The M3 MacBook Air supports dual external monitors... but only with its lid closed

M3 Macbook Air
(Image credit: Apple)

Apple just announced the new M3 MacBook Air, and alongside performance improvements, there’s also a feature users have been clamoring for — albeit with a catch.

Both 13-inch and 15-inch M3 MacBook Air models will now support up to two external displays instead of just one with the previous M2 model. That said, Apple’s definition of dual monitor support might be a little different from what you had in mind. 

The M2 Air could support one external display and the built-in Liquid Retina display, while the new M3 Airs can support two external displays, but only if the laptop is in clamshell mode. That means that, while this is technically an improvement with Apple’s newest MacBooks, the experience isn’t as different as the press release would lead us to believe.

For many, the chip improvements justify purchasing an M3 Air when it becomes available in Apple Stores and other retailers on March 8. But if you were expecting to use your MacBook Air’s display plus two external monitors, then unfortunately, that is not the case.

Luckily, you can achieve dual monitor support and continue to use your MacBook’s display by using one of the best docking stations available alongside external software like DisplayLink.

The M3 MacBook Air starts at $1,099 for the 13-inch model and $1,299 for the 15-inch option. Both models are available for preorder right now.

More monitors, the same amount of desktops

As someone who only uses a MacBook in clamshell mode when connected to an external monitor, the improvement here is a system seller. That said, for many of my colleagues, the inability to use two external monitors and the Air’s display makes the improvements far less appealing.

When it comes down to it, the M3 Air is a huge improvement over the previous generations, with Apple claiming up to 60% performance improvement over the M1 model. We’ll know more about how the new MacBooks compare with the M2 models once we get our hands on a review unit. Stay tuned to iMore for more M3 MacBook Air coverage.

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John-Anthony Disotto
How To Editor

John-Anthony Disotto is the How To Editor of iMore, ensuring you can get the most from your Apple products and helping fix things when your technology isn’t behaving itself.

Living in Scotland, where he worked for Apple as a technician focused on iOS and iPhone repairs at the Genius Bar, John-Anthony has used the Apple ecosystem for over a decade and prides himself in his ability to complete his Apple Watch activity rings.

John-Anthony has previously worked in editorial for collectable TCG websites and graduated from The University of Strathclyde where he won the Scottish Student Journalism Award for Website of the Year as Editor-in-Chief of his university paper. He is also an avid film geek, having previously written film reviews and received the Edinburgh International Film Festival Student Critics award in 2019. 

John-Anthony also loves to tinker with other non-Apple technology and enjoys playing around with game emulation and Linux on his Steam Deck.

In his spare time, John-Anthony can be found watching any sport under the sun from football to darts, taking the term “Lego house” far too literally as he runs out of space to display any more plastic bricks, or chilling on the couch with his French Bulldog, Kermit.