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M3 MacBook Pro comparison: How to choose between M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max

Published Oct 31st, 2023 8:36AM EDT
M3 MacBook Pro
Image: Apple Inc.

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Yesterday, Apple unveiled the new M3 MacBook Pro family. With three chipset options and two different sizes, Cupertino is expanding the range of customers who might want to buy these machines. While it previously divided MacBook Pro users into entry-level options and high-end models, they now look almost the same.

That said, this is what you get with each M3 MacBook Pro, including similarities and differences.

Design and ports

Image source: Apple Inc.

For those jumping from the M1 Pro/Max or M2 Pro/Max MacBook Pro they will find the same features available with the M3 models. ProMotion, miniLED display, six speakers, 1080p FaceTime camera, etc., are all the same for all versions – which, for those upgrading from a 13-inch option, will have a huge upgrade.

That said, the display is around 20% brightness, with 600 nits of regular usage – it was previously 500 nits. M3 Pro and M3 Max buyers can choose between silver and the new space black option, while M3 buyers will have to choose between space gray and silver.

Lastly, the main difference in the ports is that Apple only offers two Thunderbolt ports for the M3 MacBook Pro, while M3 Pro and M3 Max options have three ports.

M3 chip differences

M3, M3 Pro, and M3 MaxImage source: Apple Inc.

Built on 3-nanometer technology and featuring an all-new GPU architecture, all-new M3 chips bring more performance and capabilities than before. Features such as hardware-accelerated ray tracing and dynamic caching are available to all models. That said, here are a few differences.

M3M3 ProM3 Max
8-core CPUUp to 12-core CPUUp to 16-core CPU
10-core GPUUp to 18-core GPUUp to 40-core GPU
Up to 24GB of RAMUp to 36GB of RAMUp to 128GB of RAM

14-inch MacBook Pro options offer all three chips, but the 16-inch option is only configurable with M3 Pro and M3 Max. These are a few other tidbits:

  • CPU and GPU on M3 is 20% faster than M2
  • CPU and GPU on M3 Pro is 10% faster than M2 Pro
  • CPU on M3 Max is 50% faster than M2 Max, and GPU is 20% faster
  • M3 MacBook Pro supports one external display, M3 Pro two external displays, and M3 Max four external displays

Battery and pricing

Apple's M3 Pro and M3 Max MacBook Pro 14-inch and 16-inch.Image source: Apple Inc.

Apple says the M3 MacBook Pro can last up to 22 hours of Apple TV streaming, while the 14-inch can hold up to 18 hours of battery life, and the 16-inch option up to 22 hours. These are the price points these Macs start at:

  • M3 MacBook Pro 14″ starts at $ 1,599 with 8GB of RAM and 512GB of storage
  • M3 Pro MacBook Pro 14″ starts at $1,999 with 18GB of RAM and 512GB of storage
  • M3 Pro MacBook Pro 16″ starts at $2,499 with 36GB of RAM and 1TB of storage

M3 MacBook Pro: Which one to get?

If you just want the best outer specs available (miniLED, ProMotion, industrial design, extra ports for SD and HDMI), you will get a solid update from a base-model MacBook Pro or MacBook Air to the M3 option.

If you’re jumping from an Intel Mac or upgrading from the M1 Pro/Max, you should only be concerned if you want a bigger display with more battery life or if you want a more compact experience. That said, if you choose an M3 Max 14-inch model, the battery life might drain fast, as this chip requires more power.

These new Macs are now available to pre-order, and they will start shipping to customers on November 7. Of course, they all run the latest operating system, macOS Sonoma.

José Adorno Tech News Reporter

José is a Tech News Reporter at BGR. He has previously covered Apple and iPhone news for 9to5Mac, and was a producer and web editor for Latin America broadcaster TV Globo. He is based out of Brazil.