Apple’s new MacBook Pro M3 range puts other laptops on notice

Apple MacBook Pro M3 laptop

At the heart of Apple’s “Scary Fast” event was its faster and more efficient M3 chips. Alongside a new 24-inch iMac, 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro laptops are the first to benefit from Apple’s M3 silicon. Here’s the lowdown on why they are even more capable than ever.

M3’s many benefits

In a nutshell, the M3 is a more significant upgrade than the M2, largely because of the new 3-nanometer technology used to build it. This allows more transistors to be squeezed into the same space as its predecessors, resulting in greater performance. Also, more work can be done using less energy, so the M3 boasts incredible efficiency gains over M1 and M2 and Intel-based laptops.

The 14 and 16-inch MacBook Pros will also be the first on the market to sport Apple’s massively uprated GPU (graphics processing unit). This uses Dynamic Caching to allocate the use of local memory in real-time so only the exact amount of memory needed is used.

The GPU also gets new hardware rendering tech, meaning that both Mesh Shading and Ray Tracing are computed by the chip, rather than in software. These features enhance the performance of intensive 3D and animation tools as well as high-end 3D games.

There’s also a bump to memory with the M3 Max supporting up to a massive 128GB of unified memory, which opens up workstation-class workflows on high-end applications. Interestingly, the memory configurations depend on the chip itself, so for example, the base level M3 chip will offer 8GB, 16GB and 24GB, while the M3 Pro models have 18GB and 36GB, and the M3 Max supports 48GB, 64GB and 128GB.

And just in case two monitors weren’t enough, the new M3 Max can support up to 4 external monitors, all running 6K resolution, in addition to the internal display. However, this scales down with the other chips, with the M3 supporting a single external monitor up to 6K, and models with the M3 Pro chip will support two external monitors running up to 6K each.

In terms of all day use, Apple says that the M3 MacBook Pro will last 22 hours running on battery power. While this rating is for watching continuous video from Apple TV, we expect less for more intensive applications. Keep in mind that the 14-inch MacBook Pro running the M3 Pro or M3 Max is only rated for 18 hours, as the extra processing power and small battery size limit its capabilities. Moving to the 16-inch model, however, the bigger case means a larger battery, so it’s back up to 22 hours. Still, it seems nothing on the market can compete with the M3’s performance-per-watt capabilities, meaning a huge amount of processing grunt over sustained period without being connected to a wall socket.

MacBook Pro M3 hardware and design

Apart from the new capabilities that the M3 brings, there doesn’t appear to be major changes to the MacBook Pro’s design or insides. For example, the cooling architecture, battery sizes and other components are largely the same. There are a few little things, however, such as the entry level M3 model has seen a rejig of its USB-C ports, so now there are two Thunderbolt 4 connectors on the left and a non-Thunderbolt port on the right.

MacBook Pro M3 keyboard

The Liquid Retina XDR display has been tweaked across the range, with a 20 percent brighter SDR screen mode of 600 nits.

Lastly, there’s a new Space Black case colour. This looks absolutely amazing and very ‘stealth’, and Apple has even used special coating to reduce the appearance of fingerprints, which is something that the dark ‘Midnight’ colour on the MacBook Air suffers from. However, it appears that only the mid-tier M3 Pro and top tier M3 Max models offer Space Black, with the base M3 coming in Space Grey and Silver, so you’ll have to pony up more cash if you want this cool look.

Performance claims

While we wait for review units, Apple has provided some performance comparisons with older M1 and Intel-equipped MacBook Pros:

  • The 14‑inch MacBook Pro with M3 is up to 60 per cent faster than the 13‑inch MacBook Pro with M1.
  • Units with the M3 Pro chip produce even greater performance, thanks to more unified memory, and now up to 40 per cent faster than the 16‑inch model with M1 Pro.
  • New MacBook Pros with the top-end M3 Max are 2.5x faster than the 16-inch MacBook Pro with M1 Max and up to 11x faster than the fastest Intel-based MacBook Pro model.

MacBook Pro M3 price and availability

The 14-inch MacBook Pro comes with all 3 flavours of M3 chip, while the 16-inch model is more performance-oriented and skips the base M3, offering just the M3 Pro and M3 Max.

The new MacBook Pro range is now available for order on Apple’s store. Deliveries and in-store availability begin on 7th November.

14-inch MacBook Pro M3 starting prices:

  • M3: $A2,699
  • M3 Pro: $A3,499
  • M3 Max: $A5,599

16-inch MacBook Pro M3 starting prices:

  • M3 Pro: $A4,299
  • M3 Max: $A5,999

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