Apple MacBook Pro M3 – 1 Month Later: Not What I Expected

6 min read

Hey friends, Andrew here – hope you’re well. 

The new M3 MacBooks were launched only 10 months after the M2 came to market – that’s as fast as these chipsets are.

I had a thought: my main workhorse, which is the M2 Max MacBook Pro, is still more powerful than 99% of laptops out there – so you might think, well, what’s the point of upgrading? 

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But what if the new M3 Pro was both faster and more affordable than my M2 Max?

After 1 month with the 14” MacBook M3 Pro, here’s my full honest review. Apple’s strategy here is not what I thought it’d be.

Brighter Mini LED Display & Space Black 

What’s new with the M3 MacBooks? 

The display has received a noteworthy upgrade, its SDR brightness has been bumped up from 500 nits to 600 nits, an almost 20% jump, and day-to-day use makes it slightly easier to work in really bright ambient light or outside in direct sunlight. I have seen a usable difference there, but nothing game-changing though. 

Everything else about the Mini LED display remains unchanged over 2 generations now, It is still an amazing display for all lines of work and even gaming – more on that later. 

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The other obvious new drawcard is the new Space Black color, which I jumped for immediately. Like many of you, I love the color black for my tech, and I’ve been waiting for a black-colored MacBook. But unfortunately, I feel like Space Black is an Apple marketing term – it’s not nearly as dark as the product shots make it out to be. 

Depending on the time of day, lighting, and what it’s sitting next to as a point of comparison, it looks more like a slightly darker shade of Space Grey. It seems lighter than my Midnight colored M2 MacBook Air – which I still love and use daily. But the Midnight color has a nicer, darker hue, in my opinion.

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If, like me, you were hoping for a jet-black MacBook, it isn’t it just yet. Apple did do a great job making Space Black far more fingerprint-resistant than the Midnight MacBook Air. That’s thanks to an apparent new anodization process. After about 7 days of use, though, I started to see some serious fingerprints and smudges, but that’s to be expected even with Apple’s new anodization process. 

Overall, it’s a great color to have for dark mode lovers – it’s just not as dark as the product renders. 

M3 Power

The real worthy change here is the M3 chipset. You don’t need another person to tell you Apple silicon is fast; we already know it’s really fast. 

But like I said, the real reason I chose to buy the 14” M3 Pro is to see if it’s able to replace my 14” M2 Max with technically what is a more affordable MacBook a generation later – the M3 Pro. 

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After 1 month of use, I guess this is the part that surprised me: the M3 Pro is on par, if not noticeably faster than my M2 Max MacBook. 

It’s surprising not because my M2 Max cost almost a whole $1,000 more at launch but because the M3 Pro is doing more with less. 

You see, the CPU core layout has changed for the M3 with an equal amount of performance and efficiency cores: six and six. Whereas previously, my M2 Max had eight performance cores and four efficiencies. That’s fascinating.

Yet on the GeekBench Multicore test, I’ve recorded a score of 15,118 on the M2 Max and 15,435 on the M3 Pro. And almost a doubling in single core performance in some ways: this generation’s Pro is the last generation’s Max.

A big reason for this leap in performance is the smaller 3-nanometer fabrication technology in less technical words, Apple has managed to cram more transistors into a smaller space, which means it’s able to perform more simultaneous tasks at a faster rate, all while using less power. 

And I’ve been seeing this translate really nicely in real-life scenarios. 

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Exporting a large 14-minute 4K video on Final Cut Pro took about 5 minutes 30 seconds on the M2 Max, while it exported in just 4 minutes 45 seconds on the M3 Pro. Similar numbers on Premiere Pro, too – these numbers are surprising; I didn’t expect the M3 Pro to destroy my M2 Max. 

Exporting and editing multiple 60MP Leica RAWs simultaneously is rapid with zero stutter too.

Everything my M2 Max can do, which is practically everything in my workflow, the M3 Pro can handle no problem at all. 

The M3 Pro is really good. What about the M3 Max, then? Well, that leap is even larger. Its processing power is now equal to my M2 Ultra Mac Studio, but both devices cost an arm and a leg.

But between the MacBooks, the jump in performance from Pro to Max is now a lot more profound this generation than ever, it incentivizes us to choose the Max variant over the Pro. 

Gaming

The other new element that the M3 chip brings is dynamic caching and hardware-accelerated ray tracing.

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This means the M3 Mac is capable of playing plenty of different games, but when it came to looking for a game I genuinely wanted to play and test…it was slim pickings. 

I browsed through Mac games on Steam, and the pickings are paltry, and the list of Rosetta-enabled games is longer but mainly filled with older stuff. 

And there lies the biggest hurdle for Apple to become a true gaming laptop: the Mac needs to match consoles and gaming PCs when it comes to game selection.

Earlier in the year, Apple announced the Game Porting Toolkit to help incentivize game developers to port their games over to Mac, but we’ve yet to see real progress there. The bottom line with Mac gaming is Apple has the hardware – the M3 (especially the Pro and Max) and is properly capable of running high-end games. It now just needs the games. 

macOS Sonoma

I also saw some reports on M3 MacBooks shipping with the older macOS Ventura. It is fascinating because it shows just how long these laptops were completed and sitting in a warehouse before Sonoma’s release in September. It also shows you can’t take leaks and rumors too seriously.

Using Sonoma over the last month on the M3 Pro proved to be a great package and an operating system that helps take advantage of the extra power. 

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Sonoma brings a whole bunch of new capabilities like interactive widgets, new video conferencing tools, Safari improvements, and more. 

It’s a pleasant and snappy OS to use on my M3 MacBook and Sonoma looks more like an iPhone than ever. I don’t think that’s a bad thing; the lock screen is revamped and looks beautiful, system settings are laid out vertically like an iPhone, and I use my widgets more than ever now. I’ve got mine scattered all over my desktop.  

Real Life Usage

When it comes to real-life usage and which M3 variation to get, here’s my experience. 

I still use my MacBook M2 Air day to day for business-as-usual tasks: emails, web browsing, scripting – easy things like that it’s absolutely perfect for. 

But as soon as I need to edit videos, photos, PDF, Figma files or just have more than 10 tabs open: I reach for the larger and heavier MacBook Pro M3, and there’s a big noticeable difference in operating power.

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It’s worth mentioning Apple has retired the 13-inch MacBook Pro in favor of the 14-inch MacBook Pro base configuration. But before you consider buying the base model, I have to say: as soon as you upgrade a single thing on the base M3, the M3 Pro is right there at a decent price point. 

Nowadays, you will find it potentially difficult to operate on 8GB of RAM if you design graphics, develop games, edit videos, or handle machine learning workflows; 8 GB is just not enough anymore. 

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But after over a month with the MacBook Pro M3 – there’s a lot of value for money. The gains may not be as mind-blowing as when the M1 first arrived but do not sleep on the M3. 

These are just some of the things to expect if you’re upgrading to the M3 family of MacBooks. I think it’s both incredible and scary that the Pro variant offers the same performance as my M2 Max only 9 months later. It’s a reminder of how fast these generational iterations are moving, so it’s only worth investing in a machine that suits your current needs. After all, the M4 is just around the corner anyway!

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