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M3 MacBook Pro review roundup: Incrementally better

M3 MacBook Pro

Last updated

Reviews for Apple's MacBook Pro range updated with new M3-series chips have landed, with most talk being about the static design mixed with a chip performance boost.

On October 23 as part of its "Scary Fast" event, Apple rolled out updated models of its 14-inch MacBook Pro and 16-inch MacBook Pro. Sporting chips including the M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max, as well as high-capacity memory options up to 128GB, they were crowned Apple's fastest portable Macs ever.

Apple also added a new color option, with Space Black available for M3 Pro and M3 Max buyers.

Space Gray MacBook Pro 14-inch M3

14" MacBook Pro

Apple's 14-inch MacBook Pro can be ordered with an M3, M3 Pro or M3 Max chip.
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"With the next generation of M3 chips, we're raising the bar yet again for what a pro laptop can do," said Apple SVP of Hardware Engineering John Ternus. "We're excited to bring MacBook Pro and its best-in-class capabilities to the broadest set of users yet, and for those upgrading from an Intel-based MacBook Pro, it's a game-changing experience in every way."

On Monday, the initial reviews for the new models largely discussed how they look a lot like the previous models, but offer a lot more performance.

The Verge: Entry-level enigma

Taking a look at the 14-inch MacBook Pro's entry-level model with M3, The Verge initially complains about how the model has a lot less than what the M3 Pro and M3 Max offer. "On top of more powerful chips, those models will get you more (and faster) Thunderbolt ports, higher storage options, and more memory."

With "nothing to really write home about" for the design, the report goes on to say that the component parts are good, including the "pretty" display, the great touchpad, and the 1080p webcam that "makes you look like a human and not a potato."

However, there is some complaint about the lack of a third Thunderbolt port, as well as the use of Thunderbolt 3 instead of Thunderbolt 4. Apple seemingly is "gatekeeping" the port for its Pro and Max chips, which also support more external displays.

Performance is "not scary faster," with it being slightly better than an M2 MacBook Air 15 by about 10%.

The report sums it all up with "Apple made the right move consolidating and getting rid of the 13-inch Pro. That extra inch of screen is great, everything works beautifully, and the return of physical fnction keys on the entry-level MacBook Pro is chef's kiss."

Gizmodo: Black looks good on a MacBook

Starting off by complementing the black appearance, Gizmodo has praised the anodized material for keeping "any but the greasiest of smudges from showing up." Even so, it has the "same look, a very similar screen, and that damned notch of the M2-powered version."

Typing "is quite a bit different if you're used to the Magic Keyboard on the MacBook Air. The keys are low-profile "but they do have more heft to them, and that's apparent just by the sounds they make."

Based on specs, the "new CPUs are indeed more powerful than the past generations of Apple Silicon, but that doesn't mean they're all they're cracked up to be," the review continues. A full review is in progress.

Engadget: An M3 chip for every situation

In its review of the lineup, Engadget declares Apple's "confusing laptop family finally makes sense this year," after a restructuring of models. "Now, its Pro machines are truly geared towards professionals, while the Air models are meant for everyone else."

"Other than that new color, though, not much has changed about the overall design of the 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros," the review continues, adding that the 2021 refresh was a "big step forward" at the time.

Insisting it's "not complaining" about the revival of all of the physical features of the M2 version, it's reckoned "I wouldn't be surprised if Apple sticks with it for years, just like it did the old unibody design."

On performance, the Macs on review "performed exactly" as expected, with the M3 a "zippy little devil for general productivity work," while the 16-inch model "was practically begging for more serious workloads."

"Funny enough, my advice today echoes what I said last year: Don't buy the cheapest model," the review concludes. "Beyond that, it's hard to go wrong. The M3 chips are incredibly efficient and powerful."

Space Black MacBook Pro 16-inch

16" MacBook Pro M3

Apple's 16-inch MacBook Pro can be ordered with an M3 Pro or M3 Max chip.
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TechCrunch: A desktop among laptops

Looking at the 16-inch M3 Max version, TechCrunch calls it a "beast - in pretty much every sense." With impressive performance and a bright display, the model "feels like a different species" compared to the 15-inch MacBook Air used as a daily driver for the reviewer.

Viewed more as a "portable desktop" in that it is "plenty powerful for even most professional uses," there's not much changed from the 2021 model, with Apple "settled into a look it likes."

"The space black is a nice addition," mentioning one of the few external changes. "It gives off a nice glow when the light hits it. The biggest thing here, however, is the fingerprint factor," with it doing an "excellent job."

After discussing the addition of Dynamic Caching and ray tracing, the results are deemed "Impressive" to the reviewer. "A couple of years ago, it would have been inconceivable for the operating system to get the game the same day as PS5, Xbox Series X/S and Windows. That said, the macOS gaming library still has a long way to go."

The battery "might be the most exceptional bit here," with a runtime of 26 hours, 45 minutes achieved from a test.

"To state the obvious, the 16-inch MacBook Pro with M3 Max is the most powerful Apple laptop, ever," the review concludes. "You'll still get more performance out of the M2 Ultra in the Mac Studio, but for most intents and purposes, this is the desktop of laptops. It's big, heavy, expensive and powerful."

Ars Technica: Ultra-level speed in a laptop

Continuing the sentiment in its own 16-inch M3 Max review, Ars Technica immediately points out that Intel Mac users are going to feel the need to move over to Apple Silicon soon, as battery wear, software updates, and AppleCare+ subscriptions expire.

"The short version is that two years of updates and the brand-new, more-efficient manufacturing process that the M3 uses should make these an appealing upgrade to anyone who couldn't quite justify paying for an upgrade before now."

The new models still look and feel like a MacBook Pro from 2021, though Space Black still gets praise for the anodized finish minimizing the appearance of fingerprints.

On to performance, the review compared the M3 Max against gaming notebooks, and that's where "Apple's power efficiency advantage really shines." However, the M3 Max's GPU "can't keep up with the laptop version of Nvidia's RTX 4090."

That said, Apple will always have advantages in usability against gaming notebooks. "Apple's 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros are quiet, relatively cool, and light enough to throw in a bag. The MSI and Asus laptops are both hulking, loud monstrosities that are only "portable" relative to a desktop computer," the review continued.