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Is the $699 M1 MacBook Air a Good Deal? What You Need to Know

 Is the $699 M1 MacBook Air a Good Deal? What You Need to Know


When Apple released the M3 MacBook Air earlier this month, it dropped the M1 model from its lineup and positioned the M2 MacBook Air as the new budget option at $999. Now budget buyers have an even cheaper option with Walmart bringing back the M1 Macbook Air and selling it for $699.

If you’ve eyed the new M3 MacBook Air but balked at Apple’s $1,099 starting price for it and don’t think the M2 model at $999 is that great a deal either, then you’ve likely struck out searching for an M1 MacBook Air on the cheap. It has been increasingly difficult to find the M1 model in new condition as stock has dwindled at retailers. 

You have likely encountered more used or refurbished units than new M1 models. I can find only renewed models on Amazon and a handful of open-box listings at Best Buy in various conditions. That’s what makes the M1’s return at Walmart newsworthy. In fact, Walmart will be the exclusive third-party seller of the M1 Air, so don’t expect a price war to break out with Amazon and Best Buy limboing below Walmart’s $699 price. 

The $699 price is certainly eye-opening and matches the lowest price the M1 MacBook Air ever hit on Amazon. But is it a good buy, considering the age of the laptop and the advances Apple has made moving from the M1 to the M2 and now to the M3 chip?

M1 vs. M2 and M3 Air

The M1 MacBook Air was released in November 2020. It offered a huge leap in performance from the previous Intel-based MacBook Air. Fast forward nearly three-and-a-half years, however, and you arrive at the M3 MacBook Air that Apple launched earlier this month. We tested it and unsurprisingly found the M3 Air’s performance was significantly better than that of the M1 Air. Even if you don’t think you need the added performance, the newer processor means the M3 model will have a longer useful lifespan.

Still, at $699, the M1 MacBook Air at Walmart is a whopping $400 less than the $1,099 M3 Air at Apple. Amazon currently has a new M3 model discounted to $1,050 ($50 off the regular price), but that’s still $350 more than the M1 Air at Walmart. And the best I can find for the M2 MacBook Air is $100 off at Best Buy and selling for $899. 

Here are the best MacBook Air prices right now:

Other than performance, what else are you sacrificing in choosing the M1 Air? It has a slightly smaller screen at 13.3 inches than the 13.6-inch display you get with the M2 and M3 models. The larger displays are also brighter at 500 nits than the 400-nit panel of the M1. The webcam resolution gets a bump, too, going from a 720p camera in the M1 to a 1080p camera on the newer models. And cosmetically, the M2 model introduced a flatter, boxier enclosure than the tapered design of the M1 Air.

For students on tight budgets, I’d recommend the M1 MacBook Air without hesitation. My personal laptop is an M1 MacBook Pro from 2021, and it shows no signs of slowing down, so I’d fully expect the M1 Air to last through four years of school (assuming you’re not doing demanding, graphics-intensive tasks). For others with a bit more wiggle room in their budget, it’s hard to argue against grabbing the latest M3 MacBook Air for $1,050. And I’d wager that it won’t be too long before you see it drop to $1,000.

What about the middle option? I think the M3 model is worth an extra $150 when viewed against the M2 Air, so I’d say you take the low road and grab the M1 Air for $699 or spend more now on the M3 model and get a MacBook Air that you’ll have for years and years.

Two other budget laptop options

The above models are all the 13-inch MacBook Air, but I wanted to point out to budget shoppers another good deal available right now on the 15-inch MacBook Air with the previous M2 chip. It’s currently on sale at B&H for $999, which is $300 less than the current 15-inch M3 Air. It provides a bigger display without incurring the higher price of a MacBook Pro. And at only 3.3 pounds, it remains highly portable.

Read more: Best Budget Laptop for 2024

The other option is one of our favorite budget Windows laptops, the HP Pavilion Aero 13. It’s more upscale than your average Pavilion and starts at only $450. It weighs only 2.2 pounds and its processing performance is competitive with the M1 Air. And even with upgrades to the RAM and SSD, it rings in at a very reasonable $560, more affordable than the most affordable MacBook Air. 



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