Understanding possibly five Apple M3 Series processors
Apple announced the M3 series of chips on October 30, 2023, along with the new MacBook Pro and iMac. The M3 is based on the 3 nm process and contains 25 billion transistors, a 25% increase from the previous generation M2. It has 8 CPU cores (4 performance and 4 efficiency) and up to 10 GPU cores. Apple claims CPU improvements up to 35% and GPU improvements up to 65% compared to the M1.
Apple M3 Pro
The M3 Pro is a more powerful version of the M3, with six performance cores, six efficiency cores, 14 to 18 GPU cores, 16 Neural Engine cores, up to 36 GB unified RAM with 150 GB/s memory bandwidth, and 48% more transistors. It is used in the 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro. Apple claims the CPU performance is 30 percent faster than the M1 Pro and the GPU is 40 percent faster than the M1 Pro.
Apple M3 Max
The M3 Max is a larger version of the M3 Pro, with ten or twelve performance cores, four efficiency cores, 30 to 40 GPU cores, 16 Neural Engine cores, up to 128 GB unified RAM with up to 400 GB/s memory bandwidth, and more than double the transistors. It is used in the 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro. Apple claims the CPU performance is 80 percent faster than the M1 Max and the GPU is 50 percent faster than the M1 Max.
Apple M3 Ultra is currently unreleased
The M3 series uses the N3E architecture 3nm process. The N3E process is purported to have a 15% performance boost and a 30% power saving improvement over the N5P process in the M2.
Apple says the M3 Series is 30% faster than the M1 Series, and 15% faster than the M2 Series.
The M3 series is improved but probably not enough for most people to upgrade from a M2 equivalent. The M3 series is improved enough for many people to upgrade from an M1 equivalent but not all people will find value even in that upgrade.
The brilliance of Apple silicon is the components of each one are the same. There are just more or less of them in each type.
Performance of the various M3 processors, just like their predecessors really will boil down to the base M3 processor performance.
The CPU/GPU core counts are a bit unexpected, in some cases fewer than M2 Series. Also notice the M3 Pro memory bandwidth is down to 150GB/s and M3 Max 14 CPU core, 30 GPU core is 300GB/s.
Apple has re-balanced the M3 Pro and M3 Max with a larger performance gap between them. The M3 Pro has more emphasis on power efficiency than performance improvement. The M2 Pro already punches hard and power efficiency is always a good thing in a laptop, but in many ways the M3 Pro is a sidegrade from the M2 Pro. In other words in a similar performance range.
The M3 Max is a different story though. In CPU benchmarks, the M3 Max outperforms the M1 Ultra. In GPU benchmarks, the M3 Max tests close to the M1 Ultra.
The M3 Ultra, when it is released, should significantly push Apple silicon to new performance levels.
The ‘Extreme’ permutation has yet to become real, but is surmised to be the next logical step up, should that be possible.
** If you are browsing this page from a phone, you may want to view the following chart in landscape mode.
|M3 Ultra ?
|M3 Extreme ?
|Efficiency CPU Cores
|Performance CPU Cores
|5 or 6
|10 or 12
|20 or 24
|40 or 48
|Neural Engine Cores
|GPU Cores options
|8 or 10
|14 or 18
|30 or 40
|60 or 80
|120 or 160
|Unified Memory options
|8GB 16GB 24GB
|36GB 48GB 64GB 96GB 128GB
|64GB 96GB 128GB 192GB 256GB
|128GB 192GB 256GB 384GB 512GB
|300GB/s or 400GB/s
|Video Decode Engines
|Video Encode Engines
|ProRes Encode-Decode Engines
Assuming a 2 year processor life cycle, before the end of 2025 the M3 Series should be history and fully replaced by the Apple M4 Processor Series in newly released products.
CPU & GPU Performance Benchmarks
Buying an Apple M3 Series computer
Any Apple M3 Series computer will be an incredible experience compared to music and video production on Intel hardware. However it is highly recommended to get at least 16GB of memory (or more) and 512GB storage (or more) if you select an M3 Series system.
There are 9 basic form factors of Apple macOS systems with M3 Series processors expected, 5 laptops and 4 desktops.
- 13″ MacBook Air M3
- 15″ MacBook Air M3
- 14″ MacBook Pro M3
- 14″ MacBook Pro M3 Pro & M3 Max
- 16″ MacBook Pro M3 Pro & M3 Max
- 24″ iMac M3
- Mac mini M3 & M3 Pro
- Mac Studio M3 Max & M3 Ultra
- Mac Pro M3 Ultra & M3 Extreme
Apple related pages
Updated periodically – Apple Silicon is the DAW standard
Updated periodically – Apple Mac Studio M1 Max & M1 Ultra
Updated periodically – Apple Mac Studio M2 Max & M2 Ultra
Updated periodically – Apple Mac Studio M3 Max & M3 Ultra
Updated periodically – Apple MacBook Pro M1 Pro & M1 Max
Updated periodically – Apple MacBook Pro M2 Pro & M2 Max
Updated periodically – Apple MacBook Pro M3 Pro & M3 Max
Updated periodically – Apple Mac Pro M2 Ultra
Updated periodically – Apple Mac mini M1
Updated periodically – Apple Mac mini M2 & M2 Pro
Updated periodically – Apple Mac mini M3 & M3 Pro
Updated periodically – Apple MacBook Air M1
Updated periodically – Apple MacBook Air M2
Updated periodically – Apple MacBook Air M3
Updated periodically – Apple 24″ iMac M1
Updated periodically – Apple 24″ iMac M3
Updated periodically – Apple Studio Display
Updated periodically – Apple M1 Processor Series
Updated periodically – Apple M2 Processor Series
Updated periodically – Apple M3 Processor Series
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