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New M3 MacBook Air Models Can Drive Two Displays

Last November, Apple introduced the M3 chip family in the MacBook Pro and iMac lines (see “M3 Chip Family Boosts Performance for MacBook Pros and 24-inch iMac,” 1 November 2023). Now, the company has brought the M3 to the massively popular MacBook Air line, updating both the 13-inch and 15-inch models of the consumer-level laptop.

It wouldn’t have been surprising if Apple had introduced M3-powered versions of the Mac mini alongside these MacBook Air updates, but new Mac minis can’t be far behind. The Mac Studio and Mac Pro will also undoubtedly join the M3 party later this year once Apple completes the M3 Ultra chip.

The tech specs of the new M3-based models of the MacBook Air improve on the previous M2 models in three ways: increased performance, the capability to drive two external displays when the lid is closed, and support for Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3 wireless connectivity.

If you’ve been waiting for an M3 MacBook Air, you can order now, with availability starting 8 March 2024. Prices are essentially the same, with the 13-inch MacBook Air starting at $1099 and the 15-inch model starting at $1299. They’re available in silver, starlight, space gray, and midnight.

In keeping with Apple’s strategy of anchoring the low end of a lineup with a previous year’s model, the M2 13-inch MacBook Air remains available for sale starting at $999 with 8 GB of memory and 256 GB of storage.

M3 Chip Configurations

Although there are only two models of the M3 chip, how they’re used in the MacBook Air line may cause some confusion.

  • The standard M3 chip sports an 8-core CPU and a 10-core GPU, and it offers unified memory options of 8 GB, 16 GB, and 24 GB. It’s available as an option in the 13-inch MacBook Air and is the only choice in the 15-inch model.
  • The low-end M3 chip provides an 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU. It’s limited to 8 GB of unified memory and is available only in the 13-inch MacBook Air with 256 GB of storage.

Although it’s possible to upgrade a $1099 13-inch MacBook Air with the low-end M3 chip to the standard M3 chip for $100, paying $200 to upgrade the unified memory to 16 GB or the storage to 512 GB automatically upgrades you to the standard M3 chip for no extra cost. In other words, unless $100 is the tipping point for your budget or you legitimately have no use for 16 GB of memory or more than 256 GB of storage, avoid the low-end configuration of the 13-inch MacBook Air.

Expanded Display Support

One of the complaints about the M1 and M2 MacBook Air models has been that they can drive only a single external display along with the built-in screen. That was true even if you closed the lid and ran the MacBook Air in clamshell mode. If you wanted to drive two external displays, you had to move up to the MacBook Pro line.

In contrast, the M3 MacBook Air models can drive one external display at up to 6K resolution and a second display with up to 5K resolution… as long as you put the MacBook Air in clamshell mode by closing its lid. Of course, once you close the lid, you can no longer use the built-in keyboard and trackpad, so you need to provide those separately.

Speaking as someone who is still pondering the best Apple silicon replacement for a 27-inch iMac with 5K display and a secondary 27-inch Thunderbolt Display, this improvement extends the choices for a base-level Mac with two matched displays. Previously, I was weighing the differences between a Mac mini and an M3 Pro 14-inch MacBook Pro, both outfitted with a pair of Studio Displays. Now the M3 MacBook Air becomes portable competition for the Mac mini in that comparison. The M3 Pro 14-inch MacBook Pro offers more performance, a third screen, and a built-in keyboard and trackpad, but it costs a lot more and would require me to modify my standing desk to hold it.

Faster Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

It’s hard to get excited about the MacBook Air line’s move from Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) to Wi-Fi 6E (802.11axe) wireless connectivity. Apple added Wi-Fi 6E to the MacBook Pro and iMac lines in 2023, along with the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max.

Don’t misunderstand—there’s nothing wrong with Wi-Fi 6E, whose support for the 6 GHz band can be welcome if you’re in an area where the 5 GHz band is too crowded. But you need Wi-Fi 6E-capable gear to take advantage of it, and unless you have to replace an old router right away, it might be better to wait for prices to fall for equipment supporting Wi-Fi 7, since that spec was ratified recently. Faster Wi-Fi won’t improve the Internet experience for most people, given that the bottleneck is usually the Internet connection, not the local Wi-Fi network.

Apple also upgraded the MacBook Air models from Bluetooth 5.0 to 5.3, providing better connectivity, security, and audio. As with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.3 has slowly been making its way into Apple’s products, and it’s good to see the MacBook Air lineup move on from the older version.

Other Specs

In terms of size, weight, and form, the new M3 MacBook Air models are identical to the previous M2 MacBook Air models, featuring a slightly squared-off design instead of the tapered approach in the M1 13-inch MacBook Air. They still feature 13.6-inch (2560-by-1664 native resolution) and 15.3-inch (2880-by-1864 native resolution) Liquid Retina displays, and battery life of up to 18 theoretical hours remains unchanged.

Both MacBook Air models have a MagSafe 3 charging port, a 3.5 mm headphone jack, and two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports with support for charging, DisplayPort, Thunderbolt 3, and USB 4. If you want more ports, you’ll need to use a hub or move to the MacBook Pro line.

Purchasing Decisions

These new MacBook Air models are compelling for anyone buying their first MacBook Air, but do they provide sufficient improvements to prompt an upgrade? It all depends on where you’re coming from.

  • If budget is paramount, you can save a little money by purchasing the M2 MacBook Air for as little as $999, though adding memory or storage pushes you into a range similar to the M3 models.
  • If you’ve held onto an Intel-based Mac this long and are considering a MacBook Air, upgrade immediately to an M3 MacBook Air. The performance jump from any Intel-based Mac will knock your socks off, and the M3 models will enjoy a longer lifespan than their M2 counterparts.
  • For those—like me—with an M1 MacBook Air, the main reason to upgrade is if you need more performance than the M1 chip can provide. The M3 benchmarks show it to be 25% to 35% faster than the M1, and Apple cites more specific examples with larger gains. But if performance is a concern, also consider a MacBook Pro with an M3 Pro or M3 Max processor.
  • If you have an M2 MacBook Air, the M3’s performance gains of 10% to 20% probably aren’t significant enough to warrant upgrading.
  • Regardless of what you have now, if you want to drive two external displays from a laptop, the M3 MacBook Air models are a great buy. They’re much cheaper than the M3 Pro MacBook Pro models you’d otherwise need that start at $1999 for the 14-inch MacBook Pro and $2599 for the 16-inch model.

Are you planning to buy one of these new MacBook Air models?

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Comments About New M3 MacBook Air Models Can Drive Two Displays

Notable Replies

  1. I don’t need this, but I’m glad for those that do that they are finally doing this with the base M series processor.

    It looks like Apple also dropped the M1 MacBook Air at the same time (as well as the 15" M2 - the only M2 is the 13"). Now all MacBooks have MagSafe power (in addition to USB-C.)

  2. Nice for the portable crowd, but what I really want is a 27-30 inch iMac with upgraded chips

  3. You mentioned:

    For those—like me—with an M1 MacBook Air, the main reason to upgrade is if you need more performance than the M1 chip can provide.

    What about MacBook Pro M1 (2021) owners like me? Are we falling behind the MacBook Airs now in performance?

  4. GV

    Adam, I currently have a 2018 Mac Mini and I have been trying to decide between a 14" MBP (I prefer its keyboard over the MBA) and a Mac Mini. I don’t have a portable Mac (my wife has an M1 MBA) so the idea of a double-duty portable Mac is tempting. I do not plan to run two external displays. (I still use a 10+ year old NEC 1080p display LOL.)

    I also have a 5’ long standing desk, so I am wondering how you would have to modify your standing desk to accommodate a 14" MBP. One reason I have been kinda stuck regarding a portable Mac is figuring out how I would set things up so I can easily move from stationary to portable use. It would be a first for me so any insights will be appreciated.

  5. Can’t speak for @ace, but I’m assuming part of it is that he wants to use two large external displays with his MacBook on that desk.

    I have been using a 14" MBP (and before it a 13" and 15" MBP) in clamshell mode as my main “desktop” Mac for many years now. I spend a lot of time away from my desk, be it on travel or in the lab or at home, and after for many years having several Macs and dealing with syncing (and the added upkeep), I figured one beefy Mac to rule them all is better for me. Apple Silicon finally gives us true workstation power in a portable Mac. Thunderbolt gives us all we need for a truly dockable notebook. I choose 14" over 16" simply because I spend too much time on the go and don’t want the added weight/size to get in my way.

    At the desk I plug the 14" MBP into my CalDigit TB4 hub that connects to all my peripherals, my office Gigabit, and my 27" 4K screen. That also keeps it charged and allows me to use it as I used to use desktop Macs. When I go away from the desk (which I often do, hence the 14" MBP with its much nicer screen and speakers vs. a MBA) I just eject my external drives in Finder and after a brief pause to let the drives unmount (check blinking stops vs. just icon goes away in Finder) I yank the TB4 cable. Done.

    When I get back to the desk from using it on the go, I just plug it in, hit the shift key on my KB and it comes back to life and auto-mounts all the external drives plus reconnects to Gigabit and starts charging again. It’s all very nice and seamless. Window arrangement between on-the-go use with the internal display vs. clamshell mode on an external 27" used to be a bit iffy at times, but these days I rarely deal with anything more than perhaps moving a window to a more appropriate spot on the larger display.

    With Apple Silicon and TB4 I can only recommend the setup. Feel free to ask if you have any more questions about using a portable Mac as your “desktop” Mac.

  6. Nice. I was expecting this announcement, although I was expecting it in a few weeks at an event, not just something slipped onto Apple’s web site without any fanfare.

    And I’m glad to read about it, because circumstances (Firefox dropping support for macOS Sierra in August) means I am going to have to upgrade my 11" 2011 Air.

    Looking over the options, it looks like the 13" model, with 24G RAM and 512G storage (for $1700) will be my choice - with the expectation that it will last for at least 10 years before I will need to replace it again. Here’s hoping.

    Falling behind? Is there a competition somewhere? If your M1 still runs all the apps you use at a comfortable level of performance, why do you care? Of course, if you feel you need more power, then you should upgrade, but this was the case even before the M3 was announced.

  7. It’s fine. I was just curious if somehow the new, inexpensive Mac Airs actually beat my M1 MBP in performance now.

  8. I wonder if, given the M series, that all of them, from 1 through 3, with their subdivisions of Pro and Max and Ultra, are best considered as variants on a scale. All useful, all powerful, more punch and features as you move along, but broadly all ranging from good to excellent, depending on your needs.

    Kind of like the iPhones. Models 11 through 15 are all really good.

    I wonder if upgrade paths will slow down or is it just me? Time was I had a seven year window I considered for my Macs. Buy the best I could afford and then bank on a seven year use window with any excess being good fortune. My 2019 iMac still rocking along and while it’s no match for my 16" M1 Max MBPro, nonetheless both machines handle editing 4k multi stream video or my 100Mp RAW files…

    I think my usage is mapped to earlier requirements, why would I even think of upgrading either?

  9. Oh we most certainly are. This upgrade is impressive. Just consider what you’re now getting in a svelte 13" MacBook.

    The single-core performance is massively better thanks to an improved core and a significant clock increase. And in terms of multicore performance you can now get a 8-core 13" MBA that beats an M1 Max. Its Neural Engine is massively faster (main jump was M2 over M1) and the GPU has a lot of nice added goodies over even the M2s (better caching, h/w ray tracing and mesh shading). And all while using less power. These are without a doubt a sweet upgrade. Many of us will be fine sticking to our M1s, but if you need a new Mac today or you are finally getting around to replacing an old Intel Mac, these are awesome and there’s no reason to hold back. :slight_smile:

    Howard Oakley has cautioned repeatedly against using just simple benchmark figures. And rightly so. Instead he has written a beautiful series that investigates the various M1-M3 evolution steps (he uses the Pro to demonstrate because that’s what he got) and points out why it’s about more than just a benchmark figure. Here’s his conclusion which at the end contains links to all the detail parts of his series. Great read.

  10. Whoa. Two displays change everything. I’m a MBP 16" M1 user and got my wife a 15" MBA 6 months ago. I have always liked the weight of the MBAs.

    I don’t have a need for the ultra-mega-CPU/GPU power these days, and I don’t mind just a little lower resolution when I not connected to my Apple and LG Displays at my desk.

    I’ll resize my MBP to the MBA’s highest res to see how things look, but I might have a look at the Apple Store this week.

    If so, I’ll need to find a new home for the MBP 16 because I just can’t continue to keep every damn upgrade in my closet. :grinning:

  11. Interesting article.

    To be honest, I likely wouldn’t know the difference in speed against my M1 MBP since it is as fast as I need. If my MBP were able to go on a diet, I wouldn’t be thinking about the MBA.

  12. Oh, that surprised me. I’m thinking about replacing my wife’s Intel MBA with this new model, and I was assuming I’d go with the 1 TB configuration. Mainly for future-proofing against the ever expanding size of software installs in general, and macOS in particular. Maybe I don’t need that much?

  13. The most valuable bit for me was Howard’s advice about how to tell if you should upgrade from an M1 to an M3. I should really call this out in an ExtraBIT for all TidBITS readers to see.

    Rule of thumb for upgrading

    If you already have an Apple silicon Mac and are wondering whether to upgrade to an M3 model, you can use this rule of thumb as a way of working out which chip you’ll need.

    Load your current Mac up with the apps you normally use together when working, and watch their use in Activity Monitor’s CPU History window. If most or all of its P cores are fully occupied much of the time, and that workload often spills over to the E cores, then you should aim for an M3 with more P cores (Max); if there’s always adequate spare capacity on the Mac’s P cores, then you probably wouldn’t get much added value from an M3 with more P cores.

  14. My theory on upgrades…since I only do it every 6-7 years for my laptop.

    Skip the low end and get at least the medium one in the model spread. Skip the 16 and go with the 14/15 based on weight since it does get schlepped around when we travel. Always upgrade RAM and drive…my current 14 M1 has 32GB and 2TB but would upgrade this to 4TB next time so that my external Lightroom catalog and images drive can get backed up to the internal while I’m gone. Stick with the Pro…more ports, better screen, and more pixels on the screen.

    Wife on the other hand…just sticks with the lightest air…she’s currently got an M1 13 and doesn’t want any smaller than that as she has some vision issues…she only uses hers for Numbers/Pages, Firefox, and Mail mostly.

  15. I think these days Apple has us really well covered on the mobile Mac side. Probably better than ever before. You can get a very speedy MBA if portability is your primary concern. OTOH thanks to the tremendous performance of M3 and Apple now also offering a vanilla M3 14" MBP, people who don’t need more power but emphasize screen and audio quality can get a good deal too.

    I don’t need tremendous CPU performance and I need even less from my GPU. But since I spend a lot of time away from the desk, screen quality and speakers are important to me. I could probably be just fine with a vanilla M3 14" MBP as long as I deck it out with enough memory and SSD (and I am very happy with my M1 Pro 14"). My wife OTOH doesn’t really care too much about a high-quality screen, she prefers single-app mode and lower resolution for legibility. She doesn’t need more performance than I do, but she absolutely hates big and heavy. To her the thinner/lighter the better so the MBA is ideal. I have a postdoc here who runs several VMs side by side and is always maxxing out her cores. But like me, she also wants something that she can still bring onto (and use!) on coach. To her the M3 Max with 48 GB RAM all in a 14" is perfect.

    In the past, performance requirements tended to push us toward one end of the lineup. And often times those who wanted super light or small couldn’t get really nice performance. Nowadays it feels like almost everybody can get the portable Mac that suits their use almost perfectly. There is a bunch of stuff I don’t necessarily agree with Apple on, but I have rarely been so bullish about Mac before. The present portable lineup is spectacular and offers us more diversity than I think we’ve ever enjoyed before.

  16. My main desktop Mac has 2TB of storage. But for my laptop, I don’t need that much - just enough to hold my apps and a few actively-used documents. Everything else is stored elsewhere and is accessed via my home LAN.

    But my expected usage is probably not going to be yours.

  17. I think I’m finally tempted to upgrade my 2012 MBA ;-). The return of MagSafe seals the deal.

    Except for Photos app, I mostly use web based apps (including a CAD package, OnShape) and performance is fine. The only growing problem is that some websites explicitly won’t let you log in, or don’t display images with the Safari (15.6) that comes with Catalina.

    I’ve been keeping full size images on the Mac as a way to backup iCloud, so I may need to spring for extra disk space.

  18. Rats! I’d love to get one of the new MBAs when I upgrade my 16 MBP, but I love having the HDMI port available.

  19. Yeah, I’d find it hard to be without that and an SD slot.

    And yes I have a ‘pocket dock’ that is in my bag which has all the ports but still, never like using it.

  20. Or archive them to external storage. You can copy the files to an external storage device and then delete them from your internal storage. It won’t be as fast as internal storage, but if it’s just going to be an archival backup of files that are primarily stored in iCloud, that might not be a problem.

  21. GV

    Hi Simon, thanks for the interesting reply to my query. . . Since I only need a single external display, my system requirements are basic. I’m leaning toward a 14" M2Pro 16GB/512GB because I can get one as an Apple refurb for $1599. Over the years I’ve had really good experiences with various Apple refurbs. Being retired (photographer) my requirements are simple and speed isn’t important these days.

    I’m assuming that your are referring to the CalDigit Element hub. It’s amazing that plugging one cable from a Mac into a TB4 hub can do so much. I’ve read that the Element can become very toasty; have you experienced that & does it require pushing the Mac/hub, something I will never do? (I’m also considering an OWC 11-port TB 4 hub).

    My NEC display is limited to HDMI 1.x (I got it in 2012 for a song after it had been discontinued, so its tech is rather ancient). It’s a little hinky with my 2018 Intel Mini (Big Sur) but it seems to play nice using a Belkin HDMI to USB-C adapter with my wife’s M1 MBA (Monterey) so I hope that it will also work with Apple Silicon and a hub. The display is 1080p/sRGB and even after all these years it still has very good color accuracy and even backlighting (CCFL due to a bad experience with a first-gen MacBook Air and its LED display LOL).

    Choosing a higher-end display certainly paid-off in the long run. When it comes time to replace it I’ll likely go with an Eizo since NEC has stopped producing such displays since its merger with Sharp.

    My peripherals are pretty much old school but they work with the Mac Mini via USB-A and USB-C adapters. I’ll be adding external SSDs and the like as time moves on but the Samsung HDDs in old OWC Mercury Elite Pro Quad enclosures (Firewire 800, eSATA & USB 3.0) just keep on spinning.

  22. Well, that’s sort of what I am doing. So I still need to tell iCloud to keep full size images on the MBA. And then I backup the MBA to an external drive.

  23. Pardon me if I’m misunderstanding. It sounds like your procedure is:

    • Tell iCloud to keep the full images locally
    • Clone the local storage to an external backup.

    I’m thinking more along the lines of:

    • Download full-size images to a temporary location on your internal drive
    • Drag/drop the files to a folder on external storage
    • Delete the files from your internal drive (or if they’re on an iCloud drive, tell macOS to delete your local copy, leaving the file in iCloud).

    So you’ll end up with files in iCloud and on external storage, but not on your internal storage.

    Of course, if your images are in Photos and not individual files, then you’ll need to do something different. I think you can create a second Photos library on external storage, open it, and then import photos from your iCloud library.

  24. I’ve started to see some interesting discounts on M2 and M1 machines since the M3 MBA announcement. For example, here in the USA, I just saw that BestBuy has the 2022 13" M2 MacBook Pro w/24GB RAM, a 1TB SSD, and 2 years of AppleCare+ for $1399 if you are a “MyBestBuy Total” member.

    “Total” costs $179.99/year, so even if you need to buy a membership, that’s still more than $60 off the current BestBuy sale price with AppleCare. Amazon has similar deals on various Apple laptops.

    It’s nice to see a reasonable price on an Apple system with more than entry-level RAM and storage.

    It’s worth visiting a deal-tracking site before making a significant purchase. For example, if I were buying a new Mac laptop today, a 2022 M2 MBP with a Touch Bar normally would not be one of my candidates. However, having learned of the BestBuy sale price via the daily newsletter, I probably would add it to my “worth considering” list, despite the limited ports and the despised Touch Bar.

    Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with either BestBuy or TechBargains other than being a customer/reader.

  25. In my experience refurbs have been just fine. If the config you want is available, I see no reason not to go for it refurb. OTOH if you have a certain config in mind, I’d be very cautious about compromising on that just to save 10%. Apple is great when it comes to refurbs. Hardware appears (and IME behaves) as if new, with only the brown box being the tell tale sign. There’s no shenanigans and you can return items just as if you had bought new should anything not be to your liking.

    The CalDigit gets warm indeed, but nothing crazy. I’ve had TB hubs for every TB generation and unfortunately, they all got warm. The Elgato TB2 one I used to use was definitely worse. I don’t like it, mostly because it screams inefficiency (note none of them have internal power supplies so its not like the AC/DC power switching is the source of the heat), but it’s never been a real issue. I’ve never had any reliability issue that would make me skeptical of the heating. And it’s certainly never been to the point where it would have been too warm to touch so that I’d be concerned about safety.

    IME the CalDigit has been absolutely great. The one cable to rule them all aspect is still a bit magical to me, aside from being tremendously practical. The CalDigit TB4 hub is compact, offers exactly what I need, and makes the whole MBP setup truly dockable, almost like my old PowerBook Duo with its Dock. Just a whole lot better. :wink:

    Edit: just check out this massive progression we’ve come out of. :laughing:
    image image image

  26. Perhaps ill-advisedly, I tried travelling with the Element Hub. It comes unstuck because of the shortness of the TB cable and the massiveness of the power brick, but that’s not the hub’s fault. Still, I live in hope that it will be possible to travel with a hub like that, some day.

    I dunno how I feel about the Airs though. They’re lovely machines, but I’m now on my M3 Pro and loving it. More storage, more RAM, three ports. It’s clear that this is where I’m supposed to be, even though thin, light and plenty fast enough define the Airs to a tea. I guess if you know, you know, and if you don’t know, get an Air. :smiley:

    And does the multiple displays issue being fixed also coincidentally mean it’s now possible to mount two bus-powered SSDs at the same time, I wonder?

    Anyway, I have no doubt these machines will make their owners happy. The M2 MBAs really were a joy and no mistake.

  27. GV

    I appreciate the tips regarding Best Buy, Amazon and the TechBargains newsletter. I will take advantage of all three resources. Recently I’ve been using AppleInsider bargain tips (the link is for M3 14" MBPs). But there haven’t been any really good deals at the retailers it covers. I forget to check Best Buy/Amazon because I don’t associate them with BTO models so I will rectify that. I wish Costco would offer some non-stock models because I prefer to support a more employee-friendly company whenever possible.

    In the past I would get AppleCare+ especially for portable Macs but I stopped doing it. Since 1995 I’ve only needed it once with a 2006 24" iMac and only because I waited until after the one-year warranty had expired. (For those who may be on the fence about AppleCare+, Apple replaced the LCD panel, a repair that would have cost $1100 at the time.) However, I’m reconsidering it now that a renewable annual plan is available.

  28. GV

    I agree about compromising when it comes to one’s needs/wants and Apple refurbs. But in my experience if one is patient it is not unusual for BTO refurbs to become available. They can sell quickly if it is a popular model, so I often use Refurb-Tracker so I can snag a deal as soon as it appears online. Heck, with both email and text-alert options, you can be fast asleep and still have a really good chance at being first in line. In most cases I’ve gotten what I wanted within 7-10 days max.

    FYI, as far as I can recall Apple refurbs generally start at a 15% discount. An M2 Pro 16gb/512gb is currently $1599 or just shy of 16% off. An M3 Pro 18GB/512gb is $1699 or a smidgen over 15% off.

    Anyway, I’m not really compromising with a 16gb/512GB Mac. My current Mini is 8GB/512GB and after almost 3 years I still have 50% free space. The 8GB RAM was a downgrade from the 16GB I installed in my previous 2012 Mini. I wanted to see whether the minimum RAM would work for me at no real risk because the RAM can be upgraded. It turned out that 8GB is fine: I max-out at around 80% and writes-to-disk are reasonable. According to DriveDx the SSD currently has 98% of its useful lifetime remaining. Seeing as how I’m almost 70 years old, that SSD could outlive me. :upside_down_face: :wink:

    I figure that 16GB/512GB will be fine but if I can find a deal with more RAM I will probably go for it. The storage is less critical but I wouldn’t say nyet if the price is right.

    Regarding hubs, based on what I know fast TB hubs that are moving a lot of data can get very hot but I will never be doing that, so it isn’t a worrisome thing for me. One plus to the OWC 11-port is its 96w max charging for the host Mac. That puts it in the fast-charging range for an M2 MBP; the CalDigit tops-out at 60w which is doable for me & one can always plug-in the MagSafe port. So I’ll be counting ports, etc. as I try to make up my mind which one to buy. At current prices they are are within less than $50 of each other, so that isn’t a factor.

    I’m thinking of getting a vertical stand for the MBP to help with cooling and to free-up space on my desk. Do you happen to have stand feedback (any orientation)?

  29. Apple is once again using dual flash modules on all M3 MBA configs so even if you get a base 256 GB model, it will come with two 128 GB flash modules and hence returns to the good performance levels seen on the M1 model. Like seeing Apple responding properly to criticism! :slight_smile:

    [Warning: YouTube source is cringe]

  30. Nice. I wondered about this, and I thought it was weird that nobody was reporting about it one way or the other after the story came out about the M2 after it was released.

  31. It is hard to believe that the engineers didn’t think about that with the M2 - by using two chips they can double the throughput over using one, all other things being equal. It is a mystery and it is hard to believe that the cost of two chips, each with half the storage, is significantly greater than the cost of one.

  32. According to the MacRumors video, a single 128G flash chip costs slightly more than a 256G chip these days, so including two 128G chips for the base configuration more than doubles the cost for the storage.

    But not wanting to just take statements like this on blind trust, I’ve checked DigiKey (not usually the best prices, but reasonable for comparison.

    • A 1Tbit (that is, 128 Gbyte) NAND flash chip costs between about $25 and $100 (with one outlier costing about $135).

      I don’t know specifically what type of chip they’re using, and Apple gets bulk purchases directly from the manufacturer, so we can assume they’re paying less than this, but it should be good enough for comparison with larger chips from the same store

    • A 2 Tbit chip (256 GB) costs between about $45 and $120 (with one outlier costing about $200)

    So, at these retail prices, it would seem that MacRumors is incorrect - a 128G chip does not cost more than a 256G chip, although maybe they know more about the specific pricing for the chips Apple is actually using.

    But there is definitely a saving to using just one chip. If we compare the two lowest-cost entries, that would be about $5 (2 x 25 = 50 vs. 45). If we compare the highest-cost entries it would be about $80 (2 x 100 = 200 vs, 120).

    I assume Apple thought they could save a small amount with the M2 and people wouldn’t notice. But when they did notice (or the prices shifted so that the savings was no longer significant, since this is over a year later) they went back to using two chips for all configurations.

    But now I’m curious about the similar economies at higher capacities. So, going back to DigiKey…

    • For 4 Tbit (that is, a 512 GB chip), I see prices between about $80 and $180 (with an outlier at $320).

      So comparing (again, retail) costs between a computer with a single 512G chip vs two 256G chips, the saving (comparing the least-cost options) would be $10 (2 x 45 = 90 vs 80). And comparing the highest-cost options would be $60 (120 x 2 = 240 vs. 180)

    • And finally, for an 8 Tbit chip (that is 1TB), I see $150-230 (and not many choices - only 5 chips from two manufacturers).

      So comparing one vs two chips for 1TB of storage we see (comparing least cost options) a saving of about $10 (2 x 80 = 160 vs 150), and comparing the highest-cost options a saving of $130 (2 x 180 = 360 vs 230).

    In other words, depending on the specific chips and pricing agreements, there is a saving to go with one chip, but it’s probably not very much. Certainly nothing like what the MacRumors video said.

    Unless Apple’s bulk-purchase contracts have terms that completely skew the math (e.g. buying the smaller chips based on an old contract whose price is higher than today’s market price because it was signed several years ago). Which is definitely possible, but we’ll never know because those supply-chain contracts are going to be closely-held corporate secrets.

  33. 2022 was during the COVID-19 supply chain problem period so it’s possible Apple just couldn’t reliably get enough 128 GB modules and decided instead to use a single 256.

  34. I was going to add this though as well, which was a common guess back when it made the news. I also believe Apple has included med to high performing SSDs compared to stock on many computers, so that could have contributed to supply insecurity as well.

  35. Thanks for how you use the macbook. I’m in the same situation as GV: I have a 2018 mini but would like to upgrade so that I can use it at work when needed. I’ll have to read up on clamshell mode. I tried to wake up my son’s MBP and just couldn’t do it. Ended up having to open it up a bit. I’ll also have to look at the CalDigit TB4 hub.

  36. Clamshell mode works fine usually, but you need multiple conditions met for it to work. The Mac needs to be powered, it needs to be connected to an external display (that’s not junk), and it needs to be connected to some kind of input device (mouse or KB) through USB or Bluetooth.

  37. Yeah, clamshell can be kind of flaky at times. I go through stretches where it works fine and then without changing things where it requires a click with the lid open to get it to recognize the world. No rhyme or reason as far as I can tell.

  38. His had all those conditions. Yet it sure wouldn’t work for me. I asked him if it woke up and connected to the monitor consistently and he did say not always. Which makes me hesitate in getting a mac laptop. I need it to just work, not fiddle with it.

  39. Clamshell mode has worked flawlessly for me from day 1 with my MBP M1 Pro. Just guessing, but is it possible it’s related to this setting (System Settings > Battery > Options…)?

  40. I’ve used a wide variety of MacBook Pro models in clamshell mode over the years (since the PowerBook G4) and can count the number of problems I’ve had on less than two hands.

    It just works. With the newer macOS releases (13+) you do need to approve the connection of the various external devices (Thunderbolt hubs, USB devices, etc.) which occasionally do throw the proverbial wrench into things. But, unlike a Mini where if the display isn’t working you can’t do anything, you still have the built-in display/keyboard/trackpad to see what is occurring.

  41. I don’t believe my situation is related but I’ll toss it out there. I would guess that about 20% of the time (and usually but not always within three minutes of waking the MBA M1 in clamshell mode), my external display goes dark. It recovers after about three or four seconds. Very rarely, I’ll have a repeat during the same session. I have been unable to correlate it to anything.

  42. Lots of screws, clips, and connectors, but it looks pretty straightforward to do things like replacing the battery. A welcome improvement.

  43. Thanks. But after looking at this, I wonder why Apple needs adhesive strips at all. They are securing the top and middle parts of the battery with screws. It seems to me that two more in the lower corners would be enough to secure it without any adhesives.

    If there’s no room for new threaded posts, they could use the existing corner screw holes (for closing the case) and have a thin piece of the battery’s bracket extend over there, to be secured with the case screws.

  44. My RSS feed shows that refurbished M3 MacBook Airs became available starting on June 10. @ace maybe that’s worth a mention in a LittleBITS?

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