

Whatever you do, don’t buy a MacBook Air right now

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Apple's 15-inch MacBook Air placed on a desk with its lid closed.Luke Larsen / Digital Trends

Got your eye on a shiny new MacBook Air? We can’t blame you, they’re fantastic laptops. But before you pull the trigger, you should consider holding off for a few more weeks.

Contents

  • New chips are imminent
  • Price drop patience
  • Consider your options

At some point in March, Apple is expected to unveil a new generation of the MacBook Air, either at an event or via a press release. This forthcoming laptop will reportedly come loaded with Apple’s new M3 chip, giving the MacBook Air a notable performance boost.

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The issue is that if you buy an M2 MacBook Air right now, you could come to regret it when Apple updates its laptop line-up. You’ll end up with a laptop whose performance is quickly outdone, all without even saving any money. If you can, hold on for another couple of weeks.

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New chips are imminent

Luke Larsen / Digital Trends

The main reason you should hold off on buying a MacBook Air is the fact that new chips are imminent. While we’re not expecting the MacBook Air to get Apple’s high-end M3 Pro or M3 Max chips, the fact that it will soon come with the baseline M3 is reason enough to wait.

Apple has said that the M3 provides a 35% CPU boost and 65% GPU improvement over the M1, which are along the lines of what we saw comparing the chips in the M1 iMac and M3 iMac. Apple hasn’t directly compared the M3 to the M2, but it’s clear that the GPU is where you’ll find the biggest gains.

Of course, the biggest performance jump comes when opting for the M3 Max chip. In our Cinebench R24 test, the M3 Max scored 56% higher than the M2 Max, which is a phenomenal increase. Sure, we can’t guarantee that kind of improvement in the M3 compared to the M2, but the M3 uses the same 3nm manufacturing process as the M3 Max, so it should see a solid generational leap.

If performance is important to you, however, chances are you should be shopping for an M3 Pro or M3 Max MacBook Pro rather than the MacBook Air. But everyone can appreciate a faster chip, and when it comes from a value standpoint, that’s something absolutely worth waiting for.

Price drop patience

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So, what if you don’t care about improved performance and are more interested in the MacBook Air for its portability and silent operation? Well, even if that’s the case, waiting has benefits.

Third-party retailers usually drop the prices of previous-gen tech when a new Apple product launches. In this case, we can expect the M2 MacBook Air to see some tasty discounts right around the time Apple unveils the M3 model.

In fact, the bargains probably won’t be limited to third-party outlets. Apple has taken to offering an older MacBook Air as a kind of budget option in the line-up — right now, that role is played by the M1 MacBook Air. Once the M3 model comes out, we’d expect the M2 MacBook Air to replace the M1 version as the wallet-friendly option. It’ll be the same laptop you can buy now but with a healthy saving applied on top.

That means waiting makes sense, even if you don’t care how good the M3 chip is. The MacBook Air has been stuck on the M2 for a while, but the upcoming price drops could make it a much more attractive purchase.

Consider your options

Luke Larsen / Digital Trends

Unlike what we saw with the M2 MacBook Air models, this time, both the 13-inch MacBook Air and its 15-inch sibling will almost certainly get updated at the same time. So you don’t want to make the mistake of buying an M2 15-inch MacBook Air now, thinking that only the 13-inch model will be refreshed next month. They’ll both come at the same time, so regardless of which size MacBook Air you want, the advice remains the same: you should wait.

If you’re absolutely desperate to get the MacBook experience right now, there’s another (laptop-like) option that might be worth looking into: the iPad Pro. You can get the 11-inch version and pair it up with Apple’s Magic Keyboard case to get a more portable device than the MacBook Air and doubles up as a standalone tablet.

I wouldn’t recommend jumping for this option without really considering your options first, though, as there are some drawbacks. The 11-inch iPad Pro has a smaller display than either MacBook Air model, and the combined price of the tablet and Apple’s Magic Keyboard case is $1,098 — just $1 less than the M2 13-inch MacBook Air. It’s only really an option if you already want to get an iPad, but in that case, it’s still a better choice than the M2 MacBook Air right now.

Either way now is a bad time to buy a MacBook Air. Hold off until March when Apple launches the M3 model, and you’ll be richly rewarded. You’ll also avoid a nasty case of buyer’s remorse.

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