Apple M3 vs M3 Pro vs M3 Max: The specs you need to know

Apple M3
(Image credit: Apple)

After rumors that seemed to last an eternity, the crew at Cupertino finally revealed the company's new silicon range, with the Apple M3 chip lineup debuting at its October 'Fast Fest event'.

The first 3nm chips Apple has ever used in any of its computing products, the M3 chips are initially being rolled out in the new M3 MacBook Pro and M3 iMac 2023 — though Apple's desktop PC computer is currently only available to pre-order with the base M3 chip.

Higher-end M3 chipsets currently come in two different flavors: the M3 Pro and the M3 Max. These slices of silicon offer more powerful performance compared to the base M3, thanks to their increased number of CPU and GPU cores, alongside more unified memory.

There are obviously going to be significant performance gains over the aging M1 family of chipsets. The comparisons to M2 look to be a lot narrower on paper, but we’ll have to find out how this translates into daily use in our reviews.

You can find a specs breakdown of each of Apple's next-gen chips below. Let's find out how the base M3, M3 Pro and the M3 Max compare against each other, shall we? There are also some rumored specs regarding the unconfirmed M3 Ultra, which we’ll get to later.  

Apple M3 chip specs: M3 vs M3 Pro vs M3 Max 

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Header Cell - Column 0 SpecsFound on these Mac models
M38 CPU cores, 10 GPU coresM3 iMac 2023, 14-inch MacBook Pro M3
M3 Pro (base configuration)11 CPU cores (six performance and five efficiency), 14 GPU cores14-inch MacBook Pro M3, 16-inch MacBook Pro M3
M3 Pro (top configuration)12 CPU cores (six performance and six efficiency), 18 GPU cores14-inch MacBook Pro M3, 16-inch MacBook Pro M3
M3 Max (base configuration)14 CPU cores (10 performance and four efficiency), 30 GPU cores14-inch MacBook Pro M3, 16-inch MacBook Pro M3
M3 Max (top configuration)16 CPU cores (12 performance and four efficiency), 40 GPU cores14-inch MacBook Pro, 16-inch MacBook Pro M3

To try and make those numbers a little more digestible, let's talk about what they mean in real-world terms when it comes to helping you out with daily computing tasks.

Apple has been especially keen to emphasize the M3’s game-changing upgrades over its M1-series chipsets, though it's been less boastful about just how much of an upgrade the M3 chips are over their M2 predecessors.

The entry-level M3 chip has 25 billion transistors, and features an 8-core CPU and a GPU with 10 cores, which is claimed to be 65% faster than the M1. In terms of unified memory, the base M3 silicon supports up to 24GB.

Moving up to the M3 Pro, we're in 27 billion transistor territory, with the higher-end model housing an 18-core GPU that's 40% speedier than its M1 Pro equivalent. The starting config of the M3 Pro has a CPU with 11 cores, and up to 36GB of unified memory.

As for the beastly M3 Max, this baby boasts 92 billion transistors, a 16-core CPU and a GPU with 40 cores. If you splash out for the ultimate configuration of the M3 MacBook Pro with M3 Max, you can upgrade to an incredible 128GB of unified memory ( providing you have $4,999 under your couch cushions. When it comes to the most demanding of 4K video-editing tasks or even Apple’s new interest in gaming, this monster should be able to crush any task you throw at it. 

Apple M3, M3 Pro and M3 Max: Release date and price and configurations  

Man using MacBook Pro M3

(Image credit: Apple)

You can now pre-order the first M3-powered MacBooks Pro models from Apple's site, which will begin shipping and appearing in the company's physical stores on November 7.

The cheapest version of the new M3 MacBook Pro 14-inch costs $1,599 and houses the M3 chip. For that outlay, you get an 8-core CPU, 10-core GPU, 8GB of unified memory and 512GB of SSD storage. 

Fancy pushing the bought out a little further? Then you can pick up the more advanced M3 Pro MacBook 14-inch for $1,999. That extra 400 bucks nets you 11 CPU cores, 14 GPU cores, 18GB of memory and a 512GBB SSD.

You can pick up the more advanced M3 Pro MacBook 14-inch for $1,999"

If you want the cheapest configuration of the slighter larger M3 MacBook Pro 16-inch that will set you back $2,499. To complement the increased display size that extra investment over the base 14-inch model grants you, the bigger M3 MacBook Pro has 12 CPU cores, 18 GPU cores, 18GB of unified memory and 512GB of SSD storage. Grabbing the M3 Max model will cost you $1,000 extra, but gives you double the RAM and storage in the process.

Swimming in cash? You could go all the way to the highest end 16-inch Pro-. This beast costs $7,199, boasting the M3 Max with 16-core CPU and 40-core GPU, the full 128GB of RAM and an 8TB SSD.

Whether you opt for M3 Pro or M3 Max in either of the 14- or 16-inch models of these new MacBooks, both laptops are available in either Silver or the new 'Space Black' shade. A color scheme so badass, we could easily see the Dark Knight using this laptop when he gets some downtime from beating seven shades out of the Clown Prince of Crime.

If you pick the standard M3 MacBook Pro, you can’t channel your inner Batman, as Space Black is not available.

Rumored Apple M3 Ultra specs

Apple Mac Studio M2 on desk, running No Man's Sky

Could the rumored M4 Ultra eventually appear in a future version of the Mac Pro?  (Image credit: Future)

Let’s make this abundantly clear — we’re dealing in rumors when it comes to the M3 Ultra chip. There have been stories doing the rounds that a tremendously powerful additional chip could be added to the M3 family; one that could potentially smoke the processing power of the M3 Max. 

Concrete details are obviously near non-existent at time of writing when it comes to the rumored M3 Ultra, but there have been rumors of two configurations of what could be a possibly peerless processor in terms of brute force power. The starting config of the allegeled M3 Ultra could feature 32 CPU cores (24 performance and eight efficiency), and a staggering 64 GPU cores.

Feeling weak at the knees? You ain’t seen nothing yet. Apple may even release a higher-end M3 Ultra with the same 32-core processor, but with the addition of a frankly absurd 80 GPU cores. That’s ‘Thanos snapping his fingers and obliterating half of existence’ power right there. Of course, treat any rumors surrounding the Ultra just now with heaping grains of salt. If it does end up becoming a consumer chip, it could feature in future versions of the Mac Studio and Mac Pro.  

Apple M3 vs M3 Pro vs M3 Max: Outlook 

Apple M3

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple's M3 lineup has already thoroughly stolen the thunder of Qaulcomm's Snapdragon X Elite party. Thanks to the M3’s enhanced Neural Engine that’s 60% faster than its M1 chipsets and new GPU-focused Dynamic Caching — a feature that allocates memory resources in real time to boost performance when performing specific tasks, like running a demanding video game — this is some seriously exciting silicon.

Until we’ve published our reviews on the M3 MacBook Pro 14-inch and M3 MacBook Pro 16-inch with their different M3 Pro and M3 Max configurations though, we’ll just have to wait and see whether our testing backs up the amazing specs these machines offer up on paper.

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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.