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15-inch MacBook Air making work fun

My new MacBook Air has given me a fresh lease of life!

15-inch MacBook Air with M3 Apple silicon

I bought this M3 15-inch MacBook Air much as I buy many of my other Macs. I knew I wanted to test out the M3 chip with 16 GB of memory, but outside of that, I wasn’t expecting too much from it.

I was trading in a 13-inch M2 MacBook Air with Apple to buy it – but that MacBook never felt part of the family. Has that ever happened to you? It’s odd but outside of reviewing it, I never thought to use it daily or take it out with me.

But with my latest MacBook Air nothing could be further from the truth. I now find myself reaching for this one all the time. There is something about it that I find highly addictive.

Whereas the older M2 MacBook Air tended to sit at the back of my desk and out of sight, this one seems to force itself on me.

MacBook Air getting it right

Having tried the M3 chip with just 8 GB of memory which is the spec I chose for my M3 iMac I kind of had a benchmark in mind before even opening up this new M3 Air – and in every single way it has exceeded those expectations.

The iMac was no mistake – I bought that in the base spec to write and make content and I’ve no regrets.

I haven’t fallen into that trap that so many creators do of buying a Mac and returning it the moment the 14-day grace period is up – which is still one of Apple’s most generous gestures if you ask me. I keep the Macs I buy – I almost felt guilty when trading in that 13-inch MacBook Air – I’m that straight down the line with this stuff.

That iMac lives at the studio where I routinely use it to record all the audio for my videos using Adobe Audition. I also use the iMac for the kind of work it was designed for with just 8 GB of memory – I’ll answer comments from viewers on it, often finish up and post these blogs with it and do general email & admin work on it.

But this MacBook Air is a very different beast – with that extra 8 GB of memory it’s become my most heavily used MacBook in the month that I’ve owned it. It’s currently carrying out most of my day-to-day work – it’s that good.

Learning from mistakes

Part of the reason that the 13-inch MacBook Air never felt quite right for me was the specs – or rather the dimensions.

I know the USP of the MacBook Air range is ultra-portability but 13-inches just feels too small for me to carry out any decent, creative or productive work on. It too had 16 GB of memory and 512 GB of SSD storage, so it wasn’t that it wasn’t capable of delivering – it’s just it felt too cramped and uninviting.

Now part of that will be down to the work I do – sure, I get that – different strokes for different folks as they say, but the majority of my work is quite pixel-intensive. The fact that this time I chose the larger 15-inch model is without question what has made the difference – suddenly it feels like a proper work tool.

The display is gorgeous – that much I’m sure you’ll already know but this time around there is more of it! The 15.3-inch LED-backlit display with 500 nits of brightness packs a punch.

Now I know I’m about to commit a crime, but I can only speak as I find…so hear me out. Much of the time the MacBook Air sits alongside my M1 Max MacBook Pro. On paper that display should smoke the Airs – but it honestly doesn’t. The MacBook Pros display is XDR and most crucially it has 120 Hz ProMotion adaptive refresh rates – yet the smaller MacBook Air keeps pace with it.

Again this could be down to my use case – as much as I am an intensive user most of what I work on doesn’t involve rapid scrolling and jumping from app to app. I tend to work with static screens in one app at a time – and we’ll be looking at my go-to apps a little later on.

The keyboard too has been a real attraction for me. In the past, my setup has been to use a Magic Keyboard, Magic Mouse and trackpad with my MacBook Pro – and I didn’t realise what a sacrifice I was making.

By comparison, the Magic Keyboard feels pretty dead, flat and unresponsive. Oddly for someone who spends much of his week writing I am only a very average typer and certainly not a touch-typist…I wish!

So, I need all the help I can get and the keyboard on the MacBook Air does just that. It feels so much better balanced and more enjoyable to use. There is more tactility to it – I’m finding it hard to describe but it makes the writing part of my week more fun. The trackpad equally feels large and effortless to use too.

And that is probably the carry-away thing about the 15-inch M3 MacBook Air – it has just brought some fun back to my working week.

The engine room

Apple silicon is moving at pace.

I’ve bought & used Macs from all derivatives – M1, M2 and M3 and although the improvements may be incremental and iterative they are noticeable. The battery life is a given as is the quiet work environment that this Air offers – but it’s the fact that I have all the apps I need to work on this MacBook Air that is most impressive.

Apps these days are far more optimised that they perform better without taxing the system, OS and storage anywhere near as much as they used to. All that means I have everything loaded up on here and with that extra headroom of 16 GB memory I’ve not noticed any memory swapping or slowing down.

This M3 MacBook Air is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

I made a mistake when I wrote about my initial impression of it a few weeks ago when I said that at 15 inches it had lost some of that magical portability that the Airs have always been famed for. Well, I was wrong. I was coming from the 13-inch MacBook Air and compared to that it felt larger and heavier. But the moment you compare it to my MacBook Pro you are instantly reminded of just how lightweight this MacBook Air still is.

Part of my aim when buying this latest MacBook was to minimise how much I have to move the 16-inch MacBook Pro around. For that to be a reality it would have to be able to handle my weekly demands and daily workflow – if not all of it then a good portion of it.

So far – one month in and it is still amazing to me just how capable it’s proving to be. The apps that I need to work with are Dropbox (with Smart Sync), Lightroom, Photoshop, Ulysses, Audition and Final Cut Pro. Some are more demanding than others but overall they are a pretty intensive collection I’m sure you’d agree. Yet the Air has gobbled my demands up.

I have been experimenting with switching from Premiere Pro to Final Cut over the past couple of weeks. It’s too early for me to decide which I prefer and that’s for a different story anyway – but it’s just to point out that you can edit 4K video on this MacBook Air with no problem. For full transparency though, I’ve not yet tried a full edit on here with plugins etc. – the plugins are installed I just haven’t yet had time to see how it handles using them.

But it means that along with my Samsung T7 1 TB SSD, I can start a project on here, get the timeline in order, place the b-roll etc and then carry on editing when I’m back home on the MacBook Pro. Soon though, I intend to test out this MacBook Air fully and see if it can handle a full edit. I’m excited to test it out and at this point, I have to say I’m pretty optimistic.

It’s a wrap

The M3 MacBook Air has sucked up all that I’ve thrown at it – multilayered Photoshop documents, Lightroom edits with presets and podcast editing have all been a breeze.

This is such a well-priced MacBook – it brings the world of creativity to even more people. The model I’m working on costs £1799 which is around £2000 less than I coughed up for my MacBook Pro three years ago. And from where I’m sitting right now it’s pretty hard to spot £2000 worth of differences.

The 15-inch M3 MacBook Air is not only a working beast of a Mac – it’s also bloody good fun too!

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