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MacBook Pro M3 review: The best laptop is now even better

Published Nov 6th, 2023 9:00AM EST
MacBook Pro with M3 Max
Christian de Looper for BGR

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MacBook Pro (M3 Max)

Rating: 4.5 Stars

The M3 MacBook Pro takes the best laptop and makes it even better. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel but it also doesn’t have to.

Pros

  • Excellent performance
  • Space Black looks good
  • Stunning display
  • Nice design
  • Great speakers

Cons

  • Expensive

A few years ago, with the advent of the M-series chips, Apple reinvented the MacBook Pro. The laptop was given a thicker design that housed more ports, a much better battery, and that sweet Apple Silicon performance. Now, a few years later, the refreshed MacBook Pro is still considered by many to be the single best laptop out there. And, once again, Apple has breathed new life into the laptop with the M3 series.

The new MacBook Pro is different in a few ways. For starters, the entry-level MacBook Pro is now 14 inches, not 13 inches, and with a dated design, like before. And, it’s now available in a new color — Space Black. But apart from those things and the M3 series of chips, does the new MacBook Pro do enough to keep up? I’ve been using the 14-inch MacBook Pro with an M3 Max chip and 64GB of RAM to find out.

MacBook Pro (M3 Max) design

The overall design of the MacBook Pro remains the same compared to previous generations — but that’s not a bad thing. I like the look of the MacBook Pro, and find it to be one of the best-built laptops out there.

14-Inch M3 Max MacBook Pro ClosedImage source: Christian de Looper for BGR

New for this year is the Space Black color, which I find looks excellent. I like the Silver color of MacBook Pro, but the Space Black looks more premium to me. It’s not true black — it’s really a dark gray — but naming aside, I really like the new color.

On the left of the chassis, you’ll find a MagSafe charging port, two Thunderbolt 4 ports, and a headphone jack. On the right can be found the HDMI port, another Thunderbolt 4 port, and the SD card slot. It’s a good selection of ports overall.

14-Inch M3 Max MacBook Pro PortsImage source: Christian de Looper for BGR

One of the best things about the MacBook Pro is the build quality. There’s little flex to the keyboard bed, and the metal unibody build means that the laptop can survive most dings and scratches without any issues.

MacBook Pro (M3 Max) display

The display on the M3 MacBook Pro is a little better too — which is hard to imagine, given how great the previous generation’s display was. For this generation, the display is able to offer a peak brightness of 600 nits for SDR content, and indeed, the display did look very bright. HDR brightness remains unchanged.

14-Inch M3 Max MacBook Pro DisplayImage source: Christian de Looper for BGR

Overall, the screen is stunning, gets nice and bright, and offers excellent contrast. It’s a Mini LED display with a 3024 x 1964 resolution, so text is nice and crisp, and the screen can produce deep black levels that help make movies and still images alike look excellent. The MacBook Pro has one of the best displays in the business.

MacBook Pro (M3 Max) keyboard and touchpad

The keyboard on the M3 MacBook Pro is excellent too. Again, it remains unchanged compared to previous generations, but again, that’s not a bad thing. Apple revamped the keyboards in its laptops a few years ago, and thankfully, it hasn’t played with the keyboard much since then. The keys on the M3 MacBook Pro offer a good amount of travel and good spacing, and I found it easy to type longer text on the keyboard without any issues.

14-Inch M3 Max MacBook Pro KeyboardImage source: Christian de Looper for BGR

The touchpad is also excellent. As we’ve come to expect from Apple, the touchpad is responsive and big, allowing you to navigate your way around web pages and other apps with ease.

MacBook Pro (M3 Max) speakers

The speakers are excellent on the M3 MacBook Pro too. The new laptop keeps the old speakers, allowing it to produce relatively deep low-end and bright, detailed high-end. The laptop offers four woofers, and they’re able to produce a nice punch from kick drums and smooth bass response for bass guitars. They’re far better than you would expect from a pair of laptop built-in speakers, and while music producers will still, obviously, want external speakers, casual listeners will be perfectly happy with what’s on offer here.

MacBook Pro (M3 Max) performance

The big difference between the M2 MacBook Pro and the M3 MacBook Pro is the fact that the M3 model…comes with M3 chips. Alongside the new MacBook Pro, Apple also launched three new chips, called the M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max.

Under the hood, the new chips actually have a lot to offer. The M3 Pro and Max now support more RAM, with the M3 Max supporting up to an impressive 128GB of RAM. And, the M3 chips are built on a 3nm process, with translates to better raw performance in a chip that consumes less power. There are more GPU and CPU cores on offer too — with the M3 Max getting a 16-core CPU and up to a 40-core GPU.

14-Inch M3 Max MacBook Pro PortsImage source: Christian de Looper for BGR

Benchmark results achieved with the M3 Max MacBook Pro are excellent. In CineBench 2024, we achieved the below results.

  • Single-core CPU: 140
  • Multi-core CPU: 1635
  • GPU: 13043

These scores are excellent. They put the GPU performance of the M3 Max about on par with a machine equipped with an Nvidia RTX 3080, which is very impressive for a laptop. The CPU scores are also very impressive — showing a chip that can deliver similar performance to an Intel Core i9-13900KS in single-core performance, and an Intel Core i7 13700K in multi-core performance — but at a fraction of the power draw. This also puts the M3 Max at nearly the same level of performance as the previous-generation M2 Ultra — which makes me particularly excited to see what the M3 Ultra can offer, if and when it gets released.

The end result? The MacBook Pro went from incredibly fast, to…even faster. The vast majority of users will be perfectly happy with the M3 Pro model or even the base M3 model — or could even simply wait for the M3-powered MacBook Air, when it inevitably launches. Most audio editors and producers will find the M3 Pro to be more than enough — and very demanding video producers and others who need a graphics-heavy experience should consider the M3 Max.

MacBook Pro (M3 Max) battery

The best thing about recent MacBook releases is by far the battery life. The battery life on the M3 Max MacBook Pro is still excellent, and it’ll easily get you through a full day of even heavier use. I have found that the battery can take a bit of a dive if you perform really graphically intense tasks, like rendering video files, but for most tasks, you’ll find that you won’t really have to worry much about the battery life.

According to Apple, the M3 MacBook Pro gets up to 22 hours of video playback, while the M3 Pro and M3 Max get up to 18 hours. This mostly seemed true in my testing, though if you buy one of these higher-powered machines, you’ll likely be doing so for more demanding tasks than watching video.

Conclusions

The M3 MacBook Pro may come less than a year after the original, but it’s still a continuation of the series that makes sense. It’d be impossible for Apple to reinvent the wheel every year — but it doesn’t have to. The MacBook Pro is still the best laptop out there, and the M3 series puts it even further ahead of the competition. Things may start getting more interesting when we finally start seeing Windows ARM-based machines that can hold their own. But until then, the MacBook Pro is simply head and shoulders above the competition.

The competition

Those considering buying the MacBook Pro are likely deciding between it and another Apple machine, like the MacBook Air. Apple’s lineup is a little confusing right now, but rest assured that the vast majority of users will still get more than enough from the M2 MacBook Air. That said, given the fact that the M3 series is now out in the open, it may be worth waiting on a new laptop for the M3 MacBook Air to launch.

Alternatively, you may be deciding between the M3 Pro and M3 Max. The M3 Pro easily offers more than enough power for 99% of users, even those who have more demanding workloads. I would only consider the M3 Max if you’re among the most demanding users who rely on extremely fast graphical computation.

Should I buy the M3 MacBook Pro?

Yes. It’s the best laptop around.

Christian de Looper Senior Reviews Editor

Christian de Looper is based in sunny Santa Cruz, California. He has been expertly reviewing tech products for more than 8 years, and brings experience in deep technical analysis of consumer electronics devices to BGR's reviews channel.

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