back to article Apple gets in on the AI PC hype, claims fanless M3 MacBook Air is fab for LLMs

Four months after Apple launched its M3 processors alongside refreshed MacBook Pros, the chips have finally arrived on the iGiant's fanless ultra lite laptops. Apple refreshed its 13-and 15-inch MacBook Air devices Monday, adding support for base M3 silicon, though if you want the beefier M3 Pro or Max chips you'll have to …

  1. FirstTangoInParis Bronze badge

    Dual monitors

    Good to hear that’s finally happened. I’m using a dual display link adapter but it has issues and doesn’t work under all circumstances. What with HP biz laptops routinely supporting 3 monitors, it’s about time.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Dual monitors

      Yes, I went with a single 44" 4K monitor in the end, instead of dual 24" 1080p displays.

      I generally have my work windows spread across the main display and Teams on the internal display. Not ideal for many, but it works nicely for me. Glad to see there are more options going forward.

  2. aerogems Silver badge

    Not sure why Apple really cares. Their Mac business has become something of an afterthought with the success of the iPod and then iPhone and iPad. So much so, they dropped "Computer" from the company name many years ago. At this point, their entire Mac lineup is essentially just iPads in a different form factor and able to run the full version of macOS, not it's stripped down cousin iOS/iPadOS. So, why they are even bothering to try to goose sales of those systems is kind of a mystery. Maybe they ordered a few too many M3s from the fab and need to offload them? During my time at Apple, I was a product analyst for the Mac line, and they gave that one to me largely because it was so low volume compared to other product lines. I was splitting my time with another function that was a lot more high volume and business critical, if very unsexy.

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Have you actually used a Mac with Mx CPU?

      It's another league and above very much anything that is currently on the market in terms of laptops.

      I am saying that as someone who dislikes Apple and hopes that one day a similar quality, but Linux capable machine is going to be released. I know there is Asahi Linux for Mac, but it is rather still being developed.

      1. aerogems Silver badge
        WTF?

        What does that have to do with anything I said? Can you refute the fact that Apple's Mac lineup, at the hardware level, is fundamentally the same as an iPad Pro in a different form factor? Can you refute the fact that Apple's Mac business is basically a rounding error on their balance sheet? Can you refute the fact that Apple spends very little time and effort promoting their Mac lineup compared to the iPhone/iPad?

        I never once made any kind of comment about the quality, performance, battery life, or anything else. Unless you think that the quality, performance, and/or battery life, etc, of the iPad Pro is shite, but that's your own personal projection, not anything I said.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Your shilling for the borg is getting a bit old.

        2. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

          The laptops are nothing like ipads. I'm not sure what you are smoking?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "It's another league and above very much anything that is currently on the market in terms of laptops."

        I just grabbed a new 17" HP Omen laptop with a 4080 GPU on sale for just over 1300 Euro. AI development needs serious horsepower. Macs (and the vast majority of laptops in general) simply cannot deliver.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Not sure why Apple really cares. Their Mac business has become something of an afterthought with the success of the iPod and then iPhone and iPad. So much so, they dropped "Computer" from the company name many years ago. At this point, their entire Mac lineup is essentially just iPads in a different form factor and able to run the full version of macOS, not it's stripped down cousin iOS/iPadOS."

      I guess they care because they have a better understanding of the value and importance of their Mac business than you have. Suggesting the line doesn't matter is silly when Apple not just transitioned the whole Mac lineup to another processor platform but also to one which was completely developed in-house, a very complex and costly endeavor one does not do for a product line that is not at the center stage of it's vendors business strategy. And to suggest Macs are just iPads is just plain stupid on so many levels.

      The fact is that, right now, Macs offer the by far best performance-per-Watt ratio of any general purpose computing platform, which gives even an entry-level MacBook Air the ability to run for almost a day on battery while offering a performance that is on the same level as some of the fastest intel and AMD processors, the latter which also require a lot more energy to be able to achieve their performance. And because Macs now use UMA they are perfect for training large AI models which most of all needs lots of GPU memory. And <$8k Mac Studio M3 Ultra offers more GPU memory (128GB) than even Nvidia's top-of-the-range DC GPU H100 (80GB), a GPU which alone comes with a hefty price tag of $32k (if you can find one, that is).

      1. aerogems Silver badge
        FAIL

        That's a whole lotta words to say, "You're making my Apple boner go limp!"

    3. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      I'd agree with you that in terms of the bottom line, the revenues are a rounding error.

      Try and think of it like this, along with the high-margin, low-maitenance creatives that have tradionally regularly handed over cash, Macs are also needed to develop apps for the mobile devices: no developers, no apps.

      1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        no developers, no apps.

        That could be a song.

      2. aerogems Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        I can only upvote you one time, so you'll have to settle for a thumbs up in lieu.

        1xThumbs Up for being the only person who actually responded to the points of my post instead of making a whiny ad hominem

        1xUpvote for actually providing a valid use case I hadn't considered

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "the only person who actually responded to the points of my post instead of making a whiny ad hominem"

          "Ad hominem" - you keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.

          PS

          You smell funny, so anything you say is wrong.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mac Can-can

    I'll have to try this Oohlala model on my MoulinRouge Air laptop ...

  4. ldo

    All Apple’s Machines Are Glorified Laptops Now

    Even their desktop machines are basically laptops in bulkier cases.

    And as for the market serviced by the old Mac Pro ... seems they have given up on that altogether.

    1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

      Re: All Apple’s Machines Are Glorified Laptops Now

      "Even their desktop machines are basically laptops in bulkier cases."

      You could say literally the same about any manufacturer. Laptops and PCs are generally all variants on the same core chip or SoC, with different ancillary devices like battery, screen, power supply and active cooling added on dependent on the use case.

      The only real 'different' devices these days are servers. And even - many to use the same core silicon with the R&D budget expended on GPUs.

      1. ldo

        Re: literally the same about any manufacturer

        No you couldn’t. My desktop box, less than a year old, that I am using right now is a proper expandable workstation, with slots for PCI-E cards and additional RAM. That’s more than any “laptop” will give you.

  5. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

    "But, if you buy Apple's claims, that's the equivalent of 16GB on a Windows PC because efficiency."

    It's 'because' SoC. Efficiency is the byproduct.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "It's 'because' SoC. Efficiency is the byproduct."

      That's nonsense. An SoC simply means auxiliary components are integrated with the CPU and GPU on the same die.

      Besides, AMD's Ryzen and Epyc processors are also SoCs.

      What makes Apple Silicon perform so well is its fast I/O (the basic M3 already has a 100GB/s memory bus, plus a clever cache and paging strategy) and UMA (which avoids having to move GPU data between RAM and GPU memory).

      Still, while even with just 8GB RAM Macs are very fast for many tasks (and often feel snappier than a Windows PC with double the RAM amount), data doesn't miraculously get smaller just because it runs on a Mac.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

        "An SoC simply means auxiliary components are integrated with the CPU and GPU on the same die."

        I admire how you just casually throw 'simply' into that sentence.

        "What makes Apple Silicon perform so well is its fast I/O (the basic M3 already has a 100GB/s memory bus, plus a clever cache and paging strategy) and UMA (which avoids having to move GPU data between RAM and GPU memory)."

        You just described Apple's SoC. Which is my point. Well done.

      3. gnasher729 Silver badge

        There are some more differences: One is hardware compression. If you run out of memory, memory first gets compressed with basically zero cost. That lets you work without swapping to disk until you use much more than the available RAM. Say 10 instead of 8 GB. This also makes swapping a bit faster, because you write and read caressed data.

        Then the fact that you are swapping to a very fast SSD so a few GB swspping doesn’t slow you down. And last because the processors are fast you can be much more aggressive removing say decompressed images.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          > you write and read caressed data

          Hmmm, Apple data, just want to..

          1. very angry man

            Apple data? Does that come with custard or ice cream?

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      No, it's a segmentation strategy designed to upsell more memory at considerably more profit.

      1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

        Regardless of whether you're correct, that doesn't negate my point.

    3. big_D Silver badge

      It isn't just the SoC, macOS is more economical on memory.

      My Windows laptop died a few months back and I was waiting to see what the next generation Intel processors with NPU brought to the game, so I dug out the MacBook Air M1 we used for our old MDM solution for managing our phone fleet. It had been sitting in a cupboard gathering dust for 18 months.

      It was the base model, with 8GB RAM and 256GB storage.

      My Windows laptop had been expanded from 8 to 16GB, because Teams brought it to its knees, when there was a 5 way or more conference. I'd generally have to start closing every other application to stop Teams stuttering. With 16GB, it was usable.

      The MBA with 8GB is just as usable as the Windows laptop was with 16GB - and the MBA is running Windows 11 on ARM with a couple of legacy applications that don't have a Mac equivalent, plus the relevant anti-malware software running on both sides! Performance wise, it doesn't feel any slower than the Windows notebook, which was about the same age. The new 13th Gen. laptops of my colleagues feel a little faster at some tasks - mainly those legacy programs that are running in the Windows VM - but not noticably so, that I am screaming for a new laptop...

      I'll probably wait until the MBA dies or wait and see what this years Intel and Qualcomm chips bring to the mix, before I get a new Windows laptop.

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