MacBook Pro battle: M3 Pro vs M3 Max. Is It Worth It?

The M3 Max is the ultimate mobile chip from Apple and sits in the upper echelons of Apple's product lineup. It is worth the $500 premium over the 'lowly' M3 Pro? Posted by erwinkarim on 8:43 AM, December 12, 2023 Last updated on 8:08 AM, December 13, 2023 Filed in: macbook pro, m3 pro, m3 max, comparisons, macos,

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The starting price for a M3 Pro MacBook Pro is $1,999. The starting price of the M3 Max MacBook Pro is $2,999. From the outset, you can’t tell a difference if this 14" MacBook Pro has M3 Pro or M3 Max chip. And in some cases, you can’t even tell if it has the base M3 chip but we are not talking about that. What we want to know is if it is worth it to invest an extra $1,000 to get that M3 Max on the MacBook Pro?


M3 Pro


The current M3 family has been unveiled in almost its entirety during Apple’s October “Scary Fast” event. Unlike the previous generation, the M3 Pro is down to have a significantly distinctive design instead of a cut-rate version of the M3 Max.

I think Apple’s longer-term strategy to to have each of the offerings in the Apple Silicon lineup fit a certain power/performance/price profile. It has done well for the GPU side of things and now in generation 3, it’s going to do for the CPU side of things too. So the M3 Pro is striking the balance between having more power than the M3 but trying to be as efficient as the M3.

M3 Max


The M3 Max is Apple’s top mobile chip of 2023. Unlike the M3 and the M3 Pro, the M3 Max is performance first, efficiency second kind of chip. On paper, the specs are quite impressive: 16-core CPU with 12 of them are performance cores, up to 128GB memory support, 8TB storage support, and up to 40 GPU cores while having a TDP of under 60 watts.

Yes, there might be more powerful offerings from Intel and Nvidia, but unlike them, Apple’s performance is guaranteed even when running on batteries. So you can have power on the go instead of being chained to a power outlet which kind of defeats the purpose of having a laptop.

On MacBook Pro (Or What You Get For That Extra $1,000)


Try as you might, you can tell by the hardware that the MacBook Pro you’re looking at has an M3 Pro or M3 Max chip. They are identical.

So that extra $1,000 you will get:-

  • A chip with more CPU and GPU cores (14-core CPU vs 11-core CPU; 30-core GPU vs 14-core GPU)
  • A chip with higher memory bandwidth (400GB/s vs 150GB/s) theoretically means programs runs faster.
  • 32GB starting memory instead of 18GB
  • 96 W USB-C power adapter which allows you to fast charge.
  • Options for higher levels of memory and storage (up to 128GB memory instead of 36GB; up to 8TB storage instead of 4TB)l
  • Supports more displays than the M3 Pro (3x 6K displays + 1x 8K display vs 2x 6K Display or 1x 8K display on the M3 Pro)

So you have higher options when choosing the M3 Max and the base itself is much higher than the M3 Pro

Performance

As benchmark performance goes, the M3 Max is on another level than the M3 Pro. While the M3 Pro is not that much different from the M2 Pro that it replaces, the M3 Max’s performance is leaps and bounds over the M2 Max.

In CPU performance, the M3 Max multicore performance is almost on par with the M2 Ultra which was released around 3 months before, despite the M2 Ultra being two M2 Max fused.

On the GPU performance, the M3 Max with the 40-core option can benchpress the M1 Ultra. A chip that is reserved for desktops. What a time to be alive when you can have world-class performance in a package that you can carry around in your backpack.


While the M3 Pro is marginally better than the predecesoor, the M3 Max have massive upgrade, nearly approaching M2 Ultra level despite M2 Ultra is basically two M2 Max chips fused together.

Apple decided that raw GPU power is enough for the M3 Pro that it is marginally better than the M2 Pro it replaces while the M3 Max is a graphic powerhouse that approaches M1 Ultra levels.

However, there’s a caveat. Yes the M3 Max is far more powerful than the M3 Pro, but do you need to power of the M3 Max? For many, you don’t even need the M3 Pro and will do fine with the M3. But if you are a “professional” and require some sort of punch, the M3 Pro is more than enough for a lot of people. Very few people have a workflow that requires an M3 Max performance, but if you are one of them, you know who you are.

Conclusion

For most people, having the M3 Pro is enough to cover your needs. But it’s good to know that there’s the nuclear option of the M3 Max. If you are one of the people who needs that 128GB memory and 8TB of storage to go, do let me know about your workflow. The real miracle is with the entry-level $1,999 MacBook Pro, you have a laptop more powerful than the most powerful laptop just over 3 years ago.

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Base Pro
iPhones iPhone 15 / iPhone 15 Plus (Renewed) - (Amazon) iPhone 15 Pro / iPhone 15 Pro Max (Renewed) - (Amazon)
Watch Apple Watch SE (Amazon) / Apple Watch Series 9 (Amazon) Apple Watch Ultra 2 (Amazon)
AirPods AirPods 3 (Amazon) AirPods Pro 2 (Amazon) / AirPods Max (Amazon)
iPad iPad 9 (Amazon) / iPad Mini (Amazon) iPad Air (Amazon) / iPad Pro M2 (Amazon)
Laptops MacBook Air (Amazon) MacBook Pro M3
Desktop Mac Mini (Amazon) / iMac (Amazon) Mac Studio / Mac Pro
Displays Studio Display (Amazon) Pro Display XDR (Amazon)

Other Ecosystem Items

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Tags: macbook pro, m3 pro, m3 max, comparisons, macos,