Note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Apple’s new Macbook M3 Pro: some reflections

My initial experience with the new M3 Pro chips of Apple.

Sid Metcalfe


November 11, 2023


I recently got my hands on the new MacBook Pro powered by the M3 Pro chip and thought I’d share my initial thoughts. As a long-time user of Apple’s laptop line, I was eager to see how the latest model stacks up against its predecessors. I focused on design, performance, user experience, and price to evaluate whether it’s a worthy upgrade - as well as the new sleek Space Black finish.


Initial Impressions of the M3 Pro MacBook Pro

A glossy black laptop with a shiny apple logo under a spotlight

Receiving the new MacBook Pro with the M3 Pro chip was a mix of excitement and curiosity. Here were the key things I initially focused on:

  • Design: Did it still feel worth its premium tag?

  • Performance: Did those specs translate to real-world usage?

  • Experience: Was it a notch above the rest, literally and figuratively?

  • Pricing: How did I feel about the cost versus the benefits?

First impressions? It felt like meeting an old friend who had gone through a subtle yet impactful makeover. The design hadn’t changed much, but the Space Black color was a pleasant addition—sleek and seemingly less prone to smudges.

Diving into performance, it did not disappoint. Those extra cores and the new 3nm process translated to a snappier experience across the board. The increase in performance cores seems subtle on paper, but in daily tasks, the speed boosts are there, and multitasking with complex apps feels smoother.

The experience was also enhanced by the Liquid Retina XDR display, which was a true sight for sore eyes—the colors popped, and the brightness improvement, though slight, made a notable difference in well-lit environments.

However, all that glitters is not gold. Despite the advancements, the drawbacks couldn’t be ignored:

  • There’s the unchanged design, which I hoped would evolve a bit more.

  • Then there’s the notch—personally, it’s less intrusive than expected, but it’s there, taking up real estate and a constant reminder of what could have been used for something more impactful, like Face ID.

  • Pricing is also a tricky subject; with the base model already at a premium price point, upgrades feel like they cost an arm and a leg.

Overall, it’s a mix of clear-cut improvements with a side of caveats that make you question the value you’re getting. But as someone wise once said, “the best tool is the one you have with you,” and this M3 Pro MacBook Pro is undoubtedly shaping up to be a reliable tool—just one that comes with a premium price tag reflective of its Apple DNA.

Performance Analysis Compared to M2 and M1

Graphs showing performance benchmarks for the m3 m2 and m1 chips side by side

The leap from the M2 and M1 chipsets to the M3 Pro MacBook Pro seems modest at first blush, but the devil is in the details. Apple’s chip progression marches on with noteworthy improvements, albeit more nuanced than the generational leaps we witnessed with the M1’s introduction or the M2’s overall uplift.

Here’s a rundown of the pros and cons based on early data:


  • Incremental, yet appreciable, CPU performance gains

  • Improved SSD configurations, possibly rectifying previous single-chip concerns

  • Increased brightness for the XDR display, enhancing visual fidelity

  • Potential for better thermals with revised cooling solutions in top-end models


  • Marginal GPU performance upgrades, which question the value proposition for some users

  • Cost of ownership, particularly if considering max specifications

  • Potential for complexity in comparing various M3 configurations due to non-linear component enhancements

The performance analysis needs a bit more context—while Geekbench and other synthetic benchmarks put numbers to the reality, they often don’t translate directly to real-world use. From my reading and initial tests, the M3 Pro appears to deliver where it counts: prosumer and creative applications, multitasking, and complex computational tasks, albeit with relatively nuanced improvements over the M2.

There’s talk of the SSD speeds being more consistent across the board, which is a plus—it’s apparent Apple took feedback from the M2’s issues seriously. The touted brighter display isn’t just a number; it is perceptibly better, which will be appreciated by anyone doing color-sensitive work.

The GPU story is a bit mixed. The improvements are there, but as a non-gamer, I question whether they warrant an upgrade for my workflow. However, for those pushing the limits with 3D rendering or complex video editing, the bump in GPU prowess with the M3 Max may be more pronounced due to the included ray-tracing cores.

One can’t talk performance without factoring in cost. Apple Silicon remains a premium product, with sometimes eye-watering prices for maxed-out configurations. The M3 Pro, sadly, follows this trend. The price-to-performance ratio might turn some prospective buyers towards an M2 or even the trusty M1, which still holds its own admirably.

All in all, from my perspective, the M3 Pro’s real sell is less about shattering performance ceilings and more about refining the user experience—faster SSDs, better displays, smoothe thermals—all subtle, yet tangible day-to-day user benefits. The leap may not be as large, but the landings are certainly softer.

Design and Aesthetics Space Black Edition

A close-up of the space black aluminum chassis of the macbook pro

When Apple announced the Space Black option for the 16-inch MacBook Pro, it immediately piqued my interest. Here’s a rundown on what stands out about the Space Black design and aesthetics:

  • New Color—A Bold Move: Space Black adds a certain mystique to the device. It’s darker and more striking than the previous Space Grey. It’s a refreshing change, given that Apple rarely deviates from its standard color palette for professional devices.

  • Fingerprint Resistance: Apple’s anodization seal process has considerably reduced fingerprint visibility. Although still present, smudges are far less noticeable than on other devices—a welcome improvement.

  • Color-Matched Accessories: The color-matched MagSafe cable is a subtle touch of consistency. It’s these little details that add to the allure of the Space Black edition.

  • Design Continuity: Despite being a new color, the Space Black edition maintains the familiar, sleek MacBook Pro design language—thick, but not obtusely so, with a premium feel.

While the Space Black edition is eye-catching, it’s not without potential drawbacks:

  • Scratches and Scuffs Visibility: How will the darker finish hold up to scratches and scuffs over time? It’s possible that damage could be more visible compared to lighter finishes.

  • Limited to Higher-End Models: The Space Black color is only available for MacBooks equipped with M3 Pro and M3 Max chips, potentially pushing interested buyers towards more expensive configurations they may not otherwise need.

Despite these considerations, there’s something inherently cool and professional about Space Black. It sets a certain tone when you walk into a room or a meeting—it’s not just another laptop; it feels premium and well-thought-out. Yet, it’s baffling that Space Black is limited to higher-tier models—this may push potential buyers either to stretch their budget unnecessarily or stick with the base model and miss out on the new hue completely.

This seems like a missed opportunity by Apple to sell more units: offering Space Black across the board would potentially appeal to a wider audience. Furthermore, the lack of Face ID, even with the larger notch, leaves one wanting—considering the color is exclusive to pricier models, bundling more advanced features would have been the truly ‘pro’ move here.

In the end, though, it doesn’t take away from the fact that the Space Black MacBook Pro is a visual treat. Achieving a fingerprint-resistant darker finish adds a dose of practicality to the allure. For myself, as aesthetically pleasing as Space Black might be, it’s not enough to justify the jump in price if the technical specs don’t align with my needs. It’s a case of heart versus head—the former charmed by the design, while the latter keeps my wallet firmly in my pocket.

Gaming and Real-World Usage Scenarios

An action scene from a popular game showcasing high-quality graphics

Diving into the new M3 Pro MacBook Pro, it’s evident that Apple has aimed to refine rather than redefine their offering in terms of gaming and practical application scenarios. While Geekbench scores give a broad indication of general performance boosts, they don’t tell the whole story. Real-world usage is where the rubber meets the road, and the M3 Pro, while not a revolutionary step forward, presents enough of a nudge to warrant attention.

Here’s a quick rundown of the gaming and real-world enhancements, alongside some concerns:

  • Performance Tweaks: The M3 Pro, particularly in its Max variant, flexes its muscles with gaming, showcasing slightly better framerates in native titles and with improvements in handling demanding tasks like video transcoding.

  • Efficiency Cores Adjustment: Apple has revised the efficiency cores, which could mean better battery life during light tasks, although this sacrifice in performance cores may impact heavy workloads.

  • Unified Memory: With the ability to spec up to 128GB of RAM, the M3 is a multitasker’s dream, ensuring that even the most RAM-hungry applications run smoothly.

However, the generational improvements do not equate to a gaming rig replacement. This is a machine tailored for professionals who might game occasionally, not the other way around.

In terms of real-world use, I’m particularly impressed by the resilience of the battery during standard workflow tasks – writing, web browsing, and media consumption are all handled with aplomb, and the system handles with ease the occasional leap into more intensive applications like Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro. Reports from users on forums such as MacRumors and my own experience suggest that the M3 Pro can deliver solid day-to-day performance without breaking a sweat. That said, the thermal management on the 14-inch model seems a little less robust compared to the beefier 16-inch, which is noteworthy if you’re pushing the system hard.

Yet, it’s not all rosy. The SSD configurations have stirred some discussions, with concerns about speed disparities between different storage tiers – although it seems Apple may have addressed this in the M3 lineup by reverting to multi-chip solutions even in lower-tier models.

In summary, the M3 Pro MacBook Pro offers:

  • A dependable and slightly improved gaming performance for casual gaming

  • A robust platform for a variety of professional applications with efficient multitasking

  • Better GPU performance that’s more about efficiency than a leap in power

In light of these facets, the M3 Pro stands as a competent upgrade, especially if coming from an Intel-based Mac or even an earlier M1 model. While the improvements might not justify an upgrade from an M2 Pro for every user, those who demand the pinnacle of current mobile Mac performance won’t be disappointed.

Value Proposition and Pricing Concerns

A pile of australian dollars next to an m3 pro macbook to represent the price

The value proposition of the latest MacBook Pro models, particularly with the introduction of the M3 Pro chipset, is an interesting topic for discussion, especially when considering the pricing concerns that many potential buyers may have. Here’s where I stand on this.


  • Cutting-edge Apple Silicon: The leap to an M3 chip certainly introduces efficiency and performance benefits.

  • Increased RAM options: Now having the possibility to configure a MacBook Pro with up to 128GB of RAM is a huge plus for power users.

  • Improved Display Brightness: The bump up to 600 nits of brightness on the SDR content is a welcome improvement.

  • Space Black Option: Aesthetically, the new color option is slick and quite resistant to fingerprints.


  • Price: There’s an undeniable premium added to the cost, especially if you’re eyeing a top-spec config.

  • Performance Gains: When considering the price-to-performance ratio, the jump from M2 to M3 might not be substantial enough for all users.

  • Design Stagnation: Not seeing any major design changes could be a sticking point for some.

When I balance these aspects, it’s clear that Apple is continuing to push the envelope with their in-house silicon, which I wholeheartedly appreciate. There’s no doubt about the raw power that the M3 Max chip can offer. For professionals in video editing, 3D rendering, or those dealing with massive datasets, the gains might very well justify the expense. I’m particularly interested in the new color option and have found the Space Black to be more than just a fresh coat of paint. It’s subtle and professional—suited for a high-end device like this.

However, those potential gains hit a wall when you look at the cost. The starting price, while offering a solid base experience, can quickly balloon once you start ticking the boxes for additional RAM and storage. This aspect could make many shoppers pause and consider if they truly need the latest and greatest, or if a previous-gen MacBook Pro could offer better value.

Here’s the kicker – the improvements in display brightness and color options, while nice, aren’t exactly game-changers. A brighter screen is great, but it’s not going to cut down rendering times or improve multitasking efficiency. And while I like the aesthetics of Space Black, it doesn’t inherently improve my workflow.

As someone who’s been using MacBooks for years, I find myself weighing these pros and cons more carefully than I have in the past. The M3 Max is undoubtedly the behemoth among Apple’s laptops, but given the steep entry point, it’s not an automatic ‘yes’ from me. That said, I’m eager to see if real-world use and extended hands-on time could tip the scales.

The Future of Apple Silicon and Personal Upgrade Path

A row of macbook pros showing the evolution from intel to m1 m2 and m3 processors

Reflecting on Apple’s latest foray into laptop powerhouses, the M3 Pro MacBook Pro, it’s worth delving into the future trajectory of Apple Silicon and how it might shape personal upgrade considerations. At the helm of Apple’s chip innovation, the M3 lineup undeniably marks continued progress, although perhaps not as groundbreaking as some might have hoped after the leap from Intel to M1.

Here’s a quick rundown of factors to consider:

  • Performance gains: We’re looking at modest improvements rather than massive leaps forward.

  • Energy efficiency: This is where the new chips shine, hinting at longer battery life and cooler running machines.

  • Price points: The sting in the tail, Apple’s pricing strategy has always commanded a premium, a trend that persists and raises the cost-benefit question.

On the positive side, the M3 Pro chipset in the new MacBook Pro brings about better energy efficiency and likely a longer battery lifespan, which could be a deciding factor for many. The allure of future-proofing one’s tech arsenal with the latest chip architecture is strong, and the promise of performance enhancements, albeit incremental, could be pivotal for professionals whose workflows demand the avant-garde of computational power.

The leap to Space Black is a welcomed aesthetic refresh, pushing the design envelope slightly forward. Apple’s meticulous attention to detail, such as a color-matched MagSafe cable, exemplifies this commitment to cohesion in design—even if these choices don’t directly impact the laptop’s raw prowess.

Yet, there are drawbacks. The incremental performance raises questions about whether the M3 line warrants the upgrade—especially with a price tag that prompts a sharp intake of breath. For those sporting M1 or even Intel-powered MacBooks, the jump to M3 might not feel as essential, at least not immediately.

Looking at my personal upgrade path, here’s what I’m mulling over:

  • Do I truly need the extra power that M3 affords? — Likely, my current M1 MacBook still feels sprightly enough for my needs.

  • Is the battery efficiency worth the upgrade? — This is tempting, as I move around a lot and appreciate less frequent charging.

  • Can I justify the cost? — With price hikes across the board, it’s a substantial financial commitment.

In the grand scheme, whether one should upgrade to an M3-powered MacBook Pro boils down to a mix of professional necessity, the value placed on the latest tech, and one’s budget elasticity. Apple’s M3 Pro is, unequivocally, a technological marvel, but whether it’s the right time for a MacBook metamorphosis is a nuanced decision that might require a little more deliberation and perhaps a wait-and-see approach as Apple continues to refine its silicon symphony.