Apple broke with tradition and unveiled the M3, M3 Pro and M3 Max processors all at once on Monday, rather than stringing the releases out. The performance cores in the new chips are up to 30% faster than M1, and the efficiency cores are up to 50% faster.
“Apple silicon has completely redefined the Mac experience. Every aspect of its architecture is designed for performance and power efficiency,” said Johny Srouji, Apple’s SVP of Hardware Technologies. “With 3-nanometer technology, a next-generation GPU architecture, a higher-performance CPU, faster Neural Engine, and support for even more unified memory, M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max are the most advanced chips ever built for a personal computer.”
Apple M3 chip family takes over for M2
The M2 was a fairly modest improvement over the original version, but the M3 brings more of a boost. Much of that come from a switch from a 5nm production process to a 3nm one. Shrinking the chip’s components allows them to work faster while generating less waste heat.
But there are design improvements to the processor cores and graphics cores as well.
The basic M3 packs eight processor cores and a 10-core GPU. The M3 Pro has a 12-core CPU and 18 GPU cores. The M3 Max takes the processor to 16 processor cores and 40 GPU cores.
The M3 chip can handle up to 24GB of RAM, the M3 Pro supports 36GB, while the M3 Max goes up to 128GB of RAM.
When unveiling its new processor family, Apple compared the performance to the M2 but also the M1. Partially that’s because the comparison with the older processor family looks better, but also because the MacBook Pro models with M2 Pro and Pro Max haven’t been strong sellers. More of the people considering an M3-powered MBP have one with an M1 Pro or M1 Max.
All the M series chips include a mix of performance cores and efficiency cores. One set handles demanding applications like games, while the others run when speed isn’t at a premium.
Apple says the performance cores in the M3 series are 15% faster than the ones in the M2 and 30% faster than the M1.
And the efficiency cores in the new chip family are 30% faster than the ones in the M2 and 50% faster than the M1.
“Together, these cores create a CPU that delivers the same multithreaded performance as M1 using as little as half the power, and up to 35% more performance at peak power,” said Apple.
The Mac-maker didn’t only pit the M3 angainst its own chips. “When we compare it against the latest 12-core PC laptop chip, it delivers the same CPU performance using just one quarter of the power,” said Johny Srouji, Apple SVP, Hardware Technologies.
Many graphics enhancements
“The M3 family of chips features a next-generation GPU that represents the biggest leap forward in graphics architecture ever for Apple silicon,” the Mac-maker said Monday in a statement.
It features Dynamic Caching that, unlike traditional GPUs, uses only the exact amount of memory needed for each task. Apple promises this signicantly increases the performance of the graphics processing unit when running demanding pro apps and games.
The M3 also offers hardware-accelerated ray tracing — a first for the Mac. There’s also hardware-accelerated mesh shading. These will improve the look of high-end games.
Apple says the the M3 GPU is able to deliver up to 65% more performance than the M1 GPU, or offer the same performance at nearly half the power.
Speaking of graphics performance, the M3 sports a new media engine that includes support for AV1 decode. That’s the video format used by many streaming services, so the ship will be more efficient when handling these.
It’s these chips that are likely giving the Apple October event the name “Scary Fast.” Cupertino also took the wraps off new Macs running its latest processor family, including fresh MacBook Pro and iMac models.