MacBook Pro M3 vs MacBook Pro M2: Biggest upgrades

Macbook Pro 14-inch 2023 vs MacBook Pro 16-inch 2023
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Apple's MacBook Pro M3 is finally here, and while we haven't quite finished our review yet (stay tuned) we have a pretty good idea how much it improves on its predecessors.

The new M3 family of MacBook Pros look basically identical to their predecessors on the surface, but under the hood there's a new Apple M3 chip that's more powerful and more capable than the Apple M2 chip which powered the previous generation.

There's also a whole new pricing scheme because for the first time, the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros are available with all three chips in the M3 family: M3, M3 Pro or M3 Max. And yes, that means the 13-inch MacBook Pro is discontinued.

Here's everything you need to know about what separates the MacBook Pro M3 vs MacBook Pro M2 family of laptops when deciding whether to upgrade—check out our early MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3, 2023) hands-on impressions and stay tuned for more details when we publish our full reviews!

MacBook Pro M3 vs MacBook Pro M2: Specs

MacBook Pro M3 vs MacBook Pro M2: Specs

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Header Cell - Column 1 Header Cell - Column 2
Starting price$1,599/$2,499 (14"/16")$1,999/$2,499 (14"/16")
ProcessorM3 chip (8-core CPU, 10-core GPU)-M3 Max (16-core CPU, 40-core GPU)M2 Pro (10-core CPU, 16-core GPU)-M2 Max (12-core CPU, 38-core GPU)
Storage512GB to 8TB512GB to 8TB
Memory8-128GB(14"), 16-128GB(16")16GB to 96GB
PortsThunderbolt 4 (x3) or (x2) on M3 models, HDMI, MagSafe 3, headphone jack, SD memory card slotThunderbolt 4 (x3), HDMI, MagSafe 3, headphone jack, SD memory card slot
Webcam1080p FaceTime HD camera1080p FaceTime HD camera
Wi-FiWi-Fi 6EWi-Fi 6E
BluetoothBluetooth 5.3Bluetooth 5.3

MacBook Pro M3 vs MacBook Pro M2: Price and availability

MacBook Pro 16-inch 2023

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Apple's new M3-Powered Pros are now available to order (here's where to buy the M3 MacBook Pro), with the laptop slated to ship starting November 7th. The starting price for the 14-inch model is $1,599 with the M3 chip (8-core CPU, 10-core GPU), 8GB of unified memory and 256GB of storage. You can upgrade the chip, RAM or storage from there, all the way up to a 14-inch MacBook Pro with an M3 Max chip packing a 16-core CPU and a 40-core GPU, 128GB of RAM and 8TB of storage for $6,899.

The 16-inch MacBook Pro isn't available with an M3 chip, and starts at $2,499. For that you get the larger 16-inch MacBook Pro with an M3 Pro chip (12-core CPU, 18-core GPU), 18GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. You can upgrade it as much as its smaller sibling, up to a M3 Max chip packing a 16-core CPU and a 40-core GPU, 128GB of RAM and 8TB of storage for $7,199.

So while you can now get a 14-inch MacBook Pro for cheaper than ever the pricing scheme for the M3 family of MacBook Pros is basically the same as the previous generation--with the notable absence of a 13-inch model.

The MacBook Pro M2 line first hit shelves with a 13-inch model back in June 2022, with the starting configuration costing $1,299. This model was then followed up 7 months later when the MacBook Pro 14-inch (2023) and MacBook Pro 16-inch (2023) were released in January 2023 — the former starting at $1,999, while the latter’s base config went on sale for $2,499. 

MacBook Pro M3 vs MacBook Pro M2: Price and avMacBook Pro M3 vs MacBook Pro M2: Design and displaysailability

MacBook Pro M2 Pro

(Image credit: Apple)

The design of the MacBook Pro hasn’t changed much in recent years. As noted earlier, the M3 family of MacBook Pros are effectively identical to their predecessors, themselves identical to the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros which debuted in 2021 sporting their distinctive camera notch and pro-grade port arrays.

In fact, it's in the port array that you'll spot the only meaningful difference in the MacBook Pro M3s compared to their predecessors. The new entry-level 14-inch MacBook Pro M3 laptops only have two Thunderbolt 4/USB-C ports, which is one less than you get on every MacBook Pro laptop with an M3 Pro or M3 Max chip.

The 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros have traditionally always come with three of these ports, so in a way the design of the new 14-inch MacBook Pro M3 is less capable than the entry-level 14-inch MacBook Pro M2. 

But that deficiency is a little more understandable when you consider the cheaper 14-inch Pro with M3 is effectively replacing the old 13-inch Pro with M2 (which also had just two Thunderbolt 4 ports), while the new 14-inch Pro with M3 Pro has the same complement of Thunderbolt ports as the entry-level 14-inch Pro with M2 Pro and costs the same: $1,999. 

MacBook Pro M3 vs MacBook Pro M2: Performance

MacBook Pro 16-inch 2023

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

In general, you should expect the new M3-powered MacBook Pros to be faster and more powerful than their M2-powered predecessors. The only really outstanding question we're waiting to finish our full reviews to answer is: how will the MacBook Pro M3 compare with the entry-level MacBook Pro M2 Pro?

But when comparing the M3 Pro and M3 Max models of the new MacBook Pros to their predecessors, expect performance increases across the board. As noted earlier these new chips deploy TSMC’s advanced 3nm processing node, an upgrade over the M2 chips built on TSMC’s 5-nanometer tech because it means Apple can squeeze more power into the same amount of silicon.

What does all this head-spinning jargon mean in real-world terms? You can expect the M3 family of MacBook Pros to feel snappy and responsive, with excellent performance when editing photos or videos. 

Also, the M3 GPU has support for advanced features like hardware-accelerated ray tracing, as well as a new feature called "Dynamic Caching" which lets it allocate exactly the amount of memory needed for a given task to that task, in real time. Apple says this caching tech makes the M3 GPU better optimized and more readily able to make optimal usage of system resources on a moment-by-moment basis, which will hopefully show up as an increase in gaming and rendering performance performance. We'll report back soon!

MacBook Pro M3 vs MacBook Pro M2: Verdict

While we'll have to wait until we finish our final testing and publish our reviews to say for sure, what we've seen so far of the new MacBook Pro M3 laptops suggests they should be an interesting improvement over their predecessors.

Hopefully the more capable GPU and its advanced Dynamic Caching feature (coupled with whatever improvements you get out of Game Mode in macOS Sonoma) make the M3 Pros more capable gaming laptops. But one thing's for sure: Now that the latest line of Apple silicon is limited solely to 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros there's never been a cheaper time to get one—you just have to be willing to live with the entry-level 14-inch MacBook Pro M3 with its lack of Thunderbolt port.

More from Tom's Guide

Dave Meikleham
UK Computing Editor

Dave is a computing editor at Tom’s Guide and covers everything from cutting edge laptops to ultrawide monitors. When he’s not worrying about dead pixels, Dave enjoys regularly rebuilding his PC for absolutely no reason at all. In a previous life, he worked as a video game journalist for 15 years, with bylines across GamesRadar+, PC Gamer and TechRadar. Despite owning a graphics card that costs roughly the same as your average used car, he still enjoys gaming on the go and is regularly glued to his Switch. Away from tech, most of Dave’s time is taken up by walking his husky, buying new TVs at an embarrassing rate and obsessing over his beloved Arsenal. 

  • ed9mm
    skip to the last two paragraphs

    "It’s obviously too early to definitively tell whether the rumored MacBook Pro M3 will improve upon the specs and performance of the existing M2 Pro. Mainly because its existence hasn’t been officially confirmed yet... it might be a good idea to wait until the MacBook Pro M3 lineup gets officially announced. That way, you’ll know precisely how much more performant it might be compared to the MacBook Pro M2 series."