5 things you need to know before buying a new MacBook Pro

Apple recently introduced new MacBook Pro laptops with M3 processors. On the surface, nothing else changed. The new machine has the same high-quality and minimalist design (though with a striking new space black color), the same amazing mini-LED display, and the same exceptional keyboard and touchpad.

You might be tempted to think that choosing a new MacBook Pro will be as simple as it was with the previous generation. If yes, think again. There are several significant pitfalls with new machines that require careful consideration. I’m listing five of them here.

Apple Silicon has become too confusing

Screenshot showing the Apple Silicon M3 processor range.

The number of CPUs has increased with the new MacBook Pros, and that alone has made things more complicated. To start, Apple ditched the 13-inch MacBook Pro, replacing it with a new MacBook Pro 14 running on the base M3 processor. In previous generations, the MacBook Pro only had Pro and Max versions available.

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This means you have a new 8-core CPU/10-core GPU M3 processor at a starting price of $1,599. It’s more expensive than the now-discontinued 13-inch MacBook Pro, meaning the entry-level machine in the lineup is more expensive. However, it’s worth it, considering you get a better display and better audio.

In addition to the addition of the base M3, the MacBook Pro 14 again introduces the M3 Pro with fewer cores. Specifically, you can get an 11-core CPU/14-core GPU M3 Pro, while the MacBook Pro 16 starts at a 12-core CPU/18-core GPU M3 Pro. Both models can reach up to 16-core CPU/40-core GPU M3 max.

What’s even more confusing is that the 12-core M3 Pro has six performance cores and six efficient cores, while the equivalent M2 Pro had eight performance cores and four efficient cores. And, memory bandwidth has decreased from 200 GB/sec to 150 GB/sec. Therefore, that version of the M3 Pro is unlikely to have the same performance boost as the others.

Be careful if you want to run multiple monitors

Screenshot showing display options with each MacBook Pro model.

The MacBook Air running the M2 processor is limited to a single external model. The same was true with the 13-inch MacBook Pro. The MacBook Pro 14 was capable of driving two external displays with the M2 Pro chip and four external displays with the M2 Max chip.

However, with the introduction of the MacBook Pro 14 M3, the same limitation now applies to that lineup as well. The M3 is also limited to only one external display.

So, if you need two or more displays with your MacBook Pro 14, at least without resorting to tricks that could cause more problems, you’ll want to make sure you choose the M3 Pro or M3 Max models .

Be careful with your memory

Screenshot showing available memory with each MacBook Pro mode.

Another change brought to the MacBook Pro with the introduction of the base M3 is the amount of base memory you can purchase. For $1,599, you get an 8-core CPU/10-core GPU M3 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD. The base SSD no longer uses the slower NAND storage, so there’s no performance penalty there. This is good news.

The bad news is that, contrary to Apple’s official position, 8GB of RAM actually appears to be a bottleneck. You get a minimum of 18GB of RAM with the M3 Pro and M3 Max versions, which is a significantly better offering.

What’s worse, upgrading to 16GB of RAM costs $200, bringing the price to $1,799. The base MacBook Pro 14 with an 11-core CPU/14-core GPU M3 Pro, 18GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD is priced at $1,999. This means you’re just saving $200 on a laptop that will likely be significantly slower.

If your budget is extremely limited and your workflow doesn’t require more than 8GB of RAM, saving $400 between the base M3 and base M3 Pro models of the MacBook Pro 14″ might be worth it. But if you need more RAM, it’s hard to argue that the base M3 Pro isn’t worth the extra $200.

Finally, while the base M3 has a maximum of 24GB of RAM, the M3 Pro and M3 Max can now handle up to 128GB of RAM. If you just need more than 24GB of RAM, you’ll have to ditch the base M3. Of course, if you need that much RAM, you’re probably a power user who would benefit from the faster speeds of a more powerful CPU.

Fewer ports are not the best look

Screenshot showing the ports of each MacBook Pro model.

The new MacBook Pro always has three Thunderbolt 4 ports, an HDMI port, a full-size SD card reader, and a MagSafe 3 power connector. No matter which model you choose, you don’t have to worry about connectivity.

However, now there is a catch. The base M3 MacBook Pro 14 only has two Thunderbolt 4 ports to go along with the rest of the connections. This won’t matter for most people, but if you need an additional Thunderbolt 4 port, you’ll need to upgrade your configuration.

If battery life really matters

Screenshot showing battery statistics for each MacBook Pro model.

If you value battery life more than pure performance or chassis size, you have another factor to consider. The MacBook Pro 16 has always had better battery life than the 14-inch model, thanks to its 100-watt-hour battery compared to the 72-inch model. We’re talking 22 hours versus 18 hours, which means the MacBook Pro 14″ still has great battery life, if not as great as its bigger brother.

However, the base M3 processor, being slower and having fewer cores, is more efficient overall. This means that although the base M3 MacBook Pro 14 has a slightly smaller battery at 70 watt-hours, Apple says it will get the same 22 hours as the 16-inch model. This makes the slowest MacBook Pro 14 a great choice for those who value both battery life and portability over performance alone.

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