M2 versus M3: how the new MacBook Pros compare


In addition to a new iMac, Apple announced new M3-powered versions of the 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro during its “Scary Fast” event on Monday. The new laptops can be configured with either the M3, M3 Pro, or M3 Max chip, all of which should offer larger performance gains than the last-gen M2 chip. Each MacBook Pro is currently available to preorder online ahead of its release date in November, with the M3 and M3 Pro models due to arrive on November 7th, while the M3 Max will ship later.

If you’re wondering how the new laptops compare with the M2 models on paper, we’ve rounded up everything we know so far based on specs and statements from Apple. Stay tuned as well for our full reviews, in which we’ll let you know how well the laptops truly stack up in reality against Apple’s claims.

First, the MacBook Pro pricing structure has changed now that Apple’s dropped the $1,299 Touch Bar-equipped 13-inch M2-powered MacBook Pro from its lineup. Before, the 14-inch model only came with Pro and Max-series chips and started at $1,999. This time, though, the base 14-inch laptop arrives with the M3 chip, half the RAM, 4TB less storage, and fewer GPU and CPU cores, lowering its price to $1,599. Thus, it is now the new entry-level MacBook Pro, one that offers a longer battery life, a better display, MagSafe charging, and no controversial Touch Bar.

In addition, the gray laptop in the Pro and Max series has been replaced by a black shade, which Apple says is built with material that should reduce fingerprints. (You can also still get it in silver as well.) The base 14-inch model, however, doesn’t come in black — you can buy it in gray and silver.

Otherwise, though, the MacBook Pros are very similar in design to their predecessors. For example, all share the same Liquid Retina XDR displays. The 14-inch Pro continues to feature a maximum resolution of 3024 x 1964, while the 16-inch version has a 3456 x 2234 resolution. They also retain the same port selection, offering two or three USB-C ports (depending on which size you buy), in addition to an SD card reader, an HDMI port, and a 3.5mm audio jack.

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Beyond price and some aesthetic changes, though, the real changes take place under the hood. Unified memory on the Pro and Max chips have increased, for example. The M3 Pro chips now support up to 36GB of RAM, a small increase from the M2 Pro’s 32GB maximum. Meanwhile, the M3 Max boasts up to 128GB of RAM as opposed to the previous 96GB, which is a first for an Apple laptop.

Perhaps the most notable change comes down to performance. The M3 chips were built based on the 3-nanometer process, the same that is used in the iPhone 15 Pro’s new A17 Pro chips. That translates to faster performance than the prior models. At the same time, according to Apple, it also means the M3 lineup is more power-efficient, offering the same multithreaded performance as the M1 while consuming about half the power. Altogether, each laptop in the M3 family should last up to 22 hours, longer than their predecessors.

When it comes to GPU and CPU cores, the M3 Max chips offer more than their predecessor. The M3 Max features a 16-core CPU and up to a 40-core GPU, with a GPU performance that’s 80 faster than the M1 Max, according to Apple. Apple doesn’t provide a direct comparison between the M2 and M3, but that still represents a substantial improvement given that Apple claimed the M2 Max — whose CPU and GPU maxed out at 12 cores and 38 cores — was up to 30 percent faster than the M1 Max in graphics.

The picture looks slightly different when it comes to the Pro-series chips. The 16-inch M3 Pro and M2 Pro chips both offer 12 CPU cores, but the M2 Pro actually offers one extra GPU core over the M3 Pro. Still, Apple claims it’s 10 percent faster than the M2 Pro’s GPU and 40 percent faster than the M1 Pro’s GPU.

The new M3 chips also sport other GPU improvements the M2 series lacks. They support Dynamic Caching tech, which could boost the performance of demanding games and apps by optimizing how much memory the device uses while undergoing tasks. The tech also brings new rendering features like hardware-accelerated ray tracing and mesh shading. These should allow developers to easily improve shadows and reflections as well as complex scenes in games and graphics-intensive apps.

Those are just some of the main differences between the M2 chips and the new M3 laptops. If you want to dive even deeper into how the two families stack up against each other, feel free to explore the specs below.


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