Right before Halloween and during its "Scary Fast" event, Apple revealed the M3 family of desktop processors. The base M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max chips were all highlighted with significant improvements over the past two generations. To start, Apple has equipped the 14" and 16" MacBook Pros with various M3 options, while the 24" iMac comes with the base M3 chip.
Apple Raises the Bar Again with M3
So, exactly how powerful are Apple’s new chips? Improving upon the M2's architecture, the M3 offers dramatically increased performance speed and battery life, while M3 Pro and M3 Max take these capabilities even further. The new chips are built on the same 3-nanometer architecture that was used for the A17 chips for this year's iPhone Pro models; this smaller 3-nanometer design allows for more transistors to fit into the same amount of space—according to Apple's estimations, 5 billion more than M2.
Alongside the M3 is the introduction of a next-generation GPU, which Apple claims is going to mark the biggest jump in graphical fidelity for the Mac platform. The M3 supports raytracing and the company showcased Dynamic Catching, a new feature of the chipset, which translates on a hardware level to using only the exact amount of memory needed for each task.
Some more specs, courtesy of Apple, include rendering speeds up to 2.5x faster than the M1 family of chips; CPU performance cores and efficiency cores are 30 percent and 50 percent faster than those in the M1, respectively; and the Neural Engine is 60 percent faster than the Neural Engine in the M1 family of chips. According to Apple, the M3 also now supports up to 128GB of Unified Memory Architecture.
All three chips in the M3 family also have an advanced media engine that provides hardware acceleration to the most popular video codecs, including H.264, HEVC, ProRes, and ProRes RAW. And, for the first time, the media engine now supports AV1 decoding, enabling power-efficient playback of streaming services to extend battery life even further.
The M3 is shaping up to be an absolute performance monster that somehow manages to outpace this year's M2 chip by quite a significant margin. The GPU-based improvements are making the idea of gaming on Mac even more enticing, as well.
MacBook Pro Updates Under the Hood
As for the Macs themselves, the new chipsets are coming to the flagship 14" and 16" versions of the MacBook Pro. The M2 versions dropped just earlier this year, so it’s a bit surprising to see Apple update them so quickly. All MacBook Pro models still feature a Liquid Retina XDR display, but with the ability to showcase SDR content, displays at up to 600 nits—20% more than before. The Pros also get a nice bump to 22 hours of battery life. The M3 Pro and Max-equipped Pros now also come in a very sleek Space Black colorway.
Here’s a quick look at how the M3 might affect those with MacBook Pro-based workflows:
Render performance in Final Cut Pro is up to 7.4x faster than the 13" MacBook Pro with Core™ i7 and up to 60 percent faster than the 13" MacBook Pro with M1.2
Filter and function performance in Adobe Photoshop is up to 3x faster than the fastest Intel®-based MacBook Pro, and up to 40 percent faster than the 16" MacBook Pro with M1 Pro
Text-based editing in Adobe Premiere Pro is up to 1.7x faster than the 16" Intel®-based MacBook Pro, and up to 30 percent faster than the 16" MacBook Pro with M1 Pro.
Noise reduction in Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve Studio is up to 2.7x faster than the fastest Intel®-based MacBook Pro and up to 65 percent faster than the 16" MacBook Pro with M1 Max.
iMac is now Supercharged by M3
The base version of the M3 will also be available in the line of 24" iMacs. Design-wise, these colorful all-in-one desktops remain the same but will offer significantly improved performance and 2x speeds over the previous M1-equipped generation from 2021. And for those upgrading from an Intel®-based iMac, the new iMac is up to 2.5x faster than the most popular 27" models, and 4x faster than the most powerful 21.5" model.
As for pricing, the 14" Pro starts at $1599 and the 16" version still starts at $2499. iMacs start at $1299. Everything announced at today’s event will be available starting today, except for the M3 Max-equipped version, which will become available later in November.
What are your thoughts on today’s keynote? Let us know in the Comments section, below, and be sure to be on the lookout for more in-depth coverage once we spend more hands-on time with today’s devices.