Professionals looking for a more powerful MacBook will get really significantly more performance by upgrading to an M3 Max processor instead of the M3 Pro.
It’s no surprise that the Max version of one of Apple’s new chips is faster than the Pro, but many people might not be aware how very much faster it is.
Apple M1 Pro to M3 Max is a huge performance gain
Apple took the unusual move of launching three versions of the M3 chip at the same time. And it put all of them in the new MacBook Pro. Cult of Mac already explored whether it’s worth choosing the M3 Pro over the basic M3, but the M3 Max is actually the better option for many people looking for a serious increase in performance.
Someone with a MacBook running a chip from the M1 family might already be shopping for an upgrade. These notebooks are from 2020 or 2021 and so have slipped away from the cutting edge.
Those with an M1 Pro are likely considering moving to an M3 Pro. But benchmarking apps show this won’t be a huge upgrade. With the M1 Pro scoring about 12,200 on the Geekbench 6 Multi-Core test, the M3 Pro scores only 15% better on the same test: about 15,200.
But a MacBook Pro with an M3 Max processor scores 21,300 on the same benchmarking test. That’s a whopping 44% increase.
The difference is a result of the balance between the performance cares and efficiency cores Apple built into the M3 family. The M3 Pro has six performance cores and six efficiency cores, so it’s balanced. In contrast, the M3 Max sports a dozen performance cores and four efficiency cores, so it puts much more emphasis on speed.
But there is a price to pay. Literally.
The 44% increase in performance from the M3 Max — 3x the increase from M3 Pro — might make it the obvious choice, but there are drawbacks.
Most obviously, there’s a significant difference in cost. The least expensive 14-inch MacBook Pro with an M3 Pro is $1,999. The most affordable version with the M3 Max is $3,199. To be clear, there’s more to the change than simply the processor. RAM and storage double. But more RAM improves performance, too.
As for the 16-inch MBP, the lowest cost version with an M3 Pro is $2,499. Move to the M3 Max and the minimal cost is $3,499. Again, RAM and storage double with the shift.
Are you sure about an M3 MacBook Pro upgrade?
As the upgrade from a MacBook Pro with M1 Pro to MacBook Pro with an M3 Pro turns out to bring a relatively small increase in performance, buyers have two options.
One is to put down at least $1,000 more and go with the M3 Max version instead. The other is to stick with the M1 Pro-equipped notebook you already own.
Cult of Mac also explored the options in our recent feature, “Should you buy the new MacBook Pro or iMac?”