During the Scary Fast October event, Apple showed the world its latest and most incredible chips. The product line comprises three new chips – M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max- based on TSMC’s 3-nanometer manufacturing process, making these chips remarkably powerful while remaining incredibly efficient.

Now that the chips are out in Apple's refreshed iMac and MacBook Pro lineups, the customers want to know how these new chips stack up against one another, and that's what we'll discuss today. Stay with us as we compare M3 vs M3 Pro vs M3 Max and help you decide which chip best suits your needs.

In this article

About the M3 Series

The new M3 chips have reached two refreshed products – iMac and MacBook Pro. The base chip, M3, is exclusive to new entry-level iMacs and comes in two variants – an 8-core GPU or a 10-core GPU, while the CPU core count remains the same.

We've also included a detailed table with each chip's spec and the product you can find it in.

M3 SeriesSpecsMac models
M3 (base configuration)8-core CPU (4 performance cores + 4 efficiency cores)
8-core GPU
iMac M3 (2023)
M3 (top configuration)8-core CPU (4 performance cores + 4 efficiency cores)
10-core GPU
iMac M3 (2023)
14” MacBook Pro M3 (2023)
M3 Pro (base configuration)11-core CPU (6 performance cores + 5 efficiency cores)
14-core GPU
14” MacBook Pro M3 (2023)
16” MacBook Pro M3 (2023)
M3 Pro (top configuration)12-core CPU (6 performance cores + 6 efficiency cores)
18-core GPU
14” MacBook Pro M3 (2023)
16” MacBook Pro M3 (2023)
M3 Max (base configuration)14-core CPU (10 performance cores + 4 efficiency cores)
30-core GPU
14” MacBook Pro M3 (2023)
16” MacBook Pro M3 (2023)
M3 Max (top configuration)16-core CPU (12 performance cores + 4 efficiency cores)
40-core GPU
14” MacBook Pro M3 (2023)
16” MacBook Pro M3 (2023)

It's also worth noting that all three M3 chips, whether in their base or top configuration, come with a 16-core Neural Engine.

the technology in new m3 chips

M3 vs M3 Pro vs M3 Max: CPU

The CPU, short for Central Processing Unit, is the primary element inside an SoC, and this year, the CPU side of M3 chips has seen decent upgrades thanks to the new 3-nm process used by TSMC.

While they’re undoubtedly faster than last year’s models, the new M3 chips also have more balanced performance jumps between them. A clear difference can be seen due to the number of CPU cores in each chip. There’s an 8-core CPU in M3, 11 or 12-core CPU in M3 Pro, and 14 or 16-core CPU in top-of-the-line M3 Max SoCs.

m3 chips cpu core count

The differences can also be observed in the M3 chips’ multi-core performance numbers. Their scores perfectly fit the number of cores in each chip, showcasing a 35% increase from M3 to M3 Pro and another 37% increase if you pick an M3 Max over an M3 Pro. These multi-core scores indicate that an M3 Max is also 85% faster than the baseline M3 chip in raw CPU performance.

M3 vs M3 Pro vs M3 Max: GPU

Besides the oddly placed iMac M3 with an 8-core GPU M3 chip that doesn't exist elsewhere, Apple's M3 lineup consists of M3 chips with a 10-core GPU, M3 Pro chips with a 14 or 18-core GPU, and M3 Max SoCs with a 30 or 40-core GPU. Of course, the more GPU cores, the higher your graphical performance.

gpu cores of new m3 chips

Compared to last year's M2 models, what's new is the introduction of hardware-accelerated ray tracing and mesh shading. With these features, the new M3 Max is a beast with massive improvements in graphically-intensive apps and games.

Similarly, the newly introduced Dynamic Caching is a nifty little feature that allocates memory to the CPU or GPU. It favors the GPU during heavy workloads, giving it enough memory for even the most challenging tasks, bringing us to another oddly confusing point – memory.

M3 vs M3 Pro vs M3 Max: Memory and Storage

Regarding RAM, the M3 iMac and the 14” MBP start at 8 GB and can be upgraded to 16 GB or 24 GB of unified memory. At the same time, the 14” MBP with the baseline M3 Pro (11-core CPU, 14-core GPU) or the top-end M3 Pro (12-core CPU, 18-core GPU) inside the 14” and 16” inch MBPs includes 18 GB of unified memory that's upgradable to 36 GB.

the m3 chip's memory

WWhen you go for M3 Max chips, things get confusing thanks to Apple’s odd RAM upgrades. We’ve included a detailed table with all M3 Macs, their baseline RAM configuration, and possible upgrade paths to help you understand it.

Memory Baseline RAM Upgradeable to
iMac 8 GB 16 GB or 24 GB
14-inch MBP with M3 8 GB 16 GB or 24 GB
14-inch MBP with M3 Pro (both CPUs) 18 GB 36 GB
14-inch MBP with M3 Max (base CPU) 36 GB 96 GB
14-inch MBP with M3 Max (top-end CPU) 48 GB 64 GB or 128 GB
16-inch MBP with M3 Pro 18 GB 36 GB
16-inch MBP with M3 Max (base CPU) 36 GB 96 GB
16-inch MBP with M3 Max (top-end CPU) 48 GB 64 GB or 128 GB

Storage, on the other hand, is easy to understand. M3 iMacs with baseline M3 start with 256 GB or 512 GB SSDs and can be configured with up to 1 TB of space, while those with a 10-core GPU M3 go up to 2 TB.

14” MBPs with M3 chips range from 512 GB to 2 TB of SSD storage, while M3 Pro SoCs in 14” and 16” laptops can handle between 512 GB and 4 TB of SSD storage. Finally, the M3 Max laptops are configurable for up to 8 TB of space, with the top NVMe drives being exclusive to Mac models with M3 Max chips.

Despite the storage size differences, all SSDs feature breakneck PCIe (Peripheral Component Interconnect Express) speeds for swift data transfers. However, even with the latest improvements to storage drives, Apple's SSDs aren't immune to failures and data loss, so you'll need to back up your data with Time Machine and have reliable data recovery software ready to go in case a disaster strikes.

Wondershare Recoverit is a prime example of such a tool, allowing users to retrieve files regardless of the data loss situation, including accidentally deleted files, formatted disk drives, interrupted file transfers, malware, system crashes, etc.

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While you can use it on internal Mac SSDs, external HDDs, USBs, and NAS servers and recover music, documents, photos, and videos, our example guide will show you how to recover data from an internal Mac drive.

  1. Launch Recoverit on your Mac and click Hard Drives and Locations.
    launch wondershare recoverit
  2. Select the disk drive, and Recoverit will scan the drive for lost data.
    scan for lost files
  3. Pinpoint the scan by adding file filters and keywords.
    add file filters and keywords
  4. Preview files to verify their integrity before recovering them. When ready, hit the Recover button to save the files to your Mac.
    save found files to the pc

Supporting over 500 data loss situations, 1,000+ file types, and over 2,000 different storage devices, Recoverit makes it easy to handle file recovery. It's also available for Windows machines.

M3 vs M3 Pro vs M3 Max: Neural Engine

Regarding the Neural Engine on Apple's new M3 chips, there's no difference between the models, as M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max all come with the same 16-core component. The Neural Engine handles machine learning tasks, helping the SoC's CPU component with enormous calculations. This time, it's capable of 18 trillion operations per second, a 2.2 trillion operations or a 15% increase from the last gen, M2 chips.

the m3 chip's neural engine

M3 vs M3 Pro vs M3 Max: Media Engine

Since shifting to Apple Silicone from Intel chips, Apple's devices have seen a new hardware component in their SoCs – the Media Engine.

This element helps the CPU handle hardware-accelerated video encoding and decoding, which can help any professional with creative workloads. Compared to the last-generation M2, all new M3 chips receive an AV1 decoding Media Engine.

While the M3 and M3 Pro chips still contain one encoding and one decoding engine for H.264, HEVC, ProRes, ProRes RAW, and AV1 (two in total), the M3 Max SoC doubles the horsepower, adding two additional Media Engines for encoding and decoding the mentioned formats, containing four in total.

media engines inside m3 chips

💰Pricing Considerations

M3 Macs Baseline Mac Price Top-end Mac Price
iMac $1,299 $1,699
14-inch MBP with M3 $1,599 $1,599
14-inch MBP with M3 Pro $1,999 $2,399
14-inch MBP with M3 Max $3,199 /
16-inch MBP with M3 Pro $2,499 $2,899
16-inch MBP with M3 Max $3,499 $3,999

As you can see from our detailed pricing table, the starting price of new M3 Mac models is $1,299, which gets you an 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU 24” iMac, making it the most affordable Mac with one of the new M3 SoCs. Of course, you can also get the more potent M3 with a 10-core GPU in an iMac, starting at $1,499 or $1,699 with more SSD storage space.

If you’re more of a laptop person, you can get a 14” MacBook Pro with an 8-core CPU and 10-core GPU M3 chip for $1,599, and this is true for anyone seeking more power as that’s simply not available with iMacs. Here, the baseline M3 Pro chip with an 11-core CPU and 14-core GPU will set you back $1,999 inside a 14” MacBook Pro, while the only 14” MacBook Pro with an M3 Max chip starts at $3,199 and includes a 14-core CPU and a 30-core GPU.

At the same time, the 16” laptop territory starts at $2,499 for an M3 Pro chip, while going for a top-of-the-line M3 Max Mac will set you back $3,999, as the SoC comes in a 16” MacBook Pro with a 16-core CPU and 40-core GPU.

Which One Should You Choose?

Compared to last year's M2 Pro chips, which were nearly as fast as M2 Max SoCs and a better, more affordable option, this time around, the entire M3 lineup is well-made, with equal performance increases between your six choices.

Here, M3 Macs are intended for all average users and those getting into Apple products for the first time, while the M3 Pro Macs suit users who dabble with professional workloads. However, most Apple users skip the baseline M3 Pro models (11-core CPU, 16-core GPU) and get the top-end M3 Pro Macs (12-core CPU, 18-core GPU).

Suppose you're a heavy user and constantly editing images or videos. In that case, we recommend skipping the 14” MBP and the base configuration M3 Max (14-core CPU, 30-core GPU) and going straight to the top-end M3 Max (16-core CPU, 40-core GPU) inside a 16” MacBook Pro. Alternatively, you can wait for 2024's M3 Mac Mini or the refreshed MacBook Air models.


Apple's refreshed iMac and MacBook Pro devices now have the latest M3 Apple Silicone. Yet again, the M3 SoC lineup consists of standard M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max chips, with rumored M3 Ultra likely joining the lineup next year.

To help you get acquainted with the new chips or decide which to buy, we've compared M3 vs. M3 Pro vs. M3 Max in various departments, including CPU and GPU power, RAM and storage, and Neural and Media Engines, also discussing what each Mac model has and the prices for the new M3 chip lineup.

It's worth noting that despite Apple's massive SSD improvements over the years, the SSDs that come with M3 Macs aren't immune to data loss, creating the need for constant Time Machine backups and dedicated data recovery tools like Wondershare Recoverit, ready-to-go in case of a disaster.

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Sue Wayne
Sue Wayne Apr 15, 24
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