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On Monday, Apple unveiled its latest MacBook Airs: a 13-inch and 15-inch Air now packing its M3 chip. Aside from dual-monitor support and Wi-Fi 6E support, that’s the whole update. If you know anything about M3’s performance, and you’re up to speed on Apple’s modern MacBook Air design, that’s about all that’s new with these two laptops.

As boring as this update might be, it’s actually a testament to how good Apple’s hardware is right now. Barring any unexpected issues, bringing the excellent M3 chip to the great design of the 13 and 15-inch MacBook Airs is a winning combination. These machines will suit many, if not most, users looking to buy a Mac, as most of us don’t need the additional power and features that come with the much more expensive MacBook Pro line.

But here’s the thing: Most of us don’t even need the additional power and features of the M3 MacBook Airs, nor those offered by the similar M2 lightweight Macs. In fact, most of us will still find the most value in Apple’s 2020 M1 MacBook Air.

The M1 MacBook Air is still a powerhouse

Apple’s flagship M-series Mac, the M1 MacBook Air, is still a fantastic computer over three years after its release. In fact, any of the M1 machines are still performing just about as well as they did when first released. (I’m typing this up on an M1 iMac, FYI.)

Much of that success comes from Apple’s end-to-end control of the hardware and software of its new Macs. Not only is the M1 chip still a capable piece of tech in its own right (it dramatically outperforms i9 Intel Macs), Apple is able to optimize macOS to that chip specifically, in a way it wasn’t able to do with its Intel lineup. So, where an Intel Mac started struggling with newer versions of macOS, or losing out on features newer Macs were enjoying, M1 feels like a fresh experience even today.

From the software support side of things, M1 doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. While Apple does have a habit of supporting its machines for a while, it’s likely Apple silicon could break some records here, assuming the company doesn’t drop support for business reasons. Just take a look at the features page for macOS Sonoma: There is exactly one feature that requires M2 or newer—the ability to connect hearing devices to your Mac. A MacBook Air that dropped in late 2020 can run every other new macOS Sonoma feature, so you aren’t missing out on any of the newest macOS features by sticking with M1. We’ll see if Apple introduces more features this year that aren’t compatible with M1 (perhaps some generative AI options), but for now, M1 still appears just about as supported as any other Mac chip.

It’s to the point where you have to wonder if Apple has any regrets about how good M1 still is: The company doesn’t even advertise the speed boost from M2 to M3, and quietly says that the M3 MacBook Air is only 1.6 times faster than the M1 MacBook Air. That’s probably why the company discontinued the M1 MacBook Air following the M3 MacBook Air’s release. It’s easier to sell you on the M3 when the excellent M1 isn’t in Apple’s stores anymore.

It’s a ridiculously good value

All of these benefits come at an exceptional price for a Mac: Stores like Amazon regularly price the M1 MacBook Air at $750, which is $350 cheaper than the base M3 MacBook Air. That savings can be put to any number of uses: Maybe you want to add an iPad 9 to your setup, or a Series 9 Apple Watch. But I’d say if you’re looking to burn that gap between device prices, you’d be better off choosing an M1 Air with 16GB of RAM. While you can get by with 8GB of RAM, doubling it will ensure you can keep more tasks running on your Mac without running into hiccups, while likely increasing the overall lifespan of your device.

It might be hard to find an M1 Air with 16GB of RAM new, but renewed and refurbished devices can offer the same benefits. For roughly the same price as a M3 MacBook Air with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, you can pick up an M1 Air with double the RAM, and sometimes double, quadruple, or octuple the amount of storage, depending on the seller.

If you can swing it, an M1 Air with 16GB of RAM will serve you well for quite some time to come, and will likely be able to handle more tabs and tasks than an M3 Air with 8GB of RAM.

The M2 MacBook Airs are a great value, too

But let’s not discredit the M2 MacBook Air. After all, there are perks to buying something a bit newer. For one, the design language is more modern: The M2 MacBook Air is boxier, like the rest of the current MacBook lineup, while the M1 MacBook Air uses the tapered-off look Apple’s Airs had for years. The newer Air has a cutout for the upgraded webcam, and a display that pushes close to the edge, while the M1 has a large border. It’s not a bad look by any means, but it does look dated compared to newer devices.

MagSafe could also be a dealbreaker: Why Apple abandoned the charging platform, I’ll never understand, but it is back with the M2 MacBook Air. The M1 still uses USB-C only for charging, which is super convenient as most of our devices use the standard. But magnetic chargers just make sense, and it’s a great perk the M2 offers over the M1.

You also get a chip that’s one generation newer. You’ll always get at least an eight-core GPU (the base model Airs came with seven), and Apple should, theoretically, support the M2 a bit longer than M1—but we can’t predict the future. Plus, if you want a larger laptop, you’ll need to go with an M2, as Apple never made a 15-inch M1 MacBook Air. (However, Apple did discontinue the 15-inch M2.) In all, the M2s are more modern, a bit faster, and offer some more choices for certain customers.

The M1 is still, in my view, the better overall value when you compare dollars and cents, but now that the M3 is out, the tide is turning a bit. Apple dropped their price for the M2 by $100, so now an M2 Air with 8GB of RAM starts at the classic $999 price point. That cost will go up as you upgrade the machine: You’ll spend another $200 to bump up to 16GB of RAM, and any changes to GPU or storage will only raise the price more.

However, keep an eye on third-party retailers and refurbished marketplaces. As M3 takes over as Apple’s newest MacBook Air standard, stores should start cutting the price of M2 MacBook Airs, even if only intermittently. That hasn’t happened yet, since the announcement was just this morning, but you can find good deals on refurbished M2 Airs. Amazon has a base model 13-inch for $879. That’s a great price for the M2 and all its perks, and I imagine it would be worth $130 for some buyers to have MagSafe, a better camera, a more modern design, and a slightly newer chip over the M1 Air.

Look, if you want the newest and best machines Apple has to offer, you can’t go wrong with these M3 MacBook Airs. They’re going to be great laptops, and offer the most “Mac” you can get at this time—at least, without jumping into “Pro” territory. But when it comes to the best value you can get out of your purchase, that little MacBook Air from 2020 is still the gold standard. (Sorry, Apple.)

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