Apple’s M3 Max is an incredibly powerful chip, significantly increasing the CPU and GPU performance of Apple silicon. It’s getting a lot of buzz, but is it necessarily faster than the fastest Windows laptop?
To find out, we pitted it against the gaming laptop Lenovo Legion 9i equipped with an ultrafast Intel Core i9-13980HX and Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090, and the Asus ROG Strix Scar 17 with an AMD Ryzen 9 7945HX and RTX 4090. Due to limitations in testing and cross-platform compatibility, the MacBook Pro 14 can’t be directly compared to the M3 Max from Lenovo and Asus in many benchmarks, especially gaming. But we can make enough comparisons to get an idea of how these different chips stack up against each other.
A brief look at architecture
The Apple M3 Max is an ARM-based system on chip (SoC) that currently sits at the top of the Apple Silicon lineup. It represents the first chips made using the 3nm process and the redesigned GPU architecture. On the CPU side, Apple increased the speed of its performance cores by 15% and increased the speed of its efficiency cores by 30% compared to the M2. Overall, Apple is promising a 20% to 25% improvement in performance. On the GPU side, dynamic caching is a technology that speeds up various GPU processes, while gamers will benefit from mesh shading and hardware-accelerated ray tracing.
The M3 Max has 16 CPU cores and 40 GPU cores with up to 400GB/s of memory bandwidth. It is coupled with up to 128GB of RAM, up from the maximum of 96GB. We reviewed the MacBook Pro 14 with a 16-core CPU/40-core GPU M3 Max.
The Intel Core i9-13980HX is a 55-watt processor with 24 cores (eight performance cores and 16 efficient cores) and 32 threads. Performance cores run up to 5.60GHz while efficient cores run up to 4.0GHz. It tops the Intel Mobile Raptor Lake lineup and focuses on offering higher clock speeds and more cores for performance gains compared to its 12th generation predecessor.
The AMD Ryzen 9 7945HX is a 55-watt CPU with 16 cores and 32 threads clocked at up to 5.4GHz. It tops AMD’s mobile CPU lineup and is based on the company’s Zen 4 architecture. It can ramp up to 75 watts and even higher clock speeds, promising incredibly fast performance.
The Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 is the fastest mobile GPU available today, using new technologies like Shader Execution Reordering and DLSS 3 to deliver powerful gaming performance. It can also speed up a variety of tasks in creative, design, and engineering applications, making it a popular choice in high-end performance-oriented laptops.
In the Geekbench 6 synthetic benchmark, which runs through several CPU-intensive processes, the M3 Max is the fastest laptop CPU we’ve tested. The Core i9-13980HX performs well, but it doesn’t last. I’ve included several other laptops to give you an idea of the significant increase in performance shown by Apple’s fastest mobile chip.
Results are more mixed in the Cinebench R24 benchmark, which tests both the CPU and GPU rendering a complex image. The Core i9-19380HX was fast in the multi-core test, but slow in the single-core test, reflecting the sheer strength of the chip’s 24 CPU cores. The RTX 4090 was also incredibly fast in the GPU test, almost twice as fast as the M3 Max.
We did not test the ROG Strix Scar 17 in the latest versions of these benchmarks and so its results are not included here. But it is likely to compete with the Legion 9i.
|3,174 / 21,137
|Lenovo Legion 9i
(Core i9-19380HX/RTX 4090)
|3,075 / 11,994
|dell xps 15
(Core i7-13700H/RTX 4070)
real life standards
Adobe’s Premiere Pro is an excellent example of the kind of application that appeals to the creator market that Apple is targeting with the MacBook Pro. It’s an intensive application that benefits from a fast CPU and GPU and lots of RAM.
The PugetBench Premiere Pro benchmark runs in a live version of Premiere Pro and therefore provides a valid indication of real-world laptop performance. The latest version tests a variety of video encoding, decoding, and GPU-accelerated effects to provide a realistic and comprehensive idea of real-world performance.
The ROG Strix Scar 17 achieved the fastest result in this benchmark, with a total score of 928. The M3 Max comes in second place in our database with 889, while the Legion 9i comes in third with 838. By comparison, the Dell XPS 17 with a Core i7-13700H and RTX 4070 scored 568, while the MacBook Pro 14 with an M1 Pro managed just 467.
These results are most impressive for the M3 Max given the sheer power of the RTX 4090 in the other two machines. Clearly, Apple has optimized the M3 Max to accelerate the types of tasks that will keep professional creators working efficiently.
The M3 Max is a beast, and so are others, but…
There is an elephant in the room in all of these comparisons, which is that the MacBook Pro is completely different from the Legion 9i and the ROG Strix Scar 17 in terms of product range. This is not a fast, thick, gaming laptop. This is not meant to be bought specifically for gaming, which is why I focused more on synthetic and content creation benchmarks. Obviously, the extra power of the RTX 4090 is going to produce much faster frame rates in games, but as we’ve seen, that doesn’t always translate to better performance for the kind of things the MacBook Pro is meant for.
And suffice it to say that both of these gaming laptops are thick, heavy and have terrible battery life. They’re great choices for gamers looking for the ultimate portable gaming experience – but they’re not real competitors to the MacBook Pro. And I think that’s the real thing that I learned from this comparison.
The M3 Max is truly a game-changer. We’ll have to wait and see what Intel, AMD, Nvidia, and laptop makers are capable of next year, but in the meantime, the M3 Max MacBook Pro remains in a class of its own.