Monday 6 November was the day when Apple's MacBook Pro M3 review embargo broke, before going on sale from 7 November, and the internet was awash with troves of reviews and M3 silicon stress tests. When I first published this article I wasn't yet done with my new MacBook Pro tests – we like to test things thoroughly here at T3 – but, one working week later, and I've finished my 14-inch M3 Max MacBook Pro review with a full and final score. Original article follows below:
In all the excitement of receiving a new 14-inch MacBook Pro in its all-new Space Black finish, I simply had to share with you a batch of pictures to appreciate its new visual appeal. Not only that, in the two days of personal use I'd put the new MacBook through, these are my pointers if you're considering buying one of what is surely among the best MacBooks for 2023 and beyond.
1. Space Black looks out of this world
Now that I've got a MacBook in Space Black, I already want everything else to be available in the same finish. Go on Apple, let's have an iPad Pro in Space Black. Let's have an Apple Pencil in Space Black. Let's, basically, have everything in Space Black – because I think it's the best-looking new finish the company has introduced in ages.
I'm fairly critical of Apple's colour options too – the yellow iPad, for me, really wasn't the one, for example – and while you could shrug off Space Black as 'just black', it's got a greater depth to it than that. As you can see in the gallery above, when light catches it, there's a slight silvery finish to the lid. But compared to a MacBook Air M2 in the same gallery, the new finish is significantly different and darker than the old standard.
2. The price is lower this generation
The next headline-grabbing feature that I simply cannot overlook is that the MacBook Pro 14-inch M3 is actually way, way cheaper than its M2 equivalent predecessor. Not by a few quid either: the M2 models were priced from $1,999 / £2,149 / AU$3,199, but the M3 at its entry-level configuration is from $1,599 / £1,699 / AU$2,699.
Now if I had bought an M2 model – and let's not forget, the lifespan of that silicon in MacBook Pro was a mere nine months from January 2023 – I'd be a bit miffed that I'd effectively overspent, given the greater appeal of the M3 models. It's as if M2 never existed when you browse Apple's MacBook Pro line-up now. But as a new buyer this is fantastic news, obviously.
I'm not saying the M3 MacBook Pro series is cheap by any means. You can specify it in all manner of configurations, and the M3 Max model I have cost far more than the entry-level. Spec up a 16-inch model with all the bells and whistles and you'll be able to multiply the price by about fourfold. But you'll have a machine that's stupidly powerful as a result.
3. M3 is simply magic
As I've said above, I've got the M3 Max (4.05GHz) with 64GB unified memory in the 14-inch MacBook Pro. That's a big jump up the ladder compared to the baseline M2 that I regularly use, and that's seen in the Geekbench tests I've performed.
When I tested the 16-inch MacBook Pro M2 Pro model back in late January this year, its impressive scores hit 1957 single-core, 15,134 multi-core for processing; and 53,000 (Metal) and 46,000 (OpenCL) for graphics.
The M3 Max? I'm getting 101,553 (Metal) and 92,478 (OpenCL), so a doubling of graphics performance. Processing prowess hits 2357 single-core and 23,177 multi-core, so that's more than a 20% boost on single and 50% jump on multi or thereabouts (you'll have seen Apple quoting M3's spec against M1 by and large, above I'm comparing M2 Pro to M3 Max).
Whichever way you look at it, the new M3 chip is powerful. Particularly so in this Max configuration. I'm impressed and can't wait to dig into some real-world scenarios as to how this will make a difference to applications, gaming and rendering.
4. So, what's not to like?
So far, so amazing. So, what's not to like about the new MacBook Pro M3? Well, not much. I'm a big fan already. But I'm here to nitpick, so let's get to it.
The first irk for me is simple: the Space Black model comes with a black-colour MagSafe 3 cable. Great! But the plug for the wall is white. Let's get a black plug next time, pretty please. Furthermore, with USB-C now becoming the norm, MagSafe isn't going to be everyone's preferred way to charge. Yet here we are.
Otherwise, the only 'problems' with the M3 MacBook Pro are the same as the M2 MacBook Pro, as their design is one and the same. That means a notched display that won't appeal to everyone (I'm fine with it though) and some power users may want yet more ports (although what's on offer is plentiful, as you can see from my pictures). Oh, and if you want best battery life then the M3 Max, while still very impressive, won't last nearly as long as the other M3 variants.
5. M3 Max verdict
A couple of days into reviewing the MacBook Pro M3 and I'm already blown away by the performance of this all-new architecture. But beyond that, it's the new Space Black finish that's really grabbed my attention – and now I want every Apple product in this new finish.
If you've been eyeing up a new MacBook Pro or as an upgrade then the lower price of the M3 models will be hugely appealing to new buyers (less so to those who recently bought an M2 MacBook Pro though). Meanwhile, the cool, quiet yet powerful operation delivers strong.
It looks even better than ever and it runs even better than ever: the all-new MacBook Pro M3 is a clear contender as one of the best laptops available on the planet right now. [Update: here's my full MacBook Pro 14-inch M3 Max review].