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Living with 15-inch M3 MacBook Air

Two weeks in and loving it & it turns out Final Cut Pro was a hidden gem too

15-inch M3 MacBook Air

Now I’ve had some time to spend with my M3 15-inch MacBook Air I couldn’t be happier with it – and my choices.

And by proving that I have just left home to come to my studio armed with only the MacBook Air to work on, which should tell you everything. I know at some point today I will have to edit a simple ‘shorts’ video but I equally know that this MacBook Air will be fit for the task – and I’ve come out without the charger as well…Apple silicon does kind of spoil you.

Over the weekend something else happened which has made the love affair with my newest Mac & Apple silicon even stronger – but I’ll come back to that in just a bit.

Getting it right

You may already know but this MacBook Air is my second taste of M3 Apple silicon. Towards the end of last year, I bought the M3 iMac. On that occasion and with very good reason I bought the base-level entry iMac with 8 GB of memory, 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU and only 256 GB storage.

Storage is not as big of a deal as it once was. Not only are we all used to working from and relying on the cloud but apps themselves are way more optimised and efficient. Yes, I’ll be the first to put my hands up to say that 256 GB of SSD storage isn’t optimal if you intend to use it as your only or prime Mac but external, quick and cheap storage is an easy fix.

I bought that iMac specifically to write about and make content about and I wanted to see just how capable the 8 GB iMac was – I felt that was an important reference point that may help out potential buyers. So while I have no regrets about that purchase at all – hand on heart I couldn’t and wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

Memory swapping happens all too often for my liking which will age the iMac that much quicker and although you can get by just fine with even moderately heavy tasks such as simple video editing you’ll soon – very soon start to push it.

As a simple rule, 8 GB Macs should only ever be bought if you know that all you intend it for is simple browsing, admin work and emailing – then it hits the spot and you’ll be just fine.

But when I was buying the MacBook Air I had different intentions of how I was going to use this Mac.

Beefing up the M3 15-inch MacBook Air

I wanted to leave my MacBook Pro at home as much as possible and for the M3 MacBook Air to fill its space as much as possible which would be no mean task.

I wasn’t going to fully trip out this MacBook Air but I wanted it to be a stand-by workhorse – capable of doing most of the work that I’d need on an average day or week.

That would include writing, using Lightroom, Photoshop and video editing. Now while I wouldn’t be expecting this MacBook Air to handle the high-end intensive work that my 32 GB 16-inch M1 Max MacBook Pro can handle I was going to want it to be capable of dealing with most of my work and basic creative edits.

I wanted to be sure I could at least start a video edit – to get the timeline in order and maybe add some presets and make basic edits in Lightroom.

So when I bought the M3 MacBook Air I went for 512 GB of SSD storage and 16 GB of unified memory which would give me an 8-core CPU/10-core GPU config. I’d already decided that any video edits I carried out would be done off my Samsung T7 SSD anyway. That wasn’t just born purely out of the restrictions of storage on the MacBook Air but more so that I could easily plug it into my 16-inch MacBook Pro and continue to edit from it there.

And after two weeks of using it, I’d say I got my choices just about spot on. I’m loving working on this MacBook Air and it’s become my go-to Mac over the past couple of weeks.

Praise indeed.

Keeping up

I unplugged the MacBook Air from power today at about 8.30 am and now at nearly 6.30 pm, the battery is still sitting at 56%. While we’ve come to expect that from Apple silicon it remains noteworthy and something we shouldn’t ever take for granted – a quiet, fan-free working environment with the flexibility to work anywhere and not be chained to a desk or power source.

After M1 and the first iteration of Apple silicon, it was fair to say that weren’t going to see that much of a massive improvement in chip technology for many, many years but the subsequent M2 & M3 chipsets have continued to build on that legacy with each generation.

I’ve been lucky enough to own M1, M2 and M3 Macs and you can feel the small improvements when you spend time with them.

Clearly, in my case, the might of my M1 Max hasn’t been rivalled with any of the Macs I’ve bought since but even after nearly 3 years on that Mac still performs as it did day one and barely can I make it break sweat. Yeah – I did throw the kitchen sink at it but it’s been money well spent.

This M3 MacBook Air though feels a meaningful improvement over the M2 MacBook that it replaced. Apps open quicker and the battery seems even better.

Because of the setup I have with my M1 Max MacBook, I have hardly ever used the keyboard. It sits on a riser at the back of my desk so I use an Apple Magic Keyboard. But over the past couple of weeks spent using the keyboard on this MacBook Air – damn, I’m loving it.

Even though I am no touch-typist I can notice that the balance and feel of this keyboard feels ergonomically superior – it somehow seems to flow better. Sitting slim and fairly flat on the desk makes for a super comfortable work experience.

That keyboard coupled with with the 15.3-inch LED display has proven to be a winner. With the M2 MacBook Air, I went for the smaller 13-inch option but to my mind, it always felt that little bit too small to be productive.

But the 15-inch Air feels like an altogether different beast – suddenly this feels like a solid workstation. Now if your day means that ultra-portability is the most important thing to you, then yes, the 13-inch model will hold its appeal. But if you, like me, spend your day working at a desk with it then I’d pick the larger screen every time.

I’m about to charter into dodgy waters I know – but I honestly don’t notice that this MacBook Air display isn’t ProMotion. There’s no denying the Liquid Retina XDR display on my MacBook Pro is the best display I have (at least until the OLED M3 iPad comes out) – but it’s not as if I find working on the MacBook Air display a bitter disappointment or a hindrance.

The extra win

I mentioned that over the weekend something happened that has made me fall for not only this M3 MacBook Air – but Apple silicon as a whole.

That thing was Final Cut Pro.

As you may well know I’ve been a huge Adobe fan for years. The years of using their apps and working in their ecosystem have built up a huge amount of familiarity and muscle memory. Many of the shortcuts work across their apps and everything feels very intuitive.

To a very large degree, it’s that which has kept me locked to Premier Pro exclusively for so long.

But recently I’d become more and more intrigued to find out about Final Cut and what it had to offer. I was scared that I’d be slow and lose too much time in re-learning skills, but so far I have to say I’ve found it pretty simple to get my head around.

It turns out that being a Mac user for so long also has its benefits and using Final Cut Pro feels natural and easy – the menus are familiar and the jargon and way of navigating feel very ‘Mac-like’.

One tiny thing I love is that it knows which audio out to use intuitively. With Premiere I have to go into menus each time to swap between say headphones or my audio interface and desk monitors. But because FCP works with the Control Centre it just knows. It’s a small thing I know but super handy.

It feels more fun to use somehow and more inviting. It could be a case of the emperor’s new clothes I know but I am really enjoying it so far – so much so I am about to buy some plugins and hope to edit this week’s main long-form video with it.

I’ve installed Final Cut on here – my MacBook Air and next up today will be editing a short on it. It seems more optimised for Apple silicon and from what I can tell so far exports quicker.

I’m certain I’ll have some teething issues as I make the switch but so far I think I’m glad I’ve done the hardest part and begun to explore Final Cut on a Mac.

Final thoughts

If this MacBook Air was my only machine then I would have invested in more onboard storage but for the role I need it to fulfil, I reckon I’ve hit the sweet spot.

It feels inviting to work on for long periods, comfortable, quick and super-efficient. Choosing 16 GB was a great decision and as I start to edit on here more and more – at least basic edits – that choice will become an even more important one.

Far from being a frivolous plaything this MacBook Air, even at this mid-range spec feels a serious player. Sure, at £1700 it’s not cheap but it’s sure as heck of a lot cheaper than my £4000 MacBook Pro.

I’m able to achieve what I set out to – leave my MacBook Pro safely at home and come out the door with only this MacBook Air without sacrificing my productivity.

Starting to use Final Cut was just the icing on the cake. Not only will it work fine on here – as I say at least for shorts and basic edits, but I have begun to use it just in time for my first iPad Pro. What Final Cut is like to use on the iPad I have no idea but at least now I can try it for myself.

Just when I thought I couldn’t get more bogged down in Apple’s ecosystem, it happened.

The M3 15-inch MacBook Air and Final Cut Pro – seem to be a match made in productivity heaven.

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