Apple Adds ‘AI’ M3 Chip To MacBook Air Laptops

apple macbook air m3

Apple adds latest M3 chip to thin-and-light MacBook Air laptops as it touts on-device AI capabilities, looks for sales recovery

Apple has introduced new MacBook Air laptops with its latest M3 chips and other upgraded features, including support for two external monitors, marketing the new processors as offering a performance boost for applications using on-device artificial intelligence (AI).

The generative AI tools that have surged in popularity over the past year, such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT, mostly run in the cloud, but on-device AI capabilities are expected to help drive a recovery in sales of laptops, smartphones and other personal devices this year, following a two-year post-pandemic slump.

Apple said enhancing an image with AI using Photomator’s Super Resolution feature is up to 40 percent faster than with the 13-inch MacBook Air model with the M1 chip, and 15 times faster than with older MacBook Air models using Intel chips.

The company switched from Intel to its own Apple Silicon chips, based on ARM designs, in 2020.

apple macbook air m3
Image credit: Apple

‘Best for AI’

The M3 chip’s 16-core Neural Engine, along with accelerators in the CPU and GPU to boost on-device machine learning, make the new MacBook Air “the world’s best consumer laptop for AI”, Apple said.

The shift in marketing comes after firms began marketing new Windows laptops as “AI PCs”. Apple did not mention AI when it launched the M3 chip in MacBook Pro laptops and iMac desktops last October.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook said last week the company was “investing signficantly” in AI and would make a major announcement later this year, prompting speculation the news may come at the firm’s Worldwide Developer Conference in June.

Industry watchers have speculated the announcement may include Apple’s own large language model (LLM) running locally on Macs and mobile devices such as iPhones and iPads.

apple macbook air m3
Image credit: Apple

On-device power

The new MacBook Air laptops offer sharper 1080p webcams, support for faster Wi-Fi networks and up to 18 hours of battery life, with a design that remains unchanged from earlier models.

Apple reported $7.78 billion (£6.1bn) in Mac revenue in its fiscal first-quarter earnings report, less than 1 percent growth year-on-year, following a sales in the previous quarter than were down by one-third year-on-year.

At World Mobile Congress in Barcelona last month Qualcomm launched a library of 75 pre-optimised AI models for deployment on smartphones, laptops and automobiles, while smartphone makers including Samsung Electronics, Honor, Xiaomi and Oppo have all begun introducing AI features that run locally on phones, including instant translation and “magic” photo-editing tools.