MacBook Pro M3: Should you choose the M3, M3 Pro, or M3 Max?

The next generation of Apple’s MacBook Pro is finally here, and they’ve arrived talking about the highly anticipated M3 chip. Like the previous generation, you have a choice between a 14-inch and 16-inch model, but there are a lot of differences when you start looking at the three versions of the chip available: M3, M3 Pro, and M3. Maximum.

We’re here to tell you all about the configuration options for the MacBook Pro M3, as well as whether you should choose the M3, M3 Pro, or M3 Max. Apple currently has

And they will be released on 7th November.

Price determination

Someone is using a MacBook Pro on a table in front of a beautiful background.

There are a wide range of pricing options for M3 MacBook Pros, depending on how you configure them. As for the 14-inch model, you can get your foot in the door for $1,600, which gets you the base M3, 8GB of unified memory, and 512GB of storage. Apple offers two other stock configurations: one that costs $1,800 and upgrades the cheapest model to 1TB of storage, and another that comes with an 11-core CPU, 14-core GPU M3 Pro with 18GB of unified memory, and 512GB of storage. Comes in at $2,000.

You can take these to much higher levels. The 12-core CPU, 18-core GPU M3 Pro will run you an extra $200 compared to the base model, while the M3 Max with 16 CPU cores and 40 GPU cores will run you an extra $900. A fully tricked-out 14-inch MacBook Pro with the highest M3 Max, 128GB of unified memory, and 8TB of storage will run you $6,900.

The 16 inch model is quite expensive. You’ll spend $2,500 for the cheapest model, which comes with the M3 Pro’s 12-core CPU and 18-core GPU configuration along with 18GB of unified memory and 512GB of storage. To get 36GB of memory, you’ll have to spend an extra $400, and to get 4TB of storage, where the M3 Pro maxes out, you’ll have to spend an extra $1,200.

Apple offers two configurations of the M3 Max with the 16-inch MacBook Pro, one with a 14-core CPU and 30-core GPU, and the other with a 16-core CPU and 40-core GPU. The former model will cost you an extra $400 over the $2,500 base model, while the latter will cost you an extra $700. Both M3 Max configurations start with 48GB of memory, and they can be expanded to 128GB of memory for an additional $1,000. Additionally, you can pack up to 8TB of storage for an additional $2,400.

Although the 16-inch MacBook Pro costs a lot, it’s not much more than the 14-inch MacBook when maxed out. You’ll spend $7,200 for the top M3 Max, with 128GB of unified memory and 8TB of storage.

color options

Two MacBook Pros posed together in front of a black background.

Generally, color options on the MacBook Pro aren’t a big deal. Choose whatever you like, and you’re on your way. However, Apple is doing something strange with its M3 MacBook Pros. It introduced the new Space Black color to the MacBook Pro, but you can’t get it on every model.

You can get Space Black on both the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro, but only with the M3 Pro or M3 Max chip. If you go with the M3 chip, you can choose Space Gray instead. All models also come with silver as an option.

It’s strange for Apple to limit the color options of a particular chip, but it’s an important note to note if you’re hoping to get one of the best-looking MacBooks Apple has made.

M3 vs M3 Pro vs M3 Max

Apple's M3 chip family.

The only product Apple currently has that supports the M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max is the 14-inch MacBook Pro. There are only three chip options, but Apple has several configurations of each that are slightly different.

Starting with the M3, Apple is only offering it with an 8-core CPU and 10-core GPU, although it’s worth noting that the 24-inch iMac with this chip can scale up to an 8-core GPU. Things get more complicated as you move up the stack. The 14-inch MacBook Pro with M3 Pro is available with an 11-core CPU and 14-core GPU, or a 12-core CPU and 18-core GPU. Similarly, the M2 Max is available with a 14-core CPU and 30-core GPU, or 16-core CPU and 40-core GPU.

On the 16-inch MacBook Pro, the options are a bit more streamlined. You don’t have the base M3 as an option, and if you want the M3 Pro, Apple is only offering it with a 12-core CPU and 18-core GPU. The M3 Max configuration remains unchanged with a 14-core CPU and 30-core GPU option as well as a 16-core CPU and 40-core GPU option.

The choice between M3 chips affects some other configuration options. In the 14-inch MacBook Pro with the base M3, you have up to 24GB of unified memory, up to 2TB of storage, and access to a 96-watt power adapter. The M3 Pro can scale up to 36GB with up to 4TB of storage, while the M3 Max offers up to 128GB of storage with up to 8TB of storage. Those options don’t change on the 16-inch MacBook Pro, although it comes with a 140-watt power adapter by default.

M3 vs M3 Pro vs M3 Max Performance

Diagram of Apple's M3 Max processor.

We don’t know exactly how the M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max perform, but we have a comparison of Apple’s two previous M-series chips to get an idea. Based on what Apple has shown, the M3 and M3 Pro offer good generational improvements overall, primarily on the back of an upgraded GPU, while the M3 Max looks like it goes further.

Apple says the M3 Max offers 50% faster CPU performance and 20% faster GPU performance compared to the M2 Max. In actual applications, this is almost twice the performance of the M1 Max in applications such as MathWorks and Maxon Redshift. For reference, Apple is claiming only a 10% improvement in GPU for the M3 Pro compared to the previous generation and no CPU gains.

The base M3 isn’t as tall as the M3 Max, but it looks more impressive than the M3 Pro. Apple says it offers 20% faster CPU and GPU performance than the M2, and 35% faster CPU and 65% faster GPU performance than the M1. In practice, according to Apple, the M3 shows 40% faster image filter and effects performance compared to the M2.

A diagram of Apple's M3 processor.

Although it’s hard to gauge how each of the chips compare to each other, the M3 Pro is clearly the ugly duckling of the lineup. If you want solid performance from your MacBook Pro, you should stick with the base M3 in the 14-inch model. However, pro users are better off spending more for the M3 Max. Even the model with a 30-core GPU looks much faster than the M3 Pro.

There are some important caveats here, especially as we wait for third-party benchmarks. It’s unclear how the different configurations of the M3 Pro and M3 Max will affect performance, so it’s possible that you can either save some money or get higher performance by spending a little more, depending on the Depends how the reviews are. Additionally, we don’t know how the M3 Pro and M3 Max will scale to the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro. Given the larger size of the 16-inch models, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the M3 Pro and M3 Max offer higher performance than the 14-inch models, but we’ll have to wait until the products become available. Definitely find out.

What should you choose?

P's Lie running on a MacBook Pro.

There are a ton of configuration options for M3 MacBook Pros, but we recommend three main configurations. Here’s what you should get for the 14-inch MacBook Pro:

  • m3 chip
  • 16 GB integrated memory
  • 1TB storage
  • $2,000

There’s plenty of room to spare at the top, so you can add more storage or memory as needed. The main thing is to leave the M3 Pro chip with an 11-core CPU and 14-core GPU. The M3 Pro already looks like a disappointing chip, and you don’t want a chopped version of it. If you still want the M3 Pro, here’s what you should get in a 14-inch MacBook Pro:

  • M3 Pro with 12-core CPU and 18-core GPU
  • 36 GB integrated memory
  • 1TB storage
  • $2,600

For the M3 Max, we recommend going with the 16-inch MacBook Pro for now. It’s possible that this may change once we see how the chip performs in the smaller 14-inch model, but it’s fair to assume that the 16-inch model will reach higher peak performance. With that chip, here’s what we recommend:

  • M3 Max with 16-core CPU and 40-core GPU
  • 48GB integrated memory
  • 1TB storage
  • $4,000

These configurations take center stage in Apple’s M3 MacBook Pros lineup. As is usually the case, Apple charges a lot for additional storage, so we recommend using an external hard drive if you need more than 1TB. If you need fast storage on the laptop itself, expect to spend hundreds or thousands more, depending on how much you need.

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