Macs with Apple silicon were a revelation when they launched three years ago, but we haven’t seen Apple demonstrate how it would advance that idea since then. We saw the M2 release and the moderate performance improvements that came with it, but the M3, announced during Apple’s “Scary Fast” event, is the most significant chip Apple has designed for Macs.
Although it has the branding of third generation Apple silicon, it is actually the second true generation. There’s a lot of work on this release for Apple to prove it can maintain its own silicon in Macs, and the M3 is coming at a time when there’s fierce competition everywhere.
Second generation Apple silicon
Turn the clocks back to May of last year. At the time, shortly before Apple’s annual Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC), the industry was speculating on the release of Apple’s M2. Reports at the time indicated that Apple would move to a 3nm process rather than using the 5nm process on which the M1 was based. But something changed. Following the chip announcement, additional reports emerged that Apple abandoned the 3nm process because it could not secure enough supply, possibly due to strained supply chains due to the pandemic.
Rather than a massive change in performance like the M1, the M2 was a refinement of the Apple silicon we’d already seen. This was the second generation in name only. This is not dissimilar to processors like Intel’s recent Core i9-14900K. This is a 14th generation processor, but it is based on the same hardware that powered the 13th generation.
The M3 is the true successor to the M1, offering a whole host of changes. I imagine it won’t look as impressive as the M2, perhaps in line with generational improvements, if uninspired. Given that it’s launching devices like the 24-inch iMac that have been limited to the M1, however, the M3 should represent a huge increase in performance.
We’ll have to see if that performance holds up when we get a chance to test the M3 ourselves. Regardless, the M3 is the true successor to the M1, and this is where we’ll see Apple settle into a rhythm of producing its own silicon in the future.
An important aspect of the M3 is the new GPU architecture. Apple made a big deal about the M3’s GPU during its presentation, announcing that the new architecture supports “industry firsts” in hardware-accelerated ray tracing, mesh shading, and dynamic caching. All of these changes seem to be part of Apple’s massive overhaul of gaming.
Apple has been active in gaming for years, primarily getting into the water with general audiences through Apple Arcade, releasing smaller, more manageable experiences for iPhones, Macs, and even the Apple TV. But in the last 12 months, there has been a huge push into core gaming. We’ve seen Game Porting Toolkit open Windows games to Mac, port resident Evil 4 Up to the iPhone, upgrades through Apple’s MetalFX, and even an appearance by gaming icon Hideo Kojima during an Apple event.
With that effort, Apple is finally fulfilling its ambitions with hardware in the form of the M3. saw previews of games like P’s lie Running on M3, and with so many big titles baldur’s gate 3 With native Mac support appearing it looks like Apple is finally moving forward with core gaming. If new AAA games can come to the platform with solid performance, Apple could finally get its foot in the door.
Apple’s gaming focus started months ago, but it’s finally ready for primetime with the M3. It appears that the GPU upgrade is a big focus for Apple, and it’s almost entirely focused on gaming performance.
After Apple launched the M1, the computing world went wild trying to catch up. There have been efforts from AMD, Intel, and even Qualcomm, none of which could stand up to Apple’s silicon. However, it’s been a few years now and times are changing.
Intel may finally have a capable Apple competitor with Meteor Lake, which is scheduled to debut on December 14. Qualcomm also recently announced its Snapdragon X Elite for Windows laptops, which boasts performance that clearly beats the Intel competition and makes the M2 look silly. And Qualcomm says it can do so while rivaling the battery life of the M-series MacBooks.
Apple enjoyed a few years at the top, with the computing world stumbling through hasty attempts to keep pace. However, this won’t continue forever, and Apple will likely find itself in more competitive waters over the course of the next year. Going forward, if reports are to be believed, AMD and Nvidia are considering developing ARM-based processors for PCs, providing even more competition to Apple.
There isn’t much competition when the M3 is released, but over the next year, Apple will have to weather a storm from the rest of the computing industry. We could very well be in the same situation we were in with the M1, with even more failed attempts by the competition. However, with the amount of computing power we’ve seen, it doesn’t feel like this.
there’s a lot to look forward to
The M3 is an exciting development for Apple. There’s a lot to look forward to, especially as Apple introduces the chip in products like the Mac mini and MacBook Air. However, there is a lot riding on the M3, especially when we look back in a few months to see how it has been.