Apple’s “Scary fast” October event was indeed pretty fast with two major product announcements and the unveiling of third-generation Apple Silicon. The line-up for the M3 Mac devices has taken a slight detour this year as the Macbook Pros are the first to get the new Silicon alongside the 24-inch iMac, while the Macbook Air devices are yet to receive the upgrade, hopefully sometime next year.
Table of Contents
- The Apple M3 family of SoCs power the new Macbooks and iMac
- Macbook Pro 14-inch and 16-inch – Now powered by M3
- 24-inch iMac gets the M3 upgrade
- Availability and Final Thoughts on the new M3 Mac devices
The Apple M3 family of SoCs power the new Macbooks and iMac
The star of the show was definitely Apple’s third-generation silicon, formally known as the M3. The company announced a total of three variants of the SoC including the baseline M3 and the more powerful M3 Pro and M3 Max. These new chips are based on the 3nm Process Technology just like the A17 Pro, and they also bring features like hardware-accelerated Ray Tracing, Dynamic Caching, and more.
Apple M3 series Specifications
- CPU Core Count: 8-core (M3), 11/12-core (M3 Pro), 14/16-core (M3 Max)
- GPU Core Count: 10-core (M3), 14/18-core (M3 Pro), 30/40-core (M3 Max)
- Transistor Count: 25 billion (M3), 37 Billion (M3 Pro), 92 Billion (M3 Max)
- RAM Capacity: 24GB (M3), 36GB (M3 Pro), 128GB (M3 Max)
- Neural Engine: 16-core
- Process Technology: 3nm
- Thunderbolt: Thunderbolt 3 (M3), Thunderbolt 4 (M3 Pro and M3 Max)
Improvements to the M3 Mac devices
The biggest improvements to the M3 series come in graphics performance as the next-gen GPU architecture, first seen in the A17 Pro, and the technologies that came along made their way to the M3. This also includes Hardware-accelerated Ray Tracing making the first significant move towards gaming on Macs.
There is also Hardware-accelerated Mesh Shading and Dynamic Caching, and the SoCs are also built on TSMC’s 3nm Process Technology which is great for efficiency. That also affects CPU performance as the M3 series gets a significant bump over the M1 series. The improvements over the M2 series are more subtle.
Macbook Pro 14-inch and 16-inch – Now powered by M3
The first Macbooks to receive the third-gen Apple Silicon, are the 14-inch and 16-inch Macbook Pro devices. You get the option to choose from all three new SoCs, but the base M3 is only available in the 14-inch Macbook Pro while the M3 Pro and M3 Max are available for both models.
14-inch Macbook Pro
The smaller 14-inch Macbook Pro has been the go-to Macbook for a large number of Mac users and now with the upgrade to the 3rd-gen Apple Silicon, it’s also the most versatile M3 Mac of the bunch. Of course, the second generation of the device didn’t have an option to be configured with the base M2 chip.
One of the main reasons why users seem to love this specific device seems to be the compact form factor and of course, the 14.2-inch 120 Hz Mini-LED display that comes with it. While the display itself hasn’t changed much, the SDR brightness now maxes at 600 nits which is 20% (100 nits) higher compared to the previous generation. XDR brightness still maxes out at 1000 nits (sustained) while HDR brightness peaks at 1600 nits, and the resolution is 3024×1964 which is higher than the 2.8K OLED competition.
The battery sizes are different as the M3 variant comes with a 70Wh Battery and the M3 Pro and M3 Max variants come with a 72.4Wh Battery. However, the regular M3 config gets slightly better battery life (rated at 22 hours of video playback) compared to the Pro and Max configs (rated at 18 hours of video playback).
There is a cheaper $1599 model this year which gives you the base M3, 8GB RAM, and 512GB SSD storage. This model replaces the 13-inch Macbook Pro with the Touchbar and alongside getting a better display and a bigger battery, the starting price for a Macbook Pro officially went up. The M3 Pro variant still starts at $1999.
16-inch Macbook Pro
For those who need a bigger display, the 16-inch Macbook Pro is the one. Just like the smaller model, Apple hasn’t changed much about the device, but unlike its younger sibling, it does not come in a base M3 configuration and starts with 18GB RAM which is higher than last year (16GB).
The 16.2-inch Mini-LED display has a resolution of 3456×2234 and it now also peaks at 600 nits for SDR content. XDR and HDR brightness are still the same (1000 nits and 1600 nits respectively), but the SDR brightness now matches the Studio Display in case you’ve got one. Of course, it’s a 120Hz Pro Motion display and the color accuracy is excellent.
Because this is in fact a bigger device with with a higher-res display, you’re also getting a 100Wh battery which is the largest capacity allowed on an Airplane. This also gives up to 22 hours of Apple TV video playback with the M3 Pro and M3 Max chips which is better than the 14-inch model. Also, these devices don’t drop performance when unplugged.
This year the 16-inch Macbook Pro still starts at $2499 with the M3 Pro and for the full-fledged M3 Max variant (16-core CPU, 40-core GPU, 48GB RAM), you’ll pay $3999 or higher depending on how you configure it.
Both models also come with a new Space Black color if you go for the M3 Pro or M3 Max configurations. The 14-inch model with the base M3 still comes in Space Gray and Silver. The Pro and Max variants ditch the Space Gray color and are available in Space Black and Silver color variants.
24-inch iMac gets the M3 upgrade
Apple didn’t upgrade the iMac with an M2 chip last year, probably because the performance bump wasn’t significant. Now, as the M3 is significantly more powerful than the M1, the company finally upgraded the 24-inch iMac with its third-gen silicon.
The iMac can be configured with two variants of the baseline M3. Both variants of the SoC come with 8 CPU cores, but you can choose from a cheaper 8-core GPU variant or pay slightly more for a 10-core GPU variant. However, do remember that with the 10-core GPU, you also get two USB 3 Type-C ports and Gigabit Ethernet. All variants come with two Thunderbolt 3 / USB 4 Type-C ports.
The 24-inch 4.5K (4480×2520) Retina display uses an IPS panel and the brightness maxes out at 500 nits. There is also a 1080P webcam just like the Macbooks alongside a great audio system with support for Dolby Atmos.
With the same vibrant color options, the pricing starts at $1299 for the 8-core GPU variant and at $1499 for the 10-core GPU variant. You can configure the lower-end variant with up to 1TB of SSD storage while the higher-end variant can go up to 2TB.
Availability and Final Thoughts on the new M3 Mac devices
All of the new M3 Mac devices, which include the 14-inch Macbook Pro, 16-inch Macbook Pro, and the 24-inch iMac, are available to order from Apple’s website right now. The M3 Max variants will take at least a couple of weeks to ship, but the rest are available for delivery right now.
While the M3 doesn’t seem to be a huge leap over the M2, compared to the M1, it is in fact, a significant upgrade. The introduction of hardware-accelerated Ray Tracing also makes a huge leap in gaming for Macs, so that can also be a big deal in the future as Apple improves gaming on macOS. For professional users in need of a lot of power though, the Macbook Pros still remain one of the best options in the market.